Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world for expats, but also one of the safest, progressive, and cosmopolitan. Due to various geopolitical fanfare such as the Russian war against Ukraine, inflation is rising globally. Singapore’s latest core inflation rate and Consumer Price Index is at 4.8% and 7% respectively in July 2022 and the government has plans to increase its Goods & Services Tax to 8% in 2023 and 9% in 2024. Rent in Singapore has also increased by 50% since the onset of Covid – according to latest real estate statistics.
In this article, we calculate a typical budget for living in Singapore for foreigners.
There is currently more demand than supply in Singapore’s rental market, driving up prices considerably. This may be due to the recent Covid-19 easing measures and Singapore opened up its borders to the world again. It may also be due to Singapore’s core population renting out as a temporary solution to the extended period of construction of HDB BTOs and the high price of resale HDBs.This makes it more difficult for foreigners to secure rent as Singaporeans and PRs are prioritised and preferred.
Depending on location, a one-bedroom condo apartment may cost SGD 4000 and above in a relatively central location. This may be comfortable for an expat couple. Bills are not included in the rent and may cost a couple hundred more. However, for expat families, they might need a bigger apartment and will definitely cost higher. Expat singles have the most cost-effective options as they can choose to rent a room, a studio apartment or even a co-living space. All of which can be below SGD 2000.
Including monthly bills, a typical one-bedroom condo apartment may cost around SGD 4500 for an expat couple.
Singapore imports most of its food supplies. This is because Singapore lacks the land space for agriculture. While Asian ingredients imported from neighbouring countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand may be cheap, products like cheese cost so much higher because they are usually imported from further away like European countries and Australia.
250 grams of cheese typically costs around SGD 7. This would be a one or two-time use. For expats who have cheese in their staple diet, it may cost at least SGD 250 a month. Alcohol, grass-fed meat, artisan bread such as sourdough, organic fruits and vegetables all typically cost more. A good grocery budgeting would include both local ingredients and specialty items to bring the costs down without compromising the diet.
With this budgeting, monthly grocery bills might cross the SGD 600 mark for two persons.
Car ownership in Singapore is expensive and is considered a ‘luxury’. Apart from the price of the car, owners need to pay for a Certificate of Entitlement (COE). Average COE price is around SGD 100,000 and an average car costs around SGD 100,000. This is not including petrol, carpark, and maintenance monthly expenses.
A good alternative would be to take the ever-efficient public transport. A typical cost would be SGD 150 per person a month for MRT and/or bus rides. Taxi rides are more expensive but a typical one-way ride could be SGD 50 and below, depending on the length of route, type of car, and time of day.
For daily MRT and bus commute with some taxi rides on the weekends, a good budget would be about SGD 250 per person a month.
- Memberships & Subscriptions
Basic memberships and subscriptions such as gym, streaming services and internet services are common in Singapore.
An average gym membership may cost around SGD 100 a month. Streaming services such as Netflix costs about SGD 20 a month while mobile and broadband connections cost around SGD 20 and SGD 50 a month respectively.
Although health and hospitalisation insurance is not a membership or subscription, it is a recurring payment that is important and everyone should have. A foreigner getting basic coverage for local health insurance costs about SGD 405 per year.
Basic monthly membership and subscription costs around SGD 380 for two persons.
- Recreational Activities
Living in Singapore means there are a lot of activities that can be done with friends, colleagues, and family.
Indoor activities include going to the movies, singing your heart out in a KTV, clubbing, and even dining out. Movie tickets cost around SGD15, karaoke sessions cost around SGD 35 per person, club cover charge costs around SGD 40, eating out may cost between SGD 5 for hawker centre to SGD 30 for a mid-range restaurant.
An average budget for recreational activities can be from SGD 250 per person a month.
How much do I need to live in Singapore comfortably?
Based on the calculations above, an expat couple may look to spend about SGD 6500 a month. That is about SGD 3250 per person per month.
This amount is a low rough estimate and depends largely on individuals’ lifestyles. Travelling out of Singapore, daily coffee from Starbucks, having kids and pets, and expenses such as home furnishings, toiletries, and tech gadgets are all not included. As much as Singapore is expensive, it is possible to live comfortably in the country. Cheaper options are always available everywhere.
To find out how you can live and work in Singapore, Immigration@SG can help with Work Pass Applications, Singapore Permanent Residency & Citizenship Applications, and Business Incorporation.