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Photograph: Faezah Shaharuddin

A guide to moving out of your parents' home in Singapore

Tips on navigating the scary process of leaving the nest

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Written by
Dewi Nurjuwita
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An emerging trend in Singapore is that more millennials are leaving their parents' homes and renting their own places. That's a far cry from what's considered normal in a collectivist culture like that of Singapore's. But with the lack of international travel and the need for freedom and independence, especially with everyone staying home the past year, more Singaporeans have been wanting to break free. 

Personally, I moved out at 24, slightly more than a year after starting my full-time job as a journalist. After three different living arrangements and dealing with an ex-landlord who threatened to call the police on me for strands of my hair on the floor (yes, really), I think I'm well-equipped to impart my knowledge. Do I believe moving out was one of the best decisions I've made for my personal growth? Definitely. Did I wish I was more informed before moving out? Hell yes. 

There are various resources you can seek out when doing your research. To help you get started, here's a non-exhaustive guide of what you should know before moving out of your parents' home in Singapore – from someone who has navigated the scary process of it all. 

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Making the decision

Determine your "why"

First of all, sit down with yourself and figure out the reason you want to move out. The common sentiment in Singapore is that renting is a waste of money, but try looking at it from a different perspective – moving out on your own could be an investment for your personal growth. 

However, moving out may not be for everyone. There are questions you should ask yourself. Is it financially viable? It would make less sense to move out now if you're saving up to buy a home next year, for example. Another question boils down to filial piety. Are your parents growing old and reliant on you to take care of them? 

Be prepared for a lifestyle change

Moving out on your own will definitely change your life – but it won't be a smooth sailing process. From learning to cook your own meals every day to doing adult things like figuring out the best electricity suppliers and fixing appliances that break down in the house, you won't have your parents to fall back on when shit hits the fan. But that's exactly what you're signing up for. 

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Talk to your parents

So you've convinced yourself that moving out is a good idea, what else could go wrong? But here's the most difficult part of this process: persuading your parents. Sure, Singapore may be a first-world city, but the culture here is for Singaporeans to stay with their parents until they get married. 

It may be a process. But try to ease them into the idea of you living on your own, like promising to visit them once a week or having them over for dinners. This might even help to strengthen the bond with your family.

Sacrifices will have to be made

Recognise that there are some trade-offs you'll have to make  – be it your love for shopping, bar-hopping or weekend staycations. Your priorities will shift, and you start to really understand the value of money. Sure, at times you start to question the decisions you make in life, like "why did I think it was a good idea to move out when I can live rent-free in my parents' home?" 

But you'll live, and you'll learn. 

Budgeting

Be money smart
Photograph: Dewi Nurjuwita

Be money smart

After possibly getting over the wrath of your parents, actually committing to forking out a huge chunk of your income a month for rent is probably the second scariest part. To be able to move out successfully without surviving off instant noodles, you'll need to take stock of your finances and learn to be money smart. 

A popular rule of thumb is the 30 per cent rule, where you should spend no more than 30 per cent of your gross income on rent and household bills. It's also a good idea to have three to six months of living expenses saved in your bank account before moving out – for unanticipated expenses such as medical bills, insurance, and more. 

Rent, security deposit, stamp duty etc

Monthly rent in Singapore can cost anywhere from $700 for a common room in Yishun to $4,000 for your own studio apartment in the CBD – so you need to determine your budget before apartment-hunting. You will also have to pay a security deposit when signing the lease. This would usually be a month or two months' worth of rent, depending on how long your lease is.

If you're renting an entire apartment instead of just a room, you should also be prepared to pay stamp duty, a tax that is required upon signing the tenancy agreement. It will cost 0.40 per cent of the total rent for the period of the lease. You should also set aside some money for the SP Utilities security deposit. 

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Bills, bills, bills

Surprise, surprise. That's not all. What most people forget to take into account when setting aside their budget for rent is the monthly household bills – like wifi, electricity bills, cleaning services (should you hire a part-time helper) and phone bills. 

Meals

Now that you're living on your own, you won't just find food magically served on the dining table when you get back home from work. You'll also have to set aside a budget for groceries and take out – you know, so you won't starve yourself to death. 

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Furniture and home decor

Another expense you should take into account is furniture and home decor – depending on whether or not your room or space comes unfurnished. A pro tip is to look for a fully-furnished space, but otherwise, it's smart to not invest in furniture (yet) since you're just renting the space. 

Here's time to get resourceful. Facebook groups, Carousell and thrift stores boast some pretty amazing finds, and you can even jazz them up to give them a new life. Buying secondhand not only helps you save money, but also helps to sustain a more secular economy. Otherwise, FortyTwo and HipVan offer affordable but well-designed furniture, too.

To build a home

Figure out your non-negotiables
Photograph: Dewi Nurjuwita

Figure out your non-negotiables

Okay, sure. But where do you actually begin your search? Something that might help is to come up with a list of non-negotiables. Do you need to find somewhere within five MRT stations away from your office? Should cooking be allowed? What about a live-in landlord? Write it all down and use that as a guide when shortlisting places to view.

Who should you live with?

The people you live with can make or break your living situation. So this is a very important consideration to make. But should you live with a landlord, friends, or on your own? 

Landlord 

In Singapore, renting a room in the landlord's home is the most common arrangement. Speaking from personal experience, this is usually not an ideal situation. Most homeowners are looking to offset a part of their mortgage by renting out their rooms – and it often comes with a set of rules like not having guests over, no cooking and other ridiculous rules. A friend once told me she wasn't even allowed to eat at home, with the exception of instant noodles and McDonald's. Go figure.

The upside to living with a landlord is that you don't have to worry about miscellaneous things like fixing the broken fridge. You just have to make sure you pay rent on time every month. And who knows, if you're lucky, you might find an understanding, chill landlord who lets you treat the space like your own.  

Housemates 

If you can't afford to rent a whole space on your own, or just prefer to have a more social environment at home, living with housemates can be a perfect balance. But it's also easy for things to go wrong if you don't know how to solve disputes. When house hunting, request that you meet your future housemates so you can figure out if your values and living styles are similar. 

Ideally, your housemates are the family you choose for yourself. It's important to learn to have open and honest conversations with your housemates so that you're all on the same page. This helps character development on how to deal with conflicts in daily life too, especially in the workplace.

Alone 

If you want a bachelor or bachelorette pad to call your own, or are simply an introvert who prefers kickin' it on your own, then living alone would be the best option. This is learning to be independent, on steroids. It can get lonely, however. Who are you going to cry to after being stood up by your Tinder date? Who's going to help when you're struggling to open the darn jar? Cues Mitski's Nobody

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Location, location

When home-hunting, Singapore is your oyster. Want peace and quiet near the beach? Try Marine Parade. Want to be a 30-minute journey from the CBD via public transport? Check out places in the city fringe such as Boon Keng, Potong Pasir, Geylang, and Aljunied. 

Is it worth it?

Photograph: Dewi Nurjuwita

At the end of the day, the decision is yours to make. Ask yourself if the benefits of moving out far outweigh staying in with your parents. Yes, you probably have less budget for miscellaneous expenses like dining out or shopping, and it might mean fewer savings for your future forever home – but what's your priority at the moment? 

Personally, I've learnt so much about being on my own, standing up for myself, setting boundaries and learning important life skills like meal planning, keeping my home clean, basic home maintenance and repairs, and creating and following a budget. 

Somedays, especially when you're sick, all you need is a warm bowl of chicken soup prepared lovingly by your mum. But the best part about it all is that, unlike our expat friends, home is just an MRT (or bus) ride away.

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