Foreigners face many challenges living in Singapore. They encounter money problems, too. Here’s the best guide for expats financial survival.
Over the years, the expatriate population in Singapore has been blooming. There can be a lot of challenges for a foreigner living in Singapore, especially with managing the finances. Here are the things you have to know as soon as you land in The Lion City of Asia.
Population: 5.535million (World Bank, 2013)
Major language: English, Malay, Tamil, Standard Mandarin
Currency: The dollar (SGD, $ or S$)
Time zone: GMT+8 Hours
If your employer is not going to handle your accommodation, you have to know the types of properties you can rent. There is nothing much to fuss about if you have enough cash to give your landlord a deposit for a month or two. However, if you are tight on the budget, here are some tips.
Take time to shop around. Look into various internet sites, ask your friends and colleagues, go to open houses and ask agents. Give yourself at least a month to look into multiple apartments that may interest you and imagine living in the place. Then, compare the areas before creating a shortlist at the end of the month.
By giving yourself enough time, you won’t be pressured when finally deciding. Consider your lifestyle, workplace, and preferred amenities. Search on Facebook forums to know what other expats have to say about the places you are eyeing. Also, you can search on EasyRoommate. There are rooms under $1,000 offered on the site.
Knowing the right price will give you the boost of confidence needed to negotiate with landlords. But, unfortunately, it is not enough to ask people you know how much they think apartments are. Agents are also not a hundred present reliable, and so are the classified ads.
For the most accurate prices, you can look for Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) lists of leases. You won’t just see the prices. Also, you can see some information. These are the location of the apartment, the size, bedroom, accommodation capacity, and the monthly rental. Plus, you can estimate how much other tenants are paying for a similar apartment.
If you are looking for cheaper apartments, don’t waste time looking through more than 50,000+ advertisements for premium condos. If many people compete for one apartment since the advertisement has hooked many, it is most likely that the landlord will not give you space for negotiation.
The quantity of photos does not change the quality of an apartment. The apartment with one image may end up better than the other. Give it a chance, get in touch with the agent and ask for more photos, information and other things you think might be personally meaningful.
Many Singaporeans think that using an agent is a bad idea, but if it means that you have a good negotiator and a financial adviser at your side, then it beats the downside. However, we have to admit that the agent knows more than you do unless you work in the real estate business. So let him/her do the work.
Another advantage is the agent can drive you around to apartments that you might get interested in. You can save time, money and effort going to various apartments. Be vocal and ensure the agent knows your allotted budget for an apartment.
We have to admit that many apartments offer extravagant facilities. These are jogging tracks, pools, semi-professional gyms, and many others. Since you want to save your money, don’t fall in love with facilities you are not even going to use much.
There is a good chance that you already have a bank account way back home, but it is still more convenient to have a local one. Choose between POSB or DBS, OCBC and UOB. You can make bank transfers easier as their ATMs are easy to locate. In case you need to transfer money back home, ask these local banks. Confirm if you can transfer it to your bank in your country.
Singaporeans use credit cards sparingly, and you should, too. You are living in one of the most expensive cities on the globe. You have to make sure that your cards are paid in full and on time to keep your credit score in good shape. You can link your Singaporean bank account to your credit card. So it will be automatically paid off each month.
To save up money, use your credit card when spending abroad. Some cards, such as the UOB Visa Signature card, give a 5-cent rebate every time you reach the minimum expenditure requirement in foreign currency.
Singapore has three telcos, SingTel being the most expensive, M1, and StarHub being the cheaper. If you stay in the country for 2 years, you can apply for a plan. However, some expats financial survival instinct is still to use a plan despite staying for less than two years. Therefore, they disregard the option even if they can transfer it to another subscriber.
If you would instead take over someone’s plan, you can search the Expats Forums. Also, find someone who is about to let go of a plan. All you need is proof of your local residence. Finally, you can get a prepaid plan if you are not into calls and your job does not require it.
You can choose from SingNet, M1, StarHub, MyRepublic and ViewQwest. They all provide superfast fibre-optic and broadband connections. However, if you are going to stay for less than 6 months, you may choose between MyRepublic. Or ViewQwest as they have a pay as you go plan available for expats.
Join expat organisational groups and forums to keep yourself updated. Some expats about to return to their country may offer some of their things up for sale. Visit theExpat.com and InterNations to get the hang of living in Singapore. In addition, find other expats who can relate to your situation.