Despite complaints about the high cost of living, Singaporeans are big spenders. There are just too many ways to part with your money, judging by the number of shopping malls and fancy restaurants lurking around every corner.
But just why do we spend so much money? Is it because it makes our lives better, or simply because we’re stressed out? A fast pace of life and long working hours have 60% of Singaporean workers complaining of stress. At the same time, stress can cause people to unknowingly spend more money.
The next time you find yourself reaching for your wallet in frustration, check that you’re not spending because of one of the following.
Stress can lower your motivation to save money
In an ideal world, you’d be happily cooking all your meals at home, humming as you whisked the eggs, your Martha Stewart-esque apron flapping around you. You’d cycle to work in the morning, taking in the scenery of Marina Bay as you enjoyed the surge of endorphins. At work, you’d have a healthy lunch lovingly made by you the night before. On weekends, you’d meet your friends for picnics and long bike rides. Your lifestyle, while frugal, would be sooooo fulfilling.
Sorry guys but we’re not living in Disneyland. In the Real World, ain’t nobody got time for that. You rush to work in a cab because you’re always waking up late and exhausted. Lunch at work consists of whichever restaurant your colleagues are going to, because you don’t want to eat alone. When you’re finally able to escape the office, you spend all your cash on pricey restaurants and expensive drinks because your social life depends on it, and you always end up with high maintenance Tinder dates.
Spending less takes discipline, at least until you manage to turn cheaper lifestyle choices into habits. And remaining disciplined is that much harder when you’re stressed out and tired.
Stress can make you spend more in order to feel better
You work damn hard from Monday to Friday, so you deserve to spend a bit to make yourself feel a better, you say. When you’re finally out of the office, you want to pamper yourself, just so all that work stress becomes worth it.
So you go for a massage at a spa, check into that expensive restaurant (you’ve got no time to cook anyway, and you don’t want to smell like a food court) or do a spot of shopping (because retail therapy).
The problem is that this turns into a vicious cycle for many. They blow their entire bonus and more on a lavish end-of-year holiday because they feel they’ve deserved it.
If that sounds like you, it might be time to tackle the things that are escalating your stress levels—perhaps you work for an unreasonable boss and would feel much better in a new job; maybe your time management skills are poor which leads to your working long hours or not using your free time well; maybe your crappy diet and lack of exercise are making you feel worse overall. Deal with that and you might find your need to constantly treat yourself diminish.
Stress can cause you to make poor money decisions
Each time you spend money, you’re making a conscious decision to do so. Saving the rare situations where you get mugged at that ATM in JB or something, you’re technically responsible for every cent you spend.
The problem is that when you’re stressed and harried, you’re less likely to make wise decisions.
For instance, you know very well that you do not need to spend hundreds of dollars on a Dyson bladeless fan. But it’s on sale at Harvey Norman now and costs 20% less. Sure, it still costs hundreds of dollars more than a normal fan. But then you get swayed by the salesman’s promise that you’ll be “saving” money, and you’re in such a rush to pick Junior up from tuition that you make a snap decision.
This carelessness can also extend to bigger issues. For instance, there are many Singaporeans in their 30s and 40s who haven’t invested a single cent even though they technically have the cash to do so (the minimum lot size on SGX is a paltry 100 shares, so it’s not like you need to be a millionaire to invest).
Investing for the longterm isn’t time-consuming at all, but it does require a bit of initiative—for instance, in the case of share trading, you need to sign up for a trading account and then figure out what to invest in. Many Singaporeans never end up doing this because they’re always too busy or too stressed out at work to want to spend their time doing something that’s boring and not instantly gratifying.
This story first appeared on Moneysmart, 30th November 2016.