Graduate student expenses in Singapore (updated monthly budget and sample spreadsheet)

I made a preliminary budget a few months ago, and now after having settled in and miscellaneous moving costs have been covered, I am going to aim for this budget and track what I spend. I was tracking my spending at home too in NYC, but now it is even more important for me to do this because my income is lower and I have more expenses. (FYI, I receive a monthly stipend of SGD$2000 from a scholarship to cover living expenses. This would increase if/when I pass my Qualifying Examination…)

This is my updated monthly budget (original estimates in parentheses) all in Singapore Dollars (SGD):
Rent: 800 (700-900)
Utilities: 60 (70)
Mobile phone: 17
Public transportation: 30 (125)
Groceries: 100 (150)
Social outings: 50
Dining out: 70
(originally 180 for both social and food outings)
Ultimate and miscellaneous: 70

Total for expenses: SGD$1197 or about $961 USD ($1512 or $1240 USD)
Total for savings: SGD$803 or about $644 USD ($488 or $400 USD)

Right now I’m saving towards ultimate tournaments, hopefully one in Japan in June! Several categories are lower than I had anticipated at first (especially transportation). I started tracking my expenses on 01 March and will continue to do so and give updates on how I’m finding my budget to be working out. For the most part, I think my expenses have stabilized and the only major expenses will be for travel and tournaments.

A few things to note:

  1. I don’t take taxis as much as I thought I might and I don’t go out as much as I thought I might. Drinks are expensive here in Singapore, especially if you want to get some good beers.
  2. I also found an apartment where I don’t need to take public transportation to get to campus. I can walk and take the free internal shuttle in the morning, and to go home there is a free shuttle from campus that is run by the mall that is a 4-5 minute walk from where I live. So, I don’t have any commuting costs! Yippee! I’ll only use public transportation to get to ultimate practice and such. Otherwise, this category in my budget would be at least double what it is now (about $60).
  3. Another plus to the previous point is that I don’t have to deal with the morning and evening rush! This saves me from some transport related stress and anxiety.
  4. I’ve started to cook for myself again because I enjoy it and because I like to have more control over what I’m eating. (That has been especially good for avoiding McDonald’s during lunch break for all-day Saturday ultimate trainings!) I’m not sure if this is cutting or adding costs because eating out here is dirt cheap at the food centers, but I’ll try to make an estimate after this month.
  5. Because I’m cooking for myself, I look for deals like bread on promotion at Swissbake in the mall. Nothing beats good bread except discounted good bread! I put half of the loaf in the freezer immediately, eat the other half (unrefridgerated) over the course of a few days, and then move the freezer half to the normal part of the refrigerator. See the photo below of the loaf I bought last week! I’m averaging about half a loaf per week on my own.

Loaf of bread from Swissbake
Download the file Expenses 2013, an example of the spreadsheet I’m using! I’ve worked out some formulas to calculate the categories automatically. If you try it out or have something that might work better, let me know!

Some useful links:

  • Graduate students guide to managing finance and tackling debt on Lifehacker – Basic introduction
  • Life after graduation on Get Rich Slowly – Generally some good tips for people just starting to think about their income and how to manage it.
  • How-to suck big time at saving money at Studenomics – Lists general reasons why you might be having a hard time saving money

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