Singapore is one of the countries with a high cost of living. Yet, regardless of the hefty cost of living here, what you get in return are its cultural heritage, awe-striking high-rise buildings, job opportunities, top-notch healthcare system, and other perks of living in a first-world country.
According to Singstats’ key household income trends report in 2022, the median monthly income for a household in Singapore is S$10,099 from 2021’s S$9,520. Yet, despite the wage hike, the inflation for CPI-All Items rose to a staggering 7.3% in July-August of 2022.
Now this implies that household costs have to adjust to the economic changes. So, if you’re retiring, relocating, or moving to Singapore for good, it’s ideal to know the financial expectations once you get here. Here’s a guide on the monthly cost of living in Singapore.
A Short Overview of Living in Singapore
Singapore is divided into various regions. Each can be a hub of entertainment and large shopping malls. In contrast, others can be packed with natural sceneries or financial districts. Depending on where you settle, these factors can influence your lifestyle in Singapore.
- The central region, covering districts 1 to 15, Marina Area, Central Business District, City Hall, and Central West District, are the most expensive places to live in. These are situated near international schools, major shopping malls, and other commercial businesses.
- Locals and ex-pats prefer patronizing hawker centres and food courts over commercial fast food or luxury dining restaurants due to their relatively lower prices.
- Owning a car is expensive in Singapore, and anyone planning to have one can expect to pay double due to the road tax and local fees that come with it.
- Locals aiming to save a few bucks shy away from supermarkets but turn to groceries selling locally-sourced fresh produce. This significantly helps balance their finances with the cost of living in a certain region.
- When looking for the cheapest rentals in Singapore, expatriates consider the North and East regions.
- Singapore has lots of avenues regarding job opportunities. The market, however, is highly competitive, so job seekers must up their skills and qualifications to be considered for a position.
- Most expats opt for private health insurance before moving here. After all, the healthcare system in Singapore is expensive, and its fees continuously soar.
Average Monthly Household Expenses in Singapore
The total monthly cost of an average household in Singapore is S$4,789, excluding taxes, childcare service, and domestic helper expenses. This is per the Singapore Economic Development Board’s calculations on estimated monthly expenses in a household of three in Singapore.
Given the inflation observed by Forbes in 2022, the other monthly expenses will complementarily surge.
The table below shows rough estimates for a family’s monthly expenses in Singapore:
Average Monthly Cost (Per Household of Three)
|Cost of Childcare Services
|Cost of Hiring Domestic Help
A flat rate of 22% for non-residents and 0% to 22% for personal tax rates
The section below will further discuss the estimated monthly costs in detail:
Rented accommodation refers to where you stay. There is little difference in rental prices in Singapore in its various regions. Albeit the kind you choose, factoring the size, if you want a one-bedroom unit or more, and location can make a difference in what you pay.
Typically, a studio apartment can cost you S$1,700 to S$2,400 if you’re tight on the budget. A mid-range price falls between S$3,600 to S$4,400 for a more comfortable living condition and S$5,000 to $9,000 for a house.
HDB flats are also a wise option for your accommodation as they’re much more affordable. Depending on the location, an HDB flat may have a monthly rent of S$2,000. Out of all these figures, the usual monthly rental costs for an apartment would be S$2,400.
Singapore is known for its rail system or mass rapid transit (MRT) that transports millions of passengers daily.
Whether travelling for work or to school, going back and forth to and from your destination and home may require two rides. A one-way ticket for a bus or MRT would cost S$2. That said, the daily expenses for your public transportation costs a total of S$4.
In your 20 work or school days, you’re looking at around S$80 for the monthly public transportation cost. For a family with four members that use the transport system at an equal frequency, S$320 is the total budget to cover this cost.
Of course, transport costs can significantly change if you hire taxi drivers daily or even occasionally. For an average family, you can allocate around $781 monthly for fares.
Notably hailed by the World Health Organization as the sixth country with the best healthcare system, Singapore offers a healthcare system with state-of-the-art medical technology to beneficiaries.
However, there is no government mandate where employers are legally obliged to provide it to their employees. That said, anyone whose medical insurance is not covered by its compensation would have to shoulder it.
Nonetheless, it’s not necessarily hefty, except for lower-wage workers. By allocating at least S$252 for your family’s health insurance benefits monthly, you already have a medical financial safety net when emergencies occur.
Singapore’s education system normally includes six years of primary school, four to six years of secondary school, and one to three years of post-secondary school. With the OECD recognizing the excellent academic system of international and local schools in the country, it’s sensible to invest generously in your kids’ education.
The typical primary school fee for a citizen is free. For a Singaporean primary resident (PR), it was S$205 in 2020. Meanwhile, secondary education costs S$5 for a Singaporean citizen and S$380 for a Singaporean PR. Further, international schools charge varying tuition fees. Private schools have fees ranging between S$12,000 to S$30,000 annually for international students.
For primary education, ASEAN and non-ASEAN international students have estimated monthly school fees costing S$465. On the other hand, secondary education costs S$780 for an ASEAN student and S$1,400 for a non-ASEAN student. Although the ideal average monthly budget for a child’s education is S$617, you’ll pay more if the fees increase.
5. Utility Costs
With Singapore’s resources being limited, it’s to be expected that your utility costs can go up, especially during summer, in contrast to other seasons. After all, your air conditioning usage can spike to beat the heat on top of other costs included in this category, like water and gas.
If your home or property has a gas supply installed, this can help cut a huge chunk of the utility expenses. With a monthly budget of S$600, you can properly deal with all the water and electricity bills.
6. Cost of Childcare Services
Whether you hire someone to babysit your child or regularly bring your kids to a nearby daycare centre, it’s essential to set aside a fund for this kind of service.
Childcare Services enable your kids to develop and improve their social skills and basic mathematical and literacy skills. This service is useful, especially when you’re at work most of the day and have no one to look after your child.
Each month, expect to shell out around S$470 for a full-time babysitting or childcare service. Suppose you don’t have a kid that requires a childcare service. In that case, this amount can be allocated to other items on your priority list.
7. Cost of Hiring Domestic Help
Having a domestic helper is not exclusive to the rich in Singapore. With the constant demand to earn more to make ends meet, families hire domestic helpers to focus on their work and achieve their highest earning potential.
Also, having a stay-in helper that you can call at any time of the day to do household tasks is much cheaper than hiring a cleaner every week or so.
The average salary for a domestic helper ranges between S$450 to S$600. However, this largely depends on the agency through which you hire her and her nationality.
Tax rates are highly dependent upon the individual’s tax rate residency status. You are immediately a tax resident if you fit in any of the categories listed below:
- You are a Singapore resident or a Singapore PR.
- You are a foreigner that has either stayed or worked in Singapore:
- For at least 183 days in the previous year.
- For three consecutive years, regardless of whether the stay is less than 183 days in the first and/or third year.
- A foreigner who has stayed at least 183 days in Singapore for two consecutive calendar years. This applies to employees who have entered the country, except public entertainers, professionals, and directors of a company.
To learn exactly how much your tax rate will be based on your salary, refer to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore’s (IRAS) resident tax rates.
However, suppose you fall under the category of a non-resident in Singapore. In that case, you’re usually taxed at a flat rate of 15%. If the progressive tax rate is higher, this is what applies. Overall, non-residents’ tax rates will vary.
Refer to this IRAS guide to see what tax percentage your type of income falls under.
Any item that doesn’t fall into a specific category in your household living expenses falls under miscellaneous. This covers the cost of personal care products, entertainment, and more.
Although it’s generally suggested to allocate at least 11% of your take-home pay for your miscellaneous cost, this would depend on your lifestyle and finances.
Normally, for monthly supplies of toothpaste, haircuts, reading materials, and other items excluded from the list, a family can do well with a S$600 budget or more.
Living in Singapore vs. Other Countries
Find out how monthly expenses go when you live as an average person in Singapore versus other countries. Due to their differing currencies, the table below will show figures in Singapore’s official currency, the Singapore dollar, for better comparison.
Based on the table, Singapore is more expensive than most other countries listed regarding food expenses and rent, except for the United States. Meanwhile, it’s cheaper to use its public transport system than in other countries mentioned.
If you’re retiring to Singapore as a foreigner, the living costs in Singapore may be higher than expected. This is especially so if you convert it in currency exchange bureaus that offer lower exchange rates despite the enticing fee-free transactions.
With that possibility, ensure that you make your transaction with reputable banks or credit unions where you can get the most value from your currency.
The Most Expensive and Cheapest Regions to Live in Singapore
Knowing what regions are the most expensive and cheapest in Singapore can help determine where to settle. This is useful when figuring out how your monthly finances go as you live in the country.
1. Central Region
The Central Region, or the city centre is the mecca of Singapore. This is where major shopping malls and international schools are situated. All these considered, it’s reasonable why this region is the most expensive to live in.
Moreover, it has countless private condos where the rental cost covers amenities, such as swimming pools, gyms, and more.
The area covers districts 1 to 15, number 21 district, Marina Area, City Hall, and the CBD area.
2. North Region
The North Region is where Singapore and Malaysia are linked. It’s the cheapest region in the country since it’s currently underdeveloped. Yet, it’s home to the largest international school, which is appealing for expats.
3. North East
The North East Region covers Ang Mo Kio, and districts 19 and 28. This is an ideal and attractive area to settle, especially for couples, as the government invests in its development as a residential area.
Additionally, it has easy access to large shopping malls and the Central Region.
The Eastern Region is more bearable than the city center regarding monthly rent and living expenses. The perks of living here are that it’s close to the world-renowned Changi airport, has fancy restaurants, and has exciting outdoor activities and parks.
The East houses Districts 16, 17, and 18.
The Western Region can be the second most expensive region after the Central Region as it’s mainly industrial. It’s also densely populated since various offices have opened here, as well as residential areas.
This region is composed of Districts 22, 23, and 24.
Tips on How to Cut Monthly Costs While Living in Singapore
Singapore is a nation with a flourishing economy. Certainly, this is complemented by a high cost of living, which gives off the same expectations when you live in other countries of the same economic level.
Yet although it’s an expensive place to live in, there are effective ways to cut your monthly costs.
Below are effective tips to save a few dollars:
1. Don’t spend on Unessential Items
Consider cooking your food at home rather than dining in a mid-range restaurant which can consume a lot if you frequently eat outside. You can also refrain from purchasing other items not on your list of needs.
2. Look for Cheaper Alternatives
Food brands vary a lot in prices, so choose the cheaper alternatives without sacrificing the quality. It’s the same for services. Consider taking a break from Netflix or music apps if you use them sparingly.
3. Take advantage of Cashback and Vouchers
Use apps like Shopback that can grant you a 2-10% cashback based on the total amount you pay for your goods and services. Also, before you checkout, see if you qualify for any vouchers.
4. Try a side hustle
If you have a lot of available time, getting a second job helps increase your monthly income. This, in turn, allows you to allocate more funds for your needs and wants. Consider applying through various websites, such as MyCareersFuture or indeed.
5. Consider taking a loan
Taking an educational loan helps if you need more cash. This is especially true if you’re considering advancing your career in Singapore. Overall, it makes sense to upgrade your skills to have a competitive edge in your workplace.
There’s no denying that it’s pricey to live in Singapore. Yet, for expatriates, it’s a worthwhile, scenic place to spend their retirement years. Plan how to manage your finances so you can live comfortably in any region that suits you the most.
- The total monthly cost of an average household in Singapore is S$4,789, excluding taxes, childcare service, and domestic helper expenses.
- Wisely choose which region in Singapore you can afford well in terms of lifestyle.
- Singapore’s Central Region is the most expensive to live in, whereas the North Region is the cheapest.
- Learn more money-saving tips to cut your monthly costs significantly.
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