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How to Budget for Life in Singapore

How to Budget for Life in Singapore
Image by Jason Goh from Pixabay

Singapore is one of the more developed, and subsequently, more expensive islands than several others within the southeast Asia region. With that said, this is still SE Asia we’re talking about. Many of the costs are more reasonable than you’d imagine and likely cheaper than what you’re used to. To prepare you for a possible move to Singapore here is some advice on how to budget to live a life there.

What’s Less Expensive in Singapore?

There is usually far greater flexibility on the basic cost of living than a luxurious lifestyle in SE Asia. This is also true in Singapore; however, the minimum for an acceptable standard of living for one person is still higher than in other Asian countries such as Vietnam or Thailand. Malaysia is more comparable when it comes to the cost of living.

If you wish to avoid housework and regularly hire maids, you’ll be pleased to hear that hiring one is very affordable. Also, if you like cooking at home, local produce is affordable even though the restaurants are sometimes a little pricey depending on where you dine. 

When you don’t own a motorbike or scooter and instead rely on taxis, these aren’t expensive either. So, anyone who’s a night owl wishing to drink and not drive, or doesn’t drive, will be pleased to hear that. 

Single Expats Live Less Expensively Than Expat Families 

Life in Singapore has become considerably more expensive for couples, but even more so for expat families. The city and what area you choose to stay in also play a major role in the costs. For city dwellers who love to live in the heart of the action, a 2-bedroom, 950 square foot apartment is likely to set you back SGD 6,000+ (US$4,000) a month. A smaller two-bedroom rental near shopping centers can shave off 10-15% of that cost. Staying a little farther out reduces the costs considerably. This is more suitable for expats who don’t hit the nightlife options too often. 

By comparison, families needing to live near international schools will find 3 or 4-bedroom houses renting for SGD 8,000+ (US$6,000) a month. To be located near an American school specifically may cost even more. 

Planning to Buy? Figure Out the Mortgage Costs First

There can be considerable cost savings when purchasing a home in Singapore instead of throwing money away on rent. Once you’ve set your sights on a certain property, use this loan calculator from PropertyGuru to get a clearer idea of how much you’ll pay each month. They can also guide you through the acquisition process, making it go a lot more smoothly with less frustration. 

Major Costs in Singapore

Here is a rundown of some basic costs of life in Singapore:


Utilities are more expensive than in other parts of Asia, except the Philippines. If you can survive with fans and not use the AC, the costs are far reduced. However, when you run the AC generously, the monthly bill could reach SGD 300-400 (US$ 200-280) or more with expansive properties. 

Internet and TV

Fiber optic internet is often bundled with a TV service from Starhub or Singtel providers. The connection speeds are some of the best in the world. Basic fiber can cost around SGD 155 (US$ 103), depending on the speed. Beyond the basic TV package, movie bundles are extra or use a streaming service like Netflix. 

Staying Fit

Getting a gym membership becomes more necessary if you’re into fitness. It’s sufficiently hot and humid outdoors that exercising inside an AC gym is highly desirable. Several major gym chains are scattered around. The prices range for single-day use for a few dollars to over SGD 100 (US$ 65) monthly for premium options.

Food and Eating Out

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Image by Monika Neumann from Pixabay

Eating in is considerably less expensive than regularly dining out. There’s less of a hawker-style stall environment on the clean streets of Singapore, though there are hawker markets which are the next best thing. The food bill can easily be SGD 250-450 (US$ 160-300) per week. Visiting supermarkets like Giant keeps the costs down to acceptable levels. The sky is the limit with eating out here. However, good meals may cost around SGD 200 (US$ 130) for a couple on a date. 


A visa on arrival option is usually good for a 90-day stay. If you plan to live and work in Singapore for a lengthy period, a visa will be needed and a working permit. Once the visa is in hand, the working permit application fee and an issuance cost are approximately SGD 330 (US$ 220), but it lasts for several years. 

Overall, depending on how you live back home, Singapore can be afforded at a similar or reduced cost. Staying outside of a CBD or popular area dramatically reduces the expenses. Also, if you eat at more basic places and aren’t out every night, the living costs decline noticeably. Lifestyle choices play a major part in the cost of life in Singapore. 

Featured Image by Jason Goh from Pixabay

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