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Time To Start Adulting: A Guide to Cost of Living in Singapore for Fresh Graduates

School’s out? Congratulations on getting that hard-earned degree! For many of us, this also means “formally” stepping into the working world, and shouldering the bulk of living costs on our own for the first time.

Singapore has regularly ranked pretty high on several studies for its relatively high cost of living among cities in the world. From necessities like housing, food and transportation to other items like entertainment, there are a lot of expenses to consider once you graduate.

Here are some of the bigger-ticket items that will form a part of your monthly expenditure. Knowing them better will help you have a better idea of how to go about planning your monthly budget.

1. Housing costs

Housing costs in Singapore can be quite high, especially with the rising cost of home prices, whether it’s BTO or resale housing. In Singapore, there are certainly restrictions in place that limit who can buy a HDB. If you are looking to live independently from your parents once you graduate, you will need to consider either buying your own HDB flat, or renting one.

A room rental in Singapore can cost anywhere between S$600/month to S$1,800/month, whereas renting a whole unit will set you back by about $2,300-S$5,000/month depending on the area, size of flat, and whether or not the flat is newly renovated.

In addition to rental costs, one will also need to consider other housing-related expenses such as utilities, internet, and furnishings. It is recommended to set aside at least S$300 – S$500 per month for these expenses.

Read more: Rent or Buy Before Age 35? Which Makes More Financial Sense? 

2. Transportation costs

The cost of transportation for a fresh graduate can vary based on individual preferences and travel patterns.

Singapore boasts an efficient and well-connected public transportation system, primarily consisting of buses and trains operated by the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system.

For daily commuting, the cost of public transport can be managed through the use of an EZ-Link card or a contactless payment system like Google Pay or your bank card.

On average, a monthly public transportation pass could cost around S$150 to S$250, assuming that you take public transport at least two times a day.

Alternatively, for those who prefer to rely on other modes of transportation, such as taxis or ride-sharing services like Grab, the added convenience could come at a price, especially during late hours.

Assuming you take a taxi or hail a ride twice a day, five days a week, that would quickly amount to S$800/month on transportation (assuming each ride costs about S$20).

So while transportation costs in Singapore might make up a notable portion of a fresh graduate’s expenses, there are ways to reduce transportation costs by taking the public transport or even walking or cycling to your destination for added sustainability!

3. Education loan

The cost of a local university degree in Singapore is estimated to be about S$30,000-S$45,000 for the entire course duration.

This is an amount that you probably have to pay back, with interest, to the bank or your parents’ CPF accounts once you graduate.

If you took an education loan in Singapore, you will be able to pay this back on a monthly basis. The amount will vary depending on your loan tenure and repayment plan.

Read more: Best Education Loans for University Students in Singapore 

4. Groceries

In Singapore, grocery expenses can make up a significant portion of a fresh graduate’s budget. Prices for groceries can vary depending on where you shop and the brands you prefer.

Supermarkets like NTUC FairPrice Finest and Cold Storage offer groceries at a slightly higher price point, while places like Giant and Sheng Siong usually offer groceries at a slightly lower price.

On average, a fresh graduate could expect to spend around S$200 to S$300 per month on groceries. Buying in bulk and opting for house-brand products can help stretch your budget further. 

5. Utilities

Managing utility expenses is something that you may have to do if you are renting a place in Singapore. In some cases, utility bills are included in the rent, but for some, it is paid separately to the landlord every month. If you own a home, this will be paid directly to the different suppliers.

Key components include electricity, water, gas, and Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC).

Electricity bills, based on consumption habits, usually range from S$50 to S$150 per month for a small apartment. Water and gas costs are slightly less expensive, and an average usage can keep monthly bills around S$25 to S$55.

Additionally, S&CC charges for maintaining common areas in HDB estates contribute to cleanliness and can range from S$78 to S$150 monthly. High-speed internet and cable TV subscriptions if required might add another S$30 to S$110 per month.

Read more: A Beginner’s Guide to the Open Electricity Market (OEM) for Singapore Residents

6. Eating out, entertainment and recreation

Eating out is a common social activity in Singapore due to the variety of options available. However, dining out frequently can be costly.

On average, a meal at a mid-range restaurant can cost around S$20 to S$40 per person. Hawker centres and food courts offer more affordable options, with meals typically ranging from S$5 to S$10.

Assuming you eat at a hawker centre thrice a day almost every day of the week, and go out for a nice meal with friends once a week, that would cost around S$470-S$880/month on food alone.

Entertainment costs vary depending on activities as well. A ticket to attractions like Universal Singapore can set you back ~S$80 per entry, a price tag that is similar to going for concerts. Movie tickets also range from S$10-S$20 per pax, depending on the day and time of the movies. Alternatively, you can spend time with your friends doing fun and free activities in Singapore such as having a picnic at Marina Barrage, or simply taking a walk at Botanic Gardens.

It’s important to strike a balance between enjoying your meals and leisure activities, while also going out to have some fun.

Read more: Want To Eat at Cafes and Restaurants in Singapore and Still Save Money? It’s Possible

7. Hygiene and toiletries

The cost of hygiene and toiletry items can vary based on brand preferences and personal needs. Basic toiletries like soap, shampoo, toothpaste, sanitary pads and toilet paper may cost around S$20 to S$30 per month.

Choosing house-brand products or exploring options at drugstores like Watsons or Guardian can be an efficient way to stretch your dollar.

8. Monthly subscriptions

An often overlooked expense is the monthly subscriptions we pay. Monthly subscriptions for services like mobile phone plans, internet, and streaming platforms should be factored into your budget as well.

Mobile phone plans with data and calls may cost around S$30 to S$50 per month. High-speed internet plans could range from S$30 to S$60 per month, depending on the provider and package.

Subscription services for entertainment like streaming platforms (e.g., Netflix, Spotify) might add an additional S$15 to S$20 each per month.

Read more: 5 Clever Subscription Hacks To Help You Save Money

9. Insurance premiums

Insurance is an important aspect of financial planning. While basic health insurance coverage is usually provided through MediSave, most Singaporeans still buy insurance to cover expensive medical expenses or accidents.

Depending on whether you get a plan for critical illness, life, health or personal accident (or all), the cost of such plans will also vary significantly based on coverage, age, and the insurance provider.

On average, a fresh graduate might allocate around S$150 to S$550 per month for insurance premiums, but this can vary depending on your needs.

Read more: How Much Life Insurance Do I Need in Singapore?

10. Parents’ allowance

In Asian culture, it is common for working adults to give a monthly allowance to their parents, as a form of filial piety, or to thank them for raising us up. This practice, while commonly practised among Singaporeans, is not necessarily something that applies to all family units.

The amount varies depending on factors such as the graduate’s income, family dynamics, and individual preferences. On average, a fresh graduate might allocate about 10% of their income, or around S$200 to S$500 per month for parents’ allowance as a gesture of support and gratitude.

This is of course not compulsory, and depends on your family’s culture and expectations. If required, speak to your parents about this.

Read more: Giving Parents Money – How Much Should You Give as a Fresh Graduate

Is it expensive to live in Singapore?

Overall, while Singapore is considered one of the most expensive cities in the world, it is still possible to afford daily necessities, food, transport and entertainment at a reasonable price.

By carefully budgeting, exploring affordable housing options, taking advantage of public transportation, and embracing the myriad of local food choices, a young professional can strike a good balance between the cost of living and enjoying the unique opportunities that Singapore offers.

Read more: Create a Personal Budget You Can Actually Stick To

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