Costs of Living

Discuss about life in Singapore. Ask about cost of living, housing, travel, etiquette & lifestyle. Share experience & advice with Singaporeans & expat staying in Singapore.
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artraveler
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Costs of Living

Post by artraveler » Sun, 14 Jan 2007 8:16 am

1st post on this site, though have been visiting for awhile. Thank you for your candid replies. Our concern is cost of living differences: we live in the rural midwestern US where cost of living is quite low, and my wife (an attorney) won't be working after we move. Appears by your general comments we are going to take a massive cost of living hit when we move this summer. If I make about US$85k/year and company is paying for kids' schools and family insurance, is it out of line to ask for housing allowance? I hope $85k is enough to live well, but I don't know what we're looking at for disposable income, etc. What do you think? I'd love to hear from other expats, please. Many thanks.

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Makan24-7
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Post by Makan24-7 » Sun, 14 Jan 2007 11:08 am

A bit off topic but something to consider:
Since the US does not have a tax treaty with Singapore to protect its citizens/PRs from double taxation, is your company grossing up for local Singapore taxes? If they do, that's a huge plus. You will be exempt on US Federal taxes up to US$80k so you will only be paying taxes on US$5k. That said, on a salary of US$85k, your tax rate in Singapore will only be 14% I believe. In effect, being taxed in the US on 5k and paying 14% tax on 85k (your taxable income shd be lower cos of dependents) is actually much lighter a burden than back in the US. I think you still do pay for Social Security and Medicare on the 85k though...

Back to your question:
Rents are definitely going to be much, much higher than the rural midwest. Rents in Singapore are pretty akin to rents in LA or Chicago, maybe even SF. So if you can ask for housing allowance, it's going to be a big plus.

If you aren't going to eat the local food in Singapore, then eating out will be more expensive than the rural Midwest. If you can assimilate your gastronomic tastes into the local food courts, then it becomes pretty cheap.

Public transportation in Singapore is excellent and you really don't need cars to get around so if you are maintaining multiple cars, there's some more disposable for you. Besides, cars in Singapore are expensive!! A Civic that costs about US$20k in the US goes for about 2.5 times more in Singapore.

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Thanx Makan...

Post by artraveler » Sun, 14 Jan 2007 11:52 am

I spoke with my CPA last week about the tax issue, to your point there could be some advantages to be right (or slightly over) the US limit. Sounds like I need to get some housing assistance, if possible. The question becomes what is the cost of living difference, in general, for common expenditures (groceries, utilities, etc). Right now I pay about US$1500/mo for utilities, groceries, common expenditures, clothes, and everything else except the mortgage for our family of four. Thank you all for your input. You're helping a family that apprecates you.

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Post by Makan24-7 » Sun, 14 Jan 2007 12:25 pm

On US$1.5k, you'd have to live pretty darn frugally to get by with a family of 4 but it it is possible. I'd compare the cost of living in Singapore to be more or less the same as Chicago and LA - you can choose to live very frugally or very expensively and anywhere in between... A lot depends on your eating and shopping habits.

A bit off topic again - If you shop at Gap, Banana Republic, Timberland, Brooks Brothers and other popular American brands and plan to do the same in Singapore, my advice is to buy them in the US. I'm sure your company is paying for shipping.

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Post by jpatokal » Sun, 14 Jan 2007 2:36 pm

Makan24-7 wrote:On US$1.5k, you'd have to live pretty darn frugally to get by with a family of 4 but it it is possible.
That's US$1.5k (~S$2.5k) excluding rent, which seems to me to be entirely feasible -- it's a budget of over S$80/day.
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Post by Makan24-7 » Mon, 15 Jan 2007 1:17 am

True, assuming that you follow local consumption behavior. But for a regular American who consumes far more than anyone else in the world, it could be a stretch especially when consumer power is much stronger in the US than anywhere else in the world. S$80 a day for a family of 4...

Then again, I did mention that you can choose to live very frugally or very expensively and anywhere in between... A lot depends on your eating and shopping habits.

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Post by shef » Tue, 30 Jan 2007 8:50 pm

I cannot answer your question directly on whether your budget is enough. However being an expat here now for 6 months, I can give you some local prices on groceries. This may give you an indication of the cost of living for a Westerner in Singapore.

Mince Beef $40/kg
Steak (various cuts) from $55/kg
1 litre full cream milk $2.60
2 litre fresh OJ approx $7
1 litre skim milk $3.20
Beer and wine - I cannot give you exact costs as we do not drink but I am told extremely expensive

I hope this helps with your planning.

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Post by huggybear » Wed, 31 Jan 2007 7:46 am

i think chicago is a far better comparison then L.A. In Hell A your car is your life. If you don't have one, you're a nobody.

In Chicago you can choose to live in a chic neighborhood and not have a car and pay up. or u can live in the burbs with a car and more space. everything depends on what kind of lifestyle you want to lead. I wouldn't expect to live like royalty on that salary. liquor is very expensive here. you should be "comfortable" i would think.

and yes americans are very good at consuming...but if we didn't the world would be in a global recession!

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Post by lost_canuck » Wed, 31 Jan 2007 9:21 am

shef wrote:I cannot answer your question directly on whether your budget is enough. However being an expat here now for 6 months, I can give you some local prices on groceries. This may give you an indication of the cost of living for a Westerner in Singapore.

Mince Beef $40/kg Which we don't buy much of anymore, we buy pork (for stir fry = around $5, or rolled loin $30) or chicken (whole $5)(two breasts $4.30)

Steak (various cuts) from $55/kg again we avoid because it is all imported and expensive

1 litre full cream milk $2.60we do pay this

2 litre fresh OJ approx $7 imported is more expensive than local around $4

1 litre skim milk $3.20

Beer and wine - I cannot give you exact costs as we do not drink but I am told extremely expensive if you like to drink it will be a real shock to the system. 8 tiger beer cans = $19 (approx) 12 Bud on special was $37, and wine varies from $20 - $50 and on

I hope this helps with your planning.
But local foods are cheap, asparagus is $2 a bunch, Bok Choy is like $1.20, grapefruit $1.20, chinese broccoli = $1, and if you change your eating habit food can be cheap... we've totally overhauled our eating habits, we don;t buy potatoes, but eat rice, and try to buy local :) and hey we even lost some weight :) But then I buy expensive coffee $15 a tin, and forget about ice cream B&J about $12 a tub.

and the clothes front, almost all brands here (even american) are cut for the asian market, slim frame, my husband (6'5") walked into a timberland in Taka mall and they just gasped and said "nothing to fit you, sorry"

regardless if you are willing to search far and wide, you may find larger clothes, some shops here from britain carry larger sizes but they are very expensive, a pair of jeans run around $110, you can probably get made to measure for the same price from a local tailor

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Post by sundaymorningstaple » Wed, 31 Jan 2007 12:56 pm

lost_canuck,

the best thing any expat can do here is not to shop at tierney's, jason's & cold storage but to learn to go to NTUC, Sheng Shiong, and the wet markets.

I've never paid the prices quoted in the original post at minced beef at $40/Kg or steaks @ $55/Kg. Sure, if you want to live you were at home fair enough. But to me what's the sense of coming here then. Money only? Boring! In order to see the world one must immerse themselves in it otherwise it's wasted time.

Have to agree on the clothes front though. Even the loss leader brands are cut for asian builds over here as you husband has already found out. I'm short (very short) and I have to buy jeans at home and send over here due to the fact that men's jeans over here are cut like a small hotel. No room in the seat either. If you are a woman over 5'6" tall you will have big problems finding jeans long enough in the leg as well.

Loss leaders "Levis" which you can buy for 30 or 40 US at home cost around 150 Sgd here. Another reason to bring what you need. Also, for the well endowed ladies, good unpadded foundation garments can be a nightmare as well.

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Post by lost_canuck » Wed, 31 Jan 2007 1:09 pm

sms: been there done that, I am 5'7" and a bit. I like to say 5'8" but hubby mocks me. anyway... I can always buy shoes *lol* til I get home to canada.

Have yet to find a wet market, are there any in the Upper bukit timah area? I have to admit I end up at cold storage because it is convenient, and for some things they're cheap enough...... I also go to carrefour, but some of their things are actually more expensive, and hey you get the perk of durian smells thrown in, bleh! :lol:

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Post by huggybear » Wed, 31 Jan 2007 1:11 pm

I think i may be able to help here...

in the states everyone cooks because it is so cheap compared to eating out. in singapore everyone eats out all the time. food is a national pasttiime. it's cheaper to eat out i think then to cook at home (hawker centers). there is so much food to try since Singapore has every ethnic asian. i agree with canuck, if you adapt to local tastes, you'll prolly lose weight as the portions are smaller....

better to experience the local scene. your olive garden and red lobster and other favorite neighborhood joints will always wait for you to return to the states. but a lot of the food here i have never even heard of until coming here.

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Post by Makan24-7 » Wed, 31 Jan 2007 4:14 pm

I'll agree wholeheartedly with huggybear and SMS.

If you can adopt to local tastes and eat at the food courts or hawker stalls away from the tourist traps like Orchard Road, it becomes very inexpensive. In the US, I cook more than 50% of the time but in SG, it's much cheaper and more convenient to eat out if you can adapt.

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Post by mslise » Wed, 31 Jan 2007 6:49 pm

lost_canuck wrote:sms: been there done that, I am 5'7" and a bit. I like to say 5'8" but hubby mocks me. anyway... I can always buy shoes *lol* til I get home to canada.

Have yet to find a wet market, are there any in the Upper bukit timah area? I have to admit I end up at cold storage because it is convenient, and for some things they're cheap enough...... I also go to carrefour, but some of their things are actually more expensive, and hey you get the perk of durian smells thrown in, bleh! :lol:
Lost_canuck- it's not exactly walking distance from you I don't think, but the one I go to is on Farrer rd, between bukit timah and holland rd. If you want any more info, you can PM me. I had someone who already lived here show me where it was when I arrived, it's pretty fun even if not as cheap as I thought- although to be fair the produce is pretty good. :D

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Many thanks to all

Post by artraveler » Fri, 02 Feb 2007 10:49 am

Thank you all for taking the time to reply and offer your good advice. We're listening to what you have to say, er...seeing what you have to say.. :D

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