Filipinos who have plans of travelling to Singapore to live and work as an expat, it is important to know what is cost of living you should expect. In this article, we will outline the monthly expenses and budget expectations in the Lion City based on an expat’s perspective.
With travel restrictions in place in most countries all over the world, now’s a good time to reflect on your goals of working abroad, especially in countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan. These three countries are among the top work destinations for Filipinos, and it’s good to know if the cost of living in these countries are worth it, especially for those who plan to work overseas for the first time.
Disclaimer: In this guide, we will focus on Singapore. The facts and information used here is based on the experiences of an OFW based in this country, Benji, who has a YouTube channel that you can subscribe to to learn more about his life and the kind of life Filipinos have in Singapore.
Here’s the vlog shared by Singapore-based OFW Benji Reganit where he talks about the cost of living in Singapore for an OFW:
Planning to Work in Singapore? Consider the Cost of Living First!
It goes without saying that living in Singapore is expensive. For those who can afford it, the city-state offers an incredible lifestyle. Singapore features escalating rent prices to some of the world’s most expensive private education. However, expats will be relieved to learn that not all living expenses are prohibitively expensive.
If you eat dishes from local establishments, eating out and restaurant costs can be reasonable. Taking the bus instead of a taxi can also help you save money on travel and transportation.
Lucky for you, we are going to share some of the best budget-saving tips to help you minimize your expenses while living here in Singapore so do read until the end to know more about that.
For now, let’s break down the things that an average OFW spends their salary on a monthly basis.
Central, North, North-East, East, and West are the five regions that makeup Singapore. Through the use of an old postcode (zip code) system, these regions are further subdivided into 28 districts. The division of the city into these districts is convenient for real estate agents and people looking for homes.
Note: Though the daily cost of living does not differ significantly from one district to the next, rental prices vary significantly between neighborhoods. Rent will be less expensive if you live on the outskirts of town. Many districts in the north of the country, in particular, are considered affordable.
List of Most Populated Areas/Districts in Singapore
According to Benji, the most commonly populated city areas here in Singapore by expats, including OFWs, are:
- City Hall
- Dhobi Ghaut
For your accommodation, you have two options. Either you rent your own room or get an apartment with a room sharing option. Sharing rent is more popular among OFWs because it allows them to cut their expenses, and get to live with friends or other Filipinos, which can be their immediate community, as well.
Here’s the breakdown of the costs of these accommodation setups. Note that the cost increases the closer the location is to the business districts or prime locations we mentioned earlier.
Room Rental Costs:
- City Area: S$1,200 – S$1,500
- Nearby Areas: S$900-S$1,100
- Remote areas: S$450-S$800+
- PUB (average): S$100
Room Sharing Costs:
- City Area: S$500 – S$550
- Nearby Areas: S$450+
- Remote areas: S$350+
- PUB (average): S$50-S$80, max S$100/person
And of course, as far as accommodation costs are concerned, there’s also the cost of utilities known here as (PUB).
Because Singapore is a small island with limited resources, monthly utility bills may appear to be quite high. Some expats may also be surprised to learn that their bills rise during the summer. This is due to the fact that air conditioning is required in Singapore during the summer, which increases electricity costs.
What’s great about living here in Singapore is that they have a very good transportation system. The cost of public transportation in Singapore is very low. Public buses, in particular, are relatively inexpensive, costing around 1 SGD (0.72 USD) per trip. The MRT is also inexpensive, costing around 2 SGD (1.40 USD) per journey. If you use private transportation, your costs could skyrocket. Taking a local taxi or renting a car in Singapore can easily cost hundreds of dollars. Most people get around the city-state through the MRT by topping up their EZ-Link card. Here is the breakdown of the monthly cost for transportation:
- City Area: Top-up (S$25-S$30 per month)
- Nearby/Remote: S$100
3. Phone/Mobile Data
Of course, another necessity that expats can’t afford to not have is their communication or phone/data expenses. You can actually get a mobile plan through the help of your company (corporate plan) for S$80/month. Just ask your employer or company about this so they can help you get a discounted plan.
For your basic supply of grocery products (food/toiletries) at home, you can allot S$200 at the minimum every month. Due to a large number of imported products, this may be more expensive than in many other countries. Milk, non-tropical fruits, and non-Asian products such as cheese are all relatively costly. You’ll probably spend at least $200 a month on groceries if you cook at home every day.
Fresh food can be purchased at a grocery store—or, more likely, a fresh food market—for a reasonable price in Singapore. Imported Western food will always be more expensive than local produce.
5. Food Allowance
According to Benji, there would be days, of course, when you would like to eat out or grab something on the way to work. For this, you can allot S$300/month. This can be much smaller depending on how often you eat out. But given the bustling night scene in Singapore, it’s such a waste to pass the experience of dining outside in their famous hawker centers or grab a couple of drinks by the bay at night.
Eating at home is usually less expensive than dining out in the city, though the price of a meal at a restaurant varies greatly depending on the establishment. You can eat at five-star restaurants one day and then fill up on cheap eats the next.
Note: Expats in Singapore have discovered that going to the food halls, also known as hawker centers, is a great way to eat on a budget. Michelin stars have even been awarded to some hawker stands (food stalls). People who have relocated to Singapore can enjoy local and international cuisine at a fraction of the cost of eating out in restaurants while also immersing themselves in Singaporean culture.
6. Others (Misc)
And finally, Benji, shared that it’s very important for OFWs to get a personal/health insurance for yourself and your family. Depending on where you want to get your plan, you can adjust your spending on this. In his case, he got a plan for himself and his mom in the Philippines, which he pays quarterly.
So How Much Does It Cost to Live As An Expat in Singapore?
Lifestyles vary from one person to the next. But for Benji, this is how much he spends every month to cover his living expenses here in Singapore. Note that this is just a decent estimate, meaning, you’re not too tight on your budget, but also not exactly splurging.
As of May 2021, the currency exchange is S$1 = PHP 36.04
Accommodation: S$500+ (PHP 18,000+)
Transportation: S$25 (PHP 900+)
Phone/Mobile Data: S$80 (PHP 2,880+)
Grocery: S$200 (PHP 7,200+)
Food Allowance: S$400 (PHP 14,400+)
TOTAL: S$1205 (PHP 43,380)
The great thing about Singapore is that you can save a lot of money by living like a monk (eg. never drinking, always taking public transport). However, if you take a few liberties, your living expenses will skyrocket, as well.
With this in mind, it’s best to always reassess your lifestyle to see where you’re spending more than you intend to and stick to your priorities so that you can hold the rein on your spending. Make friends who don’t always need to be seen in fancy places if you’re on a budget, so you can BYOB (bring your own bottle) and enjoy less costly activities like picnics, cycling, hiking, or watching Netflix.
Also, a good way to divert your focus on “additives” that could cost you more while living here in Singapore is to look for an opportunity to invest your money back home, such as properties or a business venture. Here are some of the ideas which you can explore and use for inspiration.
This way, you can adopt a mindset of living your life to the fullest as an OFW without the costly demands of a high-end lifestyle in Singapore. After all, it’s no fun when you’ve splurged around only to realize that you’re broke the next day or worse, there’s nothing more you can keep to yourself (for retirement) and share with your family back home. These are things that every OFW must keep in mind to fully enjoy the perks and lifestyle of working in a country like Singapore, which is not exactly the cheapest place to live.
So, based on the guide that we shared, are you still up for the challenge of adjusting to the lifestyle of OFWs in Singapore? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment in the section below!