Living with Parents vs. Living Alone in Singapore – How Much More Expensive is the Latter?

Living with Parents
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Written by Liz

Just your regular 27-year-old, queer, super-introverted, FIRE-chasing, frugal Singaporean, who lives a pretty good life while earning only a modest salary, but still plans to retire at age 40 with $1,000,000. Click here to read more

May 14, 2020

Previously, I wrote a post detailing my monthly income and expenses. Since I’m still living with my parents, although I give them money for rent, my expenses are still incredibly low. I then wondered about my expenses when I move out, and this piqued my interest enough to research and write this post about it.

Note: All currency stated in this post is in Singapore dollars (S$).

 

Living with Parents vs. Living Alone – A Complete Breakdown of Expenditure

Living with parents usually does come with financial benefits. I have to admit, I have significantly lower expenses because I’m still living in my parents’ house.

Here’s a quick snapshot of my current average monthly expenses while living with parents:

CategoryAmount (S$)
Rent (Paid to Family)$400
Utilities$35
Necessities$50
Food (Groceries and Dining Out)$100 - $150
Transport$60 - $90
Medical$50 - $100
Travel$0
Miscellaneous$30 - $50
Total$725 - $875

If I were living alone, my monthly expenses would probably look more like this:

CategoryAmount (S$)
Rent/Mortgage$700 - $1,500
Utilities $150 - $200
Necessities$50
Food (Groceries and Dining Out)$200 - $250
Transport$80 - $100
Medical $50 - $100
Travel $50 - $200
Miscellaneous$50 - $100
Total$1,330 - $2,500

This is essentially double or triple what I’m spending now, depending on my lifestyle choices.

 

Rent

Rent – Living with Parents: S$400
Rent – Living Alone: S$700
Mortgage – Living Alone: S$1,500

Rent – Living with Parents: S$400

I currently give my parents S$200 and my grandparents S$200 every month; I’ve logged this expense as “rent”.

It is deemed as filial for children of Asian cultures to distribute a percentage of their monthly paychecks to support their parents. It makes them happy and gives them “face”, no matter the amount. (Of course, it can’t be too nominal. S$10 just wouldn’t cut it!)

 

Rent – Living Alone: S$700

If I were living on my own, and if I were to go incredibly budget, I might be able to snag my own lodging for just S$400 to S$500 a month. If I were to split this with my girlfriend, we would have to pay only S$200 to S$250 a month each. Of course, this entails:

  • Living in a public housing single bedroom;
  • Having to share the bathroom, kitchen and living areas with at least 4 to 5 roommates; and
  • Living in an obscure, inconvenient part of Singapore, far away from the city centre and workplaces.

However, now that my girlfriend and I have been pursuing FIRE for about 2 to 3 years, amassing a not-insignificant amount of net worth between the both of us, I don’t think we see the need to go that budget.

Something more our speed would be a studio apartment in a cozy condominium complex. This ensures that we have:

  • Privacy without roommates; and
  • Access to all the amenities of the condo, such as pools and gyms.

Both of these are very important to us.

A sacrifice on our end is that we have to live in an obscure, inconvenient part of Singapore that is far away from the city centre. This ensures that we live comfortably, with the occasional luxury, and yet doesn’t break the bank.

This would set us back anywhere between S$900 – S$1,400 for a couple, or S$450 – S$700 for each person.

Living Alone Rent

S$900 can get a 150-square-foot place, whereas S$1,400 can get a 350-square-foot place.

Mortgage – Living Alone: S$1,500

Another option that we have been considering is buying our own apartment. Since my girlfriend comes with her mom and her sister in tow (she takes really good care of her family), the smallest apartment we can purchase would therefore be a 3-bedroom one.

The area that we are looking at (which is again, in a location far away from the city centre) would run us anywhere between S$1 million to S$1.2 million for a 3-bedroom apartment. After a downpayment of 25%, we’re looking at an outstanding mortgage of about S$750K at an interest rate of 1.8% over 25 years.

This means a monthly repayment of approximately S$3,100 per couple, or S$1,550 per person.

Mortgage Repayment

There are a few great things about purchasing our own house.

  • For example, in 25 years, when the mortgage is fully paid off, we would no longer have many accommodation costs (although there’s still things like property tax and maintenance fees). Without the mortgage, we could live a wonderful, simple life for very little.

  • In addition, if we buy a house in Singapore, we will be able to access part of our retirement accounts to pay for the house. This frees up a lot of cash flow for us.

 

Utilities

Utilities – Living with Parents: S$35
Utilities – Living Alone: S$150 – S$200

 

Utilities – Living with Parents: S$35

Right now I pay for only my phone bill, which costs me S$35 per month. However, I’m currently stuck in a 2-year contract. There’s currently another cell service provider offering a no-contract S$5 per month plan, which sounds like the dream. I’m planning on switching over once my existing contract ends.

 

Utilities – Living on my Own: S$150 – S$200

The monthly breakdown of this is as follows:

  • Mobile: S$35 (if I’m unable to snag the S$5 per month deal)
  • Internet: S$25 – S$30
  • Water, Electricity, Gas: $71
  • Others: $20 – S$60

For my mobile phone bill, I’m assuming that I would not be able to snag better deals along the way, and would have to remain at my S$35 per month plan. For my internet bill, I’m assuming prices of anywhere between S$50 to S$60 per household, based on these Singtel prices, which would then be split equally between my girlfriend and I.

As for the water, electricity and gas bills, I expect our bill to come up to S$142 per month, which would also be split equally. This is an estimate based on the Singapore Power statistics, where a 5-room flat would incur S$142 of such utility bills. Although if I were in a bind, I could pay as little as S$25 per month for these water, electricity and gas bills.

I added an additional S$20 to S$60 to budget for miscellaneous items, like waste disposal and conservancy charges. Conservancy charges will depend on whether I’m renting or buying a house.

Necessities

Necessities – Living with Parents: S$50

Necessities – Living Alone: S$50 (No Change)

Necessities includes all items that I have to use on a daily basis, such as moisturizer, sunblock, lip balm, face wash, toothbrushes and toothpaste, so on and so forth. I’ve also included feminine products and supplements (I currently take 5 different supplements) into this category. 

I currently pay for all of my necessities, and I don’t see this category changing once I move out. If need be, I could cut down on my supplements and my usage of necessities, which could decrease spending in this category.

Vitamin Supplements

The 5 different supplements that I take.

Food

Food – Living with Parents: S$100 – S$150
Food – Living Alone: S$200 – S$250

 

Food – Living with Parents: S$100 – S$150

Groceries

At the moment, I don’t spend a lot on groceries as I sometimes have home-cooked meals with my parents; all these meals are paid for by my parents. In addition, if there are leftovers that nobody else wants, I bring these for lunch at work the next day.

My grocery spending is usually only about $50 a month, because:

  • I typically do grocery runs with my brother at least once a week for supper. I spend about $2 to $5 for each supper meal.
  • My girlfriend and I have been trying to get into the habit of batch cooking. Each serving usually comes up to no more than $2 to $3.

Eating Out

On top of groceries, I spend a fair amount of money on eating out. Since I don’t pay a lot for groceries, I often splurge when it comes to eating out. Not exactly a good habit. 

In 2019, I ate out a whopping 176 times. I admit that this seems a little cavalier, especially considering that I’m not making loads of money.

As such, in 2020, I’ve decided to reign this in a bit. It would be great if I spent no more than $50 a month on eating out. Since we’re currently on lockdown, this has been going well.

Cajun on Wheels Restaurant

2 meals at a restaurant, each for only $6. Meal-hacked.

Food – Living Alone: S$200 – S$250

After I move out, I predict a natural increase in my food expenditure, because I’d have to pay for every single meal I eat. That being said, I don’t expect my food expenditure to increase too greatly, for the following reasons:

  • Groceries: I plan to cook and eat in at least 90% of the time. When eating in, I plan to spend at most S$2 to S$3 per meal. As such, grocery costs should be limited to S$150 to S$200 per month, depending on how fancy I’d be making the meals.

 

  • Eating out: In addition, I plan to cut back on eating out, since I now have to pay for all my groceries. I’ll continue to meal-hack my way to $6 to $8 restaurant meals, and I probably won’t eat out more than twice a week. Total expected damage per month? About $50.
Cooking Shakshuka at Home

Cooking a simple Shakshuka at my girlfriend’s.

Transport

Transport – Living with Parents: S$60 – S$90
Transport – Living Alone: S$80 – S$100

 

Transport – Living with Parents: S$60 – S$90

One thing I love about Singapore is the insanely cheap public transportation network. For example, I spend only $2.04 a day getting to work and going back home. That’s only $1.02 each way. (Amazing, right?) That’s why I take only public transportation. No Ubers or cabs for me.

I make a conscious effort to walk to as many places as possible, because I love walking. This keeps my transport costs as low as possible.

I’m that person who would walk anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour to save that $1 transportation cost.

On a good month with lots of walking, I could spend as little as $60 on transport. On a not-so-good month with lots of rain and hence little walking, I could spend as much as $90 on transport.

 

Transport – Living Alone: S$80 – S$100

My transport costs will definitely increase when I move out, simply because I’m going to be staying much further away from my workplace. This increases my per trip costs by about 25% to 50%. But I still plan on continuing my walking habit whenever I can help it.

Medical

Medical – Living with Parents: S$50 – S$100

Medical – Living Alone: S$50 – S$100 (No Change)

I have a chronic eye problem, which, at its most aggressive, would see me getting allergic conjunctivitis every month. I’ve since gotten it under control, with a great deal of tender loving care, cleaning and eye drops. However, all of this costs money, to the tune of $50 to $100 a month, depending on how much eye drops and medication I use.

This does not include the cost of medical appointments whenever my eye problem acts up. A single eye specialist appointment could set me back anywhere between $300 to $500. Thankfully, I haven’t had a problem with my eyes for a few years now, so I limit my specialist appointments to once a year, which are covered by my medical benefits at work.

Travel

Travel – Living with Parents: S$0
Travel – Living Alone: S$50 – S$200

 

Travel – Living with Parents: S$0

The unfortunate fact of the matter is that I have not been travelling on my own for a while. Years ago, I visited Hong Kong with my girlfriend; my parents found out and, to cut a long story short, have forbidden me from ever travelling on my own again.

The benefit of travelling with family is that most of my travel expenses are taken care of. When overseas, I usually spend only on food, entertainment or necessities.

Travel – Living Alone: S$50 – S$200

Since my girlfriend and I love visiting new places and creating new memories together, it goes without saying that my expenditure will increase once I move out.

Luckily for us, Singapore is situated around some of the cheapest travel destinations in the world, such as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. For example, a week-long trip to Johor Bahru in Malaysia would set us back only S$300 to S$400 per person. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Transportation: Two-way travel from Singapore to Johor Bahru (in Malaysia) would cost only about S$5 – S$10.
  • Accommodation: There are plenty of 4 to 5-star hotels in Johor Bahru that would set us back only S$50 per couple a night, or S$25 per person, such as Capri by Fraser and KSL Hotel.
  • Food: Food isn’t expensive in Malaysia, and for just S$5 per meal, there are plenty of good food options.

In contrast, we could be spending a few thousand per trip if we were to fly to more exotic destinations that are further away.

Dollar Beer in Cambodia

Drinking S$2 beer in a fancy bar in Cambodia.

Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous – Living with Parents: S$30 – S$50
Miscellaneous – Living on my Own: S$50 – S$100

 

Miscellaneous – Living with Parents: S$30 – S$50

A bunch of other things, such as gifts, entertainment and unexpected expenses, fall into this category. My month-to-month spend varies depending on birthdays, social events and other unforeseen expenses.

 

Miscellaneous – Living on my Own: S$50 – S$100

There would undoubtedly be more costs in the future. For example, once I quit my job and am no longer covered by insurance, I’d have to purchase my own hospitalisation insurance, which could run up to S$50 per month.

However, I don’t know what the future holds, so I’m just leaving this category open.

 

Living with Parents vs. Living Alone – Conclusion

Financial Benefits of Living with Parents

It’s not difficult to tell that living with parents certainly has its financial merits. My expenses are definitely a lot lower mainly because I don’t have to fork out exorbitant sums of living expenses, especially in the areas of rent, utilities, food and travel.

For these 4 categories alone, cost savings add up to a whopping $565 a month. And these cost savings could be significantly higher, had I not taken the lowest estimate of expenses.

CategoryLiving with ParentsLiving AloneCost Savings (S$)
RentS$400S$700S$300
UtilitiesS$35S$150S$115
FoodS$100S$200S$100
TravelS$0S$50S$50
TotalS$535S$1,100S$565

The average person spends more than I do, and I wouldn’t be surprised if cost savings could come up to at least S$1,000 per month, should they choose to stay with parents.

 

Other Benefits of Living with Parents

On top of financial benefits, there are also numerous other reasons why living with parents can be a blessing.

For one, there would be plenty of time spent with parents, grandparents, siblings and other relatives. As parents and grandparents age every day, this time together is precious. We often have far less time with parents and grandparents once we move out, as work and other family commitments take over.

Other benefits also include having regular social interaction, and time efficiencies when it comes to chores.

 

Recommendation – To Live with Parents or to Live Alone?

Although I often come across articles that disapprove of adult children living with their parents, the Asian in me has always wondered why this is the case. Maybe it’s different in Asia, where parents actually want their children to stay with them.

In fact, in my not-quite-big social circle, only 1 of my friends has moved out to her own place, and this is because she got married and bought a house. The rest of my social circle? Still staying home with their parents. Even those who are 30 and older. And it’s not seen as a strange thing here, in Singapore.

Personally, if my parents didn’t monitor my every movement in and out of the house like a hawk while driving me crazy, I’m not ashamed to say that I would want to live with them until sometime in the future when I choose to start my own family, if they would have me. It’s not just because the financial benefits are great, but also because time with family is precious.

Just something to think about – I truly believe that unless your parents are overbearing, living with parents can be an immensely precious time, and it’s nothing to be ashamed about, no matter your age.

What do you think about living with parents? How different is this situation in the West, compared to in Asian countries?

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