Singapore is well-known for its great education system, career opportunities, and world-class amenities, which is what makes it a top destination for expats to move to.
However, on the flip side, it is consistently appearing at the top of cost-of-living surveys. While the standard of living in Singapore is high, it doesn't come cheap.
Thus, whether you’ll be residing in Singapore temporarily or permanently, it is useful to understand the breakdown of the different costs that you might incur – from housing to transportation and everyday expenses.
Housing is one of the most important aspects to consider when moving to a new country, and also the biggest expense that you will incur, whether you’re buying or renting a home.
Accommodation options in Singapore are plentiful, from modern condominiums to terraced houses, to luscious landed properties with swimming pools, and even colonial-style shophouses.
Most expats in Singapore rent a home, and they should expect to budget at least S$700 to S$3,500 a month for rent.
If you are looking to rent a room in a shared apartment, expect to pay about S$700 to S$2,000 a month. You will also have to share your living space with around two to three other housemates.
If you are living with your family, or prefer not to share an apartment, be expected to shell out even more in rent. Renting a studio apartment or unit in a Housing Development Board flat or condominium will set you back by around S$1,500 to S$5,000 a month.
There are various factors that affect property prices. First, property type. A Housing Development Board flat is likely to be the cheapest option but is basic and typically does not come with any other facilities. Condominiums are expensive, but often have facilities like gyms, saunas and pools.
Furthermore, if you live in a condo, all maintenance and other costs will be covered by the management. However, on private property, you will have to pay up to S$500 a month for gardening services, pool maintenance and so on.
The next factor is location. Properties located near the city centre will typically cost more. However, on the bright side, since Singapore is small and has a well-connected public transport system, going places will not be a huge problem for you even if you do not live in the central area.
If you are looking for something in the shopping district, Orchard Road and Tanglin are your go-to's, and a 2-bed 800 sq ft apartment will come in around SGD $5,388/month.
Monthly gas, water and electricity bills may range from a low of S$200 to a high of S$600 a month and are highly dependent on your air-conditioning usage.
When renting a place, you will most likely also have to foot your utility bills on top of your monthly rent.
Healthcare is of utmost importance, and as the saying goes, health is wealth. The healthcare system in Singapore is well-equipped and the healthcare infrastructure is strong.
The public healthcare system is financed via Medisave contributions that Singaporeans and Permanent Residents pay each month. So, if you belong to the above groups, most of your medical costs will be covered at least partially.
However, expats do not fall into this category, and will probably have to deal with large healthcare bills. Thus, many choose to go through private healthcare options, which are more efficient. It is important to ensure that you have private health insurance to help circumvent high healthcare costs.
A general practitioner consultation fee will average S$40, while a trip to a specialist clinic will range between S$125 and S$250 or even more.
Education in Singapore is highly valued, be it in the private or public school system. Furthermore, the Singapore education system is regularly ranked amongst the top in the world.
However, this also comes with a cost. High school tuition in a private school in Singapore could go up to as high as S$50,000. The same goes for kindergartens – most neighbourhood kindergartens are subsidized, while private ones have higher school fees.
Tuition fees for all levels for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents are highly subsidized, but international students will have to pay the full fees.
Cars in Singapore are notoriously expensive, due to the cost of the Certificate Of Entitlement, and you are likely to have to set back close to S$3,000 a month to finance the car.
The public transport system in Singapore is highly connected, with Mass Rapid Transit Trains and frequent bus services often running from as early as 5 am to as late as 11 pm.
However, your monthly transportation costs will vary wildly depending on how far you have to travel each day. If you live close to your workplace, you will definitely spend less on transport as compared to someone who lives in the suburban areas and has to commute to the city centre daily.
Locals typically make use of the MRT and bus system, and you can choose to purchase an unlimited pass, which will typically cost around S$128 a month.
However, if you stay out late, you will usually have no choice but to hail a private hire vehicle. A Grab or Gojek ride can range anywhere from S$15 to S$30 and can take a toll on your finances if you have to use these services often.
There are many daily expenses that one has to account for. This includes groceries, meals, mobile data or Wi-Fi, entertainment and recreation.
In Singapore, groceries might be more expensive as many products like cheese, milk, and other fresh produce are imported. There are, however, a variety of places to purchase groceries from, and they range from more basic, to upscale.
For example, purchasing groceries from a wet market would not set you back as much financially as if you were to purchase them from an upscale supermarket in town. Neighbourhood supermarkets like Sheng Shiong, Giant and Shop and Save are also cheaper alternatives.
If you are living with a landlord, do take note that some landlords do not allow their tenants to cook at home. This would mean that you have to either have all your meals out or have takeout. It is worth considering this when looking for a place to rent.
The prices of food in Singapore can also vary wildly based on where you have your meals. Suburban hawker centres are known to be affordable opinion, with meals costing as little as S$3. However, when it comes to dining at cafes or restaurants, a meal would typically cost at least S$20 to S$30.
Heading out for a night out? Alcohol is notoriously expensive in Singapore due to customs duties, and heavy markups. Even if you bring your own bottle to a restaurant, corkage will cost you up to S$30.
If you’re looking for a place to work out or burn those calories, Singapore is chock-full of gyms and exercise classes, but they tend to be on the pricier side. A gym membership is likely to set you back by at least S$100 a month, while classes can go for around S$30 per class.
A mobile phone subscription will cost you anywhere between S$35 to S$100 per month, based on the type of plan you choose, and the amount of mobile data you end up with. A broadband Internet connection at home will be around S$50 a month, which will give you a choice of international channels.
One of the main reasons for the high cost of living in Singapore is the country’s shortage of land and natural resources.
This has led to Singapore having to depend on other countries for supplying natural resources such as food, oil and water. The growing population has also led to a greater demand for accommodation, which has pushed up property prices over the years.
While Singapore is definitely not the most affordable country to reside in, there are many ways to cut costs if necessary.
These include having meals at hawker centres cooking your own meals and taking public transport instead of Grab rides.
At the end of the day, having an estimate of the prices of various goods and services in Singapore will help you make a more informed decision when deciding to move here.
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