Can I Survive For A Month On RM1,000?

So due to unavoidable circumstances (pay cut + I enrolled in a course; a decision I agonised over for long time before finally taking the plunge lol), I officially have RM1,000  left to spend in the month of October.  For the benefit of my foreign readers (if I have any), that’s about USD250.

Selena said it right

This is after deducting the usual necessities I spend on each month:

  • RM1,000 – Savings, which I do not touch. Ever. Unless it’s for emergencies or large purchases.
  • RM600 – ‘Rent’ aka allowance to parents.
  • RM120 – Phone/internet bill, for the Mom and I.
  • RM80 – Internet bill (home).
  • RM200 – Unit trust fund investment, deducted monthly.

…. okay, so I guess that was kind of a clickbait-y title. 😛 

I obviously can’t survive on RM1,000 if we factored in all of the above. But one grand should be plenty for transportation and food, right?

Hm.

I spend a huge chunk of my salary on the noms. Yes, I know. It’s a problem. I don’t need a RM30 ramen lunch at Menya Shishido when I can just as well eat RM6 zhap fan – I just want it. But as the end of the year draws close (and I get to find out very soon if I’ll be keeping my job), this is the perfect time to train myself to stop spending so goddamn much on eating lol. It’ll be good for the waistline, and for the pocket. I don’t spend on anything else really – shoes and clothes are all items I buy like, once a year. Last month I splurged on a Vans bag which cost RM180 – and even then I was hemming and hawing as to whether I should buy it (my last bag was literally in tatters) so that’s not an issue. It’s just… food dangnabbit.

Since our office tenancy is expiring soon and we have the green light from higher up for a WFH arrangement, I think I’ll be able to save a little on transportation; ie spend less on fuel and toll. I might go to the office once or twice a week, since my neighbour’s construction is still ongoing and the noise drives me rabid. But yeah. I think it would be a good idea to make weekly posts to keep myself accountable on my spending –  and we’ll see by the end of this ‘challenge’ whether we’ve managed to keep to the budget.

PS: I am fully aware that there are plenty of families out there who have to survive on an income below RM1,000, including Malaysia’s urban poor. This post is not meant to mock or complain – if anything, this is a good personal reminder on the importance and value of money. I know that I am more privileged than most, and me cutting back on a coffee or two / dining out less is nothing compared to a single mother worrying about providing milk powder for her baby (did you know that milk powder is the no.1 most stolen items in local hypermarkets? Source: I used to work at a hypermarket when I was a teen) 

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Staying In A Capsule Hotel – Riccarton Jonkerview, Melaka

Capsule hotels were first mooted in Japan, during the economic boom of the 1980s. The concept came about as a solution for salarymen who needed a place to crash for the night after work and socialising into the wee hours of the morning. ‘Pods’ in these hotels often comprised of a basic, single bed, and perhaps a TV.

While they’re still used for this purpose today, capsule hotels have become a novelty for many travellers, especially backpackers, as they are cheap and provide a better semblance of privacy as compared to traditional shared hostels. The concept can now be found all over the world, including Malaysia.

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My (work) trip to Melaka was on a tight budget (the company wasn’t paying for it), so when I saw a promotion on Agoda for the Riccarton Jonkerview Cottage capsule hotel going for just RM36 per night, I snapped it up faster than Thanos. I was also curious as I had never stayed in one before. There were some hiccups at check-in, as the front desk staff was new and didn’t know what to do (her senior had to prompt her every step of the way, from asking for ID to asking for deposit payment), but nothing major.

There were lockers at the lobby where we had to store our shoes and put on house slippers, for cleanliness reasons. If you have baggage, there are larger storage lockers in the common area as well. Being the paranoid people that we were, we decided to stuff our backpacks inside the pod itself.

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The common area had a couple of chairs and tables + a water dispenser. Bathrooms were shared, but I have to say that everything was super clean and they had all the facilities: warm shower, shampoo, etc.

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Our pod was an upper one. My knees groaned in protest each time I had to climb up and down (which was fairly often to go to the toilet). I had a sudden feeling I was getting too old for this. That being said, the design was definitely interesting and unique. They looked more like space pods than anything else.

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The inside was surprisingly spacious, equivalent to a queen-sized bed. The mattress was thin but firm, and each pod came with a blanket, two pillows and towels. On the side of the panel was a small safe, light controls (you can switch the lights to different colours and have a rave party inside, I suppose), air conditioning control, USB plugs and a small mirror.

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There was an Android TV but their Wifi wasn’t working. Wi-Fi was only available at the lobby.

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When your s/o is more engrossed with playing games than cuddling with you. 😡

We didn’t spend that much time inside the pod since most of the day was spent exploring.

Now this has nothing to do with the comfort and cleanliness of the place and more to me being a spoiled brat, but I couldn’t sleep the entire night. I’m a light sleeper, and the sounds of the creaking (when people got up to use the bathroom, etc.) kept jolting me awake – but I guess it would have been the same if it was a hostel or shared dormitory. Being so close to the action can be a con, as there was loud music blasting away even at midnight, and the walls are thin enough that you’d hear it as if it was inside the pod.

If you’re used to staying in backpacker hostels and don’t mind the noise, the Riccarton Jonkerview Cottage Hotel is a steal. It’s also an interesting experience for anyone who has never stayed in a capsule hotel.

PROS

  • Convenient location (literally steps away from Jonker Street, close to Dutch Square)
  • Clean
  • Shower, locker facilities
  • Towels provided

CONS

  • Noisy
  • Limited parking (there is parking behind the hotel, but it’s usually full. We had to park one kilometre away).
  • No breakfast options, but there are plenty of restos and coffeeshops in the area

RICCARTON JONKERVIEW COTTAGE HOTEL 

No.3, Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, Taman Kota Laksamana, 76450 Melaka

Phone: 06-281 1691

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Review: Pasqarto Food Delivery in Petaling Jaya

Food choices are quite limited around my office area, so I was curious to try this food delivery service called Pasqarto when I saw their brochure lying on the pantry counter one morning. Orders have to be made before 12pm, so I tried ringing them on the number.

Five times. Nobody picked up.

I was going to give up but then thought what the heck, so I sent them a Whatsapp, which finally prompted a response. The menu is pretty limited since they only have six items. I opted for the garlic chicken spaghetti carbonara. Food was delivered 1.5 hours later to the office doorstep.

Surprised by the hefty portion! The pasta was al dente and still warm, although the sauce had dried up a little. Overall it tasted nice and homemade. I really liked the garlic chicken strips which were marinated and seasoned well.

Also came with a complimentary drink, served in a cute baggie. All for the reasonable price of RM7.90. Considering chap fan costs as much now, this is very value for money.

Orders are minimum for two portions and delivery is within Petaling Jaya only.

facebook.com/PasQarto/

 

 

 

Lunch Hack

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This cost me only RM2. A regular bowl costs RM5. 

I wasn’t feel very hungry over lunch but I wanted to eat something. Colleague had a large wantan mee (egg noodles with barbecued pork and dumplings), so I bought five dumplings for just RM2, then took some of her noodles. Voila!

I have a feeling there will be more of these cheapo meals if our economy doesn’t improve. ._.

Surviving on RM2,500 a Month?

IF you were like my dad, you were probably one of those people queueing up at petrol stations last week when the government suddenly announced a 20sen increase in RON95 fuel effective Wednesday midnight, to get in a last minute full tank before the prices increased. Apparently this was ‘in line with the government’s plans for subsidy rationalisation’… whatever that means.

Hey, I’m a layman. I only know that I now have to pay a few bucks more every time I fill my tank, and that’s gonna add up to my travel expenses over the months. I’m sure most people think the same way.

IF you were like me, you wouldn’t have been surprised that another damn thing has come by it’s way to increase living costs. While it would be unfair to compare with countries where people scrape by for a living, if we don’t put a stop to this way of handling our finances, we will be headed there. Soon. Malaysia’s budget deficit has already been in hot water for a couple of years, and with slow growth compared to other up and coming South East Asian economies like Indonesia and the Philippines, we will soon lose the edge factor that has kept our currency value higher than those countries for many years now.

I know I’ve blogged about this like a year before, but here I am again, because things haven’t changed and have actually gotten worse.

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Image from http://ismizalizalu.blogspot.com/2010/08/rm50-error.html

A recent report  by ‘economist and financial management experts’ was released today (Oct 7), claiming that RM2,500 (about 767 USD) is sufficient for fresh graduates to cover their living costs, such as house rental, transport fees, food, etc.

I call bullshittery. 

The report stemmed from a survey on a local job portal, where 77% of 2,062 respondents on a local job portal felt that RM2,500 is insufficient as most could barely save after spending on basic necessities. Most put the cap on RM3,500 while 30 percent asked for RM6,500. – source: The Star Online

While 6k is too much for a starting salary (wtf kind of jobs ru applying for?), 2.5k is definitely slim pickings, especially if ur living in a large city, like me.

I wouldn’t have written this blog post if it weren’t for the ridiculous statements given by these so-called experts. I quote:

“The key here is patience. If during your practical training you could take a bus, why not do the same now? Don’t think that as soon as you start work you could just forget how you lived as a student”. –  economic lecturer with Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) Professor Dr Shazali Abu Mansor

Yes, I took the bus when I was a student during my practical training. The Keyword here is practical training. Most employers would be understanding if you are a student and you can’t afford to drive. For myself, as a journalist, I travel a lot. I could still get to places as an intern by relying on my photographers, the bus, the taxi, etc. However, all of that changes when you’re already an employee. My colleagues are all busy people and they would expect me to handle my own shit and not give them trouble. Because I’m constantly running around doing ‘heavier’ assignments as compared to the easy ones I had as a student, I can’t afford to be late and everyone knows our public transport is unreliable Many employees travel around these days, like those in sales, marketing, events, etc. Your argument would therefore only apply to a select group of individuals, say, people who have a 9-to-5 job who don’t have to travel anywhere but from home to work and vice versa.

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source: wikipedia commons

“Apart from that, he advised that those who have just started work should not rush into buying luxuries like a car. They should stabilise their financial position beforehand. “Owning a car at a very young age is definitely ‘cool’ but one should not forget of the additional ownership costs involved – fuel, toll, parking charges, maintenance and insurance coverage when lumped up could prove to be hefty”, – head of the education division of the Credit Counseling and Debt Management Agency(AKPK), Mohd Adnan Anan Abdullah

A car is not a luxury these days. It is a necessity. Have you ever tried taking the bus, my dear Mr Mohd Adnan? I did. For close to five years, from my house in Puchong to my college in Kuala Lumpur. A trip by car takes around 40mins without the jam, and a trip by ‘public transport’? Close to two hours. No buses run into my area, so I still have to rely on someone (I was car-less then) to fetch me to the bus stop 10 mins away, wait for a bus (which would never depart on time) to KL Sentral, where I would have to catch the train, and then another bus to my college. As a student, that time could have been spent finishing up my assignments and studying for tests, and I’m sure for many working people, they wouldn’t have the time NOR energy to take public transport that way. I’d rather invest in a car than go through that sort of nightmare again. They did say ‘time is money’, ja?

Why not stay outside, you ask? That comes to my next point. Why do people rent/buy places far away from the city centre when they have to bloody travel hours to get there? And While I stay at home to save costs, many fresh grads out there don’t have that option because they travelled from other states to Selangor to work. The rent for a room close to commercial areas, say PJ (Kampung Tunku) is RM600 (small room, basic) and RM800 (with air conditioning. If you’re a Malaysian, you’d know that the weather here can easily reach 30 degrees or more. U’d die without at least a high powered fan). Utility bills amount to about RM100-200 a month (if shared with housemates), and most people would need Internet (People use it for work now. I use FB regularly for contacts and stories), costing another RM150 a month. That’s almost half of the ‘sufficient’ RM2.5k gone. (Tentative damage: RM850-900)

And since most people wouldn’t have been able to buy the car outright, they would have taken bank loans repaid over five, seven or nine years. For myself, my monthly car loan repayment is RM470, minus insurance that I have to pay at the end of each year (RM1,000). My petrol (since I travel frequently) comes to RM300 a month. People who park regularly in certain places would have to pay a monthly season pass for their cars. (RM100) (Tentative damage: RM800)

Then food. I guess this is the part where grads can save the most by cooking their own meals, ja? I guess our ‘experts’ would say that. Say an average meal is RM10 per meal (a cheap one, mind you! Unless you wanna eat roti canai and teh tarik for every meal) and you cook for breakfast and dinner… you’d still be paying RM300 for lunch alone. If you’re super thrifty with your groceries… I guess it would come up toRM250 per month? (Tentative damage: RM550)

That pretty much covers it. But because I also give a small sum to my parents, I’m gonna include another RM400 here. So let’s start doing the math – if I’m an out of towner who rents a room, has to have a car to get to work and eats moderately priced meals while sending parents a small amount of money back home. 

Total: RM2,600. That’s definitely over the budget. If I gave absolutely zero to my parents, then I’d have saved RM300 per month. x12 and that’s RM3,600 per year (minus car insurance -1000). Good luck on your home purchase, because a basic condo in the city costs at least RM400k these days.

And we’re only looking at singles. What about young fresh grads who are about 24-25 years old and already have families or commitments? Next the experts are gonna tell us that we should all be single until we’re 35.

The point is it’s easier said than done. Of course there are many youngsters out there who spend their credit first without thinking about the consequences, who never save for a rainy day or who demand for unreasonably high salaries without the experience to match. But for every one of those people out there, there are dozens who are trying really hard to earn a living. Having ‘experts’ spew this kind of nonsense and put it down to ‘unwise’ spending is a real large load of bullcrap and shows how they have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. These statements are hurting the prospects of job seekers, as employers see it as a way to further pull down our salaries. I have lots of friends who are fresh grads from uni, and they’re not even paid RM2.5k, but a meagre RM1.5k.

When I first started out last year, my first employer offered me 1.5k and I had to take it because I didn’t have an option. I ended up with no money left over at the end of each month, and I wasn’t even renting a room. I had to get a car because there was no public transport to my workplace, and most of my money went to repaying my car loan and the petrol.

To the ‘experts’. I’d like to see you survive on RM2.5k a month in the big city. THEN, come back and tell us if you really think it’s ‘sufficient’.