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Is S$190k a salary to live comfortably in Singapore?

(16 Posts)
TENDTOprocrastinate Tue 20-Nov-12 09:16:02

Dh is in discussions with his work (we are London based) to move out to Singapore. At the moment they are offering him $190k basic salary with possible quarterly bonus on top, is this enough to live comfortably in Sing? It sounds like a lot. It's a lot more than he currently earns.

By comfortable I mean- supporting a family of four (dd1 is 5 dd2 is 4 months) living in a 3 bed condo near to centre. (Ive been looking at east coast) International school fees for dd1. Using taxis regularly. Maybe a maid- or at least a cleaner.

We would want to use his bonus' for savings/trips home/holidays, so the basic salary would need to cover everything else.

Could I ask what salary others live on living to a similar standard?

butterfliesinmytummy Tue 20-Nov-12 10:36:00

This is pre tax, right? Any medical cover included? Relocation costs? Lots of us are on expat packages including housing, schooling, car, medical / dental, trips home, utilities, air con maintenance, relocation package etc.... so difficult to compare

Trying to get the kids in the bath at the mo, will think about numbers in a bit...

TENDTOprocrastinate Tue 20-Nov-12 10:57:20

Thanks for the quick reply (feeding baby as we speak!) it is pre tax. Medical insurance will be included on top of this but not anything else. (I think). We are still at the early negotiating stage so will try to get as much as poss! Would we need more then?

butterfliesinmytummy Tue 20-Nov-12 12:17:41

It sounds a lot of money doesn't it? Thing is, singapore is ridiculously expensive. An apartment (4 beds in a condo) would cost around $7k - $8k a month, school fees at international schools are about $6k a term, utilities around $500 a month (more when you have guests to stay who insist on air con all the time,we an easily reach $1k per month in electricity when grandparents are here). A rental car would be around $1k a month, plus fuel. School bus is around $500 / term. Tax on 190k would be just shy of 36k. A live in helper, including her food, levies, insurance etc is around $1k afaik (I don't have one but I do have a part timer who costs, along with a babysitter, almost as much per month). Groceries depend where you shop but we can reach $1000 per month, family of 4...

Based on this, I'm up to 175k.... You can live cheaper (less like an expat and more like a local) but I'm not sure how far you want to deviate from your London lifestyle..... I don't really like responding to these "how much will it cost" threads because you can always live cheaper or more expensively but this is how we live as expats on a package in singapore. I think you need to get as many responses as possible to get a balanced view.....

TENDTOprocrastinate Tue 20-Nov-12 12:57:11

Thanks again. What you have said makes a lot of sense. I' have done some googling and although a lot of people can survive for a lot less- as you've said I'd want to have a comparable lifestyle to the one I have in London. I would be interested to hear what other people have to say about their cost of living.

I have seen some 3 bed condos that look quite nice for $6000 quite central too.

Is it poss to live without a car with 2 little ones?

Are babysitters easy enough to find (and trust) how much do the sitters cost?

butterfliesinmytummy Tue 20-Nov-12 13:40:44

I do know people who live without a car and have 2 small children. It's much easier if you live near a bus stop or and mrt station (some condos have shuttle buses which can be a godsend). Taxis are very difficult to get in the rain and at shift change (about 4pm) or rush hour.

Babysitters charge around $15 / hour and we give and extra $15 after midnight for a taxi. Or babysitter is a nursery school teacher but we had other babysitters in the past from an agency and they charged the same.

Astelia Tue 20-Nov-12 14:52:55

I would add- if you want a spare room for visitors and still want to be central the prices will be more like 10,000 a month, the cheapest cars for rent are over 1500 a month and school fees for older children are 10,000 a term. You would have to be very careful on 190K I am afraid.

kday Tue 20-Nov-12 15:47:17

It's all very personal but a three bed condo in a central location for $6K would, (IMHO and from what I've seen from friends) be quite small. It's the living space that is likely to shock you - think about where all those kids' toys will go... That said, some friends of mine living in something like that gave the master bedroom to their two young kids to share as their bedroom and playroom, and the parents squash into a smaller second bedroom. It can work if you are willing to make compromises. If you go down that path think very carefully about what furniture etc you bring with you as the space is easily overcrowded with chubby sofas etc. Think minimalist!
A lot of people make compromises and live in smaller places than they are used to, do without a car etc etc but if you don't want to do that (which I'd understand - we didn't!) then it would be advisable to try to get rental assistance and/or school fees paid. Nursery/pre-school for your younger child will also add up if you want to use it, but even classes like Gymboree (if you're into that sort of thing for edu-tainment as she gets a bit older) are really pricey here ($40-50 per lesson).
The other thing to remember is that registering for schools and compulsory charges on enrolment (like one off "infrastructure fees" etc) can add $5-6k to your starting costs before you even pay the first term's fees.
One big disadvantage of relying on babysitters rather than a helper is that lots of the socialising here is quite spontaneous (e.g. last minute suggestions to meet up for coffee, drinks, dinner) - it works if you have someone living in but works less well if you need to plan an evening out.
I found taxis a pain with two young kids especially if you also have a stroller, shopping etc but plenty of people make it work.
Good luck!

pupsiecola Wed 21-Nov-12 04:46:59

Hi there,

We moved here in June. We chose to and DH got a new job here so that we could. The company he works for is very frugal and lean in how they operate and didn't offer us an ex-pat package (huge US company. Even the VP travels economy long-haul (but has a private jet for personal use) so there was no way we were gonna get an ex-pat deal). They pay for nothing. So DH and I put together a very comprehensive spreadsheet with all costs because we agreed we would only do this if we could stash some cash as well as have an adventure.

We turned down the company's first offer because we'd have broken even but not been able to save much every month. We were lucky though. DH is a bit niche and a bit of a guru in his area and the head guy here really wanted him. So they went to the head office in the US and got permission to give us what we wanted so we accepted.

Oh, and we also negotiated a reasonable sized joining bonus to cover our one off moving costs and those up front school fees someone else mentioned.

The monthly items we put on our spreadsheet are as follows:-

Gym Membership - we had our own gym at home so this was important
Health Cover (we get a work one but mostly here those are not comprehensive enough. I've just spent 800 sgd on an MRI scan for example cos I'd not quite got around to sorting out a private one and work one doesn't cover investigations)
Holidays (a monthly allowance for travel whilst we're here so that we can visit the region)
Incidentals - groceries, taxis etc.
Insurance - contents
Maid - budget 1k
Mobiles - DH is covered by work, mine is not
Pension - DH's company match what we put in so we still need to pay some
School bus
School fees
TV/Internet/Phone - we don't actually have a landline and don't miss it
Utilities - electricity, gas water, aircon service, bug guy

The low tax here really helps!

We spend a fortune on groceries. At least 2000 sgd a month (hormone free chicken, good quality meat, silly things like fabric detergent and conditioner for sensitive skin which was not too expensive in the UK but is very expensive here). I'm also quite fussy about the sort of toiletries we use, especially the kids and I do tend to buy paraben-free, organic stuff where I can. We could save quite a bit of we didn't.

We have compromised on space. We had a large 3 bedroomed house in a Surrey village with a third of an acre garden. We have a 3 bedroomed condo here with a large outdoor patio. But we're minimalistic and it's a compromise we're prepared to make. Also the boys' toys mostly consist of Lego now - we've out of the huge plastic toy paraphernalia stage but I totally get what kday said about living space and toys. We sold most of our furniture on eBay before we came and that raised about 8k. We bought size appropriate furniture once we got here. You shop with space saving ideas in mind. The boys have fab IKEA beds that have 2 big drawers under and also turn into double beds, but you don't lose the drawer space. So great for their lego and bed linen/towels etc.

I couldn't live in such a place for longer than a couple of years though. Wanting a proper family home is one of the reasons we'll move elsewhere in 2 to 3 years. I also soooo miss my big kitchen/diner. It really was the hub of the home. Here we have a tiny kitchen.

We could get a bigger condo if we lived further out. But I really really like where we live. We can walk to the river in 1 minute (Robertson Quay) and are in sort of a cul de sac almost. There are countless bars and restaurants so nearby. And a mall 10 minutes walk along the river. Can't tell you how nice it is to be able to walk to the cinema of an evening, having lived in a village where you had to jump in the car to post a letter.

Also the kids are nearing the age when I want to give them some independence and I wouldn't feel too worried about letting them walk to the river for a smoothie on their own soon (nearly 10 and nearly
8). We're in Robertson Quay if you want to look it up.

We are living quite happily without a car. Given that saving some dosh here is one of the reasons we are here we would rather have the money every month. We use the MRT a bit (very clean and punctual and we're a 15 minute pleasant walk (as pleasant as it gets here!) away). We use cabs which are very cheap. Cos we're central cabs to the places we tend to go are cheap (around $5 per journey). If we go out to the East Coast it's around double that. If I had younger kids I would def have a car - buggies and car seats etc. But mine just hop in and out and strap themselves in. If we lived in the East (and we considered it) I would also have a car. We miss cars in that we both like cars and driving etc but it's also nice to be free from owning one.

Sorry. I seem to have gone on. But I wanted to give you the perspective of someone not on an ex-pat deal. It is do-able but be rigorous about your costs up front (we amortised annual costs too over the 12 months so there were no nasty surprises).


Clueless2727 Thu 22-Nov-12 20:58:35

We are in the same boat at the moment. Worked out how much we needed to live in singapore and was shocked at the figure. The rent and school fees are expensive, even preschools seem expensive. Upfront costs are high too, need to include shipping, flights out there, serviced apartment whilst you find somewhere, one month deposit on flat. Also will your husband get a pension still, if not you need to put aside for that

TENDTOprocrastinate Thu 22-Nov-12 22:21:33

Thank you so much for the replies so far. At the moment we are up to $206k pa basic. We will be selling our car and have savings which should amount to $36k as a start up.

As a theory- we like the east coast. Dh has spent the odd week in sing with work. He would work near raffles. I've made an imaginary life per month- living at Côte d'Azur for $6,000 sending dd1(5) to CIS (walking disance) -$2,000. Food $1,000 utilities $500. We would try to avoid getting a car. Taxi- $400.

This would leave us with $4k (maybe get a maid- leaves us with $3k for spending money (sounds ok).

For trips and savings we would use the quarterly bonus (which is $20k on average at present)

Am I missing anything/being unrealistic?

If we hated not having a car I guess we could just about afford one (at Côte d'Azur we'd be right next to the beach/parkway shopping/school though)

Opinions greatly received.

laptopwieldingharpy Fri 23-Nov-12 00:44:04

I think your budget is fairly realistic.
I would budget $750 for utilities and $1,500 for groceries.

I would definitely not take out all my savings as set up costs.
You must have those incorporated into the package together with health insurance.

laptopwieldingharpy Fri 23-Nov-12 00:49:31

The cote d'azur is a good choice. You have everything you need on your doorstep.
Look for a unit away from the ECP running along the back to avoid noise. Which can also be achieved on higher floors and gives you a view.
Some ground floor units have huge patios.

kday Fri 23-Nov-12 14:19:24

I agree - food and utilities might be a little low at $500 and $1000. Some months you might do it, but at $250 per week you would probably not eat very much meat or fish (beef mince is about $30 per kilo here!). Do you need formula for DD2 - about $30 per tin that would cost £8-9 at home ($50+ if you want a UK or organic brand).
Have you included mobile phones, internet and satellite tv in that utilities figure? There are five (?) local TV channels, not all in English, and they are pretty bad. Most people have Starhub or similar. Depending on the package you choose (sports? movies?) this could add a bit. We have the very basic package (no sport, no HBO, no new movies) and pay $120-150 per month for internet, my mobile (DH's is a work one), landline and tv. We hardly spend anything on calls - this is really just the service cost.
Do you or DH or DD like to do any extracurricular activities - sport, piano lessons, gymnastics, swimming, ballet etc.? They are expensive here ($30-50 per lesson).
The other thing I'd say, just as a note of caution, is that if you won't have more than $3-4k per month uncommitted, it would be a good idea to have some money in a back up account to cover you in the event of needing medical attention or other unforseen expenses. There is no free NHS-like service here so if a child is injured and you need to go to hospital (or even when they need immunisations etc) you need to pay upfront and then claim from your insurer. I find that I need more money here outside of the normal monthly budget to cover expenses like this (plus my DH's work expenses as they are all reimbursed well after the event). You should get (most of) the money back (depending on your insurance policy) but there is a lag, IYKWIM, and if you spend $500 one month on immunisations when your baby is 12 months, for example, you won't have that as "spare" that month.
Another tip - some companies will do interest free loans to cover the deposit and other set up costs for your apartment - my DH's company did that and we just paid it back out of his monthly salary. It's a deduction from your monthly salary, but means you have some more in the savings pot in case of unforeseen circumstances (having to fly home for family illness or similar - always worth accounting for when living abroad if you would want to go home if someone got sick).

papooshka Fri 23-Nov-12 15:13:45

Its so hard to answer this question.

For example I think we spend about $1k per month on groceries but we shop at Fairprice/Giant and buy our meat/veg/fruit from the local wet market which is significantly cheaper - beef mince at Ghim Moh is $10 per kilo for example and is good quality - I see the butcher mincing the meat in front of me.

We live in a 4bed large older condo in HV and pay $5.5k per month.

Alcohol is much more expensive than the UK, you can easily spend $25 on a bottle that would cost less than a fiver back home.

kday Fri 23-Nov-12 17:11:59

I agree, Papooshka. It's all about how you live and shop, just like anywhere. A lot of local (and non-local) people would be amazed that we think we need anything like $190k to live on. The average salary here is less than $60,000. But still - my best advice would be to keep a bit in an emergency account. An unexpected trip home at short notice or a health emergency can derail the best budget.
Good luck with the negotiations, TENDTO! Hope to see you here one day.

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