Instead of resorting to dumb cliches like "freezing your credit card in a block of ice" or "spending money to save money" (no, that forex investment seminar you saw an ad for in the newspapers is not going to "pay for itself"), Singaporeans who are prone to overspending should start paying attention not only to how they spend their money, but also their time.
Despite working long hours, many Singaporeans still manage to find the time to wander through shopping malls and spend hours browsing online shops. Here are four ways you can schedule your time in ways that will make you spend less.
Schedule other leisure activities in place of shopping
Wandering into a mall in Singapore is dangerous, especially if you're the sort of person who considers shopping a hobby. Even if the only reason you're entering a mall is to use the toilet, it's all too easy to get sucked in by sales at H&M, new releases at Kinokuniya or even those unctuous dead sea salt hand cream salesmen.
If you end up walking aimlessly through shopping malls every weekend or having your meals in restaurants surrounded by all your favourite shops, you're like a recovering alcoholic who's forced to work as a Tiger Beer auntie.
Think of all the times you typically end up in shopping malls, most commonly in the evenings after work and on weekends. Then, schedule leisure activities that will take you far from the evil clutches of shopping malls. Ask a friend to have coffee at a new cafe situated on the ground floor of some shophouse, commit to going for a swim or a run, or go fly your drone or something. Just stop going to shopping malls for fun, and you'll find you magically spend less, too.
Curb Friday/Saturday night excess with plans early the next morning
You may be young and free, and glad you don't have to spend money on tuition for your kids like your friends who are parents do. Good for you, but if you're blowing all the money you save on alcohol on Friday or Saturday night, you might as well have a baby in your (beer) belly.
Alcohol prices are so shockingly high in Singapore that you don't even have to be a particularly big drinker to drop some serious cash on mediocre drinks. A cocktail at one of those hipper than thou bars can easily set you back $20 to $30. Multiply by three and you've got a pricetag that would enable you to drink yourself to alcohol poisoning in many developed countries.
If Friday and Saturday night drinks sessions are the reason you end up broke every month, schedule plans early on Saturday and Sunday morning. It doesn't matter if you plan to go for yoga classes at 8am, have an early breakfast with a friend or volunteer at a soup kitchen at the crack of dawn. Just do something that will discourage you from being the last to leave at 4am, and you'll find your party expenditure will automatically fall.
Schedule errands during lunchtime
Apparently, shopping during lunchtime is quite common amongst those who work in or near shopping malls. There's a reason there are multiple clothing and shoe shops in and around the Raffles MRT area.
If lunchtime shopping is one of your weaknesses, you can quite easily avoid it by scheduling errands during your hour-long lunch break. Many Singaporean employees don't have that much free time to begin with, so it's a good idea to get rid of annoying tasks during the working day and free up post-work time for other things.
I used to buy groceries during lunchtime and then store them in the fridge in my company's pantry, visit the post office to post items I'd sold online or return books to the library. Every minute saved during lunchtime is a minute of post-work time saved, so don't waste your life shopping during that period.
Make sure you're always on time
Time management is something many of us struggle with. Here's some motivation to be more punctual: learning to master your time can actually end up saving you money. If you don't drive, you've probably hopped into a cab more than once because you knew you'd never be able to rely on your feeder bus service to get you to the MRT station on time.
In fact, I have many friends who end up taking taxis to work 3-5 times a week because they oversleep.
Another common mistake for those who like to hang out at night is not checking what time your last bus or train is, and then missing it by a few minutes and having to take a cab home with midnight surcharge.
Learn how to master your time and become a punctual person, and you'll never have to deal with the stress of realising your taxi ride adds up to $40 after all the surcharges have been heaped on.
This article first appeared on MoneySmart
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