Singapore - living costs

(10 Posts)
needabetternickname Sun 27-Jan-13 17:23:13

Hi,

A number of you have been v helpful on a recent post about schools/preschools/nurseries, so thanks for that. I'm starting this as a new thread as I've got a new set of questions which are unrelated to all of that, although hope some of you spot it and offer up your thoughts!

We've now just been presented with 'the package' by DH's HR department, so we're going through that, trying to get a sense of whether it is good/whether anything is missing. I've got a couple of quick questions which those of you who are already living in Singapore will probably have helpful answers to.

1) We've been given a total amount per month that they're prepared to pay on rent/utilities/bills. So I'm trying to work out what a realistic monthly utility/bill cost is, so we can deduct that from the total to establish what we'll have left for rent. Do you have any sense of what a family of 4 might expect to pay - I assume that includes heating/AC/water but not sure if there's anything like council tax equivalent which we may also need to consider. If we end up in a condo, is there also a separate service charge or is that included in the rent? I appreciate that this will vary depending on usage and age/size of condo/house but I've not got a clue here, so any kind of finger in the air response will be better than nothing!

2) Are there any other hidden costs to life in Singapore which we should know about, which don't automatically come to mind. I understand that general cost of living is more than UK, based on things like the Mercer report. And I know that some of these things balance out, so I know that MRT/taxis are a lot cheaper than they are in the UK, but other parts of life are more expensive. So if rent/utilities are stripped out, is there anything else we should be thinking about to either push for inclusion in the package or just to be aware of for budgeting purposes?

3) How important do you think a car might be for family with small kids? They've not included it and whilst we obviously wouldn't expect them to buy us a car, we may want to push for them to include the Certificate of Entitlement - which appear to retail at the most extraordinary amount of money. So I guess two questions - a) do we need a car; and b) is the COE really about $50,000??

Thanks in advance for any help/insight any of you may have! This has been such a useful forum so far, we're really grateful to you for taking the time to answer.

kday Mon 28-Jan-13 03:13:26

Hello,
There was a useful thread on this last year which might be worth digging out but here are some thoughts. Pupsie might be along soon and she is an expert!
1. Bills can be anywhere from $400-900 per month IME. There's no Council Tax but some condos will have a service charge and you may need to pay for pest control and air con servicing every quarter. For us that costs $100 for pests every two months and $150 for aircon. You're also responsible for the first $100-200 of any repairs and maintenance (exact amount will be in your lease so you can negotiate it down). This is per item of repair so it can add up if your condo has lots of little things that go wrong. It's not like in the UK where you just ring the landlord to fix everything!
I know that's big range for bills but how much your monthly bills are will depend on the size of your home, how many loos you have (seriously - you pay per loo!), the age/efficiency of your aircon, if you have fans, how much you run your hot water system (they are instantaneous so a lot of people only turn them on ten minutes before they need them and then off again in an effort to save money). When you have guests, expect bills to go up! Maybe budget about $500-600 and if minimising is important then asks lots of questions of the condo realtor and make sure you have fans or are up on a high level to get a breeze so you don't use aircon so much!
2. Medical care is very expensive so get the best insurance cover you can - get a policy to cover immunisations if kids are little!
3. The COE is high but it varies depending on when your car was registered. Buying a car here is much more than in the UK, though! I'm not sure if companies cover the COE as such but my DHs company have us an allowance to cover the difference in cost between buying a car here and one in the UK. It was about £30k, so very helpful. Of you could ask they build in $1500 per month (approx, you'd have to check) for leasing a car, which a lot of people do here.
I had two little kids and was pregnant and lasted about 1 month without a car! I found taxis hard with small kids (3 and 4 at the time) and didn't like that they weren't in proper car seats even though often we were on busy roads/highways. Others manage perfectly well though - its really personal and will depend on how much you need to drive from A-B, as opposed to walking or putting kids on the bus to school etc.
3. A lot of people belong to expat clubs here - they're great but not a necessity. Some companies include club membership in packages.
4. Other things - I think this was on your other thread, but build in School fees, school registration and infrastructure fees, uniform allowance? Also, if you will have to pay tax in the UK because you're renting out your home there then some companies will build in the services of an accountant. It's not very valuable but it's nice to have someone to navigate you through your first tax return if you haven't rented out property before or you've got other investment income etc you'll have to declare in the UK.
Good luck. It's a good place to live!

kday Mon 28-Jan-13 03:25:41

PS Just on the COE, you do get some if this back when you sell the car - it's not a sunk cost. You probably know all this but a COE is like a 10 year licence to have a car on the road. It's built into the cost of buying a car - you don't have to buy the COE separately. When you sell the car, you get the COE back for the years remaining on the 10 year licence. The newer the car you buy the higher its price, but the more you get back, as it will still have a lot of its licence left to run. Just by way of example, we bought a (big - we have three kids) 4WD that was in year 3 of its COE for $90,000 but would expect to get $60,000 back if we sell in year 5 or 6. So, the car loses value at about the same rate as in the UK, just your upfront cost is much higher. Interest rates are very low, though (a bit over 1%) and a lot of car brokers will find you a car and a car loan (with a bank, not some high interest finance company) in one. HTH.

Astelia Mon 28-Jan-13 11:01:35

Great response from kday! I would add;

Flights- most expats get flights home every year. Some get business class, some are in economy.

Helpers- lots of families have full time helpers as it doesn't cost much more than having someone in for a few hours a week of cleaning/babysitting. Costs vary from $500-1000 a month plus you pay 250 approx to the MOE each month for the FDW levy.

Pool- if you have a pool at your private property it will need maintaining by a pool man.

pupsiecola Mon 28-Jan-13 13:02:10

Hello,

Thanks kday for the vote of confidence but I think you hold the "expert" title!

Some great advice there. We pay around 500 to 600 a month for utilities. It's all through one company (gas, electricity and water) and there IS only the one company. Seems fair though price wise. We only put the hot water on when we need it. We also have the aircon on in the lounge (on 25) all day and DH and I sleep with the aircon on in our bedroom (again, 25). I know most people don't but this climate doesn't suit us so we choose to be comfy at home.

I second what kday says about health cover. We get a very basic level of cover with DH's work. Only really first line stuff and even then just 50% for me and the kids is re-claimable. I have a quote for a decent level of cover but I've been putting it off as it's 1200 sgd (around 600 gbp) per month. When we were here on holiday in March DS2 needed several trips to the ENT doctor and then a 2 hour emergency operation for double ear infections and sinusitis. Was in hospital for 3 hours. It cost 4.5k (sgd). Thankfully we could claim it all back once we were home. But I feel vulnerable not having that level of cover here. Oh, and they are pretty brutal about it too - I wanted to give DS2 some sips of water before getting him dressed to take him home. But the nurse told me best get him dressed first, then vacate the bed/cubicle and give him a drink in reception otherwise we would go over into another hour of charges for the bed!

We worked "travel" into our budget when negotiating salary too. We don't get flights home but we do want to travel whilst we're here and make the most of it. So we have a budget per month that we're enjoying spending! I'm not even sure we're going to return to the UK this year but that's a whole different topic!

Will pop back if I can think of anything else. Oh, and re condo, there are no extra charges - "just" the rent.

kday Mon 28-Jan-13 13:30:34

Hi again All!
All great additions - I'd not even thought about travel/flights home so far from an expert here!
I just thought of one other thing, though - school bus fees. About $300-400 per term per child for my DCs' school but it depends on your distance. Some contracts include reimbursement for this.
I guess you'll have to take a view about what you push for - all singing all dancing expat contracts are becoming rarer and rarer and some of ours were negotiated in better economic times.

BegoniaBampot Tue 29-Jan-13 00:08:17

Most of my friends with young children all had a car. Can't inagine coping with taxis with say two young children. Many taxis, the seat-belts are crap and queues can be long. Loved having a car and I got to know the island a lot better with a car and went to places I'm sure folk relying on public transport wouldn't have considered in the same way.

needabetternickname Tue 29-Jan-13 17:43:59

Hi all,

thank you SO SO much for such helpful responses. So many things here I wouldn't have thought of, so thank you for the various ideas and thoughts. It's definitely the case that the all singing/all dancing expat packages don't really exist, so we're having to pick and choose our battles a little bit, but it's great to get an overall sense of what things might cost us and what we need to budget for. The car thing definitely feels like the major ommission at the moment - we've got a good budget for rent/bills and medical insurance and one return flight a year included, so that's all good. But it does seem as if we're really going to want a car with a 3 and 1 yr old to get around the place, so we'll have to work out our strategy around that.

Thanks again - I really am so appreciative of you all taking the time to give us your thoughts on this. Getting more and more excited now about the move!

pupsiecola Wed 30-Jan-13 05:48:57

Me again. Might not be so relevant with kids the ages yours are, but extra curriculum kids' stuff is heinously expensive here. We've just signed up for Saturday morning basketball. 780 sgd for 6 weeks (for both kids). Swimming lessons at our condo are 450 sgd per 4 weeks (45 minutes, both kids and no other kids though).

We're not gonna bother with any holiday camps (not keen on them anyway as the kids need down time but they get 9 weeks off here in the Summer!). But for the price of a week for both of them we could go on a local few days' jaunt and I know which I prefer!

IME this is the sort of thing that can see your monthly costs creeping up, up and away...

Just so you know it's not all bad, I have found the most amazing massage place near me. A cracking (sometimes, literally, omg the pain) hour's massage for 45 sgd.

BegoniaBampot Wed 30-Jan-13 08:40:05

A silly thing but we went with a baby and a 4 yr old. Compared to the Uk (home mostly with the kids and no babysitters) we spent a lot of money going out and socialising, eating out a lot (though you can eat out cheaper than the UK). Obviously you don't have to do this, but people like to have fun there.

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