Take the challenge: Would you be able to survive on S$5 a day?
Would you be able to survive on just $5 a day for food and transport?
That's what a new campaign called "Singaporeans Against Poverty" is challenging you to do. The brainchild of Caritas Singapore, the community arm of the Catholic Church in Singapore, and a coalition of partners, the S$5 challenge aims to raise awareness of the cycle of poverty in the country.
The S$5 is based on what each member of the bottom 10 per cent of income-earning households here spends on average, on food and transport combined, daily.
Based on the Department of Statistics, there are some 105,000 such low-income families who survive on S$1,500 a month here.
"Because when Singaporeans encounter issues on the ground, many show that they care. Too many of us still live in our cocoons. We invite you to come out and join us on this mission. Be surprised at what you don’t know. And be inspired to act and make a difference," said its campaign website.
So instead of asking yourself, "Which car should I buy?" or "What clothes should I wear?" or "Which enrichment classes should I sign my kids up for?", the campaign asks everyday Singaporeans to walk in the shoes of the underprivileged.
Two 987FM deejays, Rosalyn Lee and Bobby Tonelli, did just that, challenging each other to survive on S$5 a day, and chronicled their journeys in the below video clips.
Watch Rozz's here:
Speaking to Yahoo Singapore in an email interview about her experience, Lee said she considered it to be revisiting an earlier part of her life, where she lived on less than $5 each day during her teens and early adulthood.
"I did not suffer, if that's what you're wondering," she said. "When money is tight, we have to make whatever we have stretch. Lesser money means smaller, simpler meals... it was easy to spend within my means."
She shared that she usually spends anywhere between $12 (if all her meals are at hawker centres) and $400 (for a dinner with cocktails, although this, she says, happens about once a month), but said she did not consider limiting her expenses to $5 to be a challenging exercise -- even finishing her day with 50 cents left over.
"It made me sad to be reminded that there are still people among us who live below the line," she said. "It hit home for me because I've been there before. But I also realised that with careful planning, it's possible to survive on $5 a day in Singapore... I knew my experience would come in handy some day!"
Tonelli was slightly less confident about his ability to stick within the tight budget, admitting to Yahoo Singapore he expected to run over the amount at first.
"But I think once I was in that mode, that mindset, I started thinking differently," he said in a phone interview, sharing that taking on the challenge was a very humbling experience for him.
Citing his usual diet of chicken, beef and fish, and his regular food expenditure of between $15 and $20 a day, he said he knew it would not be possible to stick to it, and found himself seriously considering his options.
"I'm budgeting myself on $2.50, $2.75 at most, on food. What can I get? And that was the tough part. That was really, really tough!" he said.
Watch him live out his challenge here:
Eventually settling on a can of soup and a loaf of bread, Tonelli said he was surprisingly still able to feel full.
"You make soup, dip the bread and that fills you up," he said. "I remember having that as a kid and I remember I was very cool with that. A couple slices of bread and a can of soup could be two meals for me."
Reflecting on his experience, Tonelli, an American who has lived in Singapore for close to seven years, said it reminded him how fortunate he is to be able to spend the money he does on food each day -- coupled with his daily journeys to and from work by taxi.
"You also realise how expensive (living in) Singapore is, and I think with the (possible) fare hikes they're going to be doing now across the board, it's going to get a lot more expensive for people who don't make a lot of money," he added.
"When you do it, that's when you realise how difficult it is... it makes you think twice about the decisions you make," he said, sharing that he now double-checks the prices of just about everything he pays for.
"I think it would be nice to see people from all walks of life doing this. Everyone -- politicians, bankers, businessmen, lawyers, doctors -- should try it and see what it's like. It humbles all of us... and teaches us to be grateful for what we have."