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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