Being a corporate slave in one of the world’s most expensive cities is tough. And having “not enough money” is a common refrain among many Singaporeans.
But even then, it is possible to save, by taking a leaf from the Kaizen approach – start with small ways to cut cost and it’ll gradually add up.
I believe a saving little every day goes a long way. It’s less daunting than suddenly taking on extreme austerity measures, which may not be sustainable in the long run.
For me right now, I’m privileged enough to not have to worry about my next meal or if the roof over my head is secure, but I want to actively save and/or earn extra wherever I can.
That’s because I like having choices in life, such as having the option of retiring early, not being chained to my job, and being able to splurge occasionally.
Here are 5 small things I do to cut cost.
In my current job, I work shifts and this means I’m usually heading to work very early in the morning or going home late at night.
We all know that waking up too early or sleeping really late can take a toll on our health. I’d like to live longer so I try to stick to sleeping hours that are within normal boundaries. To do this I’d have to rush on my commute.
So I decided to just hop on a taxi or PHV for my early morning/late night commute for the sake of my sanity and health.
I’m currently subscribed to a commute plan on Grab. At $109 a month, I get 20 × $10 vouchers which are valid for one month. It works perfectly fine for me since there are about 20 working days per month and i use one voucher per day for my commute.
For my other trip to or from home, it will be in the afternoon so I hop on the train or bus instead.
What I pay each month without the subscription:
$14 per taxi/PHV trip × 20 trips = $280
What I pay per month now:
Subscription fee – $109
$4 per trip × 20 trips = $80
Money saved each month: $280 – $189 = $91
Now, I just need to pray that Grab doesn’t exit the Singapore market.
For me, the day doesn’t start until I’ve had coffee. That said though, I drink a maximum of 2 cups a day.
At my office, the cheapest (and still palatable) coffee costs $0.50. Yes $0.50 coffee exists – it’s hiding in my office canteen!
I used to buy that coffee every day, but now I make my own.
Here’s the thing – I’m extremely fussy about how I like my coffee done. I dislike the taste of 3-in-1 coffee, thanks to the powdered creamer. Having “real” milk in my coffee is a must, and I like my drink to be bitter. Additionally, I can’t finish a 1 litre carton of milk or a bottle of coffee granules on my own.
So I prepare my cuppa at home using the milk and coffee granules which my husband and I share. Then I’ll bring the coffee to work in an insulated tumbler.
My favourite coffee brand is Moccona’s Continental Gold, and I try to purchase it when there’s a discount. One 200 gram bottle, which costs $13.80, makes about 100 cups of coffee.
My go-to milk is Devondale’s full cream UHT. I buy 2 cartons at a go to enjoy the discount and it adds up to about $1.50 a carton. My husband and I can finish a 1 litre carton in about 2 weeks as we also use milk for cooking or with cereal.
Cost per month from buying office canteen coffee:
$0.50 × 20 working days = $10
Cost per month from drinking DIY coffee:
Coffee granules – ($13.80 ÷ 100 cups) × 20 working days = $2.76
Milk – $1.50 (Assuming I consume 1 litre a month on my own)
Total cost – $2.76 + $1.50 = $4.26
Money saved each month:
$10 – $4.76 = $5.34
It doesn’t look like a significant amount since $5.34 may not even be enough for a high-end food court meal, but I’d like to think that it’ll add up in the long run.
I try to cook all meals when possible and pack them to work. Yes, it’s a lot of effort but I want to live a long and healthy life so that I can enjoy the money I saved. 🤣
Let’s use pasta as a comparison. One plate costs at least $5 at a food court and it likely contains pasta and sauce… and not much else.
If I were to eat this pasta for every lunch and dinner and every day for a month, it would cost:
$5 × 60 meals = $300
Now let’s compare it with homemade pasta.
I like making one-pot pasta as it’s easy and convenient. What I use in my usual recipe for 2 servings (because cooking for one is quite a waste of effort, gas and water):
1. Pasta (1/3 of a $1.95 pack = $0.65)
2. Vegetables (one head of broccoli, which is about $2)
3. Protein (a $5 slab of fresh salmon)
4. Miscellaneous ingredients such as onions, garlic and cooking oil (generous estimate – about $0.50)
5. Milk (about 1/3 of a 1 litre carton – $0.50)
Total cost of 2 servings: $8.65
Total cost of having DIY pasta every day for a month: $8.65 × 30 days = $259.60
Money saved per month: $300 – $259.60 = $40.35
Of course, this may not be a very accurate estimate of cost savings because I don’t eat pasta every day and I do eat out sometimes, perhaps about 2 – 3 times a week.
But I’m a big advocate of eating balanced meals so I still think cooking is well worth it. I can get a meal that has less salt, less sugar, less oil and no MSG, so I’m a fan of meal prep.
As for breakfast, if I’m at office early in the morning, I bring food from home to eat at my desk. Because I’m #lazyaf and would rather sleep more than wake up early to eat at home.
Some of my usual breakfast dishes are:
If it’s sliced bread, I would spread peanut butter on the slices the night before and just grab and go in the morning.
Cost of DIY breakfast:
Sliced bread (1/5 of a $3 loaf) – $0.60
Cereal (1/9 of a $5 box, based on recommended nutrition intake) – $0.55
Cost of having DIY breakfast every working day for a month:
$0.60 × 20 days = $12
Let’s now do a comparison with buying breakfast from the office canteen.
The cheapest but still substantial breakfast item there is $0.80 – 2 slices of bread with peanut butter or kaya.
Cost of eating this bread every working day for a month: $0.80 x 20 working days = $16
$16 – $12 = $4
It may not seem like much, but the cost savings from the above 3 measures already add up to about $140. It could potentially pay for a small family’s groceries for a few days.
One of the best things about living independently is this – the groceries!
I love having complete autonomy on the things I buy and use, and I’m always happy to sniff around for good deals.
Before I moved into my own home, I used to turn up my nose at house brand products. Since they’re cheaper, the quality must be inferior also right? I didn’t get to use much of house brand products either as my parents – who did the grocery shopping – usually stuck to their usual preferred products.
But, I was wrong. After trying out several house brand products, I discovered some are actually pretty decent and I have been buying them over and over again since. I’m glad to have been able to save between a few cents to a few dollars from buying house brand products too.
Some house brands products which I think are of decent quality:
1. Paper products – toilet roll (3-ply is really good!), kitchen towels, tissues
2. Dishwashing liquid
3. Cream cleaning detergent
1. Hand soap
2. Rice (Japonica variety)
3. Green teabags
4. Cleaning tools – brushes and sponges for scrubbing bathrooms
Simply Living (Giant’s house brand)
1. Storage solutions – collapsible racks, organising trays etc
2. Aluminium foil
3. Cling wrap
4. Bathroom floor mats
Let me say this first: I think I’m a low-maintenance woman. I have never done a manicure or pedicure in my life! And I have no plans to do so. My nails have been bare for years. I didn’t even paint them for my wedding because #lazyaf.
My beauty “regimen” is also pretty basic – cleanse, tone, moisturise, slap on sunscreen. Also, my usual made-up face has these: under-eye concealer, BB cushion, eyebrows and blusher. If I’m hardworking enough, a bit of lip tint.
I make it a point to own just one cosmetic/skincare item at a time for each purpose, i.e. no new moisturisers until the current one runs out. After all, I only have one face right? That’s not a lot of surface area to paint!
The brands I usually go to for beauty products:
Skincare – Laneige
Cosmetics – Innisfree
My mum is a Laneige member and I’m an Innisfree member, so we share the good deals whenever they come.
Otherwise, I buy them at the airport duty-free store when travelling.
Have a money-saving hack? Please feel free to share!
*Article contributed by guest writer