Monday, August 10, 2015

The Power Of Free

It's been a really fantastic long Jubilee weekend for all of us. 

For the nation, we celebrate our 50th jubilee year of national independence and it has been a truly remarkable journey for all Singaporeans. The grand celebration at Padang was also an indication that marks the face of the tiny little dot to the envy of the whole world.

However, one thing that stands out from the "giving" for this Jubilee weekend has been the exceptional power of "FREE" that marks a truly significant sharing to all Singaporeans by various vendors and attractions.

One of those attractions I mentioned was the Art of the Science Museum at Marina Bay Sands, which was offered free entries during the Jubilee weekend. I was personally there to witness the long queue myself and had planned to join in until I was told that the waiting time was over 5 hours. I changed my mind of course. My rationale was simple. If the cost of the entry ticket to go in is $30, then a 5 hours wait might not be the most sensible thing to do. This is myself of course being able to have the luxury to spend on these things. Perhaps, we could argue that it was not the case for everyone, but I think most people in the queue would be able to afford the tickets easily.

The free cable ride offered at the Sentosa was another which I was bemused. Last I am hearing, the waiting time for the free cable ride goes for as long as 10 hours. That's practically almost half a day long just awaiting for the free entry to the cable ride. Does it make sense for someone who can afford to do so on any given normal day? Maybe not so. But humans are predictably irrational, as Dan Ariely will tell you so on the power of free.

The Power of Free

In his book on the "Predictable Irrational", Dan Ariely talked about how the hidden forces of free shapes the irrational thinking of mankind. It's like as if there are almost no downside limitation to it. After all, what can you lose if you are paying nothing? Not nice or not fun? Hey, it's FREE!!! Some may argue that the waiting time I talked earlier was a downside, but perhaps maybe not many think so.

On the investing front, we can relate the concept of delayed gratification to this. Since many people are seemingly eager to participate in the activities that they do not have to pay upfront, perhaps the same can be said and applied to personal finance. If these people are able to sustain and control their physical and emotional awareness to waiting, then my assumption is that they are able to control their buying impulsiveness for the greater good of the latter. After all, it is all about sacrificing the current state to the benefit of the latter, which most likely is the case.

For this very same reason, then we could perhaps deduce that the low utility of personal finance to Singaporeans would be more due to the not knowing how than the irrational state being of the individual himself.

What do you think of this concept of free? Would you have done the same waiting if you were there?


  1. Hi B,

    I thought of going, but realised that the q is going to be long, hence I didn't even try. I think my time is more valuable than the cost of the tickets haha! I spent most of the holidays working half day and spending the other half with my wife/friends on off beat places, far away from the crowd. I'll have my fun when others go to work tmr...

    Seriously, I'm happy that the holidays are over..the last few days of waking up early for work is killing me :(

    1. Hi LP

      Hahaha, I think all the more this will not apply to you because of your so-good circumstances where you can enjoy the weekdays in style and that's where the value is. I am sniffing in envy as I am writing this.

      I'm surprised that students are hardworkingly going for tuition during the jubilee weekends. I enjoyed my jubilee weekends a lot and wish it would not end so fast.

  2. Hi B,

    Hope you have a great holiday. I definitely enjoy the long weekend.

    I hate queuing even if it is FREE! Even if they pay me to queue for the museum and cable car, I will not do it also.

    I did not queue physically but instead have a more than 1 hour car queue 1 way suppose to Marina Barrage to catch the few minutes of Jets performance - Suggested by my siblings. Eventually I did not get to see them bcos it was too jam and raining and I ended up at satay by the bay.

    Worth it! No? Did I expect the jam? Yes! Then why I go. bcos my mum wanted all of us to get together! I just want to pacify her and my siblings and do not want to be a spoilsport.

    So now, you can see what can make me Queue. Not FREE things, but RELATIONSHIPS!

    1. Hi Rolf

      That's a great way to look at it and nice holidays you have as it turned out :)

      Queueing for something that is intangbile, something like relationship or when the great LKY passed away, is something worth queueing up for. Other than that, if it is measurable with the amount of money, then we would usually quantum that with the amount of dollar by the number of hours.

  3. B,
    Relating to what you write, I have a question - how do you view the 'free' CDA topup 1 on 1 match from govt? I know your son was born last year, and did you take advantage of that?

    1. Hi Anonymous

      Unfortunately, my son wasn't eligible for it as he is a SPR.

      But I would have gladly maximized the CDA for a free 1-on-1 top up if eligible. I think that's a really great way to get your kid's account up and going.

  4. Hi B

    I spend my holidays as per my usual weekends so I didn't even bother to visit any of the attraction. It is a pain just by thinking of the queue. haha.

    1. Hi Frugal Daddy

      Wah you have great foresight!!!

      I didn't really go anywhere special too, just somewhere where I think it's not as crowded :)

  5. I thought of going to the Art Science Museum too but then I ended up shopping instead since there were some good discounts going on ;)

    1. Hi Joyce

      I was in the same position as you.

      Saw the long queue and got turned off by it. Went to Sacoor thereafter and they are selling a 70% discounts on all their items. World class. Value buy :)

  6. Some people have plenty free time to spare.

    1. Hi Uncle CW

      True, at home also might waste on sleeping, or even worse binge drinking ;)

  7. Hi B, I went to art science Muesum too, on the first day, I think the queue on the first fau morning is not that bad, maybe 1-2 hr? But we left for Garden by the bay which is worse since the black knight is performing and we got so jam at the road, that a u turn took 1 hours.

    In that end, we went suntec and it is surprising quiet/ had a good lunch and brought movie tickets on the spot with no queue.

    We did visit the free orchid garden, it is a it crowded, although there is no need to queue.

    It's not about Free. My friend jio to go night safari on fri afternoon. There is no discount of whatsoever. But my friend replied 15 min later that both fri and Saturdays are fully booked!!

    Madness. Seriously, I dun really feel rest since I am rushing here and there to bring my in law and my parents out ...

  8. Hi SI

    I might have bumped into you :)

    I actually went to the gardens by the bay first, albeit just walking around outside and then returned back to the mall for lunch. After lunch, when we were about to enter, we saw a huge queue lining up and immediately we knew there wasn't a chance anymore :(

    I had visited the free orchid garden on a weekday where it is much quieter. I love botanics, have been going there with my family almost on every weekend :)

  9. I love that book by Dan Ariely, and those huge waiting times are fantastic examples of the strange power of free. It's like getting something for free is such a big event that it's worth almost any opportunity cost for some people!

    Sounds like it was a great celebration, hope you had some fun unlike all those people lining up for 10 hours!