Luxury items often signify quality, wealth, and social status. In a city that boasts a high level of millionaires, Singapore is no stranger to wealth. Whether it's a Rolex or a Chanel bag, seeing someone with a coveted luxury item is a sign that they have "made it".
While many luxury items are priced above what the average Singaporean salary can pay for, there are some affordable options that have the same name recognition and quality as top-tier brands.
Whether you have just gotten a promotion and want a reward or you have been saving to invest in some luxury items, there are plenty of affordable entry-level products you can consider. Read ahead to find out our picks for entry-level options of coveted brands and their more affordable alternatives.
Entry-level luxury cars
In Singapore, the go-to options for luxury cars include Mercedes, BMWs, and Audis. With a variety of models from each of these car makers, it is common to see price points range from $150,000 to over $500,000.
The entry-level Mercedes-Benz A-class starts at $145,800 with the A180 SE hatchback model. The A200 Sport (A) saloon costs 4 per cent more at $151,988. Both models cost 73-74 per cent less compared to the higher-end S500 (A) model.
If you are more of a BMW fan, then BMW's 116i Sport (A) will be the cheapest entry into the BMW range. Its current cost of $155,888 is 28 per cent cheaper than the popular BMW 3 series 318i Sport Sedan and up to 68 per cent cheaper than a BMW 7 series model.
If you are looking into an Audi (another very popular luxury car option), then your entry level option will be the Audi A1 or A3. The A1 Sportback costs roughly $145,800 and the A3 mild hybrid sportback costs roughly $166,000.
Alternatively, you can upgrade to the A3 mild hybrid sedan for about $1,700 more. That said, the A3 mild hybrid sedan will still cost you 20 per cent less than Audi A4 mild hybrid sedan and 73 per cent less than the new Audi RS e-tron GT Electric.
Average cost & features of entry level luxury cars
One thing to keep in mind with cars is that the more affordable versions are typically less powerful and smaller than their more expensive counterparts.
The technology and interiors can also vary with more expensive models. For instance, when it comes to the Mercedes Benz E-class vs. S-class comparisons, you'll find that the S-class has additional features including lumbar support, soft close doors, and biometric authentication.
Regardless of the entry-level luxury car that you choose, remember to shop around for the right car insurance. If you’re looking for a highly-customisable policy, consider DirectAsia car insurance, where you can select a plan that fits your budget and lifestyle.
For example, DirectAsia lets you hand-pick features for additional protection like 24 hour breakdown assistance, NCD protector plus, and compensation for loss of use. What’s more, you can pay as little as $0.76/day for car insurance.
If you sign up this month, you’ll even get one month of free car insurance using promo code CAR1MONTH (terms and conditions apply).
Entry-level luxury watches
While traditional timepieces are no longer necessary for telling time, they still remain great investments and heirloom pieces. A majority of timepiece investors typically go for Rolex watches, due to the brand's fame, expert quality and stable demand.
However, Rolex watches are also known for their exorbitant prices, especially on the second-hand market where rare, bejeweled and customised watches can sell in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
While Rolex watches are generally more expensive on average than other luxury watch brands, you do have a couple of options. For instance, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual and the Rolex Air-King are two of the cheapest Rolex watches on the market.
According to Rolex's US site (local pricing is unavailable online from retailers in Singapore), the silver Oyster Perpetual 36 costs USD$5,600 (S$7,612).
If you don't mind getting a vintage version with a leather strap, watch reseller, Chrono24, has listings for the Oyster Perpetual for as low as $5,878. The Rolex Air-King 40 mm costs $6,450, but you can get a pre-owned version for under $7,000 on Chrono24 as well.
If you are looking to start a collection of timepieces that are entry-level but not necessarily Rolex, then you can consider classic models from Tag Heuer or Omega. For instance, Tag Heuer's Carrera model, is a great entry-level luxury watch.
First released in 1963, it instantly became a classic and includes a scratch-resistant ceramic bezel, faceted indexes and Tag Heuer's in-house chronograph calibre. The retail price from watch retailers for the steel, 42mm version of the watch is $7,500.
Another option is the Omega Seamaster, which was created to celebrate Omega's maritime heritage. This watch on the official US website costs USD$5,700, but a pre-owned Seamaster can cost as low as $2,250.
Furthermore, opting for a leather strap can save you 5per cent. This makes it one of the cheapest luxury timepieces you can get if you are interested in brands and models that retain their value and will never go out of style.
Entry-level luxury bags
Just like watches, certain designer bags are also coveted investment pieces. For instance, the Hermès Birkin bag is the penultimate sign of wealth, thanks to its exclusivity and high price point.
Chanel's Classic Bag is another luxury handbag that has stood the test of time. But with prices above $10,000, these bags cost more than an entry-level Rolex and more than double the median salary of the average Singaporean.
Average cost of entry-level luxury bags
If you want to splurge on an Hermès or Chanel bag straightaway, then the Herbag Zip Retourne Cabine Tilt 50 Bag from Hermès or Chanel's mini flap bag will be the entry level options.
The Herbag Zip costs $5,300—5per cent less than the $13,340 entry-level Birkin. The more Chanel affordable mini flap bag has a starting price point of $5,850, 49 per cent cheaper than the classic bag, which currently costs between $11,550.
Of course, there are other much more affordable luxury options that aren't Chanel or Hermès. For instance, Coach is a good entry-level luxury brand that has bags that are under $1,000. Gucci is another option, especially for people who are interested in trendy, high-end options.
For instance, the classic Gucci GG Marmont costs $3,200 and the funkier small messenger bag costs even less at $2,890. Likewise, you can also consider Yves Saint Laurent's Lou Camera bag that costs just under $2,000.
How to spend on luxury items responsibly
When it comes to spending a lot of money on any discretionary purchase, it's important that you know how to do it responsibly to avoid damaging your finances. For instance, while it may be tempting to max out your credit card or take out a personal loan and pay back the purchase over several months, you'll actually end up paying way more for your purchase than if you had paid for it in full.
Not paying off your balance in full on your credit card will end up costing you an average of 25 per cent in interest per month on your remaining balance. Similarly, the average personal loan interest rate of 9.28-10.23 per cent will mean you can end up paying an extra 10 per cent more on your purchase.
To avoid the trap of paying hundreds of extra dollars to your bank, you should only buy what you can afford to pay off immediately.
If you don't have enough funds for the exact version you want, you can opt for a cheaper model of the item, look for a secondhand version or wait until you have enough money. You can also use an unlimited cashback card that will give you a percentage off in the form of cash back on purchases from brands that don't typically go on sale.
That being said, while it's nice to upgrade to better quality items, don't confuse the price with the quality. If you are spending thousands of dollars on an item, you should make sure the quality is on par with your expectations.
Furthermore, you have to actually like the item you are purchasing. Sure a Chanel bag is nice to show off, but if you hate what it looks like, then you may end up regretting the purchase down the line.
This article was first published in ValueChampion.