Economy & Finance
Cost of Living in Singapore
One of the original four “Asian Tigers”, the small city state has a prosperous economy and a well-to-do population. Though there is pronounced inequality with regard to income and wealth, Singapore also has the highest percentage of millionaires worldwide. The large number of affluent denizens is reflected in the cost of living in Singapore.
When it comes to the cost of living in Singapore for expatriates, a glance at the Mercer Cost of Living Survey confirms the initial impression. In 2010, Singapore ranked as #11 of the most expensive expat destinations around the globe. One year later, it had moved up three ranks to #8. In 2012, it was listed as the 6th most expansive expat hotspot round the world.
On the other hand, Singapore has low income tax rates, so your net income will probably be larger than back home. When calculating your cost of living in Singapore, remember to take your increased net worth into account.
Housing is the biggest expenditure as far as the cost of living in Singapore is concerned. This doesn’t come as a surprise: room for real estate is limited, and the city state has the third highest population density in the world. If you have an expat benefits package, you should make sure that your employer covers at least part of your accommodation costs. If you are not that lucky, there are several options for housing in Singapore.
- Single expats on a tighter budget should rent a room in a shared flat. In this way, they don’t have to spend extra money on furniture, water, electricity, or utilities. Depending on the location and quality of the apartment, rent for one room starts at about SGD 500 per month.
- Most local inhabitants live in government-subsidized housing (HDB). An apartment with several bedrooms costs between SGD 2,200 and SGD 3,000 a month. Don’t worry when you hear government housing: although this expression may conjure up images of dreary council estates, most HDBs are fairly modern and conveniently located. However, there are long waiting lists, and locals are obviously preferred as tenants.
- Renting a private flat is another alternative. Although they are often situated in older buildings, they offer a more than decent standard of living. Rents vary wildly, depending on proximity to the city center. A private three-bedroom flat may cost anything between SGD 3,000 and 7,000 in monthly rent.
- Well-to-do expats frequently live in condominiums. They often have luxurious facilities, e.g. swimming pools, tennis courts, gyms, etc. Outside the city center, rents start at SGD 3,500 for a three-bedroom condo. But if you want a sizeable condominium with state-of-the-art facilities in the CBD, your cost of living in Singapore will include up to SGD 15,000 in rent.
- Houses are the most expensive choice of accommodation. Only the very affluent can afford the related cost of living in Singapore. Rent starts at SGB 8,000 a month, but you can just as well pay a monthly 35 grand for a nice bungalow with a spacious garden.
When you draw up your monthly cost of living in Singapore, don’t forget about the utilities for your accommodation. You should put aside a minimum of SGD 150-200 for water and electricity. However, your electricity bill can be much higher if you use air-conditioning a lot. Broadband Internet, cell phone plans, and house phone lines are really affordable, though. Altogether, they should not take up more than SGD 130 in your budget.
Transport is another item every expat has to pay for. Here it’s easy to keep your cost of living in Singapore low. Singapore has extensive, safe, and reliable public transport. If you use mostly trains and buses, you will not have to spend much money on public transportation. Taxis are cheaper than in other expat hotspots of a comparable size. But if you figure in a 20-minute taxi ride per day, this will add up to almost SGD 500 a month for your cost of living in Singapore.
Still, you won’t save anything by owning a private car. The Singaporean government is trying to cut down on road congestion and air pollution, so there are prohibitive costs, fees, and taxes involved. If you have to travel round the city a lot for work, try negotiating a travel allowance with your employer. Expat families with small kids may consider renting or leasing a car if frequent travel on public transport should prove too stressful.
Childcare and Education
Expatriates with children will soon notice that childcare and schooling increase their cost of living in Singapore considerably. If both parents work in Singapore (instead of one working parent and a traveling spouse), they should be able to afford full-time childcare. Full daycare costs between SGD 500 and 1,500 per kid and month.
Pre-school is often cheaper than daycare, with SGD 250 to SGD 700 in monthly fees. The exact amount largely depends on the institution. The same applies to schooling in Singapore. International schools are a hefty addition to the expatriate cost of living in Singapore. They usually set you back about SGD 1,000-2,000 a month. Public schools cost less than half in tuition fees. As the language of instruction is English and the education system has a good reputation, this could be a great alternative.
Last but not least, do ensure that you have a decent healthcare plan. If you don’t have a chronic illness or are at risk for one, you can go for cheaper coverage that won’t reimburse you for outpatient consultations. By going to public facilities for non-residents rather than private clinics, you can save on medical fees and cut back on the cost of living in Singapore.
However, you should always be insured for major treatments, surgery, and hospitalization. In case of serious illness or accidents, your cost of living in Singapore would explode without medical insurance.
We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.