Sleep-deprived, caffeinated, hungry – there are many words that you could use to sum up the plight of college kids across the world. But perhaps one that is universal is the image of the college kid as perpetually broke. With Singapore topping the charts as one of the most expensive countries to live in, it is hardly surprising that 81% of a surveyed population of 69 students at Yale-NUS considers Singapore expensive to live in as a student.
So how do students get by? Theodore Lai ’17 said, “Being a Residential College 4 resident has certainly helped. Unlike high school where I still had to pay for daily meals and shuttle myself to and from school, everything is provided for here.”
But not everyone likes to stay in RC4. Students often venture out to explore Singapore, mostly for food. As seen in Figure 2, 76% of the surveyed students said they spend the highest proportion of their budget on food. As Joceline Yong ’18 said “eating out in a non-food court place can be fairly expensive. Public transport too adds up over a period of time. So as a student, Singapore can be a pretty expensive city to live in.”
Annette Wu ’17 added that frugality is really the key to maintaining a budget – “I used to live in Vietnam and food was much more affordable. I could splurge on certain things like snacking. But over the past year I have gotten better at managing money. Now I know what I really want to use it on!”
Iwani Mawocha ’18 too agreed that she too had underestimated the expense of living in Singapore– “It’s a lot more expensive than I was expecting. I think a lot more international students have expressed this concern. We joke about not having a single penny left in our wallets but it’s actually true”.
As far as budgeting weekly spending goes, a vast majority of students spend less than 50 SGD a week. But Fig. 1 shows that a large percentage, 27%, do not track expenses at all. Mawocha said, “I thought we would have been able to budget everything but it’s not big things that cost a lot of money. You spend five bucks here and there and before you realize it you’ve spent 30 dollars.”
On coping with financial constraints, Yong recommended using smartphone apps to track spending. She added, “As far as getting a job goes, it’s impossible to generalize as it depends on an individual’s financial status.”
However, according to Lai, there is only one way to survive– “Memorize the following phrase: I don’t need this.”