As Singapore exited from its Circuit Breaker on 2 June, it marked the end of a nationwide experiment on social restrictions. Even as Singapore gradually resumes the reopening of her economy, Heartland Boy realizes that some components of his lifestyle have changed dramatically. As a white-collar worker not operating in essential services, Heartland Boy continues to work from home (‘WFH’). This change in lifestyle has altered the pattern of his household expenditure, although Heartland Boy is unsure if it would be for the short term or for the long haul. Here’s a look at how his lifestyle and household expenses have changed after the Circuit Breaker has been lifted.
Online Grocery Shopping
Even as supermarkets stayed operational throughout the entire Circuit Breaker, they have to operate within a stringent set of regulations. As a result, long queues often form outside major supermarkets during peak hours.
Heartland Boy chose to minimise his visits to these places as much as possible out of an abundance of precaution and to save time. Yet, WFH had increased his household’s consumption of everyday items. Therefore, to keep up with the increase in demand, Heartland Boy began to order groceries online from shops such as FairPrice On, Guardian, RedMart etc. He did not mind paying for the delivery fee because he would have trouble carrying these bulky items back from the supermarkets anyway. It also helped that during this period, the OCBC 365 Credit Card was offering an upsized 6% cashback promotion on Daily Essentials. This is the main credit card that he pairs with his OCBC 360 Savings Account, so the promotion definitely came in handy. Having enjoyed the ease and convenience that online grocery shopping brings, Heartland Boy predicts that he would be continuing this digital service for the time to come.
Online Food Delivery
Even as Phase 2 of the reopening of the economy permits dining in at F&B outlets, Heartland Boy and his wife are still hesitant to dine out as often as before. With most of the time spent on an energetic toddler and work, they often resort to take-aways or food deliveries for their lunch. Besides the usual food delivery platforms, some new platforms that they tried during this period were WhyQ and Oddle. These platforms allowed him to access F&B choices beyond those offered on the more common food delivery platforms. Until his toddler attends pre-school, he is likely to continue ordering lunch from food delivery platforms.
To minimize the total cost of food deliveries, Heartland Boy tends to search for promo codes first. He particularly prefers the Citibank Credit Cards because the discount is high and their limited redemptions are least likely to run out. His favourite combination is the $12 off min. $50 spend on FoodPanda. Combined with the cashback from his Citi Cashback+ Card, the total discount comes up to an incredible 25.6%.
The increase in utility bill sizes was one household expenditure that Heartland Boy could not avoid. With every member of the household cooped up at home instead of at offices, their consumption of electricity inevitably increased. Some steps he did prior to Covid-19 had thankfully helped to lower his utility bills. For instance, he switched from the default Singapore Power to an electricity retailer. He also implemented his utilities bills as recurring payments on his UOB One credit card to earn more cashback. In addition, it helps that IRAS allows WFH taxpayers to claim deduction against employment income for charges such as electricity and telecommunication expenses not reimbursed by employers. (Source: Business Times) Finally, the last mitigating step is that Heartland Boy consoles himself with the $100 subsidy that he is going to receive from the Government.
Further Easing Household’s Cashflow
While trying to strike a balance between practising social distancing and managing his household bill, Heartland Boy also analyzed how he could reduce the bigger ticket items on his household expenditure. For instance, he successfully applied to defer his income taxes for 3 months, one of the schemes outlined in the Government’s budget. In addition, he also took advantage of the low interest rate environment to refinance his home loan, which would see him save more than $14,000 over 5 years. There are other helpful suggestions inside MoneySmart’s Covid-19 Survival guide that can help to ease the cashflow requirements of a household during this difficult period.
To survive the Covid-19 era, some businesses have been forced to innovate and embrace digital technology. Likewise, as a consumer, Heartland Boy’s lifestyle and household expenses have taken a dramatic shift as well. Until a vaccine is found or herd immunity is achieved, the situation remains extremely fluid. Therefore, let’s continue to keep an open mind and do our best to adapt to this new normal.
This article is written in collaboration with MoneySmart but the opinions expressed here are entirely his own