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What Can You Save the Most on When Shopping in Johor Bahru?

Given the favourable currency exchange rate, many Singaporeans flock to Johor Bahru for cheap shopping. But which items are truly worth the risk of being caught in a massive traffic jam along the Singapore-Johor causeway?

Because of the convenient causeway across the Straits of Johor connecting Johor Bahru (JB) to Singapore, the city remains a popular weekend destination for Singaporeans looking to stretch their dollar. But in light of the travelling time–anywhere between 1 to 5 hours including immigration for a round-trip–not every purchase in JB makes economic sense. To help you get the most bang for your buck, we found 3 spending categories that offer the most meaningful cross-border savings for the next time you’re shopping in JB.

Drugstore Cosmetics: Deep Discounts on Big Brand Names

Chart showing savings on popular cosmetic products in JB, compared to Singapore

If you tend to get your makeup from drugstores like Guardian or Watsons, buying them from JB can save you up to 50% of the cost in Singapore. Given that the range of drugstore makeup brands and offerings in JB are similar to Singapore’s, you never have to worry about overspending on your holy-grail beauty products. You might want to consider joining the Watsons VIP Card Program in Malaysia. You can earn up to 5 Watsons point for every 1 RM spent, and you can then pay for subsequent purchases with such accumulated points, with 200 points equating to 1RM cash.

Baby Supplies: Up to 50%+ Off Baby Milk Formula & Diapers

Chart showing savings on diapers and milk powder in JB, compared to Singapore

If you’d like to cut down on your monthly expenses as a new parent, you’d do well by getting your baby supplies from JB instead. Given that a baby uses at least 6 diapers per day, you can save SGD$23.40 monthly if you buy Tesco’s house brand diapers, instead of NTUC’s. If you're willing to stock up, your savings can truly multiply. Even better, choosing to buy infant milk formula powder in JB can potentially save you over 50% of the cost in Singapore. For hygiene and nutrition purposes, milk formulas can only be kept for a month once opened. Even so, buying six cans of Enfagrow A+ to stock up the next time you’re in JB will save SGD$259.86–which is more than enough to cover the cost price of three cans of milk formula back in Singapore, if you can’t make frequent trips across the causeway.

Breakfast Foods: Reduced Costs for Coffee, Cereal & More

Chart showing savings on breakfast foods in JB, compared to Singapore

According to the latest Household Expenditure Survey (HES) 2017/18 conducted by the Singaporean government, a typical household spends about S$400 to S$500 a month on groceries. Given that the median household spends S$4,906 per month in total for all living expenses, you’re likely to spend nearly 10% of your monthly budget on groceries. While 28% and 34% of Singaporeans choose to eat out for dinner and lunch, respectively, only 15% do for breakfast. If you’re like most people, then, you’re likely to allocate quite a bit of your grocery budget on breakfast foods. Luckily, breakfast foods like cereal and biscuits are quite a bit less expensive in JB, even in big supermarkets like Tesco. So, even though you may not shop in JB year-round, stocking up on your next trip can help you save in the following months.

Savings Are Still Significant Even After Custom Tax

It can be easy to get carried away with shopping when your dollar stretches further in JB, but it's essential to keep track of the total value of your goods brought back to Singapore. With effect from 19 February 2019, travellers who spend less than 48 hours outside Singapore will only get GST import relief on the first S$100 of the value brought in from overseas. Anything that's above S$100 will be taxed at 7%. Don't let that put you off from making the trip to JB, though. Assuming that you've spent S$200 on baby formula, you'd only need to pay S$207 after taxes. That's a far cry from ~S$400 you'd have spent in Singapore, assuming a the price in JB is 50% of price in Singapore.

To ensure that you’re making the most out of your trip, consider using a credit card with a low foreign currency transaction fee. Typically, using a credit card on spend overseas incurs an additional cost of 2.5%–3.5% of the original item price. You can overcome this cost by opting for a credit card with an even higher rewards rate, like Maybank Family & Friends MasterCard, which offers up to 8% rebate on most spend in Malaysia. And, even if your card transaction fee is only partially offset by its rewards rate, the savings you'll enjoy in JB will likely still outweigh the difference.

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