Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cost of Living in Singapore – So expensive lah?!?

A few months back, a friend from the beautiful island of Philippines came to visit me. She heart Singapore. For her, everything is just fit for an urban girl like herself. But, oh yes there is a “BUT” she complained that it is quite expensive. $1 for a bottle of water that is like what 30 plus pesos already! $11 for a pack of cigarette! Thank goodness I don’t smoke. You paid what?!? For just a room. My that is a cost of a whole house back in the Philippines. And the litany continues……………

Contrary to her, when I first came to Singapore I have no idea how much is the cost of living in Singapore. I just think it was an opportunity of a lifetime so I grab the bull by the horn without thinking whether I will get gorged or not. I realized that there will be two reactions of people as to the expenses here in this tiny island-state. One group is that they will find everything expensive. The people who belong to this category are those who are good in math. For every dollar they spend, they convert to pesos ;-). Another category is those who find things here cheap. These people are poor in math or kaya t*nga lang ;-) and hehehe I belong to this category. When I purchased my first pair of shoes I said “wow 28 lang samantalang sa Pilipinas 500 plus na ito…” Nyahahahaha …see what I mean… T*ng* nga!

But seriously, what is really the cost of living here in Singapore. As per the latest survey they say that Singapore ranks 10th place in the most expensive cities to live. But let’s see it through the eyes of a Filipina who strives to live a good life for less ;-) Ok let’s start with the basics.

Accommodation: The sky-rocketing cost of real estate has been a topic of concern for most Filipinos and other migrants in Singapore. A bigger percentage of your monthly income should be allotted to your accommodation’s rent. It is true that to rent a flat in Singapore could and will cost you. A typical 3-bedroom flat will cost around 1800 – 2300 SGD (24,000 – 69,000 PHP). Even before you move in, you will have to shell out around 2 months’ rent that is one month advance and one month deposit. And if you have an agent an additional one month or half a month cost of the rent goes to the agent. So how do you cope with this? All of us must have a decent roof above our head right? Well for most Pinoys, we have well perfected the art of the concept of sharing :) to help us minimize cost and of course “para hindi naman masyadong malungkot”. So for one flat that say cost around 1,800 SGD if three people share, then you will just have to shell out 500 -700 SGD (15,000 – 21,000 PHP) per month for rent.

Food: If you are the type who can do away of eating at fancy restaurants, Singapore can still be a food haven for you. There are a lot of hawker centers (open-air complexes that house many stalls that sell a variety of inexpensive food) here where you can get a good meal for around 3 – 5 SGD (90 – 150 PHP).
hawker center photo courtesy of

But if you are the type who enjoys home-cooked meals and you are sharing with other people, then you can still get even cheaper as food ingredients are relatively cheap here. Take for example my case, I stay with 3 other people and our budget for food is 40SGD per person (1200 PHP) a week. Expensive? No because it includes 3 meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner plus our normal beverage (like coffee or tea). And we regularly have salmon pa nyan! Oh diba sosy?!? Just learn to cook and find cheap places to buy your food ingredients and you can live a champagne life on a beer budget ;-)

if you want to enjoy baked salmon, buy the fish and bake it at home...way way way cheaper.... :)

barbequed/baked spareribs....ang mahal nito sa Cafe Cartel kaya we decided to make at home... :)
7sgd per kilo lang ang baboy ;-)

our not so vain attempts at the kitchen

this is how chefs do it......

with bare hands!!! ;-)

Transportation: Another necessity is transportation. Owning a private vehicle in not advisable in Singapore. However, if you are quite confident about your financial status, then go ahead get yourself a car because after all driving around in Singapore is a breeze and quite an enjoyable experience. Just be prepared to shell out around 1,000 -1,500 SGD (30,000 – 45,000 PHP) a month for a low-range to mid range car.

But you might have heard that the transportation system is one of the most efficient in the world. And yes you have heard it right. The MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) is the most efficient way of getting around Singapore. With the MRT spanning the entire city-state, one could never if hardly get lost  in Singapore. Plus there are buses that operate from as early as 5:30 AM to as late as 2:00 AM. Given the convenience and the security it provides, the fares only ranges from 0.69 – 2.00 SGD (20 – 60 PHP).

Healthcare: “Singapore is not hard on people seeking medical treatment as there are polyclinics at every nook and corner of the country. These state-run medical centers render quality healthcare. The clinics can be spotted in most housing estates and town centers where consultation will cost you anywhere between S$10 and S$20 depending on the type of ailment and treatment given” from
There is one polyclinic just below our flat, and it’s so convenient because they are open 24/7. Not that I want to get sick, but sometimes you catch the bug and you “must see doctor” ;-) And of course for working professionals, we can always have it reimbursed from our company so in effect healthcare is relatively free.

Lifestyle: Electronic gadgets are cheaper here, especially if you know when to avail of the regular sales and promo. No wonder most people here own the latest cool gadgets. And with the advent of budget airlines, travelling around nearby countries is quite affordable. You can have a cool vacation at nearby Bintan Indonesia at an affordable rate. And there are parks everywhere. And public swimming complexes and if you are a bookworm there is the library. All these for free! However, “services-to-pamper yourself” are quite expensive. A manicure and pedicure (not the express whereby they will just color your nails without even cleaning it! To my horror of horrors!), I meant the real mani and pedi cost around 30 – 80 SGD (900-2,400 PHP)! Expensive right? And spa cost around 100 SGD (3,000 PHP) and a facial cost around 78 SGD (2,340 PHP). So how do you cope with these? My friends and I often arrange “kikay nights” whereby we will exchange pampering services to each other. Bonding plus pampering, not a bad way to spend a night-out with your girls!

sample cost of living expense break-down

In summary, if you are frugal and have creative ways of finding ways to live a good life for less, in an average you will be spending around 30,000 PHP for the bare essentials. Expensive, right? Wrong! Well it’s high if we compare it to spending an average of 10,000 – 15,000 PHP to cover our monthly expenses in the Philippines (bare minimum). But think of it this way; do you earn the same amount as you earn here? Right. In the Philippines, our expenses eat up the bulk of our income, whilst in Singapore, your expenses could be just a fraction of your income, leaving you some savings or enough to buy that latest cool gadget or enough to splurge on a designer bag or enough to have that dream Cruise vacation or enough to send money back home to the Philippines.

With all these considered, we can say that the essentials of life are affordable in Singapore. We get to see good for our hard work and enjoy a better quality of life.

Wait! Don’t hand in that resignation just yet and book the earliest flight to Singapore. There are still other factors we have to consider. Till the next post of this series. :)


Golden said...

My husband and I were planning before to work there but backed out when we heard that the cost of living in Singapore is high.

Lots of love,

Rachel said...

yup I heard that a lot of times, but I still want to visit SG and hopefully find a good job =D

ranne said...

Hi Rachel...go for it gurl! :) if you have read my not so expensive as what you think....

you'll find inexpensive ways to enjoy SG :)

Janelle said...

very informative post! i agree, don't convert from dollar to peso - it will drive you crazy!

Cherry said...

been there, done that! haha! been into house sharing, t*ng* stage, etc... best is to save up and buy a house, ang laki ng natitipid sa rent. thought at first, sobrang mahal pero worth it if you plan to stay here for good. :)

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