7 Smart Ways Expats Can Save Money in Singapore

Singapore has a reputation for being the most expensive city in the world. On the upside, it combines a low tax environment with great safety and political stability.

So if you’ve just moved to Singapore, you don’t need to worry too much about your physical well-being. Spend the time fretting over your wallet instead, because this city can empty it in record time.

Here are some time-tested tips to survive the world’s most expensive city:

If Buying, Be Picky About Conveyancing Fees

You can choose which law firm handles the paperwork, as long as they are recognised by the bank. Conveyancing fees can range from $1,500 to $3,000, and are rarely brought up by the mortgage banker. If you’re not too lazy to compare (you can get an independent mortgage broker to do this), you can save a tidy sum.

If you’re getting a property loan, use a mortgage broker instead of just letting the estate agent point you at one. It’s not their forte, so you may not be getting the best deal. Mortgage brokers are generally free in Singapore, so go through them instead.

If Renting, Ensure There is a Diplomatic Clause

By convention, this clause should be present if you have a lease exceeding 12 months. This allows you to terminate the lease on two months’ notice, with no penalties if you are retrenched or transferred elsewhere. When you use this clause, your security deposit gets refunded to you.

If you are unfamiliar with the document, ask your property agent or the landlord to point out the specific page on which the clause is printed.

Do note that the standard Tenancy Agreement usually has a reimbursement clause, which states that you have to reimburse part of the commission fees the landlord paid to the agent. The amount will vary depending on how many months are left in your lease. You can ask the agent to negotiate the removal of this clause on your behalf.

Watch Where Singaporeans Eat or Drink

Newcomers are often amazed that locals can eat out (all three meals) for around $9 a day. But if you don’t know what you’re doing, and keep walking into cafes or restaurants, be prepared to fork out $75+ per day if you eat out every meal. Singapore is a food hub, and you’ll quickly realise that a $3 meal can taste as good as a $35 one - and yes, portion sizes are equal.

Watch where Singaporeans (or anyone who has lived here a while) go to eat and drink. The sooner you learn from the locals, the sooner this will stop being “the world’s most expensive city” for expats.

Shopping Paradise or Not, Double-Check Online Before You Buy

Retailers will hate us for telling you this, but mark-ups in Singapore stores can be high. This is doubly true for high-end brands and touristy areas, such as the shops along Orchard Road. Even among Singaporeans, there are shoppers who prefer to get their designer bags, clothes, or shoes in Hong Kong or New York instead.

So double-check the prices online before you buy. Chances are, you may be able to get it cheaper back home, or even from an online store.

Don’t Choose a Bank Because It’s More Familiar

As the region’s financial hub, there are well over 100 banks in Singapore. Beyond well-known banks like HSBC or Citibank are local banks such as DBS and OCBC, which bring an accessibility advantage. There are more ATMs and branches, which makes it easy to withdraw cash. Singapore is also host to a range of private and offshore banks that may offer you a better deal if you are affluent.

It is advisable to pick two banks when you land. The first bank should be an international bank used to send money to and from home. This is usually cheaper than using a non-bank remittance service, and you may get a better exchange rate.

The second bank should be a local bank, through which you can have your salary credited and conveniently handle withdrawals or deposits.

Consider a Regional or Global Insurance Policy

If you need private health insurance, it may be more cost-effective to get a regional or global policy, especially if you’re staying less than seven years or travel a lot. You might get sticker shock once you see the premium, but it may be financially efficient, depending on your situation.

Many local insurers will terminate your policy once you leave the country, or may not want to cover you if you spend a lot of time going in and out of Singapore. Getting a global policy may still be cheaper than repeatedly adding coverage from a local insurer.

Speak to an independent financial advisor if you want global insurance. Financial advisors who work for a particular insurer will be biased toward their own products.

Get a Credit Card in Singapore

When making credit card transactions, avoid using a credit card from your home country. On top of currency differences, you may get charged foreign transaction fees, which can be as high as 2%.

So get a local credit card instead. Besides avoiding these fees, credit cards in Singapore can save you money in the form of cashback, 1-on-1 restaurant deals, or discounts at your favourite retail shops. These savings can add up significantly and save you several hundred dollars a year on everyday expenses.

This article was contributed by SingSaver.com.sg, Singapore’s #1 comparison site for credit cards and personal loans.

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