20 ways to be a frugal family in Singapore

 Singapore is an expensive place to live in. Safe no doubt, efficient uh-huh, but expensive.

For those with kids, it’s somewhat a double whammy because of the necessary items that are now on our 2-metre long shopping list. Because of the kids, we choose to eat healthy and are usually more willing to spend on good quality meat, fish and vegetables, but these can all add up to a hefty monthly grocery bill. If your kids are lactose intolerant, or have special dietary needs, it just gets worse.

Since I’ve become a mum, my money mindset has changed quite dramatically. Well, okay, I still give myself (and others) treats once in a while. I am still addicted to great coffee and chocolate cake. But gosh, the guilt when I over-spend is humongous. It sits on me like a giant panda, and makes me promise never to do it again.

In my past four years as a mother, I have limited my trips to the malls, switched from Starbucks to coffeeshop alternatives, and in the past year especially, I’ve cut down on taxi-flagging. (This last one is quite a milestone for me.)

This year, the hubs and I have made a commitment to spending wisely and saving more. We are inspired by others who are able to live on little and yet are big on giving back to society, so it’s not just about cutting back, it’s also about cutting back so we have more to give. (I know it sounds a lil’ lofty, but it’s always good to have a goal, no?)

So I’ve done some research and come up with a list of ideas.

1. Switch your mindset to frugal. You automatically save about $100 a month just by doing this mental shift. Amazing, but true. The trick is you have to really really want it. (It helps to have a goal and purpose too. For instance, wanting to save more for your children’s education, or to start a business.)

2. Have fun exploring free places. Parks, Botanic Gardens, beaches, friend’s homes, you name it. *If you’re running out of ideas, check out my Fun page or follow us on instagram.

3. Cook in batches and freeze. I used to do this when the kids were younger. It was more convenient, and gave me the assurance that the kids were having healthy home-cooked meals. I do this less now, but I hope to get back to cooking and baking in the next few months.

4. Pack a sandwich / dinner leftovers to work once a week. This is something that I picked up as a student living in Australia. The food there was pretty expensive, and it was quite the norm there because the locals packed their own too. I think it’s relatively less common in Singapore, but I know of people who do it regularly, and I think it’s quite healthy too.

5. Try not to use the air-con if the weather is cool enough. If you really need it, get the kids to bunk over for the night. It’s bonding, plus energy-saving all in one.

6. Borrow instead of buy. The library is a great place to find good books, plus it’s always a treat for the kids. Or you can always arrange a book swap with a group of friends. It’s fun and savings all in one!

7. Say no to luxury items. If you can afford it, there’s nothing wrong with pampering yourself with a new handbag or another pair of dress shoes. But imagine what long-term goals you could possibly invest in if you bought one luxury item less. Or you could buy a few quality pieces of shoes/clothing that’s on sale. Just saying.

8. Monitor your expenses. I would say this is the best way to understanding your spending habits and knowing exactly where your money goes. We have a spreadsheet to help us monitor our income/spending, and a balance sheet as well. We keep receipts and record them down at the end of the month. It may seem a bit tedious but after a few months you get the hang of it and will appreciate its beauty. When we exceed the budget for personal expenses, we try to be disciplined and cut back on spending in the following month.

9. Set up a bad mood fund. Pamper yourself and/or your spouse when you’re in a bad mood, without the fear of busting your personal budget!

10. Breastfeed for as long as you can. Hey it’s free, and it’s healthy!

11. Avoid sales like the plague. It’s the most tempting to buy items you don’t need, or may not actually like, during a sale. Unless you really need the item, and it happens to be on sale. Now that’s a different story. 

12. Sell pre-loved items online. You can do so at Buzzy Tots Exchange Corner or Craigslist. [Update on 27 April 2016: If you haven’t checked out Carousell, you should.]

13. Use baking soda and vinegar as part of your home-cleaning solutions instead of expensive supermarket cleaners. (I substitute half of my washing powder with baking soda, which also helps to make the cleaning more efficient.)

14. Buy less toys. There are some pretty good side effects of having less toys in the house. Less clutter, plus your kids get to utilise their creativity by thinking of ways to have fun with what they have.

15. Shop online. I’m a newbie at this, and but I recently bought two pairs of shoes from ASOS that were on sale. They cost half the price of ONE pair I would have bought at a store somewhere else. (A friend recommended Zalora and Saturday Club. I like Zalora because if you change your mind on your purchase, you can return it for free.) If you have a favourite shopping site to share, please do so in the comments below.

16. Don’t put your computer to sleep. Shut it down every night.

17. Switch off the lights immediately upon leaving the room. This is something I was taught to do as a child, and continue to do till this day.

18. Exchange things among friends. For instance, books, clothing, or even accessories. It’s fun, and you get to enjoy having a new look (or book), even if it’s just for a time.

19. Shower the kids together. They get a bit of fun splashing and we usually get wet in the process, but heck it’s fun and I think it does save some water and money. Well, okay maybe not…but at least it saves time. 😉

20. Cultivate a mindset of thriftiness and contentment in your kids. Teach them the value of money from a tender age and the concept of stewardship. This last tip will probably save you money through your entire lifetime. Not to mention your future generations too. 😉

Has parenthood changed the way you handle money too? If you have a money-wise tip to share, please leave a comment! 

PS. If you have a primary school child in your nest, you may want to check out Learning to Save with POSB National School Savings Campaign!

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Comments

    • mamawearpapashirt says

      Hi Madeline, I think that’s great! I used to lament that it was troublesome to keep receipts and input all the expenses, bills, etc into an excel sheet, but now I really appreciate it. I’ve never been frugal for most part of my life, so I’ve really had to learn over the past few years, managing our home, bills, expenses for the kids etc…It was tough but I’ve really grown up. Heh. 😉

  1. says

    We try to save water by turning down the mains. And also turning down the water outlet to the kitchen tap – coz the helper’s habits are hard to change – we told her not to turn the tap on to the fullest, but she always does. So, instead of trying to get her to change, we turned down the tap source. We also collect water during our bathtime and use that to flush toilets. My dad collects rain water to flush toilets and wash the car and patio with.
    Pamela Tan recently posted..Thursday Trivia – Taxes!My Profile

  2. says

    We turn off the power at the switch for all non-essential electrical appliances at night, e.g. TV, cable box, toaster, microwave etc. The cable box is especially important – it sucks up more energy than the fridge, so we make it a point to turn it off every night.

    We also turn the air-con on only to to cool the room. Once the kids are asleep, I tiptoe into their room and turn it off. We only run it all night during the hottest months, e.g. June.
    Jean recently posted..Nook DIY House of Pancake.My Profile

    • mamawearpapashirt says

      Good points, Jean. A friend of mine advised the same thing, to turn off the power at the main switch. Yes, us too, we use the air-con all night during the hottest months, though these days it’s a tad harder to identify “hottest month” because the weather is so erratic!

  3. says

    Thanks for the tips June. For us, we try to eat in on weekdays and only dine out on restaurants during weekends. We make it a point to ask if there’s any credit card promotions before paying for the meal (small discounts do add up!). At home, I remind the domestic help to consolidate and plan ahead before opening the fridge doors (to conserve electricity) and to help us save money by switching off the fan, lights each time she leaves the room. Personally, I’ve also been taking more public buses to work instead of taxis this year so I’m quite proud of myself. Just yesterday, the hubs bought a 2nd hand piano bench which is still in good condition, saving us $100. We don’t mind stuff from garage sales as it’s both cost savings and saving the earth! 🙂
    Angie recently posted..Foodie Friday: Bon Apetit Poulét!My Profile

  4. Elizabeth says

    WitH three in tow, I buy things in bulk! Milk powder, diapers and shower foam- these are what i will always stock up. So my house is like a warehouse! I say yes to hand me downs a lot and if the kids need new clothes, I hit the Expo, the markets, pasar malam and sales in the malls. If they are of good quality, I buy the sizes for next year and the year after. Haha, talk about kiasu!
    Elizabeth recently posted..Rawr-ing shoot-a-dino funMy Profile

    • mamawearpapashirt says

      Thanks for sharing, Elizabeth! Oh I love hand-me-downs too. We’ve been blessed by relatives and friends to such an extent that we hardly buy any clothes for the kids!

  5. says

    When I was living with my mum before I got married, she would have all these rules in the house like switching off the light before you leave the room, only switching on the aircon before bedtime, setting the aircon temperature at about 25 deg (just enough to cool the room), leaving the heater switched on for only about 10 mins before bath time (she doesn’t see a need to leave it switched on throughout the bath because the weather in Singapore is too warm to bathe with boiling hot water anyway), and her number one rule was to unplug all sockets from the switches cos apparently studies have shown that its not enough to just switch off the mains! Through all these practices she has managed to keep the electricity bills to a minimum. I cannot say that I’m adhering to all these practices for my own home but I do try my best!
    Zee recently posted..ChangesMy Profile

  6. says

    Thank you for sharing this, June and for linking up to Fun For Free!

    Our biggest reason to be frugal? One salary! It was a real belt tightening experience when we first made the change. After 3 years, just as we were gettin used to it, we welcomed another baby! Haha.

    You are so right- Singapore has so many wonderful parks that are great to explore. And our libraries are fantastic too! Library @ Chinatown has just opened and it’s filled with Chinese and Chinese-culture books. We’re going to hop by soon!

    We make it a point to turn off all the mains as well, but it somehow doesn’t seem to make a dent in our bills at all. No Aircon is very tough for us. Not cos we’re pampered princes and princesses, but cos 1) we’re on the op floor with a very thin roof, and we’re next to a very noisy main road. And people seem to like shouting or quarrelling on their phones along that road in the night!
    Adora recently posted..We’ll Just Have Two, ThanksMy Profile

  7. says

    Practical list, parents always save for the kids. Bye bye holidays, or even spa treatments :p

    – Celebrate Birthdays together (by month). Includes kids, parents , grandparents. Save on F&B.
    – instead of x’Mas presents, we ask friends to donate vouchers/toys which we can re-distribute to families who need them more.
    – get second hand (but still decent) clothings\shoes from friends\relatives. Recycle.

    ps.. start a blog so we can get invites :p (very subjective)

    cheers, Andy (SengkangBabies)
    SengkangBabies recently posted..The World’s longest Lego SnakeMy Profile

  8. rina says

    hey, when can i get baking soda and vinegar in large batch here in singapore? I used to use those two combo a lot when I was in USA. But here it seems it’s only available in small packet, well at least in my local supermarket in cck. You really have some great tips to be frugal in Singapore. We had double income when we stayed here a few years ago, but now decided to try on single income only. I just started noting down all the receipts (it’s hard, but I hope I will get used to it very soon).

    • mamawearpapashirt says

      Hi Rina, thanks for leaving a query. You can purchase in bulk / bigger quantities from Phoon Huat (http://www.phoonhuat.com/).
      I know recording receipts can be quite a chore, but with the right categories, it should help and get better with time.
      All the best!

  9. Deepa says

    Love all ur articles 🙂 myself and my twins (3 yr olds) are down with hfmd…so I cud relate very well to ur situation …and with only my husband working and three kids , I am a ‘frugal mom ‘ …so this post to as helpful.. Thank you

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