Chinese New Year (CNY) is one of the biggest holidays in Singapore, and as with any festival, people who celebrate it end up spending a significant amount in preparation. To complicate matters even further, many components are involved in planning for CNY. From food preparation and restaurant reservations to fresh haircuts and new clothes, the festival can be a financial strain for many. Thankfully, there are a number of easy ways to cut down on your expenses this festive season.
Food plays a crucial role during CNY, as there are a number of dishes that are considered auspicious. If you happen to be your family’s designated chef (or baker), you’ll definitely be aware of how much food prices increase when the festival approaches. Chinese cuisine can be incredibly difficult to put together, requiring a wide variety of ingredients that range from dried shrimp and scallops to fresh fish, pork, and vegetables. Instead of getting your food supplies from regular grocery stores, consider a visit to one of Singapore’s wholesale markets, where you can find the same items at greatly discounted prices. Some good options include Victoria Wholesale Centre and Warehouse Club for food, and Phoon Huat for baking supplies.
Most families have a snack table during CNY that’s usually overflowing with a combination of sweet treats and savoury snacks. One easy way to cut costs is to buy some of the snacks (such as chips) in bulk instead of buying them one packet at a time. For things like specialty cookies that usually can’t be bought in large amounts, it could be worth considering a cheaper brand instead. If your taste buds are equally satisfied by pineapple tarts from Bengawan Solo as they are by the ones sold at your local bakery, then maybe you don’t have to spend as much. But then again, it’s the new year! If you really must have a snack from one specific brand, you can indulge yourself this festive season, but do consider reducing the amount that you choose to buy.
Reunion dinners are raucous affairs if you have a big family, and the costs can add up really quickly if all of you decide to eat out. CNY set dinners for tables of 10 range from a few hundred dollars to much higher depending on the menu, and some restaurants may be fully booked even if you are able to afford it. Instead of going for a traditional sit-down Chinese dinner, you could consider having another cuisine of your choice at a restaurant that’s more affordable and probably a lot less crowded. For an even cheaper option, you can always have a steamboat dinner at home. Most of the ingredients are affordable and it’s super convenient seeing as your guests are technically cooking their own food. What’s more, any uncooked leftovers can be stored in the fridge for the next meal instead of letting it go to waste.
“New Year, new clothes,” insist Chinese mothers everywhere. The practice of buying new clothes (or anything new) for CNY has been ingrained in most Chinese people since childhood, and now that we’re adults we can end up overspending in this area. It’s important to realise that this is more a token to symbolise the new year than a true necessity, and perhaps there is no need to buy multiple outfits; a few pieces of clothing should suffice. Coupling your needs with available promotions is another extremely rewarding way to get what you need while spending much less money. Besides, many online retailers also slash their prices during the festive season, so if you’ve patronised a particular e-commerce site and know your size, get what you need online so you can save even more.
Decorating your home can be a costly affair, since every year technically requires new items to match the changing Chinese Zodiac. If keeping up with the neighbours is high on your list, you can consider making your own decorations from the many ang bao packets that you receive during the season. Staple them into lanterns, cut them up into fans, or puff them into various animal shapes if you have the creative inclination to do so. If all else fails, it’s alright to go out and buy a few decorative items, but to future-proof your purchases you may want to get ones that are evergreen. Instead of getting a red pillow with a dog on it for this year, you could get one with a “prosperity” character so that you can reuse it next year.
Even though CNY is a really important festival, there’s no reason why it should put a huge dent in your wallet if you practise these few cost-saving tips. Cutting down on smaller items can add up to significant savings, which can then be applied to your other commitments.