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Singapore - Cost of Living
The biggest expenses associated with living in Singapore are education, vehicles, and housing. Some expats relocate to Singapore for employment purposes and enjoy a benefits package that includes transportation or car allowances, housing, childcare, education fees, entertainment allowances and additional benefits. If you have these available to you than your overall cost of living is going to be dramatically lower than someone who does not. Even if you don’t have these privileges, however, you can still enjoy a good quality of life in Singapore and find things that suit your budget.
Your overall cost of housing will depend on the property’s age, any amenities or facilities, its location, the number of rooms, and whether or not any furnishings come with it. Your desired location might be a big factor in your determining how much you pay for housing. On the other hand, if you want to save money then you might be able to live in your second choice of neighborhood or area and get something a little cheaper and larger.
Many expats live in private condo units. These come with amenities and facilities like playgrounds, security, and swimming pools. They also allow the opportunity for expats to socialize with one another which can be a big boost in Singapore.
Condo prices can vary but, as an example, a 3-bedroom condo in Bukit Timah usually starts at about S$7,000 per month. It can get as high as S$15,000 depending upon how luxurious the condo is. In areas like Keppel Bay, you might pay as much as S$13,000 per month for a high-end apartment. In the outer parts of the island, you’ll save money. For instance, in Jurong you might only end up paying S$3,300 for a 3-bedroom condo.
Private apartments can be somewhat cheaper since they don’t normally have the amenities and facilities that condos do. You might be able to find a private apartment in one of the out-lying areas for S$3,000 or less. Of course, if you’re really on a budget then the HDB flats are going to be your cheapest option. While they usually lack facilities or anything extra, a 3-bedroom HDB apartment close to the CBD starts at about S$3,000.
Depending on where you eat, food is moderately inexpensive in Singapore. A family of four can save a significant amount of money if they stick to eating at hawking centers, only dine out at nice restaurants occasionally, and fix most of their meals at home. By cooking at home, you’ll normally find that your average monthly food costs are about S$200 per person for basic meat and vegetables. On the other hand, eating regularly could cost a couple around S$1,000 – S$1,200 per month.
At a food court, you can expect to pay about S$6 for a meal. At a hawking center, on the other hand, the price is considerably lower and you can usually find a large meal for about S$4. Fast food restaurants are higher, where a meal at McDonalds might set you back S$7. A single drink at Starbucks could be that much. At a moderately priced restaurant, you can expect to pay about S$20 – S$40 per person for a basic meal. For a couple, eating breakfast and dinner at home, having lunch in food courts or a hawking center, and eating out in moderately priced places on the weekends will cost around S$600 – S$1,000, as long as you’re mindful.
The cost of owning a vehicle can be very expensive, as you can see in the “Driving” section of this guide. Public transportation is not expensive, however. The mass transit system is fast, clean, and reliable. A one-way average bus or MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) fare starts at S$1.10. You can get passes and distance fares which can save you money if you plan on using the transit every day. These passes can combine bus and train fares. If you travel a lot within Singapore you should plan on spending about S$150 per month on travel costs, if you stick to mass transit.
Health costs are low in comparison to some western countries, especially the United States. For that reason, medical tourism has really taken off in Singapore. However, health insurance is not mandated and there is a chance that your employer might not offer it to you. Chances are good that you won’t need any health insurance for any non-serious medical issues. You can normally get by with paying about S$100 – S$200 per month in regular medical costs, although some months you might not pay anything at all. A fee at a general practitioner is about S$40 while blood-work and x-rays will cost approximately S$50-S$80. You might end up paying S$75 -S$125 for a consultation with a specialist.
Private insurance should be purchased for medical emergencies, however. Without it, you might end up paying a lot of money out of pocket. Hospitalizations and surgeries might be cheap in comparison to other countries, but they still cost a lot of money - a hospital stay can cost as much as S$3,000 per night.
Your utilities will be one of the costs that you’ll be responsible for whether you’re renting or buying your home. Still, depending on your air conditioning use your monthly gas, water and electricity bill could be as low as S$200 per month. A broadband Internet connection generally costs about S$50 per month while a mobile phone subscription can run from S$35 to S$100 per month. If you want cable television then you can expect to pay around S$30 for basic channels and S$50 – S$80 for a more comprehensive service.
If you have children, then education costs will be a consideration. An international school can cost as much as S$3,000 or more per month while a local school is much more affordable. Primary education at a local school only costs about S$246 – S$356 while secondary charges are S$341 – $486 and junior college is S$552 – S$772. If you want to send your child to an international school then be aware that yearly fees can be as high as S$30,000. Don’t forget to factor in bus fares, which can run to S$2,000 per year.
Childcare isn’t as expensive in Singapore as it could be, but it will still cost you. The childcare fees depend on how long the child stays and their age. Normally, a half-day stay is about S$1,200 per month while a full day stay isn’t much more at S$1,500 per month.
Some people find that hiring a little extra help is beneficial. A live-in maid isn’t as expensive as you might think and you can usually expect to pay about S$1,000 per month for a service worker’s salary. Domestic help tends to come from surrounding countries such as Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Myanmar, and the Philippines. If you want to pay someone by the hour, then going rates are about S$20 per hour.
You can find inexpensive leisure activities, although most entertainment options are on par with what you would find in other major cities. Tickets to the movies cost about S$10 while a concert ticket might be S$15 for a local show and more than S$100 for an international touring act. Televisions can start at S$600, although you might find one cheaper in the classifieds. If you want to spend some time at the national library, you can pay a membership fee of less than S$50 and go as often as you’d like.
Mercer’s cost of living ranks Singapore as being the 6th most expensive city to live in in the world for expatriates. Still, you can minimize your costs by cooking at home, taking public transportation, and living outside of the most expensive areas.
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