Back when you were young enough to pay 55 cents for bus rides, Chinese New Year was like a goldmine. You'd show up at your relatives' homes with one of those little purses you could sling around your body, inside of which you stashed all your ang baos.
These days, even if you're a married person who's forced to dole out ang baos to random kids, Chinese New Year is still a huge money sink. If you haven't found a cheap way to escape this year's CNY onslaught, here are some costs to beware of.
Booking flights late
Hordes of Singaporeans flock to Changi Airport the evening before Chinese New Year, desperate to make the most of the long weekend and escape their nosy relatives back home.
If you haven't already booked your air tickets outta here, we're sorry to say this but you're going to end up paying several times the usual price, since most flights out of Singapore are now ridiculously priced.
If you're determined to go AWOL this CNY weekend, in order to avoid paying exorbitant airfares your best bet is to drive or take a coach trip up north. You might face excruciating jams on the road, but at least you won't be paying over $500 for a weekend trip.
One of the plus points of Chinese New Year is getting to stuff your face with goodies like bak kwa and pineapple tarts.
Well, guess what, you could have bought those snacks any time of year, and indeed you should have, because retailers of Chinese New Year goodies jack up the price without fail every year. The closer you get to CNY, the more you can expect to pay.
That means if you haven't bought your pineapple tarts, cornflake cookies, nian gao or bak kwa and are sure your family's ang bao haul is going to depend on how well you feed your relatives, you'd best rush out and do it now.
Next year, you'd do well to place your orders with the various sellers weeks or even months in advance. One pineapple tart seller we spoke to this year claims they reached their order quota during the Mid Autumn Festival last year.
Throwing dinner banquets
If you've got a clan that's big enough to make accidental incest a very real possibility, we sure hope you've got a relative whose home is big enough to accommodate all of you, otherwise good luck trying to book a few tables at a Chinese restaurant without being made to pay ridiculously inflated prices.
If these banquets are a yearly affair, you'd do well to start booking way in advance. And by way in advance, we mean the year before.
Having to buy new red clothes
Some people treat Chinese New Year as an excuse to fuel that shopping addiction, all in the name of being a good, traditional Chinese boy/girl.
Others buy all those ridiculous red clothes mainly because they think it'll give them better luck during the yearly gambling sessions with the uncles and aunties.
But anyone who knows how to shop for clothes in Singapore knows that waiting for sales to hit is the best strategy.
But with just one or two weeks to go before CNY hits and the possibility of a year of bad luck awaiting if you wear don't wear new clothes to ring in the new year, you're likely to buy red outfits that make you look more like a tomato than a rose.
Seriously guys, there's nothing wrong with eating bak kwa or wearing red, if that's your colour. But waiting until a few days before Chinese New Year to do all of the above is a surefire way to pay more for something that would cost you less other times of year.
In case you're wondering, I'm just going to be waiting in a bomb shelter till CNY is over.
This article first appeared in MoneySmart
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