July 23, 2007

SOAPBOX

When leaving the roost gets too costly

With spiralling costs, the price for your own pad may just be too much

By Jessica Lim


WHEN my friends talk about 'a night out', they are not referring to St James Power Station or Zouk.

Rather, it means they come over to my place, their latest haunt for an evening of booze and fun - especially for those who live alone and pay a monthly rent.

So as the weekend draws near, and they contemplate Zouk, St James Power Station or Jess' place, there are no prizes for guessing which is easiest on the wallet.

I know this because they tell me.

I do not take offence.

After all, hanging out at home - minus cover charge, cab ride home and the use of credit cards to pay by the glass - works for me too.

There, we socialise without worrying about overspending.

But what disturbs me is that despite a rosy economy, educated individuals who draw a market-rate starting pay still despair.

Their finances went haywire, they admit, when they started paying rent - a good chunk of their monthly income.

From there, things quickly spiralled out of control.

Those who lacked the will chalked up exorbitant credit card debts.

But even the ones who stayed home realised that while moving out gave them independence, they ended up being attached to another ball and chain: The lack of cash to enjoy their newfound freedom.

This is not as far-fetched as you might think: After paying $500 in rent (on a flat-sharing basis), giving $200 to the parents and paying $200 in bills, a take-home pay of $1,800 leaves about $225 of spending money each week (that is without transport and meals).

A night out costs at least $100, including transport home after midnight.

The remaining pittance should be hived off into a savings account. But even this is unlikely because most of my friends who live alone say they now cannot afford to save.

One even confessed he had not saved a single cent despite having worked for the past two years.

For my peers, costs can only get higher.

Last month, a cost of living survey conducted by Mercer Human Resource Consulting ranked Singapore as the 14th most expensive city in the world for expatriates.

Covering 143 cities and measuring the comparative costs of over 200 items, the survey reflects a higher cost of living for locals, coming from the spike in housing and transportation demands.

Add to all that the increase in the goods and services tax from 5 per cent to 7 per cent at the beginning of this month, and a cut in spending money is inevitable.

This is a pity.

Rising rents are forcing the few young adults who live alone to boomerang back into family homes. Meanwhile, those who are contemplating moving out are shelving plans because it is no longer financially affordable.

Talk is also starting to shift to comparisons of what seems like the easier lifestyle of our peers in other countries.

In Australia, for instance, working adults pay as little as $300 each in monthly rents, to share upmarket apartments or landed property in the suburbs.

But here, the breed of young adults who move out of family homes - in search of an independent living experience - may soon be dying out if costs continue to rise.

That is just too high a price to pay for transition from childhood to adulthood.

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