Back when we were students, we largely survived on a shoestring budget and relied on funds from our families, student loans or even part-time jobs.
But, after we graduated and started working, we might have started spending more.
Because in the words of a wise soap salesman:
Granted, his views are extreme.
But, being frugal is a virtue, as it will likely prevent us from falling into any financial trouble.
It can also help us achieve FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early In Singapore).
However, is it really possible to survive on a tight budget of $600 as a young working adult in Singapore?
It is entirely possible, but sacrifices will have to be made.
Here’s how it can be done.
TL;DR — budgeting in Singapore: Here’s how to thrive on $600 a month as a young working adult
Singapore may be one of the most expensive cities to live in, but it’s still possible to survive on a tight budget!
|Housing + Utilities||Stay with parents
|Food Budget||$3.50 per meal
Hawker food etc.
|Basic Insurance||Integrated Shield Plan + life insurance with critical illness coverage||$100|
|Public Transport||Use transfers
Sync errands etc.
|Phone Bill||$10 SIM Only
|Entertainment||Amazon Prime Video
+ Free Things to do in Singapore
|Treat Yoself||Buy anything you want||$53|
Here are some assumptions.
This guide is more generalised focused on personal spending.
We are excluding how much allowance you should give to your parents as it is a different dynamic arrangement for every family.
But please do factor in this crucial area of spending as well.
1. Housing and utilities: $50/month
First up, you will need to budget as little as possible for your housing needs.
And the best way to do it will be to live with your family if you are blessed enough to have this option.
Unless this option is not available to you for whatever reason, you should stay with your family instead of renting so that you can save more.
Since this is ‘free’, I think it’s only fair that you contribute a bit to the utilities at home.
This is why I allocated $50 to this segment of the budget.
2. Food budget: $315/month
This one won’t be easy. But, it can be done.
I have allocated $315 for the food budget, assuming you consume three meals a day.
To achieve this, you will need to spend about $3.50 per meal.
This would mean that you would almost exclusively eat at hawker centres.
You could also buy a loaf of bread and some spreads to save on breakfast.
You could also try meal prepping, which would save you quite a bit too.
3. Basic insurance $100/month
We all know that Singaporeans have their Kiasu (Hokkien: afraid of losing) mentality, but this is about our lesser-known Kiasee (Hokkien: afraid of dying) mentality.
No one here is all-seeing, and we cannot predict what will happen to us tomorrow.
But that shouldn’t hinder our daily lives, which is where insurance comes in, to ensure we do not have to worry if something happens to us.
According to our lovely community, three of the key insurance policies we need to consider are health (Hospital and Surgical), life insurance, and critical illness.
One important thing to note is to get insurance as early as possible, as premium prices will increase and it gets harder to qualify for insurance as you age.
Note: The prices for the following insurance plans will be under the assumption that you are between 21 to 30.
Integrated Shield Plans: ~$23.60/month
Singaporeans are fortunate, as we are covered under Medishield Life, a basic health insurance plan which helps us pay for a part of our hospital bills.
Best of all, we can use the money in our Medisave accounts to pay for Medishield Life premiums!
However, Medishield Life might not be enough, as it only covers basic healthcare needs.
Therefore you might want to consider getting an Integrated Shield Plan to increase your medical coverage and give you more choices for your treatment.
|Integrated Shield Plans (Age 21 to 30)||Annual Premium||Monthly Premium|
|AIA HealthShield Gold
Max Standard Plan
|Aviva MyShield Standard Plan||316||~$26.40|
|AXA Shield Standard Plan||300||~$25|
|Raffles Health Insurance
Raffles Shield Standard Plan
Source: Ministry of Health
Life insurance and critical illness ~$76.50/month
Especially for those with parents or kids to take care of, you will definitely need life insurance if something happens to you (touch wood).
Your family will need some money to tide themselves over while getting back on their feet.
Furthermore, none of us will know when we might suddenly develop critical illnesses (such as cancer or stroke).
Money for long-term treatment is an additional expense you can protect yourself from when covered for critical illnesses in your insurance.
As a matter of fact, we have compiled a list of prices for life insurance plans with critical illness coverage below:
|Insurance Provider||Annual Premium (30 year old, Male, Non-smoker)||Monthly Premium (30 year old, Male, Non-smoker)||Annual Premium (30 year old, Female, Non-smoker)||Monthly Premium (30 year old, Female, Non-smoker)|
For easy comparison, we will be taking the lowest costs from the types of insurance, so you have a rough idea of what to expect when planning for your expenses.
But you must always remember before buying your insurance, never buy the cheapest policy. Take your time to know what it is about so you can get a policy tailored to your needs.
4. Transport: $70/month
Next up we have transport.
To save money on this, you have to give up on taking Grab entirely.
Now that working from home is more prevalent, we would be saving more on transport as we do not have to travel to work as often.
Ever since I started working from home, my public transport budget almost halved to about $70.
You could also optimise this further and spend less with these tips.
Use the transfers
One way I spent less on public transport is to make full use of the transfer system.
Here’s how the transfer system works.
According to TransitLink, here are the transfer conditions:
- From the MRT/LRT to a bus service
- From the MRT/LRT to another MRT/LRT
- From a bus service to another bus service
- From a bus service to the MRT/LRT
And here are the distance fare rules:
- The maximum duration between a bus or train’s first and last boarding (not alighting) within a journey is two hours.
- A maximum of five transfers can be made within a journey.
- Multiple rail transfers are allowed with no additional boarding charges.
- 45 minutes for transfers between the rail station and bus service, or between different bus services.
- 15 minutes for transfers between different rail stations.
- The current bus service must not be the same as the preceding bus service.
- No exit and re-entry at the same station.
Here’s an example of how this works.
Let’s say I needed to send in my power bank to be repaired.
I would take MRT to the location, send the power bank and take the bus back.
Sync up your calendar activities
Also, you could sync up your calendar activities to save more on transport.
For instance, say for a particular week, you have three items to check off your list:
- Go hiking
- Do your groceries
- Meet up with a friend for dinner
Assuming your schedule permits, you can try to lump all three activities within a day. This can easily save you at least 50 per cent on transport, assuming they are all located in the same vicinity.
5. Phone bill: $10/month
At the risk of sounding old, I remember the days when mobile phone plans were about $40 a month and gave only a paltry 1GB.
Now that we have SIM-Only plans, you can actually get about six GB of data for about $10 a month.
Feel free to check out our list of the best SIM-only mobile plans in Singapore on Seedly Reviews, you can get answers to questions such as the quality of customer service there too!
Surprisingly, you have quite a few options, so head on over to find out which plan is best for you.
6. Entertainment: $3/month
Now that you are connected, the next thing to settle will be the entertainment budget.
Want something to watch? You’ll find it with the many streaming services available.
You can get it via one of the most affordable video subscription services; Amazon Prime.
For S2.99/month, you’ll enjoy the following benefits — in addition to the previously mentioned free one-day delivery:
- 30-min early access to promos
- Access to Amazon Prime Now, an online grocery delivery service that guarantees you receive your order within two hours — and includes free delivery!
- Access to Amazon Prime Video
In addition, you even make use of the NLB mobile app, where you can get about $650 worth of stuff for free.
The NLB Mobile app comes allows you to:
- Read e-books and listen to audiobooks
- Access e-magazines and e-newspapers (both local and international)
- Attend online courses
For instance, through the NLB Mobile app, you have access to over 7,000 current e-newspapers and e-magazines from local and international publishers.
If you are a knowledge junkie, the app will become your companion in no time!
And the best part is, they are all free!
Still not enough?
Here is a list of things you can do for free in Singapore:
Knock yourself out!
7. Fitness: $0/month
As you get entertained, don’t forget to get fit as well.
With the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been an increasing number of fitness classes you can take for free online.
The best part?
Most of them are free!
Also, you can consider going hiking around the island as well.
You can do stuff like:
- Go on the TreeTop Walk at MacRitchie Nature Reserve
- Take a guided nature walk conducted by NParks
- Go hiking at Mount Faber Park
- Catch the sunset from Henderson Waves @ Southern Ridges
All for free.
8. Treat yourself: $52/month
Last but not least, I have allocated this segment of the budget for you to treat yourself.
I understand… budgeting can be challenging. Making significant lifestyle changes is not the easiest thing to adjust to.
This is why I have allocated $52 of the budget to smooth things over.
You can spend it on virtually anything.
But, you might want to consider giving your parents this money as you are relying on them for housing after all.
Conclusion: It’s all about lifestyle changes!
As a young adult, living on a shoestring budget is the reality for most.
As seen above, it is possible for you to live frugally and not suffer too much.
But, you must be willing to make the changes and accept the sacrifices.
With prudence, discipline and good planning, we can make the best of the amount of money we have been given.
READ ALSO: A guide to financing your first home
This article was first published in Seedly.