What Has Gotten Cheaper Over Time in Singapore?
Top image: Shiva Bharathi Gupta / RICE file photo.

We don’t need to tell you that things are expensive now. In a day or two, you’ll already be getting your gas and electricity bills, which might be costlier than it was before.

Inflation is a pain. Even the little things—higher GST, endless Grab surges, $5.50 cai fan—can eat away at the moments when we feel less overwhelmed by everything. But, hey, it’s not always doom and gloom.

We wanted to know from Singaporeans about what they feel has actually gotten cheaper in recent years. What are the common consumer essentials that were once deemed luxurious? Surprisingly, there’s value in appreciating what we already have right now.

“What, in my opinion, seems cheaper today as compared to the past would probably be travelling.

We now have a wide variety of cheap budget airlines and a vast number of cheap accommodations available to all these days. I’d say it has become a lot cheaper for people to book a quick getaway anytime with a lower budget.

I don’t recall there ever being as many options as we do today. Back then, I remember travelling abroad seemed like a major investment. For me, planning a family trip seemed almost impossible as it would burn such a big hole in our pockets. But with budget airlines, cheap tour packages, and budget accommodations, now we’re able to save up enough and book our cheap family getaways with a lot less worry and guilt.”

– Andrea, 30

“For me, instead of things that are cheaper, I find that I have access to ‘cheaper’ alternatives now with apps like Shopee & SHEIN. There, you can get everyday household items at much lower prices thanks to discounts, coupons or online deals. Back then, I’d have to get tables and chairs from the usual places (Ikea, Courts, etc). But now, with these apps, I can easily find cheaper options.

Especially when I was moving house early last year, I left a lot of my items behind in my old rented room. Then I bought new ones to replace them—and a lot of my things were purchased from Shopee or SHEIN. They probably get the stuff directly from manufacturers. Perhaps that’s why they’re cheaper.”

– Jessica, 24

“Sushi at, like, Sushi Tei used to be such a momentous affair because ‘Wow, sushi! Japanese food! Raw fish!’ Back then, when NTUC Fairprice sold little boxes of sushi, they’d mostly be cucumber/egg/crab meat makimonos because they’re the cheapest to make and easiest to sell. Before Don Don Donki appeared in Singapore, Kuriya Fish Market was charging $10 for a box of salmon sushi. Donki now sells them for $8.90.

Value-wise, sushi has definitely improved. Instead of paying about $1.50 per plate of Sushi Express salmon sushi—when it only has a pathetic sliver of dubious-quality fish—you can get a thick, fresh cut of salmon for your sushi for $2.30 at Sushiro.”

– Zhe Rong, 26

Image: Zachary Tang / RICE file photo.

“The short answer? Entertainment. Putting aside how affordable (and blazing fast) our internet is now, you can listen to new music and watch new TV shows for a monthly fee upwards of $10. The long answer is that entertainment is cheap and accessible, but it’s also done away with consumer ownership. We pay a subscription for access, but we don’t actually own these shows and albums.

To an older generation, this is a godsend—I’m old enough to remember that you could either pay around $60 to $80 to buy a DVD boxset of a TV show you wanted to watch or wait for it to air on Channel 5, where it would sometimes be censored.

Seriously, Poh Kim was the king of selling Hong Kong and Chinese serials! HMV was where you could find seasons of The Simpsons or Friends. Now, however, you can watch most of these at your convenience on Netflix, Disney+, or Amazon Prime at a far more reasonable price. The caveat is that if these streaming platforms decide to remove these shows, your access is gone.

So, while it is cheaper now, I’d also say it’s a give-and-take situation. Watch all you can, but when it’s gone, it’s gone. And those subscription prices are definitely going up. One silver lining is that those pricey boxsets are now going for cheap on Carousell… and so are Blu-ray players!”

– William, 34

“When you think about it, it’s crazy that almost everyone has 4K televisions in their homes these days. About a decade ago, we were still watching our shows and movies on dinky, 32-inch LCD screens.

Today, it’ll be hard to find households without giant smart TVs in their living rooms. Big up to brands like Xiaomi, TCL, and Prism+ for ushering in an age where everybody can afford one.

That being said, I’m dubious about the longevity of these cheap TVs. Some friends who bought them say they only last about two or three years max—they all seem to conk out after a while. But hey, at least that’s enough time for them to save up for something better down the road with better visual quality.”

– Devi, 32

“Soju used to be only available from stores like Shine Korea for mad prices. Then it started appearing at 7-Eleven or Cheers. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get good deals when they go on sale.

But society has evolved now. My mama shop sells Soju and Strong Zeroes cheaper than all the chains. Big win for us.”

– Nigel, 30

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