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Most people have a budget in mind when they spend money. However, this budget can vary depending on how much money you make. How does your monthly spending habit compare to the rest of the country? Below we analyze the Singaporean government's household expenditure survey to examine the monthly budgets of an average Singaporean household.
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Average Monthly Budget of a Singaporean Household
According to the Singaporean government's latest survey of household expenditure, the median household spent S$4,906 per month (S$58,872 per year) in 2017, excluding imputed rental of owner-occupied accommodation. Unsurprisingly, the biggest areas of spending covered the most essential necessities of a person's livelihood: food and beverage (24%), transport (16%) and home related expenditures including housing, utilities and furnishings (14%).
|Household Expenditure by Income Quintile (S$)||1st - 20th||21st - 40th||41st - 60th||61st - 80th||81st - 100th|
|Food & Beverage (inc. Services)||723||1,059||1,259||1,406||1,548|
|Shopping (Clothes, Footwear, Personal Effects)||55||118||166||207||311|
However, there were meaningful differences in these spending patterns depending on the income of the household. Specifically, we found the biggest differences in how wealthy and less wealthy families spent on food, transportation, education and recreation. While some of these differences were obvious and expected, there were also some surprising findings that are worth delving into.
Average Food & Beverage Expenditures: Groceries vs. Dining Out
The typical household in Singapore spent about S$1,199 per month on food, which represents 24% of their total monthly budget. Digging deeper into the data, we found that most families spend around S$350 to S$475 per month on groceries (including food, beverage, alcohol and tobacco) without much variation. However, the top quintile households spent almost 8x as much on dining out at restaurants and pubs than the bottom quintile households. Despite the spending differences in traditional sit-down restaurants, it seems most families all love eating at hawker centres equally, with the category consisting of about S$400 to S$500 per month for most income levels.
Average Transportation Expenditures: Private Cars vs. Public Transportation
We found that the median household in Singapore spent about S$781 per month on transportation, representing about 16% of their monthly budget. This proportion varied from 11% for the bottom 20% of households to 19% for the top 20% of households. Not only that, the composition of transportation expenditure varied vastly depending on the family's income level. For instance, the most wealthy families in Singapore spent 13% of the 19% on purchase and operation of their personal private vehicles, in contrast to 11% for the median family and 6% for the bottom 20%. The income disparity was clear also in the use of their public transportation (railway, MRT & bus): the top 20% not only spent a lower proportion of their income (0.22%) on public transportation than the rest of the country (0.5-2%), but also a lower dollar amount of $59 per month compared to the median of S$62 per month. On the other hand, the top 20% spent 65% more on taxi fares than the average household.
Average Recreation & Vacation Expenditures
The median household in Singapore spent about S$448 per month on recreational activities, which represents 8% of their monthly budget. This particular expenditure category is considered "discretionary spending," meaning that it's not a necessity. Given this, we saw fairly large discrepancy in its level depending on the household's income. For instance, the top 20% of families spent around S$843 (11% of budget) on entertainment and recreation every month, while the bottom 20% of families only spent S$151 (5% of budget) on these activities.
Within recreation expenses, the amount spent on travel and vacation exhibited particularly large differences, despite expenditure making up a similar portion of income (3-3.5%). For instance, the upper quintile households spent S$735 per month on travel expenses, which is 8x higher than the bottom quintile households (S$96 per month).
Average Education Expenditures: Money Begets Money
On average, Singaporean households spent S$339 per month on educational services. Furthermore, most families spend about 7% of their monthly budget on education. However, there was a stark contrast on how this 7% is distributed among households with different levels of income.
|Education Expenditure by Income Quintile (S$)||1st - 20th||21st - 40th||41st - 60th||61st - 80th||81st - 100th|
|Total Education Services||179||273||337||396||511|
|Pre-Primary and Primary Education||15||32||50||67||73|
|Post-Secondary Education (Non-Tertiary)||3||6||7||8||26|
|University education, local||62||83||78||79||53|
|University education, overseas||19||25||31||46||128|
|Private tuition and other education courses||45||76||121||153||167|
While most families spent 1%-1.5% of their budgets on pre-primary, primary and secondary education, families differed on how much they spend on post-secondary education. For instance, the top 20% of households spent 1.7% of their budgets on overseas university education, or about S$128 per month, multitudes higher than 0.7%-0.8% (or S$18 to S$46) spent on overseas universities by other families. Naturally, less well-off households concentrated their expenditures on local institutions. In particular, the bottom 60% of families spent a substantially higher amount (S$20-S$25/month) on polytechnic education than did the top 40% of families (S$4-S$14/month). In terms of private education, most families surprisingly spent a similar proportion (2%) of their budgets, although the bottom 20% of households spent a slightly lower amount of 1.5%.
Other Expenditure Categories
Housing: There was a remarkable consistency in terms of how much households spent on their homes regardless of how much money they made. The average household spent about 14% of their budget (or S$708) on their housing, utilities and furnishings, which was comparable to how the rest of the families spend (13-16%). Given how central the home is to everyone's life, it seems all families try to maximise their standard of living while spending within their means.
Health & Personal Care: Health is one of the most important things in life, and everyone should utilise as much resource as they can to maintain it. Therefore, we observed that most households spend 9-12% of their budget on health and personal care areas. This meant that the typical household was spending S$453 per month (or S$5,441 annually) on things like medical services and personal grooming services.
Insurance: While most households spent around7-8% of their budgets on insurance, the composition of this expenditure differed materially. For instance, wealthier families tended to spend more heavily on life, housing, transport insurance and travel insurance, while less wealthy families concentrated their spending more on health insurance. This makes sense given that the top households have more valuable homes and cars, and have more discretionary incomes to direct towards retirement and travel. On the other hand, the bottom half of households may need extra protection on more basic necessities in life, such as health insurance.
|Insurance Expenditure by Income Quintile (S$)||1st - 20th||21st - 40th||41st - 60th||61st - 80th||81st - 100th|
|Life Insurance (Term only)||28||51||80||106||157|
Telecommunication: Unsurprisingly, most families spent around S$230 per month on telecommunication services, with the exception of the bottom quintile. This cohort spent only S$160 per month on telecommunication services, suggesting they are less able to afford high data limit plans than the rest of the country.
Shopping: On average, Singaporean households spent about S$171 per month on shopping for clothing, shoes, accessories, and other personal articles (including things for babies). This represented 3.5% of their monthly budgets, which was similar for the rest of the country. However, the bottom 20% of the country was able to spend only 2.1% of their budgets on shopping.