Monday, March 14, 2016

Singapore Most Expensive City To Live In?

Since a few days ago, the same annual survey that shows that Singapore is the most expensive city in the world for 2016 has made news and has once again riled up all the strongly opinionated Singaporeans to weigh in with their expert commentary about how it is so fucking unlivable in Singapore due to the increased "costs of living".

And of course if you look hard enough, you can find the hardliners who think that socialism and having an alternate government would make things better for everyone. Whether or not that is true, I leave you to examine Venezuela as a case study of socialism in today's world and form your own educated opinion.

Finally, someone (Prentice Mathew) has got fed up with the misinformed public and come up with a piece that is short enough for people with ADHD to read, yet packed with enough information to prove his point - "that this latest study by the EIU - full of caveats and disclaimers - is no true indication of living costs".

Of course, if you had been more curious and visited their website, it clearly states, as well as being DISCLAIMED TO DEATH, that "the survey itself is a purpose-built internet tool designed to help human resources and finance managers calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expatriates and business travellers."

Are you an expatriate or business traveller in Singapore?

I would guess not.

Singapore isn't crazy expensive if you aren't being ridiculous with your money

Seriously, even fast food is oddly cheap here. It is priced to compete with a full meal from a hawker centre, but yet in other nearby countries in the region, it is priced at a premium (probably due to segmentation targetting strategy, but this is still a very obvious difference).

It costs just $26 to get married, but holding a grand wedding and having the performance that you are from a reasonably well to do family can cost you tens of thousands. Of course, "face" is sooooooo important in Asian society that it's worth going into debt for, right?

When I was a student in Europe, taking the public transport to school costs 3 Euros one way, and another 3 Euros back home. It cost 9 SGD a day to go to school. Now tell me how expensive Singapore public transport is again? After day 2 I was walking to school for an hour a trip for the rest of the week and on the weekend I bought a 2nd hand bicycle for 50 Euros so I didn't have to burn money every day I woke up and had to go to school. At least in Singapore, you know that as a student, your transport costs are basically going to be capped at $85 (which is the cost of a monthly pass) or even lower at $52 if you decide to just take a bus everywhere and be a bit cheap about it. 

What eats at me is this self-entitled notion that came out of thin air, that every single person ought to be able to afford and own a car and park wherever they want and drive anywhere at anytime and it should be... "affordable".

The proven and simplest way to shoot up your transportation cost is to own a car. The percentage of the population that do not own a car has seen almost no change to their transportation spending while those who own cars have seen it increase along with the price of cars and maintaining them. 

With more MRT lines, more MRT stations, more buses and an overhaul of bus operators, it is blatantly obvious that the government is heavily investing in public transportation infrastructure. Even the very soft approach of dealing with Uber/Grab is a clear signal that anything which alleviates the demand of transport will be seriously considered. This further weakens the argument that cars are necessary for their convenience and flexibility. 

Many people are also disregarding HDBs, which is of course the most important piece of the puzzle since housing expense is probably one of the largest expense in most households. I've already did an on the ground check recently, BTO HDBs are at the very least 50% cheaper than the cheapest private housing accommodation available, but it is more likely that it is even cheaper than 50%, since many private accommodations are being launched over $1200 psf. 75% cheaper even maybe?

Of course, for all the people that like to complain, don't worry, I've got something for you too. If you think I'm peddling bullshit and Singapore really is such a bloody ridiculously expensive place to live in, why not put your money where your mouth is and migrate to all those cheaper places? Try living in Italy where they are giving away free houses? How about a free house in Japan (read more official stats to corroborate that these kind of stories are the norm, not the exception)? How about moving to USA and buying $1 homes? Plenty of "cheap" options available.

Just like any investment, talking about the "price" of something is for the noobs. It should almost always be price relative to something else, such as underlying value. I would say that personally, I feel that I am getting very good value for the price that I am paying and for the specific living factors that I get to enjoy in Singapore. Safety. Efficiency. Connectivity. Trustworthy. Diversity. And food, glorious food. These are the things that I get to enjoy living in Singapore. Yes, living in a hut in Africa is really really really really cheap. But that's because it sucks balls to live there.

But anyway, the point is to talk about how wrong people are about the excessively expensive cost of living in Singapore. Yet most men have watches from the premium core and above, while "entry level" handbags for women start at the accessible core. And of course, not forgetting how everybody has the latest iPhone.

Then again, what is money for if it isn't spent to make you happy? I just hope the things that you spend your money on truly makes you happy.

1. The survey does not reflect of the cost of living for locals
2. Being "cheap" is not the only metric for quality living
3. If you spend your money on stupid shit, you aren't allowed to complain about cost of living.


  1. Hey GMGH,
    I'm a british Indian guy living and working in Singapore and have been following your blog for a while. My wife's family lives in Singapore and I love visiting singapore among other things because the food is so good and cheap!

    I really don't understand why people complain about Singapore being expensive, it's nowhere close to London. But that's because we travel by MRT, stay with my in-laws in an HDB flat and eat in food courts. In fact I have a rule about non-AC food courts only, I think the food tastes better (maybe I've gone too far there)!

    Anyway, I think anyone who gets to live in Singapore is super lucky. Me too, as I am visiting next month again!


    1. Hi Indy,

      Sorry for the late reply. Thanks for commenting! I think many of the locals that complain have really never truly lived in another country to make proper rational comparisons. Have a fun time when you're here this April, it seems like the haze might be coming early, so take note!


  2. I meant I'm living and working in London.


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