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Beating Inflation: 5 Things That Are Actually Cheaper Today Compared To The Past

Our parents and grandparents paid more for some of these items than we are today.


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By reputation, Singapore is one of the most expensive countries to live in. But this wasn’t always the case. There was a time in the past when daily essentials and luxuries such as food, clothes, transport and entertainment were less costly.

For example, back in the 90s, a typical plate of chicken rice costs $2 while watching a movie on a weekday would set you back only $5.

Even though inflation is the primary reason why everything is more expensive now, it is not entirely true that everything has become more expensive today.

Here are 5 common items and services that many of us spend on today, which we are paying less for compared to the past.

#1 Investing In Stocks And Funds

Let’s start with one of our favourite topics – stock investing.

Back in the Teletext days (still remember what that is?), investing in stocks was much more expensive. To buy a stock, you need to call your broker, and a one-way transaction would cost you at least $35. This means buying and selling stock would set you back at least $70.

These days, investing in stocks is a lot cheaper. Brokerage houses such as DBS Vickers charges a minimum of $10* per trade, or 0.12%* per trade for their Cash Upfront Trade. This means a $10,000 investment will cost only $12*, far lower than what investors in the past would have to pay.

*Fees are only applicable to stocks trading in the SGX market.

For those wishing to invest a smaller sum each month, regular savings plans such as the DBS Invest-Saver allows you to start investing in asset classes such as Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) and Unit Trusts from as little as $100 each month. This allows investors to invest without having to worry about timing the market, also known as dollar-cost averaging (DCA). Through DCA, you buy more units of stocks when prices are lower and lesser units of stocks when prices are higher.

Transaction fees payable are also comparatively lower, at just $0.82 for a $100 investment (0.82%). This wasn’t even an option for investors back in the 90s.

#2 Technological Devices

Technological devices in the 90s cannot be compared to what we have today. Back then, computer games could be installed with under 10MB of space and many computers had total storage space measured in hundreds of MBs. Other devices such as mobile phones and digital cameras were also much more primitive, while being large and unwieldy.

Yet, we paid exorbitant prices for technology back then, even by today’s standards.

For example, back in the 90s, the first computer that my family had cost us about $3,000. Upgrading of computer parts were also expensive and simple add-ons such as a joystick or mouse can easily cost close to $100 each. An entry level digital camera would set you back at least a few hundred dollars.

Thankfully, technology devices are far cheaper today.

You can buy new desktops and laptops with excellent specifications for less than $1,000. Quality smartphones can be purchased for less than $200, along with a functional built-in camera that would make anyone in the 90s jealous.

#3 Telecommunication Services

In the past, making an overseas call can cost you $1 a minute and doing a video call was close to impossible, even if you were willing to pay for it.

These days, with platforms and apps such as WhatsApp, Skype and Zoom, calling a friend overseas and enjoying video conference calls is virtually free, with the only cost you have to pay being your mobile data plan or your home broadband service.

Even so, mobile data plans and home broadband services are far cheaper today. Besides the faster 4G network speeds that we enjoy, we are also paying less for these services than a decade ago.

Home broadband plans today can start from less than $30 per month while SIM-only mobile plans can cost less than $10 per month – far cheaper than even the most basic mobile phone plans in the past.

On top of that, free WiFi services such as Wireless@SG allows us to enjoy high-speed broadband for free as we travel around Singapore.

#4 Travelling Overseas

Before COVID-19, Singaporeans were among the most well-travelled groups of people in Asia, both in terms of how often we travel, and how much we spent on our travels.

As such, we would be glad to know that travelling overseas is one of the few things that have got cheaper since the 90s. With more budget airlines competing alongside full-service carrier, prices for air travel has reduced significantly. The likes of Airbnb have also created alternate and cheaper accommodation options.

Singapore travellers are not only spoilt with choices in terms of destinations (with visa-free entry to 190 countries), but can also choose the cheapest and most suitable flights based on their travel dates. If you choose the right dates, regional flights can sometimes cost less than taking a Grab ride across Singapore.

To make it easy for you to find the best flights and hotel accommodations, travel aggregator portals such as the DBS Travel Marketplace can help you find suitable flight and accommodation deals based on your budget. By allows you to conveniently compare prices, you get the best bang for your buck – after COVID-19 is over, of course!

#5 Electricity In The Household

Due to COVID-19, many of us are finding ourselves spending more time at home. As a result, we may be using our air-conditioning the entire day, binge watching TV or spending more time gaming. All these, in addition to other daily activities, will lead to an increase in our household electricity consumption.

However, as shared by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his 2018 National Day Rally speech, electricity tariffs are lower today than it was in the past.

For example, in 2008, the electricity tariff was 25.07 cents per kWh. For the period of 1 April to 30 June 2020, the electricity tariff was is at 24.63 cents per kWh. It has since declined to $20.97 cents per kWh for the period of 1 July to 30 September 2020. All prices are inclusive of GST.

This means that based on current tariff prices charged by SP Group, Singaporeans are paying about 21% less for their electricity today than in 2008.

However, many Singapore households are paying even lesser than the (reduced) tariff today. With the Open Electricity Market, you can now buy electricity from different licensed retailers, at a lower price as compared to what SP Group is charging.

Through DBS Utility Marketplace, you can compare the prices being offered by different licensed electricity retailers. You can also filter for the right plans based on your preference, such as a fixed price, discount off tariff plan or if you want your provider to be using only clean energy.

Source: DBS Utility Marketplace

As of July 2020, plans that offer households a fixed price can be from as low as $0.1700 kWh (including GST) based on a 12-month contract, which is about 13% cheaper compared to SP prices. Or you can opt for a discounted rate off the tariff that gives you a price which is about 21% lower compared to the tariff price.

In addition, POSB Everyday Card cardholders who pay for their electricity bill will also get to enjoy an additional 1% cash rebate.

Not Everything Is More Expensive Today

While inflation is an inevitable part of economic progression, it doesn’t mean that everything we pay for today is automatically more expensive as compared to the past.

By being prudent in the way we spend, whether it’s buying value-for-money technology devices, investing in a cost-efficient way or using comparison and aggregator tools such as the DBS Marketplace to find the best deals, we can find ways to reduce our monthly expenses without needing to feel like we have to deprive ourselves of the comfort that modern living provides.

Read Also: 5 Questions About The Open Electricity Market That You (And Your Parents) Probably Have

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