Cost of living Singapore - 2019
TLDR - how is life in the world most expensive city, lifestyle choices to be made
As an NRI (Non Resident Indian) who makes his annual / bi-annual pilgrimage to India to visit family and friends, one question that people tend to ask you. “How is the country like?” And the not-so-polite ones go a few steps further - “how much money do you make?” and followed by “What is the exchange rate between SGD and INR?” and finally “Do you think you can find a job for me there?”.
I am sure some or most of you have heard variations of these questions that have asked to you. Be it with people who feel good that you are making a decent sum of money or others who are jealous about the money you make.
But what they fail to understand is that, your earnings when converted to INR sounds like a lot, but so are the living expenses in Singapore.
Others who are looking to relocate to Singapore from other countries are also curious about the cost of living in Singapore after reading up about it being the most expensive place in the world and see if they are compensated well for their troubles.
I will try to break down the cost of living in Singapore for non-citizens who are looking to relocate to Singapore. I will try to split the costs into 3 different ranges so you can relate the range and lifestyle choices that you would make and arrive at a figure per month (in SGD) that would work for you.
Renting a place to live is probably going to be a significant expense for anyone relocating to Singapore unless your firm pays for it.
Housing in Singapore is broadly classified into 3 types
HDB - Subsidised government built housing with no amenities. No gym, no swimming pool, no tennis court and no security and access control. Typical size - 800 to 1500 Sq feet
Condo - Private housing within a gated complex with gym, swimming pool and tennis courts. 800 to 2500 sq feet
Landed - semi detached 3 to 4 story houses with a small lawn / yard. Typically does not come with any amenities. Size 2000 to 4000 sq feet.
Singapore is one of the safest cities in the world so it should not matter where you stay from a security point of view but clearly you can see the price range based on size of property and amenities.
HDB - 2,000 to 3,000 $
Condo - 3,000 to 6,000 $ (You can find even more pricier options in the shopping district or within city center)
Landed - 8,000 to 14,000 $
I have assumed that you will want to rent the entire place but if you are just looking to rent a room, the prices would be much lesser.
Singapore has an efficient, clean and well connected network of trains, buses, mono rails and taxis. So there should be no need to buy a car and cars are extremely expensive, so I would recommend you avoid it unless you are the kind who cannot live without one.
If you stick with public transport as regular means of commute your per person outlay would be around 150 to 200$.
If you tend to stick to public transport during the week and taxis during the weekend for family trips, you should plan for 250 to 350$.
If you had sworn off buses and trains and commute by taxis only then expect to spend much more. around 750 to 1,000$.
Despite my advice of not buying a car, you decide you go ahead and buy / lease one. You can imagine needing to spend anywhere between 1,500 to 4,000$ depending on the terms of your lease, petrol, parking, tolls and maintenance costs.
Singapore being a multi cultural cosmopolitan city there is no dearth of food options in all budget ranges. But if you like to cook at home then the costs depend on what you buy.
Mostly Asian vegetables, fruits and the occasional sea food - 300 to 400 $
Mostly normal vegetables, fruits supplemented by meat (lamb / beef) - 400 to 600 $
Mostly organic vegetables, fruits and meat - 600 to 1,000 $
Your typical expenses here are cable, internet, electricity, mobile expenses. The prices are pretty competitive and generally there is not a lot of variation other than the obvious culprits
Electricity - mostly determined by your use of air conditioning and water heaters. Range between 100 to 350$
Cable - As a cord cutter, I have done away with a cable subscription. If you need a connection, the price can be anywhere between 30 to 100$
Internet - Almost every single household has a fibre connection available so you can get fast 1 Gbps plans for around 40 to 60$
Mobile - Smart phones are like electricity, you cannot live without one these days. SIM only plans are around 20 to 40$. Smart phone subsided plans are between 40 to 100$ depending on the phone model and contract period. Check whether your employer has a corporate discount program, most do.
Typically medical insurance cover is provided by the employer, you might want to consider supplementing that with additional cover of your own. You can consider a term policy for life cover, accident cover and medical cover as per your needs. The premiums can vary significantly based on your age, health, size of family and amount of coverage. So the range can be 0 (covered by employer) to 5,000$ (full over with cash riders etc). So check and see where you land in the spectrum depending on what you are comfortable with.
Clubbing, eating out, movies and other stuff all goes into this bucket. Expenses vary widely based on what you do, how frequently you do it and what you eat.
The frugal version of entertainment would be the occasional movie and dine out a decent restaurant once in a fortnight. Costs between 100 to 200$
The mid point option would cost 200 to 350$
The splurge options with going to fancy restaurants and clubs rather frequently would cost a pretty penny 500 to 1500$
You will need to venture out of Singapore on a fairly regular basis as it is a fantastic travel hub with great connectivity to rest of south east Asia, all within a flying time of 1 to 3 hours. You might as well take advantage of that. Also you might want to visit home on a annual or bi-annual basis.
The airfare depends on how far or close you need to travel. It could be anywhere between 100$ (to KL/ Bangkok) to 1500 ( to US / Canada per person). Hotels can be in the same range as well.
A short 3 day vacation to Bali on a budget would cost 1000$ for a family of four.
A week long trip to Japan staying at 4 star hotels could cost anywhere between 2,000$ to 4,000$ for a family of four
A 10 day long luxury maldives beach resort on a overwater villa could cost anywhere between 4,000$ to 10,000$ for a couple.
Singapore has very reasonable taxes both on the consumption side (GST of 7%, but it is expected to go up to 9% in the next couple of years) and on the income side (marginal tax rate based on different income slabs. So if you are a tax resident (staying in Singapore for more than 183 days in a year) then your taxes are as follows
So unless you are in the super high earners salary range, your tax liability is not too bad.
The public schools in Singapore are excellent. They have good teachers, infrastructure and reasonable school fees for citizens and Singapore Permanent residents (PR). If I have any complain about the schools is that I find the curriculum too tough and I feel that it puts too much pressure on the kids and their parents. Most kids have tuitions and enrichment classes over and above their school classes.
Enrichment classes and tuition can be between 100 to 200$ per subject.
Expats can also consider other international school options but they are going to be quite expensive depending upon the curriculum and courses offered. International school fees vary from 1,500 $ to 5,000 $ per month. They are definitely the pricer option.
Shopping and Grooming
I prefer to buy only for my needs and not so much on my wants. Same goes for the Mrs. So we don’t spend a lot in this category. So it is really depends on what you want and how you spend here.
To summarise the cost of living in any place depends on your lifestyle. One of the wonderful things about Singapore is that you can lead a life of good quality irrespective of your earnings (*within reason).
Frugal living in HDB, using public transport, cooking at home, vacations in south east Asia with small expenses on entertainment for a family of four with kids studying in public schools 4,000 to 6,000 $
Slightly more comfortable than frugal, with taxis, more eating out and fancier holidays. 6,000 to 8,000 $
Parties, clubbing, drinking out, long vacations in exotic locales and kids in international schools. 12,000 to 20,000 $
As I have always insisted in the blog, save and invest first for the long term. Irrespective of where you fall in this spectrum, do spend only what you can. So these figures should post your investment / savings. You need to make 25% more than these figures to support the lifestyle.
Also consider initial moving and settling expenses before you reach the steady state before relocating.