How To Save & Enjoy More On Regular Things You're Already Paying For

How To Save & Enjoy More On Regular Things You're Already Paying For

1 April 2020

This article was originally published on MoneySmart Singapore.

During my parents’ time, if a brand was known to be reliable and had a long history, they would stick to it till the end of time.

That is true to a certain extent. Due to their experience in the market and availability of resources at their disposal, traditional brands tend to offer cheaper prices as they can leverage economies of scale, and quality through research and development capabilities.

However, times have changed.

We are increasingly seeing the disruption of traditional business models by “new kids on the block” that through innovation, are able to hasten existing services, introduce new customer-centric features, and even bring more perks to the table by thinking differently. We’re talking the likes of Grab rides versus traditional taxis, Netflix & HBO GO versus cable TV, and telehealth versus clinic consultation.

Sometimes, it might be much cheaper to go with the newcomers for the same/similar product or service. This is good for us customers too, as more competition in the market keeps traditional brands on their toes and quality high.

Let’s take a look at some of these “newcomers” versus their more traditional counterparts:;

Open Electricity Market retailers versus SP Group

If you’re still late to the game, OEM doesn’t just stand for original equipment manufacturer — it also stands for Open Electricity Market, an initiative led by the Energy Market Authority of Singapore to liberalise the electricity market so that residential users like us can pay less for electricity. Whoohoo!

Before November 2018, most households had to get electricity through SP Group, which meant that we had to pay fixed prices pegged to the prevailing regulated tariff. After making the switch, I have been paying 30% less than that for my electricity. Yay to cheaper household bills!

With the introduction of these electricity retailers, the increased competition also means we benefit from promotions/rebates/bundle deals and enjoy prices way below tariff rates.

Here’s a quick comparison table to show what other retailers are offering at the moment:

 Prices of fixed rate plan (24 months), inclusive of GST
Senoko Energy 17.66 cents/kWh
Geneco 17.98 cents/kWh 
PacificLight 17.98 cents/kWh 
 iSwitch 17.98 cents/kWh 
 Tuas Power 17.98 cents/kWh 
 Sembcorp Power 18.10 cents/kWh 
 Keppel Electric 18.35 cents/kWh 
 Ohm Energy  18.95 cents/kWh

(The prevailing regulated tariff stands at 24.63cents/kWh for Q2 2020)

 

From the table above, Senoko Energy currently offers one of the cheapest electricity plans — its LifePower24 plan is going at a promo rate of 17.66cents/kWh for 24 months.

Senoko Energy has actually been generating electricity since 1977 and powers approximately 20% of the nation’s energy needs. This power goes into our national power grid, and also supplies businesses that are big users of electricity.

Here’s also a quick look at how much you can save if you “lock in” at this price:

 Type of housing Senoko Energy's Fixed 24-month plan @ 17.66 cents/kWh   SP Group's Q2 2020 Regulated Tariff @ 24.63 cents/kWh
3-room HDB @ ~261.9kWh/month  $46.25/month  $64.51/month
4-room HDB @ ~353.9kWh/month  $62.50/month  $87.17/month
5-room HDB @ ~430.1kWh/month  $75.96/month  $105.93/month

*Average electricity consumption statistics via EMA

 

Senoko Energy also has other perks to make this deal even sweeter.

Exclusively for MoneySmart readers:

  • Sign up for any Senoko Energy plan with the promo code SENOKOMS30 to receive a $30 bill rebate off your electricity bill. Limited to the first 100 sign-ups.
  • Enjoy an extra $20 referral rebate when you have an existing customer refer you.
  • There are also other bank promotions to enjoy such as:
– $100 bill rebate with Standard Chartered Bank
– Up to 5% rebate with UOB One card
– 3% monthly rebate with OCBC 365 card
– Earn up to 3.3 KrisFlyer miles for every $1 spent with American Express

 

As a customer, you can also access Senoko Energy’s smart rewards programme to enjoy lifestyle discounts and giveaways. Note: Even if you’re on another plan right now but due for renewal soon, you can still sign up and choose to start your contract with Senoko Energy later (within 90 days of signing up).

Ride-hailing apps versus traditional taxis

Previously, we had to flag down taxis from the roadside, queue up at taxi stands, call/SMS and wait for one, or attempt to use their archaic booking apps. On rainy days, or when drivers usually “changed shift”, it was often next to impossible to locate a cab.

But with the appearance of ride-hailing apps, getting a cab was suddenly so much easier and I no longer needed to worry whether I can even get a ride to my destination.

Travelling in neighbouring countries that had ride-hailing services also became much safer (location tracking) and cheaper (especially places where drivers don’t use the meter).

Even the drivers themselves benefit. They don’t need to go round in circles and can rely on the app to get their next customer. For customers, the success of ride-hailing apps have pushed traditional taxi companies to improve their digital capabilities and app interface.

This has even transformed the gig economy, as many people drive Grab to supplement their income, without needing to rent a taxi from the traditional players out there.

Online grocers versus supermarkets

In 2015, amid the giants of supermarket brands, a tiny online grocer launched in Singapore. What is a RedMart? How could it compare to gargantuan stores that also offered delivery services? And could this concept really survive?

5 years on, even after its acquisition by Lazada in 2016, this e-grocer has withstood the test of time where competitors like HonestBee have since shuttered. Its prices remain on par with supermarkets as well.

There’s a plethora of hard-to-find items on the online grocer (it stocks over 173,000 products), including my favourite atas jams from Britain and expensive French butter, as well as housebrand items that bear the RedMart brand.

RedMart’s detailed cataloguing has spurred other brick-and-mortar supermarket brands — the traditional model — to improve their foray into the online space. In addition, the convenience of being able to select specific delivery slots has been pushing supermarkets to improve delivery services.

Although expansion has been rapid for the newcomer, social responsibility remains a big pillar for the business. The e-grocer stocks snacks from emerging local startups that have yet to make a name for themselves, and also ensures its housebrand items are both sustainable and healthy (paper products are fully certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council; and food products are free of MSG and preservatives, with no artificial colours or flavouring).

Even its fleet of vans are non-refrigerated (to conserve energy) but well-insulated to maintain freshness.

Telemedicine versus waiting at a clinic

In the past couple of years, we’ve seen the rise of telemedicine apps like Doctor World, Doctor Anywhere, WhiteCoat and so on…

Through these telehealth services, you can consult a real doctor either via video call or a message-based chat instead of trudging to the clinic when infectious or immobile. Just like a traditional clinic, you’ll undergo consultation and diagnosis, with the meds and MC delivered to your home. Some even offer consultations with specialists or even aesthetic doctors.

Honestly, I haven’t tried this service yet. But my friends who have, tell me that it might be cheaper than physically going to your GP. Prices start from $18. Although it’s a bit more expensive than polyclinics, who wants to wait in line when they are unwell when they can be lying on their bed? Also, with the Covid-19 outbreak right now, I’d rather stay at home.

Many of these telemedicine services have tie-ups with reputable names, such as Raffles Medical, Sata Commonwealth, AIA Singapore, and more. And telemedicine is also recognised and regulated by the Ministry of Health.

On-demand entertainment versus cable TV

When cable TV reached our households in 1992, we suddenly had access to tons of shows and channels, unlike free-to-air television. However, viewers were largely limited by the show schedules.

On-demand television was still a very new concept in the early 2000s, with some local providers offering Internet TV. Video streaming platforms like YouTube were also still in their infancy.

Meanwhile, Netflix started its online streaming service in 2007, in the United States. This didn’t really take off until the company decided to transcend beyond being just a distributor to that of a producer. Its first original series was House of Cards, which really took off thanks to its star-studded cast and crew.

Knowing that viewers tend to binge-watch, the entire season was released at once. The crowd went wild, and more original TV series were made. Soon, those in Singapore were trying to get an account on Netflix before the service was officially launched here in Jan 2016.

Another provider, HBO, was one of the paid-TV channels available on cable TV. It started producing original shows since 1997, most of us know what is probably its most famous TV series, Game of Thrones, which premiered in 2011.

These days, many of our cable and pay-TV operators have since made their content available online and on-the-go — not to mention more affordable.