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There Are Singaporeans That Can Keep Their Monthly Spending Within $1,000. That Might Be a Good Thing.

In the past week, I came across three different articles or discussions regarding living on a low budget.

Different people share their budgets and I think we can make interesting observations from what was shared.

In a Singapore subreddit, a Redditor was discussing with her friend a Straits Times article where a couple was spending less than $1,000 each per month. It inspired her to reduce her spending to less than $1,000 a month for the rest of the year. The second article was written by the people at Goody Feed which explore whether a family can survive with just $2,000 a month. The $2,000 is the gross of CPF, and if we deduct CPF, the take-home cash flow works out to be $1,600 a month.

The last article is written by a Telegram group member. He shared that a friend, who just retired last year, shared with him that he spends less than $1,000 a month. This retiree managed to flip a few properties in his lifetime and stayed in a condo.

This Telegram group member, Mr. Ferrari, was less than impressed with the low-spending budget sharing.

He worked out the sums and concluded that it is not quite possible for his friend only spend $1,000 a month.

Even if he does spend just $1k p.m., why suffer in retire?  Frugal n prudence expenses?  Maybe he missed out something? Maybe his working child gives him a $3k monthly allowance? 

I look at this comment, then I am like… I wonder what would my friends Daniel and Colin think about this…

Just to make it easy for everyone, I summarized some of the spending items shared by different Redditors, and the budget provided by the Goody Feed team here:

The 1 to 9 represent the budget of the different people who shared their budgets.

Here are some of my thoughts.

Not Every Factored in Everything into Their Budget

Let’s get the big thing out of the way.

Some of you would criticize the sharing because they did not factor in their share of the household expenses, or most likely they missed out on some expenses.

It is normal for them to miss out on some things they consume (such as rent, and utilities) but they did not have to pay for them.

The question asks how they keep their expenses below $1,000 a month and not how to keep within that budget and also pass consumption and cost audits.

Some of them paid for utilities, some don’t. Some eat 2 meals, some eat 3 meals. Some cook at home and bring them to work, while others just have a larger food budget.

This leads to my next point.

What is Considered Your Personal Spending Will be Different

Each will have their own philosophy about what makes up their personal spending.

Some do not consider certain spending as personal, which may infuriate people like Mr. Ferrari.

Mr. Ferrari’s problem could be easily solved by just asking for further breakdowns of his expenses. It is likely his friend considers some of the expenses HIS, and some of the expenses one-time, family expenses.

I observe the conversations for a long time and learn that everyone has their own weird way of compartmentalizing money.

There are certain expenses that are considered MINE. Some expenses are HERS or FAMILY.

But to some, all the expenses are considered together.

Not being able to compartmentalize what is your personal spending, your spouse’s personal spending, and what are the spending of your children, is a financial planning illness in itself.

If you feel strongly about including all your expenses together, why not include your brother’s or sister’s family expenses or your parent’s household expenses as the total expenses?

We Can Pick Out the Spending Items That Are Critical to the Most

While different people account for things differently, this small exercise allows us to see what most are concerned about:

  1. Food
  2. Mobile
  3. Transport

Most likely utilities don’t jump into the minds of singles. Insurance is not too important as well!

Most look at either household or called it miscellaneous expenses. Most likely, these are the spending items that are so variable that doesn’t feature in their mind.

Goody Feed has a great comment on why a household of four will have zero on insurance:

The poor man can’t complain: they just need to have MediShield that will cover any unforeseen hospitalization expenses.

This might be a bit sad but basically, in the hierarchy of needs, insurance is thinking further down the road and if you are fending with life now, insurance is much lower in the hierarchy of needs.

It is not like you are going to die. There is always the heavily subsidized C-class ward and Medifund.

If You Factored in More Cost, Their Spending is Still Very Low!

If you factor in their share of utilities, conservancy charges, and minimal insurance, it might still be just $100 a month more.

If you add $100 to $750, it is still $850 a month.

Perhaps if you include $600 a month in rent, that will tip the scale.

It is Nice to See People At Peace with A Small Spending Budget

By all accounts, most of them are at peace with how they spend.

For too long, we hear comments about this generation or that generation craving the Instagram lifestyle. But not everyone does.

We should celebrate people embracing frugality, simple living, and being satisfied with their position.

There will always be people thinking spending just $1,000 is suffering.

A glaring line item missing from many of those who commented was the lack of shopping & entertainment.

There are a group of people with this weird idea that in this technological age, you need to spend money if not you will be suffering.

That you have to go overseas for holiday and eat at a restaurant to be truly happy.

The Redditors shared the suffering they had to go through so that they keep their spending this low:

  1. Watch YouTube videos
  2. Running
  3. Reading
  4. Free Udemy classes
  5. National Library
  6. Workout with Yoga and dumbells
  7. Dog
  8. Indoor sports classes
  9. Martial arts
  10. Learning new skills
  11. Steam Winter Sales
  12. Buy an open-world computer game like Skyrim or Morrowind, Baldur’s Gate 1, and 2. Once you spend the initial outlay, the games will provide entertainment for hundreds of hours without spending any more.


My friend La Papillon over at Bully the Bear used to write about his personal spending, which he can separate from his wife’s share of spending. Another of my acquaintance also plan to be FI on his own, as the spouse has no interest in pursuing the same endeavor.

If you are not able to frame what you spend in different ways, then you are likely trapped in the mindset that you need much more money than you think.

The cautious financial planning side of me would warn you that if you are not thorough enough in the introspection of your spending, you may understate or overstate your lifestyle.

Goody Feed has a pretty good comment at the end:

Before you go apeshit and wonder whether anyone can survive with this kind of lifestyle, you might want to ask yourself another question: How do you define “survive” and “lifestyle”?

You see, it has almost become a norm to have a smartphone, a data plan, meals in restaurants, air-conditioning and even taxi rides, so much so that we’ve completely redefined the meaning of survival.

But do you need them to survive?

The question here shouldn’t be whether one can survive with such an income: the question should be this: can you accept this kind of lifestyle?

What each of us finds acceptable is different and for some survival lifestyle is sufferance. But for others, a survival lifestyle is acceptable living. I do contend that the more you grow, the survival lifestyle became not enough.

It became not enough not because you need more to survive but because you got greedy in life and wanted more.

And you have started confusing your greed of life with survival.

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Saturday 18th of February 2023

The glaring thing missing is regular donation to charity to help those less fortunate than you. If you are spending less because you are not wealthy, I understand why you might not have much to donate. But if you are wealthy but just stingy with your money and refuse to give to help others, thats just sad.


Monday 27th of February 2023

Hi lim, thanks for your thoughts. It is how you frame it. If you are fighting for financial security and trying to figure that part out, then we look at an expense budget within donation. If donation is a big part of your life such that you will always need to donate a fixed inflation-adjusted amount, then do include it. If you look at donation as something flexible due to your means, then partition it out, save and create a fund for it.

Different people look at their expenses differently.


Saturday 18th of February 2023

@lim, there are many ways to help the less fortunate than to just donate money, and what people do with their money is their own business.


Saturday 18th of February 2023

There are also some who say spending below $xxxx is considered living "like a beggar". Obviously dunno what the word means


Monday 27th of February 2023

Then we need to define a beggar liao.

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