Five common spending habits that adds up

Saving a few dollars by ditching these habits will go a long way.

Matthaeus Choo

Published: 1 December 2020, 3:33 PM

The holiday season is fast approaching and for youths, that would probably mean a lot of money spent soon. 

Be it for gifts, meals, or even escapades, they might mean a lot more in this tumultuous year – but don’t you wish there was more saved up to spend and give?

While it might be a little too late for this holiday season, taking note and cutting these common spending habits could add up substantially. These habits are not only harmful for the wallet, but for the body too. What’s more, the healthier alternative is usually the cheaper alternative as well. 

So, here are just five common spending habits to consider cutting. They probably still wouldn’t mean much for the bigger purchases in life but they could surely add up to mean more meaningful treats for both yourself and your loved ones.

1. Dessert drinks (i.e., bubble teas, artisan drinks)

Save money and get healthy. It’s a win-win situation! PHOTO CREDIT: FRANK ZHANG VIA UNSPLASH


We love our bubble tea so much that Singaporeans were willing to fork out a substantial amount for them during the circuit breaker. Although a cup (or two) of sugary goodness is always good for the soul, moderation is key. Enjoyed every week or even every day and they will start to add up. 

Adding it up: The average cost of a cup is about $4. It gets even more expensive if dessert drinks such as those from Starbucks are accounted for. These may not add up much (about $16 a month) but they could still be funnelled towards more essential items such as meals and even a week’s worth of transport.

The real cost of the bubble tea habit comes from health. Even without any sugar, other ingredients such as creamer and palm oil have been linked to heart disease and stroke. Even with a healthy lifestyle, it may be a case of taking one step forward and two steps back. That is not even discounting the risk of sugar addiction.

Alternatives: Sugar has a well-deserved bad reputation but it is perfectly healthy if consumed in moderation. Those looking for tea or coffee could choose to get them from coffeeshops instead, where they are – at most – a fraction of the price compared to most bubble tea or cafe outlets. 

Still, it doesn’t get cheaper and healthier than plain water. We here at Singapore often take it for granted that our tap water is drinkable and is practically free. Besides, while bubble teas are delicious, they do little to nothing in quenching thirst nor help with concentration or energy levels – all of which can be fulfilled with a nice, refreshing glass of water.

2. Food from cafes

Is it really worth it spending that much on food every week just for the gram? PHOTO CREDIT: JOJOYUEN VIA UNSPLASH


Understandably enough, cafes are a favourite amongst youths. The food may just be alright but one key draw has to be with how the atmosphere and the food are usually meant to look great in photos. 

Adding it up: The conservative average for a meal would be around $12, which could easily pay for a day’s meal. More importantly, these trips could easily be replaced with a much more meaningful experience.

Alternatives: While not always the case, you would be surprised by how most of the ‘instagrammable’ food found in cafes can be made at home for almost half the price. There might be stumbles along the way emulating the recipes but it might all be worth it with the prospect of mastering them. 

More importantly, learning to whip up photogenic food can be a fun experience shared with friends as well.

3. Vices (i.e. smoking and drinking)

Smoking and drinking costs a lot more than you probably realise. PHOTO CREDIT: ANDRES SIMON VIA UNSPLASH


Smoking, in particular, is definitely a habit that should be cut; there wouldn’t be such a thing as moderation in this case. 

Drinking, however, could be excluded although the dangers of overconsumption should still always remain at the back of the mind. 

Adding it up: Smokers might as well be burning dollar bills whenever they purchase a packet of cigarettes. At an average of $36 at three packets a week, the money spent could easily be used to pay for a month’s Netflix subscription fee, electric bills and even the phone bills. 

That is not even including all of the widely-known harmful impacts on both the smoker’s health and for those around them.

Drinking may be slightly less harmful but the costs could amount to far more. So often, the cost for a trip to the bar is made up of peripheral purchases, such as bar food, supper and the taxi fare on the ride home. One drink or two never hurt anyone but everyone would still have to heed the risk of overconsumption and even overreliance.

Alternatives: The alternative to smoking would be to quit – although that would definitely be easier said than done. Still, there is a plethora of help available for smokers looking to kick the habit, with noticeable benefits just eight hours after the last cigarette. 

Nicotine addiction aside, the key to quitting smoking may be with breaking a routine with healthier alternatives. The usual cigarette after meals could be replaced with fruits. A smoke break during office hours could be replaced with a cup of tea. 

Similarly, for those who feel that they have an addiction to alcohol can seek help from the Health Promotion Board. While some drinking sessions may feel unavoidable due to social pressure, there is no shame in having a non-alcoholic beverage during such gatherings (even if these beverages are usually severely overpriced). 

For those looking for alternatives to destress, there are tons of options available, most of which turn out to be great for health as well.

4. Overspending on e-commerce platforms’ sales

Are you really saving on those sales, or spending more than you need to? PHOTO CREDIT: RUPIXEN VIA UNSPLASH 


Nowadays, it seems there would be a massive sale once every month on e-commerce platform sales. It is tempting to grab everything and anything on sale, especially when the discounts seem so substantial, and there is a Korean hunk telling you to add items to your online cart.

Adding it up: Everybody’s spending varies. Perhaps what needs to be kept in mind is that everything still adds up. The discounts do make it easier to justify overspending when there is the fear that the sales may be temporary or that they may never come again. 

It quickly becomes clear after a few of these sales that the variation between the prices is never too substantial. Some items are even perpetually on sale – the discount is adjusted but the original price still remains the same. Even if larger buys such as electronic appliances are avoided, smaller purchases could still add up.

Alternatives: There aren’t exactly any alternatives per se. However, expense tracker apps such as Spendee and Monny would go a long way in ensuring that spending on e-commerce platforms or otherwise will always be within means.

5. Ride-hailing apps

Hailing a ride may seem very convenient, but that convenience is not exactly helping your wallet and bank account. PHOTO CREDIT: XOKVICTOR VIA UNSPLASH


It’s the end of a long workday and you want nothing else but to reach home as soon as possible. Or maybe you are just too lazy to take the public transport after a day out. The process is so easy too – just have to tap a few buttons on the phone and there will be a ride home soon. 

Adding it up: Again, the cost varies for everyone, especially when peak hour pricings are considered. However, a general estimate of $15 per trip should be realistic – that will very quickly add up no matter the frequency of rides. 

Alternatives: Despite the occasional train breakdowns and the numerous areas (namely the ever-increasing cost) that could be improved, it’s hard not to see Singapore’s public transport system as extensive and top-notch with almost every corner of the island covered. 

There will be rush hours where trains and buses feel overcrowded; nobody would want to deal with crowds after a busy workday. 

However, the journey home would still be significantly cheaper than through ride-hailing apps, while remaining vastly more eco-friendly.

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