Experiment: Wasting $1,000 in Singapore Instead Of Travelling

During October 2013, close to two years ago, I went on a 4D3N trip to Bangkok with Mrs 15HWW and her family. And I subsequently wrote a post stating why I don’t really enjoy typical vacations, especially to places like Bangkok or Hong Kong.

Interestingly, a short vacation was on the cards early this month. I decided not to pursue a career in teaching and Mrs 15HWW was only due to start work in the middle of the month. But somehow, I managed to persuade the Mrs that we should stay in Singapore. It did help that the Speaker of Parliament urged Singaporeans to remain in the country and join in the Jubilee Celebrations. (Thanks Mdm Halimah!)

Before you accuse me of being a scrooge, let me reiterate that money wasn’t the chief concern. So much so that we decided to conduct an experiment and “force” ourselves to “waste” $1,000 through discretionary spending over 5 days in Singapore.

I thought $1,000 was just about right since a couple would likely have to spend that much for a 4D3N trip to Bangkok.

My Hypothesis

Short vacations are grossly inefficient. As mentioned in the first link of this post, an enormous amount of time is spent waiting and commuting. Moreover, the bulk of the vacation cost goes to fixed costs like the flight and the accommodation.

What if you could save all these time and money and then enjoy and relax in Singapore?

When I first started working 4 years ago, I was always puzzled as to why my employer needed to know whether I was going overseas when I was applying for more than 3 or 4 days of leave. But over time, I realised why. Apparently, in many bosses’ views, if you’re not travelling, the minimum they would expect you to do is to check your email every night. #beentheredonethat

Dog Computer animated GIF

But if you’re overseas in a place where you can’t readily get wi-fi, bosses/clients will have the courtesy to either solve the problem themselves or approach your co-worker.

When we are on leave, most of us to get away from the stresses and demands of work. The last thing you want is for your phone to be buzzing with some last-minute or urgent requests from your bosses. You don’t want to be like the dog above.

Little wonder why short overseas vacations are so popular among the population.

But the above didn’t really apply to the both of us during this period. With no bosses or clients behind our backs, theoretically, we should be able to relax and chill out in Singapore. Yeah, no need to go overseas.

How A Day Went

4th August

8:00am – Wake up & light breakfast of fruits and nuts ($0)

9:00am – A leisurely swim at the in-law’s place ($0)

11:00am –  Took a train to town and had an early lunch at Sprmrkt. Eggs Benedict, sandwiches , coffee and of course the Mrs’ favourite Truffle fries. To let you know how much I dislike it, let’s just say that I would prefer McDonald’s fries any day. ($40)

2:00pm – Travelled to Vivo City and decided to catch Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation at GV Gold Class. It was our first experience there and it did feel a “little special” to be able to order some tea in the middle of the movie. ($60)

5:00pm – Some shopping by the Mrs.  I can’t recall the retailer as I probably was just sitting down somewhere reading finance articles. I am not joking. ($40)

6;00pm – Had dinner @The Chop House since we were still at Vivo. We shared a berkshire pork chop and a prime ribeye beef steak. (($85)

8:00pm – A dessert at St Marc’s Cafe ($9)

10:00pm – Some reading/surfing before going to bed!

Total expenditure: $234

Our Findings

Obviously, not all 5 days were as spendy as 4th August. But we really accumulated $1,000 of spending from 3rd to 7th August after including some items like expensive raw honey. The Mrs also managed to loosen up quite a bit with some shopping.

I think both of us concluded that we would prefer to stay in Singapore as compared to a short trip to Bangkok, for example. However, it’s interesting to note that the extra discretionary spending did not give us a lot more utility.

For instance, a week later on 10th August, we went to City Square Mall near Farrer Park MRT station. Since it was the 10th of the month, Old Town White Coffee was having some promotions.



Two mains and two drinks set us back by only $12 and we also spent another $5 for two yogurts @Milk & Honey (some SG50 promotion). Then we spent another $16 buying some little organisational trinkets from Daiso and another $10 buying groceries @NTUC for a simple dinner.

We were really happy as we got a good kick out of getting good deals and seriously, the utility we had from that afternoon was probably higher than that of 4th August.

Therefore, using the money saved on a short vacation to splurge locally seems like a big waste of money for us. 

So, what should we do with the extra money then?

Option 1: Save up for a big and long (>3 months) trip to Vancouver. We could then spend some time in the Rockies, travelling to Alaska or just enjoy a picnic at Stanley Park

Option 2: Do something on slightly longer vacations that can’t be done in Singapore. Perhaps 2 weeks in Taiwan or Australia would be good? We could spend the bulk of the time in some farms or homestays and enjoy the better weather in spring or autumn to do some trail walking or hiking.

Any other suggestions that you might have for us? What’s your take on those short vacations to BKK or HK?


Be Sociable, Share!

29 thoughts on “Experiment: Wasting $1,000 in Singapore Instead Of Travelling

  1. LP

    Hi 15hww,

    Just came back from Bangkok and while there and waiting for this post to appear, I was also thinking about whether the money spent locally will bring more fun than spending it overseas. For a 3D2N trip, I spent about $750 all in (doesn’t include my wife cos she bought more stuff lol)

    I think the most fun part about going overseas is to stay in a hotel. Just having a international buffet spread of breakfast to me is quite something that I won’t do locally. So to replicate the local vacation for me, it is a MUST to have a hotel stay too. If we just include that, I think the cost will be much higher locally.

    I think the second thing that we can’t replicate is the different feeling of going overseas. When I’m at the airport, I’ll naturally feel some good vibes. It’s the act of physically going away that is part of the vacation therapy, I believe.

    The last point is about experiencing different cultures when you’re overseas. You can see how they do certain things and think about how we do certain things. It’s the difference in experience that makes vacation something interesting to remember.

    I dare say it’s not going to be the same utility going overseas and staying locally, at least for me, lol

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi LP,

      I knew I had to get this post out quick! LOL

      As you can see from my conclusion, I do agree with that going overseas is quite different, even to me. During the 5 days, the Mrs did complain a little of boredom. Your 2nd and 3rd point is especially valid.

      With regards to your first point, I think for a couple staying together in their own place, a staycation in Singapore is really excessive! And I think you don’t really have to stay in a hotel to get a good international buffet.

      When you’re more free (after Oct), I will bring you to a decent international buffet in Singapore for under $25/pax.

  2. Createwealth8888

    Same like eating seafood in Johore. Spend more time travelling there just to eat. Singapore also have What.

    But, my wife will say same same but definitely different. Bo pian! She is not financially savvy; but she just knows we are getting out of Singapore for a short while.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi CW8888,

      I feel you. My Mrs also needs plenty of convincing once in a while. :p

  3. LP

    Hi 15hww,

    Haha, thanks for the offer 🙂 I’m not really into buffet, and I really didn’t eat a lot during the buffet breakfast. My breakfast usually consists of a cup of soya milk drink, less sweet, so eating so many things to me is just not me, lol

    I think the joy is to actually have a proper breakfast together, without any rush to go anywhere else, and to really sit down and enjoy each other’s company. After that, we can go up to the hotel to nap a little while, or just read some newspaper together. It’s these little quiet moments together that makes it special.

    Really, try it. Go book one night at Ritz Carlton, maybe during one of the birthdays, and tell them about it. They will make it a little special for both of you. Just go there, stay at the hotel, go out if you want to catch a late night movie, and return not to your home but to a hotel. It’s just different. Initially I thought I wouldn’t like it because it’s expensive, but you have to experience it and see for yourself. Maybe you will be addicted to it (lol), maybe not.

    It’s really a quick recharge for me.

    The best kind of holiday for me is still those holiday resorts, min of 3 nights, where I do nothing but listen to the sea and looking forward to the next meal. I usually have it once a year, to recalibrate what I really want to do with my life. I’ll cheong hard for the next year and look forward to one of these recharging holidays again. Try this, i highly highly recommend this. The real thing looks as good as the picture, I assure you that. (http://www.aleenta.com/phuket/)

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi LP,

      I have never been to Phuket before but my grad trip (with the Mrs) was actually to Maldives. And I have to admit that if it wasn’t so costly, we would want to go back there again.

      Will definitely check out your suggestions! And maybe write about them. 🙂

  4. B

    Hi 15hww

    I think it’s pretty obvious from the experiment and conclusion that you like more slow traveling than your wife. And places where the lifestyle is slower and there are more natural places will suit you better. Bkk and HK are the last on my mind that can do this effect.

    This is perhaps why in Nov i am planning an outskirt trip to huahin on top of the usual busy bangkok which my wife is more interested about. It’s all about the pace of the travel and the purpose of what we are aiming to get out of the travel.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi B,

      HK is the worst. I remember on my way back from Vancouver 5 years ago, I transited at HK for a short stay of about 3-4 days. Think it was the best preparation for life back in Singapore since the pace of life was 1.2x faster than even Singapore. Not to mention the poorer quality of air in the city.

      Hmm… hua hin seems beautiful and I am also tempted to visit retirement city Chiang Mai.

  5. Derek

    Hi 15 HWW,

    I don’t go BKK four times a year but usually once or twice a year.

    Here’s why I like to visit BKK:

    1) Go with friends. I enjoy travelling with my buddies. You know how guys can come together and have a crazy time together without the “Mrs”. You can’t possibly do that in Singapore can you?LoL

    2) Shopping. Lots of items are cheaper there. Clothes and accessories for the girls. For me, I will stock up on toiletries and first aid items. I also like some of the Thai brands. Lastly, it is the ideal place to find affordable Xmas gifts for your colleagues and friends. I can get something decent with $5, multiple this by 20 people and that’s $100. Try finding something here with $5.

    3) F&B. It’s cheaper too. I enjoy paring my food with a good drink. How much is the alcohol tax in Singapore again?

    LP spent $750 for 3D2N which is probably how much I would have spend too with lots of food and alcohol.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Derek,

      I doubt the Mrs would allow me to travel with “buddies” anymore. LOL

      Regarding the toiletries, Thai parallel imports are available in Singapore too. Is it really that much cheaper over there?

      As for gifts, I am lucky that I have never been in an office environment where a X’mas gift exchange is a norm. At most a couple of presents for a gift exchange with friends and family.

      Agree that if you drink and smoke, going overseas on a budget air ticket will yield some savings. But somehow, wine and liquor is an acquired taste I haven’t really mastered (my wallet is thankful about that).

  6. Frugal Daddy

    Hi 15hrww

    To me, I feel travelling is “neccessary”.

    I don’t shop much and drink alcohol. I love places with more “affection” than people in Singapore. I enjoy the food, weather, culture, family bonding, time spent anticipating a trip and maybe local specialty.

    This is one cost I wouldn’t save but will work within my budget.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Frugal Daddy,

      I am just curious if travelling is more of an “escape” or an “enjoyment”.

      Previously, for me, it was more of an “escape” from the drudgery of work and life.

  7. WolfT

    For staycation usually I would usually book Shangri La Rasa Sentosa sea view room.
    Abt 400++ a night with bf buffet. Kids below 12 stay for free with buffet too.
    Pls also go and try their Massage and facial. It is better and cheaper than the one i had at banyan tree Bintan.
    Free carpark somore.
    Total 3D2N cost me 1.5k for 4 people.
    It is cheaper than Bali and Phuket imo. ( if u compare same grade hotel.)

  8. Ellaa

    I also can’t comprehend why my Sis visit Bangkok / Phuket repeatedly every year. Haha. But different people like different type of tea I guess?

    Personally, I prefer to accumulate the money and spend on a longer trip that is more enriched. Both your options sound good.

    For ‘exploring’ in SG, you can spread it out over the 52 wks! I always use the entertainer app (costs about $54 after some discount code), can use for the whole year. I explore new cafes, and am planning to do Tiger Brew tour, SEA aquarium with my hubby. Can have fun without spending a lot. If you are into it, staycation in SG is also nice. But for now, I prefer to save up the moolahs for my new home. 🙂

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Ellaa,

      Hmm, an entertainer app. I haven’t heard of that. Perhaps we will give it a try too. And good luck with the preparations for your new home!

  9. My Sweet Retirement

    A staycation in Singapore cannot be compared with an overseas trip. Of course, that is only my personal opinion.

    BKK is one of my favourite destinations given the local delicacies.

    Yes, you are quite right that bosses tend to call you or ask you to check emails if they know you are in Singapore. It happens to me too 🙂

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi MSR,

      I do enjoy the mango sticky rice in Bangkok although I have to admit I can get a similar one in S’pore (my taste buds can’t tell a big diff although much more expensive).

      When you’re in S’pore on leave, once the tiniest problem crops up, they will turn to you.

  10. Lizardo

    I guess when we travel, we:
    – Seek to experience a different culture
    – Don’t want to feel like a cooped up chicken in our tiny island
    – Experience that which we don’t here (seasons, scenery, national parks, etc)
    – Taste more original tasting tasty food of different flavours (Japan!)
    – Want to stay ‘uncontactable’ from work, yet wish to be totally connected to the Internet!

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Lizardo,

      Agree with what you have mentioned.

      Nonetheless, I personally feel quite puzzled when many fellow Singaporeans have not visited world-class attractions like RWS, Gardens By The Bay or Night Safari.

      Botanic Gardens is really beautiful too although you have to avoid humid days there. :p

  11. Singaporemm

    Hi Mr 15HWW!

    Haha, i can’t imagine how it is like to spend $200+++ so freely for you in a day.

    Personally, I like going to HK and BKK for one thing only: dirt cheap shopping. Usually I come back with enough body wash for a year, kidnapped hotel toiletries, new underwear, new ‘Havaianas’. I haven’t bought anything from a Singapore retail shop for the past 1-2 years at least, because I hate hate hate the retail mark up in Singapore. I try to time buying everything with the trip, even if it means going without the item I need for 2-3 months. Recently my glue stick for my craft hobby is running out, and I would sooner die than buy more in Singapore.

    As others have said I think you would enjoy longer trips much more, in a nice place like Vancouver, Australia, or some quaint parts of Europe. I’ve always felt like 2 weeks in a far away locale is a million times better than hopping over to JB/BKK. With Airbnb and the loads of budget airlines, even far flung places can be much more affordable (I once flew to Milan and back for $900SGD and my Milan hotel was $50 a night.)

    I never knew you had to inform your boss of leave taking location, and that not everyone checks their work email 24/7. I used to get calls at 4am from overseas that I thought of as 100% a part of my job. Lol.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Singaporemm,

      Hmm, spending $200 plus is quite numbing after doing that for a few days in a row. Think our DNA is just not built for spending. Not much kick. LOL

      I think once we have more time (both semi-retired), I might look at some travel hacking to see where we (quite risk averse by nature) could slowly explore on a budget.

      24/7? That only happens occasionally for me previously. I would probably quit within a few months if I realise that is the “expectation”. Or perhaps you’re the “star employee”?

  12. Pib

    I guess after a while one likes to experience something different. So one travels to see the world outside. For me, its curiousity to see how is life like working in hk and oz so i have moved there to have a feel. It feels like i lived 3 lives!

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Pib,

      Moving to a place for an extended time is different! Less rushed and not just about taking pictures at tourist attractions.

  13. Pegasus Sinbkk

    Good post. I fly to Bangkok almost every month as I have a condo there. As much as I love staying in my SG condo by the sea for the weekend, flying to Bkk makes a great weekend break for me. For every person who doesn’t like Bangkok, you can probably find another person who loves Bangkok to bits. It’s pointless, I think, to compare a staycation in SG versus a weekend in a neighboring country. Things are just different.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Pegasus,

      Interesting blog you have over there!

      Now, I know who to find if I want to go to Bangkok and have a nicer experience there.