Tue. Feb 27th, 2024
bak chor mee

TL;DR – Cars, movie tickets, food. Apparently, life in general was way more affordable last time. 

If your wallet feels like it is getting thinner faster or if your bank account balance is ticking down quicker than before, you are not alone. Prices of everyday goods and services have been increasing. According to official statistics, Singapore’s core inflation rose to 10-year high last month. Inflation is no joke, and all of us are feeling the pinch. Globally…

Electricity bills have jumped, taxis and ride-hailing firms are collectively raising their prices, and oil prices have become so ridiculous that some Singaporeans have been caught driving all the way to Malaysia to pump their petrol and embarrassing themselves in the meantime.

And then we have rising food prices. Take eggs, for example. Channel NewsAsia recently conducted a deep dive into egg prices in Singapore. A pack of 30 eggs used to cost up to S$4.75 in 2021 — but not anymore. Now, the very same pack of eggs laid by the very same batch of chickens cost more than S$6 — and these are just eggs.

In February 2022, Fairprice Group launched the Stretch Your Dollar programme to help consumers cope with the rising cost of living. The programme includes a new 5% discount every Friday for a basket of 100 key essential items.

NTUC FairPrice offers egg-cellent discount on eggs, amid rising prices

However, the thing about inflation is that it has been happening for as long as pricing has been in existence. Every generation of Singaporeans laments how much cheaper things used to be in “the good old days”. Here are three things that used to be much, much easier on the wallet.

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1. Cars

Cars in Singapore were already notoriously expensive even without inflation. It was so bad that, when the cast of Fast & Furious 6 was asked to guess our car prices, they very nearly fell out of their chairs. When the normally cool and collected Vin Diesel discovered that the price of a Toyota Prius was US$154,000, his eyes nearly popped out of his sunglasses. “Is the moral of the story: Don’t buy cars in Singapore?”

vin diesel
Vin Diesel when he discovered that the price of a Toyota Prius was US$154,000. Via


Diesel was only half right. It’s not that we shouldn’t buy cars. It’s just that it’s really about when to buy cars — and now is a pretty terrible time. A hefty part of the cost, as we know, goes to Certificate of Entitlement, or COE. While COE of a Category A vehicle currently sits at nearly S$73,000, it used to cost just S$900 at its lowest-ever point in 2009. That’s cheaper than the price of an iPhone without a contract! It’s hard to believe but it is true: there used to be a time when a car didn’t cost an arm and a leg.

But you know what, with the convenient transportation network in Singapore, how many of us really, really need a car huh? We have one of the best transportation systems in the world!

2. Movie Tickets

Remember cinemas? That big black room where people would go for an hour or two to watch a movie before the pandemic?

Tickets to the cinema used to be dead cheap in the 1990s. Depending on the day of the week and time of the day, it was possible to score a movie ticket for S$5 at the time, which meant that you could conceivably have lunch and catch a movie for under S$10.

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Now, if you are catching a movie on a weekend, S$10 is not even enough to cover a single ticket. These days, if it’s an especially popular movie, you more than likely have to book the ticket online ahead of time, which itself comes with a service charge — that’s without the bells and whistles that cinemas try to pile on moviegoers these days, from uncomfortable 3D glasses to seats that pitched, rolled and heaved based on what’s happening in the movie.

No wonder the prospects of watching movies at home, even months after release, is so appealing.

3. Food. All of them.

Remember that lunch you were going to have before the movie? Let’s say you were going to have a steaming bowl of bak chor mee, for example. It’s a staple at nearly every hawker centre, which means that its price is generally fairly affordable, right? Now, imagine it being even more affordable back in the 1990s.

bak chor mee
Bak chor mee – one of our favourite meals via


Back then, a humble bowl of bak chor mee would set you back, at best, S$2. If you were kind enough to the uncle, he could even toss in a few extra ingredients — on the house.

These days, S$2 is going to get you, at best, the little bowl of soup that comes with the bak chor mee. That’s because, due to rising business costs and raw ingredients, the same bowl of bak chor mee now costs at least S$4.50 — that’s a 125% jump if you weren’t doing the maths.

Amidst the pain, there’s help to make essentials more affordable…

When prices go up, we try our best to accommodate. We stop going to the movies, we buy ingredients to cook at home and we take public transport instead of shelling out for a car of our own. However, for low-income families, their purse strings can only be tightened so much for so long.

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And that is why we have provision for support schemes for vulnerable individuals and families in Singapore. NTUC Fairprice is another social enterprise that goes the extra mile to make everyday food supplies more affordable.

For example, back in the early days of the pandemic, NTUC Fairprice froze the prices of 100 daily essential items, such as rice, oil, batteries and toiletries, as part of a support package to help Singaporeans manage the cost of living. The organisation also extended special discounts for those in the Merdeka Generation, Pioneer Generation and senior citizens by six months.

NTUC so “rich”, why their things cannot be the cheapest?

Even now, with the pandemic situation stabilising in Singapore, similar initiatives continue.

Ultimately, even after the world economy stabilises, inflationary pressures may continue. Lower-income families may be hit harder, but there is help.

If you know of any lower-income families who need support, here are some useful resources.