Rent Budget In Singapore
This is part 2 of a 2-part article on what to expect when you rent in Singapore. Part 2 covers how to budget your money and what lifestyle changes I made to afford my rent.
If you want to know how I chose a place and what to look out for when signing the lease, read part 1 on how to rent in Singapore.
Last year, I was lucky enough to be able to move out and rent an apartment with two friends. To accommodate rent into my budget, I had to adjust my spending habits.
I’m no financial expert and I definitely don’t save as much as some, but here’s how I spend my money and what lifestyle changes I made to pay rent on time.
Learn how to budget without making yourself unhappy
When tracking your first month’s expenditure, focus on understanding your spending habits. Then adjust amounts accordingly for the second month of tracking.
Accounting for everything you buy is tedious and annoying but necessary. Some use Excel sheets but I prefer phone apps. Currently, I’m using Pocket Expense 6.
Every month when my salary comes in, I handle it in this order: first, I get the must-pays out of the way. This means rent, transport, utilities, bills, insurance, pet maintenance, etc. Then, I allocate money for eating out and groceries. After that, I put some money into a savings account. Finally, I treat myself.
How my expenses for July 2019 looked like
A big part of figuring out and sticking to a budget is deciding how you want to live. You’ll want to structure your spending habits around building a life you don’t feel like you constantly need a break from. This minimises expensive ‘treat yo’ self’ moments as you’ll feel less unhappy.
My personal priorities are exercising, eating healthily, hanging out with friends and sleeping 8 hours a day. So I pay for my fitness classes (2.6% of my income), prep most of my weekday meals (groceries takes up 12%) and indulge my oyster-eating, white wine-drinking tendencies when hanging out with friends on weekends (15%).
I save consistently (13% to 15%) and have a budget for miscellaneous expenditure (15%). This is a fixed sum of money that I can spend guilt-free. Money for a visit to the doctor’s or an extra night out with friends when I’ve maxed out my eating-out budget comes from this fund.
Technically, I could cut my ‘buy whatever’ expenditure to save more. But the point is to allow myself some spending flexibility and enjoy life’s little luxuries in moderation. If you’re the type that values saving money, or prefers to eat less to shop more, allocate your budget accordingly.
Ultimately, the top priority is to be content with your choices. Don’t trap yourself in a life you don’t want.
Beware the first-month splurge
In the first month of moving in, prepare to be constantly surprised by how much things cost. First, you’ll have to fork out a one-month down payment on top of the first month’s rent. Second, if your house is unfurnished, you’ll have to head down to IKEA or trawl Carousell for deals.
Thankfully, I chose a place that was furnished and only had to get a bed and storage unit for my room. Getting good sleep is a priority, so I aimed to get my bedroom as comfortable as possible.
I manage to score a barely-used queen-size mattress and white faux leather bed frame, inclusive of assembly and moving for $190. But when I went to IKEA to get curtains, sheets, covers and blankets, I was actually shocked and offended that I spent $300 on cloth.
If you want to be financially comfortable after you’ve moved out, I’d say you should have at least $5,000 in your bank account first. This will go towards your down payment, rent for the first month and miscellaneous purchases for your house, and act as a buffer for groceries and in case of emergencies.
My roommate cleaning up our house right after we moved in
Don’t buy things because they’re cheap
This seems like a “no shit, Sherlock” moment. But it’s so easy to spend money on things you don’t need, especially when it doesn’t seem like much.
Chinese New Year clothing sale? Buy ah, can wear next time. Go Daiso for fun? ‘Accidentally’ spends $10. And in a bid to keep things tidy, I’d buy more organising drawers and boxes.
Be a conscious consumer. One way to do this is to use cash to pay for purchases. Handing over physical money is more painful than swiping a card. This is one way to trick yourself into considering if you’re buying something you want or need.
If you see something you like in the stores, walk away. And if you’re still thinking about an item 3 days later, go back and buy it.
Why eat out when you can eat at home
I could have halved my eating-out budget to save more. However, insisting on $2.50 two-vegetable cai png every day would mean I’m less likely to eat with friends. Also, I enjoy eating alone at restaurants as part of me time.
So instead of spending $50 whenever I go out for dinner and drinks, I learnt to cook things I liked to order. Rather than drink at a bar, I’d host friends at home.
For instance, I love having shakshuka for brunch. But getting it at a cafe easily costs $25. Making the same portion at home costs $5 and 45 minutes. Learning to cook is a great skill to have. All you need is some patience and faith in yourself.
Eating shakshuka for dinner with my uni roomie, Jia Han
While it’s perfectly fine to spend less on food, your health is important too so make sure you eat enough and include fruit and vegetables in your diet.
Meal prep and freeze your food
When I’m not out with my friends, I eat to live. To choose what to eat, I pick an ingredient from each category for a passable dish:
Just pick from each category and anyhow cook
For me, this works because I’m very okay with eating foods I enjoy repeatedly. Plus, I can control what I eat so meal prepping is in line with my desire to eat better. To switch up flavours, I use chilli, onion, garlic, lemon, miso and kimchi. Learn easy sauce combos like light soya sauce + honey + sesame oil.
Also, this sounds dumb, but remember to eat your food. If you’re new to cooking, you might throw away 30% of your groceries. This is because there’s a tendency to buy into the idea of cooking more than actually making food.
Purchasing groceries with a week’s worth of recipes in mind can help cut down food wastage as you have a solid game plan. My strategy to reduce food wastage is to make more food than I need so I can freeze any leftovers for work the next day.
Tip: Use Redmart so you don’t have to lug 5kg bags of rice and 2L washing detergent bottles home. My flatmates and I buy two weeks’ worth of food in one go to make sure we hit the minimum of $50 to enjoy free delivery.
Neighbour’s cat is chonky
Learn To Budget Your Rent
I didn’t make huge lifestyle changes when I moved into my new place but I’m infinitely happier. Mostly, I worked towards achieving contentment and splurging less on snaccs.
Arguably, if I didn’t move out of my childhood home, I wouldn’t have had to make these adjustments. While renting does not make ‘financial sense’, paying for my own space bought me better mental health. If I didn’t rent, the money would have gone to a therapist instead.
Moving out is a deeply personal choice. Likewise, don’t feel pressured to move out just because “I’m so old I shouldn’t live with my parents anymore.” Happy renting!