Singapore is a country, but at the same time it is a city. So when considering the cost of living in a nation only about 4 times the size of Washington D.C., as compared to the whole United States, it is important to place a few different benchmarks.
The costs of living differences between Singapore and Topeka, Kansas are likely to be enormous. However, it is not quite so likely that an expat would be moving from one city to the other.
This article looks at the differences in cost of living between Singapore and two American cities that are likely to have similar amenities and career development opportunities – but also provide some varying perspective in terms of size, urban/suburban ratio, and location: New York and Seattle.
The Singapore dollar is only slightly weaker than the American dollar, at about .73, so they are relatively easy to compare. For the purposes of this article, all costs will be written in US dollars.
Singapore Vs. New York
New York and Singapore are quite comparable, and the Big Apple might be one of the few cities worldwide that is reliably more expensive than Singapore. You would need around $5,886 (S$8,143) in Singapore to maintain the same standard of life that you can have with $7,200 in New York City, assuming you rent in both cities.
Both New York and Singapore are internationally infamous for inflated real estate prices. In fact, New York City may be one of the few areas around the world with more expensive housing than Singapore.
With a market that has been increasing steadily in competitiveness over the last 20 decades or so, it has become almost impossible to find a reasonably priced apartment in Manhattan proper. Generally – a one-bedroom apartment in the heart of the city will cost around $3200 a month. The same sized flat, centrally located in Singapore will cost closer to $2500 in rent.
Food and Drink
Food prices are equivalently expensive in restaurants, with both New York and Singapore boasting fancy cocktail bars and high-end gastronomic experiences.
Even simpler fare can come with an inflated price tag because of high rent and tariffs for the restaurant. A meal for two in a mid-range restaurant might cost around $120 in New York, and in Singapore it would be closer to $80.
Groceries are also slightly more expensive in New York – plan on an about a dollar more per kilogram for produce like tomatoes, apples, and potatoes.
There are some exceptions, such as beef and cheese. Beer, wine, and spirits will be a much harder hit on your wallet in Singapore, especially beer prices, which are about 150% more expensive in the Lion City.
Leisure activities, as well as health and fitness will also take up a portion of your budget. New York City movie theatres are notoriously expensive– at sometimes up to $20 a ticket, and rising. You’ll save about half of that when you go to see a film in Singapore, for around $10.
Because of the wide variety of fitness clubs, it is possible to join a gym in New York for a monthly rate that is slightly lower – around $70 to Singapore’s $100.
Singapore Vs. Seattle
A growing metropolis in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is becoming more and more costly as growing numbers of tech startups relocate there and bring competition for housing and a growing market for high-end restaurants and bars with them.
Still, that trend is still in it’s early days, and so a comfortable quality of life in Seattle is less expensive than one in Singapore.
You would need around $5,915 (S$8,183) in Singapore to maintain the same standard of life that you can have with $5,300 in Seattle, assuming you rent in both cities.
The difference in housing costs is quite drastic. Much like Singapore, Seattle offers a broad metropolis with many different neighborhoods within the city center, as well as well-connected suburbs.
However, the city itself is about 1/3 of the size of all of Singapore, and space to expand lowers the pressure on competition. Rent tends to be about 30% lower than in Singapore, with a one-bedroom apartment in the city center costing around $1700, compared to that same profile in Singapore going for about $2,500.
If you decide to settle in and buy a home, the difference grows even more significantly. Price per square meter of a home in the city center is around $5,350 in Seattle, compared to $18,500 in Singapore.
Food and Drink
Both Singapore and Seattle have growing foodie scenes, with plenty of smart cafes and bistros popping up alongside more classic restaurants. A meal for two in a mid range restaurant might cost around $60 in Seattle, and in Singapore it would be closer to $80.
Groceries in the store are near equivalent; expect to pay a dollar or more per kilogram of produce in Singapore when shopping in a market.
But these costs don’t take account of the bulk pricing made possible by Seattle’s many farmer’s markets and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture – a model where a patron invests in the farm at the beginning of the season for a share of produce each week).
Those opportunities tend to lower costs, and Singapore’s farmer’s market scene is in its infancy, with only one real contender holding events quarterly. Beer, wine, and spirits are also less expensive in Seattle as compared to Singapore – in some cases 200-250% less so.
Leisure activities, as well as health and fitness will also take up a portion of your budget. Thanks to a newly opened independent movie theater, The Projector, Singapore now has a broad range of cinema options that will provide something of a parallel to what Seattle can offer – and still at a lower cost.
The cost difference between the two tickets is only a few dollars, at around $12 for Seattle and $10 for Singapore. The more significant comparison is for a monthly gym membership, which is about twice the cost in Singapore – $100 at least, to Seattle’s $50.