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Budgeting in Singapore: Here's How To Live on 500 a Month as a Young Working Adult

profileKenneth Lou

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:

‘Advertising Has Us Chasing Cars And Clothes, Working Jobs We Hate So We Can Buy S*#T We Don’t Need.’

Source: Fight Club | Giphy

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 $500 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 500 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!

ExpenseSolutionMonthly Cost
Housing + UtilitiesStay with parents
Utilities contribution
Food Budget$3.50 per meal
Meal prep
Hawker food etc.
Public TransportUse transfers
Sync errands etc.
Phone Bill$10 SIM Only
Mobile Plan
EntertainmentAmazon Prime Video
+ Free Things to do in Singapore
FitnessFree online
fitness classes
Hiking etc.
Treat YoselfBuy anything you want $53
Total Cost$500

Here are some assumptions.

This guide is a more generalised guide focused on personal spending.

But, you should not forget to factor in your personal insurance needs as well. Here’s a good place to start:

We are excluding how much allowance you should give to your parents as it is a dynamic arrangement that is different for every family.

But please do factor in these two incredibly important areas 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 with the assumption that 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.

To save on breakfast, you could also buy a loaf of bread and some spreads.

You could also try meal prepping, which would save you quite a bit too.

3. 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 the first and last boarding (not alighting) of a bus or train within a journey is two hours.
  • Maximum of 5 transfers can be made within a journey.
  • Multiple rail transfers allowed with no additional boarding charges.
  • 45 minutes for transfers between rail station and bus service, or between different bus services.
  • 15 minutes for transfers between different rail stations.
  • Current bus service must not be the same number 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 in 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% on transport, assuming they are all located in the same vicinity.

4. 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 6GB of data for about $10 a month.

To find these value for money plans, I used the FREE Seedly SIM Only Mobile plans comparison tool and lowered the price range to $0-10 a month.

Surprisingly, you have quite a few options, so head on over to find out which plan is best for you.

5. 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

Source: Amazon

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!

6. 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.

7. Treat Yo’ Self $50/Month

Last but not least, I have allocated this segment of the budget for you to treat yo’ self.

Source: Parks And Recreation | Giphy

I understand… budgeting can be hard. Making big lifestyle changes is not the easiest thing to adjust to.

This is why I have allocated $50 of the budget to smooth things over.

You can spend it on virtually anything.

But, you might want to consider giving this money to your parents as after all, you are relying on them for housing.

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.


About Kenneth Lou
Co-founder of Seedly. Passionate about helping people make smarter financial decisions.
You can contribute your thoughts like Kenneth Lou here.

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