How to Live Well for Less in Singapore

This is my first blog post on the topic of living well for less in Singapore. In a nutshell, my blog is for those wanting to maintain a similar or slightly lower lifestyle that you are used to at a time when income has dropped or expenses have risen dramatically or both for whatever reason. It may also be useful for people who may have been living beyond their means and have to spend less and save more to purchase a home or feed more mouths or something like that.

Following the tips in this blog, you can save up to 20% or more of your monthly expenses on food, groceries, shopping goods and transportation. This adds up to savings of $600 or so for someone with monthly expenses of $3,000. Now $600 of savings is not a small sum. Even if you can only save $400 following these tips, it is still a sizable amount. Think of what you can do with the $400 – $600 savings every month.

Let me first bring up expenses on grocery shopping.

For those who are not aware, not all HDB cluster of shops is the same. Typically, there are 3 categories of Housing and Development Board (HDB) cluster of shops. The first is the town centre where there is a large number of shops with a supermarket or more and at least a wet market and a food centre. Nowadays it is also common to see shopping malls located at or near town centres. Next is the neighbourhood centre where there is a smaller number of shops with a downsized supermarket if any, as well as a wet market and a food centre. Last but not least is the precinct where there may be a small number of shops but usually no wet market. However there may be a food centre in the precinct. Furthermore some of the shops would sell wet market produce like meat and vegetables. As a guide, if you are at a wet market and you are sure it’s not the town centre, then the location is a neighbourhood centre.

Generally speaking, prices in town centres tend to be higher than those in neighbourhood centres and precincts. However you may not find the range of goods that you desire in precincts compared with town centres with neighbourhood centres in between.

In addition to the 3 clusters just mentioned, there are also differences in prices in mature and non-mature estates. Generally speaking, prices tend to be lower in mature estates where there is a large elderly population. Therefore the lowest prices for meat and vegetables can usually be found in wet markets in neighbourhood centres in mature estates like Bedok, Ang Mo Kio, and Toa Payoh.

For other groceries, most of us tend to just pop into supermarkets run by Fairprice, Sheng Shiong or Giant. Supermarkets do offer competitive prices. To save, make sure you time your purchases with the special offers made by these supermarkets. Fairprice also has monthly specials but not so well advertised. You need to go down the aisle for specific items to spot them. Sheng Siong has good range of fresh fishes. Sometimes you can get special offers like $25.99 per kg for Threadfin fillets which normally goes for $39.99 per kg. Again these are not well advertised so you need to pop in to see the prices. All the supermarkets have discounts for senior citizens on certain days. Some have different discounts for the Merdeka and Pioneer Generation. All these offers can result in significant savings.

However, some HDB shops can offer consistently lower prices. In recent years, there are a few discount shops popping up in HDB town centres like Bedok. For instance the shop in the photo above at Bedok Town Centre offers items like canned drinks, biscuits, cleaning products and kitchen goods at very attractive prices. In addition there are other competitors including the $1.50 shop (undercutting Daiso’s $2). You may ask how these shops offer lower prices. The answer is simple. The shop in the photo parallel imports products from neighbouring countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand in their original packaging. These products are manufactured in those countries by multinational corporations like Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive, and Mondelez. Since the purchasing power of the population in those countries is lower, the products are priced accordingly. Hence, when brought into Singapore, even with the margins built in, the products could be attractively priced.

As a general rule, prices of products in a shop tend to be lower if the rent paid by the shop is lower. If you can buy a product at a slightly less attractive shop in a less desirable location,  chances are that the price is lower.

Therefore shop around for lower prices.

(Note: The author did not receive any payment or incentive from any company or organisation for their citation in this blog.)

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