DESPITE expectations of bigger bonuses in a booming economy, most Singaporeans would rather save than spend, and if they do spend, it will be to settle their bills.
A Straits Times straw poll of 100 people showed that more than half planned to squirrel away some, if not all, of it.
Last Wednesday, the Government announced that civil servants will be getting a two-month year-end package.
That, together with what they received in July and another payout next March, makes their bonus package for this year the biggest since the 3.5-month bonus paid out in 1993.
Secondary school teacher Yu Xinyi, 29, who has a nine-month-old daughter, has already decided how she will spend the extra money: 'We just moved into a new home in August, so we will probably buy some things for the house. I'm thinking of getting a $1,100 electric piano. The rest of the bonus I will save for my child's education.'
Those who are spending their money seem to be focusing on two main areas: travel and investment.
Travel agent Lin Mei Ling, 52, expects two months' bonus because of the 'improving travel industry'.
'I plan to use the money to travel to Europe for a holiday in June,' said the mother of one, who takes home close to $10,000 a month.
'But things are unpredictable in the travel industry,' she added. 'So I will save a fair bit of it.'
The turnaround in the economy is also good news for investment bankers.
One, who declined to be named, said he can expect an 18-month payout of about $700,000.But despite the small fortune, he will not be splurging on luxuries.
Said the 34-year-old, who earns about $40,000 a month: 'I will be investing in gold and in emerging market equities and bonds. The rest I will save for a rainy day.'
Software engineer Giresh Prabhat is, however, allowing himself to indulge in a special occasion: his wedding next June. The 26-year-old is hoping for at least one month's bonus to help pay for his big day.
Others are planning to offset bills, from housing loans to cellphone bills.
Cleaning supervisor Juliana Razali, 46, is hoping for two months' bonus this year.
The money will go a long way for the mother of three, who earns $1,700 a month helping to supervise building management and cleaners at an Orchard Road shopping centre.
She lives in a four-room flat in Jurong West with eight others, including her three sons and four young grandchildren.
'To me, money is very important,' said the divorcee, who still has to help support three sons: One has just been released from jail, another is an odd-job labourer and the third is doing his national service.
'I will use it to pay my mortgage, and my cellphone and utilities bill. With the bonus, I do not have to keep thinking of all the bills piling up. That can be quite a headache. I will save whatever is left,' she said.
Last Thursday, labour chief Lim Swee Say said companies would not be pushed to match the bumper bonus which civil servants will get this year because performances across different industries and companies varied.
Still, human resource experts expect companies to pay between one and three months' bonus on average.
Ms Chew Suan Chin, a lecturer in human resource management at the Singapore Polytechnic, said workers could expect three months' bonus this year. Last year's average was about two months, she added. 'The economy definitely picked up in the third quarter of this year, and has stabilised now, so companies will have some money put aside for bonuses,' she said, adding however that bonuses may vary from industry to industry.
Her advice to consumers? To save at least part of their bonuses.
She said: 'The economic situation in the next six months will be relatively stable. But beyond that, it is anyone's guess.'
It was a sentiment echoed by Mr Paul Heng, managing director of NeXT Career Consulting Group.
'The United States' unemployment figures have remained stubbornly high, and though hiring activities have been moving and staying northwards, we never know when things will go bad again,' he said.