On top of the ~80,000 houses available, 1600+ renovators are available. There are hundreds of millions of possibilities.
How to decide sial.
I find it helpful to list your minimum requirements. Specifically, the things you need a house for.
If I lived alone, my house would be for:
For this bare-bones existence, I’d need a…
And that would look like:
This box is about 12 square meters, or 130 square feet.
So now that I know I need 12sqm, browsing property sites is a little less scary. Looking at typical HDB sizes, even the humblest of flats is enough:
1 Room / Studio: 36 sqm / 388sqft
2 Room HDB: 45sqm / 484sqft
3 Room HDB: 65sqm / 700sqft
4 Room HDB: 95sqm / 1023sqft
5 Room HDB: 115sqm / 1238sqft
What about couples? The budget life is hardly glamorous, but nonetheless the mental exercise of defining your minimum requirements (perhaps with a woke spouse) makes navigating the ocean of buy/rent options a little easier.
Budgetbox v2 is about 16 square meters, or 177 square feet. Amazingly, a 1-room HDB is still larger.
Knowing the minimum size for a liveable room gives us mental building blocks to imagine greater needs – how much space do you need if you wanted:
Adding the building blocks is a simple guideline. However, with multiple people, amenities like kitchens, desks and washrooms can be shared for further economy.
You can add literal blocks to get a picture of the minimum floor space needed:
Your mileage may vary – you might need a balcony, or decide you don’t need a big livingroom, or want some separate dining areas etc as a minimum. Nonetheless, here’s a summary of the experiments above for reference:
I personally would like some spoils in the house like a balcony, a garden, a rooftop view etc. But if I can’t find these spoils, at least I know what my minimum requirements are, and whether they’re met. I hope this experiment brings some comfort to your decisions too.
I’d love to hear your feedback! Do you think I:
Missed any points out?
Should do a clear explanation on any bits?
Could go deeper in certain areas?
You can let me know your feedback in the comments, I’d love to hear suggestions to make these mental tools more useful.
Looking back on your timeline, how many houses did you live in?
Most of us think of:
If you live outside of Singapore, where houses are cheaper, maybe more of a:
I base these on countries like Canada or the States, where housing is a little cheaper than Singapore. Certainly helps to widen the variety of options in one lifespan.
For the lucky bunch of us who need less variety and pretty much know what they want, the options are simpler:
In these fantasies, the first house you buy is the last house you buy.
Assuming you can confidently live by yourself/yourselves, you know what house you (and your spouse) want to live in, age in, kidz in, retire in and expire in.
If you can’t afford a loan yet, rentals might be a waste of the savings+investments you’re building to afford buying this One Home.
So in conclusion…
If you crave less variety and have researched enough to have high certainty in the house you want, save up to buy.
Of course, if you have the luxury of being in a multi-generational flat, and are comfortable living with parents, you may not have to worry about buying at all. This might seem outlandish if you subscribe to the idea of independent living, but 3Gen flats are still a thing here.
I’ve met adults with children who live in the same flat as their parents, who have no intention to move out. It’s not for everyone, and it’s not for me, but I can see how 3Gen flats are a supremely convenient, secure and frugal choice.
To some, staying in the same box for 10-20 years gnaws at the soul. Comfortable routines and neighbours may be valuable to some, but life can look short. The world, your oyster, is ever ripe for the picking (well, opening). (tasting?)
What tempers variety is children and affordability.
Children of parents who travel a lot don’t recount a great experience (Check out this Reddit and this Quora). While moving is exciting and makes your kids super-adaptors, it’s hard to build lasting relationships with friends who you’re ripped away from after years of bonding. LDRs are hard enough.
My advice to variety seekers who also want kids is to go forth and move to a new setting/view/style, but relocate near the same schools and amenities to help your children grow some deeper social roots in a community. Most friendships take years to form, developing the ability to maintain long relationships later in life. See the Reddit and Quora links above for more perspectives about this!
For readers who don’t want kids, its a lot easier to move houses frequently, as long as it makes economic sense to you. Which brings us to…
Looking long term and buying a dream home for your 60-year old self can be tough for your cash!
If you’re looking to buy, say, a landed property for your retirement higher than 1000sqft (approximately a 4-room HDB flat, or 27 king-sized mattresses), most of those will cost you upwards of $800,000 SGD.
If you took an $800,000 loan for 35 years at a fixed interest of 2.6% (rates are lower now but it’s a good average), your future selves woulda paid $1,183,692 in total – 150% more than the initial loan amount. Renting 5 increasingly expensive different places over the same 35 years could save you $108,492.
$100,000+ That might look measly in a conversation about real estate prices, but if you put that sum to investments you could be saving much more than you think!
So buy or rent?
My personal opinion is that if you haven’t tried living in your own place yet, the experience is absolutely worth it (The woke salaryman covered this pretty well). If you are just trying things out first, go for a rental and go low until you learn what you really want. Renting provides the flexibility of GTFO-ing when you’ve had enough of one place.
Otherwise, jumping into a multi-year commitment to pay a monthly mortgage can be stressful if you:
Are unsure of what house you want for the next 30 years
Don’t have career stability (mortgage payments are harder to get out of than rents)
Don’t have enough savings to bolster 6-12 months of expenses on a rainy day!
However, once you’ve figured out what you want, and can afford a loan to get it, and have enough savings to buffer a year of low/no revenue, I think that buying is a legit option.
I approach the Buy vs Rent question like a buffet.
At a buffet, I’m faced with 20 options at the table.
In plate 1, I sample a small part of each food on the menu.
Some food sucks. I take note and avoid it in plate 2.
Some food is not bad. I will add it to plate 2 just to double-check if I love it or not.
Some food is MUST HAVE. Smoked salmon. Eclairs. The good stuff. These go in plate 1, 2, 3, 4 and probably be part of my last bite.
By plate 3 or 4, I already have my faves down, and don’t bother with the weak options which were in plate 1. For the notbads, I’ve decided whether or not they should be dontneeds or musthaves. Applying this to housing choices, it’s like knowing what your core wants are over time, and what things are just fluff. (Do you really need that lawn?)
Before I pick a home I gotta payfor+stayin for 30 years, I sample the whole menu to figure out what I likeand don’t like, lowering the risk that my eventual choice is one I grow tired of after 15 years.
I can’t speak for what the 70-year old me might want, as tastes change, but I intend to make his decisions easier by properly planning how I spend my money today.
I hope this post helps you in your own path. Let me know if there’s..
-Anything I missed out
-Any clear explanations you like
-Anything I coulda covered better
I’d love to hear your feedback! You can post in the comments to let me know. Cheers.
I make these things to budget my life better. I hope you find em useful too.
Let’s start with cold coffee!
Note: Coffee bean only has one cold brew size, compared to Starbucks’ three.
ALSO, you can see that the maximum savings you can get is $5.50 a day on cold, black (heartless) coffee. According to my calculator (you can download it here), that’d save me $15,467 at 35.
I thought it would also be interesting to list the prices for hot black coffee, which would eventually show us the price of ice after a quick subtraction.
The most you could save here is a comparable $5.3. Of course, a kopi o kosong is not the same as a Large from Coffee Bean. You might have to drink a little less coffee a day to make those savings. Ask yourself how much caffeine you really need.
Thought it would help to compile em all in a big graph too:
Aaaand ice price!
Interesting to see the increase in markup on ice for smaller vendors. That extra 20c-$1.30 would amount to an extra $562 – $3,656 at 35.
I hope you found these tables and charts useful. I’ll be adding more coffee prices here as I see them, and the next topic will be on something close to heart – cookies.
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Living a short walk from the local shopping mall and hawker centre, my mornings could involve a kopi o kosong peng or an iced americano. Sometimes I grind & press coffee beans at home, so… aiyoh, daily trilemma. But alas, variety is the spice of life.
Being a me, I had to list the options.
Kopi O Kosong Peng: $1.40
Kopi O Kosong Peng (Marked up): $3.00
Iced Americano: $5.00
Cold Brew: $5.80
Note on the Homemade: This will depend on your beans; I use 35g of beans a cup, so a 250g bag at $14 = seven cups at $1.96 each.
Look at the difference between an americano ($5) and kopi o kosong peng – you could be saving $3.60 a day!
What would this mean in a year? Or 5 years?
The answer is complicated – interest rates, inflation and options to invest need consideration.
Luckily for you,
So before we get into the sheet [free download at the end of this post] let me unpack these basics:
For money saved in the bank, interest rates determine how much your saved money grows over time, or the amount that banks pay you to keep your money in their account. They would then use your money to lend borrowers and charge them that interest.
Eroder of savings. Eater of worlds. Inflation is probably the number 1 reason to invest your money, and also why my iced kopi costs $1.40 instead of $0.90 like it used to back in school.
Inflation is the rate of increase of prices of stuff (goods and services la) over time. Inflation has many causes – higher costs of stuff-production, higher wages of stuff-makers (shame on your payraise), higher demand for stuff (e.g. when people in developing citiers can afford higher standards of living) and government policies are the usual suspects.
What’s Singapore’s inflation rate? Most sources use the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which tracks the change in price of commonly purchased goods and services, including housing and transportation.
For this post, however, I’ll be using the MAS Core Inflation, which excludes fluctuations in housing and transport. More info here!
To be a little conservation, let’s go with a fixed inflation rate of 2% per annum.
A popular topic – this could bloat up a post real quick. However, it’ll be good to illustrate just what can happen without investment, so I’m going to assume an investment growth rate of 0%. Keke.
Here we go.
Savings between Iced Americano ($5.00) to Kopi O Kosong peng ($1.40) = $3.60
Saving $3.60 a day means $1,310 a year! That may not look like much, and indeed $1,310 saved in the bank (earning interest) will only have the spending power of $1,221 in 7 years.
Summing up the accumulated years of savings, 7 years of disciplined cheap coffee drinking would result in an extra $10,124in my bank account.
If I invested those savings, say, in CPF top-ups with a guaranteed rate of 4%…
$1,310 saved this year would no longer be worth less next year, but more. Specifically, the growth percentage would look like this:
I’m the typical 20+ year old nearing my thirties – checking out housing options in Singapore, itching to move out of home. Inspired by talks with peers and this post from The Woke Salaryman, it’s now a habit to check out Propertyguru, 99.co and SRX from time to time get a sense of the real estate here.
Photos give me a clear picture of what living in the place will be like.
Price tells me how much I’d be sacrificing monthly on a mortgage or rent.
Floor Area… doesn’t ring any intuitive bells. I can’t ‘feel’ what a 45sqm studio or a 700sqft HDB flat looks like.
So I thought it would be helpful to feed my intuition by starting with relatable lego blocks, then scaling them up to fit some common floorplans in Singapore. Hopefully this helps you too!
A Square Meter (sqm) is a unit of area (Length x Width) defined as the area of a 1m x 1m square.
In imperial units, the same square would be 10.76sqft.
1m = 3.28ft
1sqm = 1m x 1m = 3.28ft x 3.28ft = 10.76sqft
Intuitive lego block 1: mattresses!
In a nutshell,
Super Single beds ≈ 2sqm
Queens ≈ 3sqm
Kings ≈ 3.5sqm
On to the houses!
Singapore’s housing sizes change over time, so I used the amazing Teoalida’s research to narrow down a rough floor area size for 5 types of flat:
1 Room / Studio: 36 sqm / 388sqft
2 Room HDB: 45sqm / 484sqft
3 Room HDB: 65sqm / 700sqft
4 Room HDB: 95sqm / 1023sqft
5 Room HDB: 115sqm / 1238sqft
Immediately, before going into pictures, we can divide these by mattresses to get a rough sense of their size:
1 Room / Studios: ~10 Kings + 1 Super Single (36.6sqm/394sqft)
4 Room HDB: ~27 Kings + 1 Super Single (93.95sqm/1011.3sqft)
5 Room HDB: ~33 Kings + 2 Super Singles (115.29sqm/1240.9sqft)
And now, some graphics.
For this one, I think it helps to simply think of 35 sqm as 10 king sized beds.
Roughly 3 more kingbeds equate to 9 more sqm!
Things start to get huge for the 3-rooms, the main difference being the twinning of the bathrooms and the bedrooms. Here, its easiest to think of it as 65sqm ≃ 700sqft ≃ 18 King beds.
With an additional bedroom and extension of the livingroom space, the 4-roomer is about 1000sqft, which is roughly 27 king-sized beds.
For the luxurious 5-room flat, the living room gets an extra space in this project, which is roughly 115sqm, about 33 King beds plus 2 Super Singles.
Hope the pictures above and the lists help you visualise floor areas for your own home searching! if you have suggestions or comments to make this more helpful, type them to me in the comments or contact page. Cheers!
I’m a project engineer and we do late nights sometimes!
While I’m not a cab guy (Public Transport is a no-brainer here!) (If you’re childless) (And don’t work in Jurong Island), the chains of late nights have a glorious hidden benefit – racking up them Grab Rewards perks. (Not sponsored, chill.)
I’ll get right to it: I sheeted all rewards I could see on my app, added their equivalent value and calculated the points/SGD for each one.
What the points/SGD column means: Lower is better. It means you can use up fewer points to get back a dollar.
The categories listed on the app are Entertainment, F&B, Grab, Limited Edition, Services, Travel and Shopping. Here goes:
So which one is the ‘most‘ worth it?
To find this, look for the lowest points/SGD item in each table. This means that you are getting the most SGD you can get from each point used.
The overall lowest points/SGD here (i.e. best deal!) is the yogofi 20% off monthly wifi voucher at 7.8 points spent per SGD.
In second place is the 80% discount of PHS Hair Science’s scalp treatment service, at 21.1 points spent for each SDS redeemed.
In third is the $30 voucher for Earnest & Collective for men’s shoes. Again, quite a niche audience, but a very worthy 133.3 points per SGD redeemed!
Important note: There’s no clear ‘best’, really, because of the “% off”-type rewards you can redeem.
Technically, if you redeem a %-off-type voucher, the amount of SGD you save is endless because it scales with the total amount spent. Also, with rewards like Yogofi’s unlimited monthly wifi, I maxed out the value by putting in the most expensive daily plan ($12.90/day for Middle East, Egypt, Reunion, South Africa), so your mileage may vary!
Did I miss anything? How can I improve this next time? Let me know what you think (comments section below). Cheers!