This article was written in collaboration with the Labour Movement. All views expressed are the independent opinion of DollarsAndSense.sg
The rising cost of living was one of the themes of this year’s National Day Rally. In particular, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke in detail about some practical steps that people can take to save on their day-to-day expenses during his Mandarin speech.
In addition to those Prime Minister Lee outlined, here are other ways to stretch our precious dollars and manage our cost of living, while considering the practical realities that Singaporeans face.
Is The Cost Of Living Really Rising?
Many in Singapore feel stretched due to a feeling that the cost of living is rising year-on-year faster than our wages. But is that really true?
SingStat conducts a comprehensive Household Expenditure Survey (HES) every 5 years. Based on the last HES, Singapore resident households spent an average of $4,724 a month in 2012/13 on goods and services, which was significantly higher than the $3,809 monthly spend in 2007/08.
Household income increased by $2,398, while household expenditure increased by $915. (Source: SingStat)
So, Singapore households are spending more, with the three highest categories of spending being housing, food and transport, which collectively accounted for 65% of household expenditure.
Two Practical Ways To Cope With Rising Cost Of Living
There are two ways to tackle the issue of high costs of living in practical terms.
On one hand, we can shrewdly manage our expenditure by reducing our costs while enjoying a comparable quality of life. We can do so by spending smarter and stretching our hard-earned dollars. By doing so, we can see immediate benefits right away.
On the other hand, we can examine our career trajectory, and to take steps to enhance our lifetime earning potential and improve our job security for years to come. This gives us more dollars over the long-term.
Staying up to date in Industry 4.0 doesn’t have to cost a bomb. Learning providers like NTUC LearningHub have not only brought in digital courses for Worker 4.0, but also offer bite-sized $20 mini-series for NTUC members.
For those wanting to learn on-the-go, learning apps like NTUC’s ULeap offer just-in-time modules in different topics like cybersecurity and IoT too. NTUC members can also offset their training by 50% (capped at $250 every year) with the Union Training Assistance Programme (UTAP).
Saving on Costs Without Reducing Quality Of Life
We all have a specific idea of what we want for our standard of living. Rather than offer unrealistic theoretical ways to save costs, here are our top tips for getting the best bang for your buck, while not requiring drastic lifestyle changes that are not sustainable.
For example, it is easy to say that cooking at home can help you save money and is better for your health, but if both you and your spouse are working, dishing up home-cooked meals at home every night could prove challenging.
# 1 Groceries
All major supermarkets now offer housebrand products for daily essentials such as bread, biscuits, juices, rice and noodles. Since the contents are virtually the same, the lack of advertising and other middleman costs allow supermarkets to pass on savings to consumers.
NTUC FairPrice has 1,000 Everyday Low Price items and 2,000 FairPrice housebrand items, to moderate costs of these essentials.
In particular, infant milk powder is an item that has received particular attention, since prices have shot up astronomically in recent years thanks to manufacturers preying on parents’ love of their children and lack of good information about the differences between the brands.
|Affordable Option||Premium Option|
*Based on 2 packs/month
|$17.90 x2 = $35.80
|$21.90 x2 = $43.80
(Mamypoko Extra Dry)
*Based on 2 packs/month
|$8.90 x2 = $17.80
(FairPrice Baby Wipes)
|$11.95 x2= $23.90
(Johnson & Johnson)
*Based on 3 tins/month
|$29 x 3 = $87
(FairPrice Gold infant formula milk Stage 2 900g)
|$54.50 x3 = $163.50
(Similac Stage 2 850g)
|$126 (Heinz)||$242 (Bellamy’s Organic)|
|Total Each Month||$266.60||$473.20|
In 2017, NTUC FairPrice brought in Australia’s Own and FairPrice Gold milk powder to give parents more choices of affordable milk powder.
Supermarkets regularly have flash deals and promotions, so plan your shopping to stock up on items when they’re on. For instance, NTUC FairPrice offers an additional 2% discount for seniors on Tuesdays, and 3% off for members of the Pioneer Generation on Mondays and Thursdays.
Did You Know: NTUC members who are also FairPrice members receive rebates and dividends every year.
Rebates and dividends an NTUC FairPrice member received (Source)
# 2 Food
We all know that cooking at home is great for health, bonding and for saving money, but it is not always possible for all of us to do so.
We might not be so fortunate to live with our parents or stay-home spouse who can cook for us. Long and unpredictable work hours also mean that by the time we get home and begin cooking, we might be unbearably famished. For many of us, eating out would be a more convenient and practical choice.
While we might not be price sensitive to the cost of a dish that costs $3 versus another one that costs $4, this choice constitutes a 25% price difference.
Ever since its establishment, NTUC Foodfare has made it its mission to moderate cooked food prices by providing Singaporeans with quality food options at great value, such as budget meals of between $2 to $3 at every Foodfare-managed coffee shop stall, and meal options that cost $2.80 at Foodfare-managed hawker centre stalls.
In addition, NTUC members can buy economical rice with two vegetables and one meat at just $2 from Rice Garden stalls at hawker centres, and enjoy $1.80 breakfast sets consisting of two eggs, kaya toast and coffee/tea from NTUC Foodfare.
ComCare cardholders only pay $1.50 for economic rice meals at Rice Garden, which is managed by NTUC Foodfare (Source: NTUC)
# 3 Kids
If you are a parent, there are many grants and schemes to support you in your journey of fostering the growth of Singapore’s future.
The first thing you should do is to open a Child Development Account (CDA) for receiving your baby bonus, and enjoy government dollar-for-dollar matching for deposits you make into your child’s CDA.
Understanding that pre-school costs is a concern for parents, NTUC First Campus’ My First Skool offers childcare fees below the national median fees. For low income families, My First Skool allocates 16% of their spaces and offers a Bright Horizons Fund to subsidise childcare costs for 8,000 children so far, whose families may pay as little as $8 a month.
Tip: Parents with Singaporean babies born between 1 Jan 2016 and 31 Dec 2019 can sign up for the NTUC Good Start Bundle which includes a complimentary one-year health insurance coverage for newborns by Income (you can apply online or with an Income adviser) and a hamper of baby essentials worth up to $100 from NTUC FairPrice.
# 4 Health and Insurance
As we or our parents grow older, we may require different types of healthcare and eldercare that may cost quite a bit in the long run.
Besides ensuring we have enough protection for our healthcare needs, we may consider eldercare options such as NTUC Health’s elder and home care services, or nursing homes which come with government subsidies for Singaporeans and PRs.
Did You Know: Income is the first insurer to offer coverage for children and young adults with autism. NTUC members are covered with term life insurance coverage (NTUC GIFT).
# 5 Utilities
Utilities is one of the most underrated categories of spending. It is also one of the most egalitarian, since electricity and water is the same, no matter how high or low SES you are.
The key point is to be aware of your electricity consumption, use lower-power alternatives when possible, mobilising the entire household to conserve water and electricity together.
Singapore households can also look forward to having more choice and savings on their electricity bills when the Open Electricity Market rolls out islandwide starting in November.
Working Together To Manage The Cost Of Living
As Singaporeans needs and aspirations evolve, we need more options to help us manage costs of living without having to sacrifice on quality of life. Helping Singaporeans stretch their dollar in essential areas like groceries, basic insurance, childcare, eldercare services and cooked food, is just one part of the equation.
As the NTUC social enterprises continue to help moderate the cost of living by providing affordable and quality goods and services, the Labour Movement also wants Singaporeans to have better wages, welfare and work prospects.
What tips do you have to save more on costs? Let us know on our Facebook Page!