The cost of living in Singapore

Moving to Singapore: A cost guide.

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A city, province and country all in one, Singapore is an exceptional place dotted with green skyscrapers, colonial heritage and scrumptious food. Often referred to as the “Garden city”, Singapore is well-known for its impeccable cleanliness and, most importantly, for having one of the lowest crime rates in the world. With these winning factors, Singapore is one of best countries to live in, and if you’re considering relocating to Singapore, you’re making a top choice.

However, you will have to take into account our cost of living. After all, Singapore has retained its position as the globe’s priciest place to live on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) league table for five consecutive years.

Housing costs and immigration have continued to soar and coupled with the country’s land constraints, means that you can expect to pay extra for almost anything. On the other hand, Singaporeans do get paid higher in general and there is still relative value in some categories. For example, household goods, personal care, and domestic help are significantly more affordable in Singapore compared to its regional peers. Read on for a basic guide on how you can prepare yourself financially for the big move.

The most expensive country in the world

The blessing of having smooth traffic and reduced emissions comes at an exorbitant cost. To limit traffic and pollution, since the city is so dense, the Singapore government imposes various fees and taxes on car owners, resulting in insanely high car ownership costs. This high ticket item, coupled with rising housing costs, is one of the main reasons why Singapore has been ranked the most expensive city to live in on the Worldwide Cost of Living Report for five years in a row since 2014.

According to Numbeo, the world’s largest database of user contributed data about cities and countries worldwide, the cost of living in Singapore is 27.75% higher than in United States. In particular, we are paying a hefty premium for our cars, rent, drinks and clothing. Our consumer price index (CPI) has continued to climb every year in the last decade. In fact, the CPI has risen to be more than 4 times higher than it was in the 1960s.

Singapore is increasingly more expensive to move to as the Singapore dollar hit more than its two-year high against the US dollar at the beginning of 2018. However, if you’re going be earning a salary in Singapore, you’ll still be paying a premium for living here. Fortunately, there are many ways to live economically in Singapore, such as taking public transport, dining on cooked food in one of the many hawker centres and shopping in heartland malls.

Why is the cost so high?

The cost of living in Singapore is deemed to be expensive due to our country’s limited space. Singapore’s population density (number of people per square kilometre) is 8,188.16, which ranks third highest in the world after Macau and Monaco. Very simply put, Singapore’s population is high in comparison to the limited size of its land. This results in a higher demand for housing and transport, bringing up the living cost considerably.

However, keep in mind that the standard cost of living is also a result of Singapore’s comparatively high wages. Ranked seventh globally on Numbeo, Singapore’s average monthly net salary US$3,160.84, ahead of Australia, Germany and the US. As a result, the costs for goods and services are higher, and so consumers are charged more. You’re paying more, but you’re also getting paid more. The Numbeo survey shows that countries which have a higher cost of living also have an equally high purchasing power, compared to less expensive countries.

Property is particularly expensive in Singapore, with a median price for all residential properties above a million Singapore dollars. This is because, in recent years, the domestic real estate market has seen a large influx of overseas investment.

What will my weekly budget look like?

If you’re moving to Singapore, your weekly budget should look similar to the one detailed below. Bear in mind that these are rough estimates and your budget will depend on your lifestyle choices. If you are coming to Singapore with your partner and two children, here are the costs in Singapore dollars:

Home and accommodation

Weekly cost

Rent or mortgage (3-bedroom Housing Development Board (HDB) flat) – $750

Utilities (including Internet) – $100

Healthcare – $50

Total: $900

Food and consumption

Groceries – $200

Alcohol – $50

Eating out once a week – $80

Clothing and other shopping – $100

Total: $430

Entertainment and recreation

Weekly movie night – $60

Weekly pub night – $50

Novelties and gifts – $50

Gym membership – $20

Total: $180

Tuition

Primary school (public) – $100

Secondary school (public) – $120

Total: $220

Transport

Taxi service – $50

Public transport – $150

Total: $200

Total cost per week

$1,930

You can see from the above that you can expect your family’s living expenses to be approximately $92,640 per year. If you are a skilled expat, your gross annual salary will be sufficient to provide for your family.

The salaries for Singaporean professionals are relatively high, with industries such as accounting, financial services, engineering, legal and medical paying more than $100,000 p.a. for management roles.

What are my options?

Living in Singapore is expensive, but it does depend on your housing rental and lifestyle choices. The good news is that the cost of living in some areas is significantly lower than others. For example, house rentals in districts such as Punggol and Woodlands are much lower than that in areas nearer to the Central Business District (CBD), for example, Tanjong Pagar and Shenton Way.

Top tips for prospective expats

Singapore is expensive overall

Unfortunately, there’s no good way to put this: If you want to live in Singapore, you should expect to pay top dollar. However, this will be somewhat offset by your higher salary. Be mentally prepared so there are no nasty surprises when you step off the plane.

Choose a district that suits you

Singapore may be a small country, but living in a district nearer to the CBD will cost you a lot more than districts situated further from it. Public transport in Singapore is affordable, convenient and readily available. Travelling via the mass rapid transit (MRT) from wherever you are to another destination normally takes between 20 minutes and an hour. So if you don’t mind spending a tad bit more time on transport, consider staying a little further from the CBD and enjoy significantly lower rent.

Carefully plan your finances

Singaporeans often seek financial advice from financial planners. So you may want to consider engaging a financial planner or keeping a keen eye on your finances yourself, especially if you are receiving income or financial support from overseas.

Use the resources available to you

Singapore is a highly multicultural country. The government and several not-for-profit organisations offer plenty of resources to aid guests and newcomers.

Arrive with enough money to settle

To cope with Singapore’s high living expenses whilst finding a job, new expats are recommended to arrive with at least $5,000 and have access to another $5,000.

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