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The Sales and Marketing Trap – How Companies Get You To Buy More Than You Actually Need

Ah, capitalism. 

No matter how vigilant we try to be against the tricks of the trade, I’m pretty sure we’ve all fallen victim to seemingly ‘innocent’ marketing traps at one time or other. It’s the .99$ promos, the membership discounts, the buy-1-free-1 deals. We think we’re getting a bargain; that we’ve outsmarted the game. In reality, we’re all just suckers in a system designed to separate us from our money by playing on our wants – and turning them into ‘needs’. 

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Case in point: despite being well aware of all of the above, I still fell victim during the recent year-end sale. I didn’t NEED a bunch of body butters in various scents when I already had some at home that would have lasted me for at least two months. I just FELT like I needed them, and because “it would be a shame not to buy them at a discounted price”. But the loser at the end? Me. Because I ended up spending more. Score one for corporations, zilch for Eris. 

So how exactly do companies get you to, in sales speak, ‘go through the purchase funnel’ ? (ie buy their stuff) ?  Let’s take a look: 

Relentless Advertising

Ever searched up something online, then got constantly bombarded by advertisements of related products and services? This is because despite all the assurances of privacy and etc., companies DO collect data about you and your browsing habits – to be used or sold to potential advertisers to create targeted ads. Some websites give you a heads up that they ‘collect cookies’, but it’s all just a show to appear transparent – because many of these sites do so without asking for permission anyway, and there is no way to regulate this. This is probably why you’re seeing a lot of hotel deals on Facebook, after looking up airfares to Langkawi. They can wrap it in fancy terms like  ‘tailoring a more personalised experience’, but I’ll call it what it is: digital stalking. And they’ll keep showing you ads – until you finally cave in. 

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I recently shopped for items on The Body Shop online, since they had a promo and were giving away freebies (another way of sucking you in to buying stuff…coz who doesn’t like free stuff?). For the next few days, I kept seeing ads for body creams, lotions and fragrances. Inadvertently, it weakened my resolve – and I ended up buying more items from Bath and Body Works, which I did not actually need. Was it my fault for succumbing? Partly yes – but that’s how companies target your psyche, and ultimately push you into action. 

Free, But…

Behold the magic word. 

Malaysians love freebies and discounts. It’s the reason why many of us don’t mind lining up for hours on end just to get a free bag which would probably have cost 5 bucks. Was it actually worth it? Maybe not, but hey. It’s free, right? 

But is it really? 

Here’s an example, again from my experience at The Body Shop. So aside from buying online, I also bought from their physical store, to get Christmas gifts for friends. The sales person suggested that I sign up as a member, which would entitle me to a 20% discount. But to be eligible for a member, I had to purchase a minimum of RM80, and my gifts were like RM20 short. I ended up getting body butter for another 80 bucks. -___- 

Did I actually NEED the body butter? No. But my brain basically rationalised the purchase, saying ‘Hey, you got that for a 20% discount!’ 

Upgrades

Related to the above. I also commonly see this at Starbucks, where the barista will ask if you’d like to upsize your drink for an additional 1 or 2 bucks. Question is, do you actually need to drink that much ? Or are you just upsizing because you think that you’re getting much more ‘value’? 

“Unbeatable” Deals

I can’t remember where I read this, but I once came across this saying that companies don’t sell products; they sell FOMO, or the fear of missing out. Buyer’s psychology is such that we feel the need to one-up, to get (or at least believe that we got) the best value from our purchase.

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The sales tactic works extremely well for this. The end of the year is especially brutal, what with the 10.10, 11.11, 12.12, Christmas and new year’s sales. Yours truly can testify, having held out for all of them except for Christmas, and more recently, Bath and Body Works new year sale (bought another body butter and a candle for RM39 each). Speaking of which, the .9 tactic is another way companies make you believe that you’re spending less, and that you’re getting a deal. Because again, buyer’s psychology is such that RM39 seems much more appealing than RM40, despite it being just a RM1 difference. 

While I’m sure many people are well aware of all these little marketing traps, it can still be difficult to resist at times – especially in this day and age where we’re constantly exposed to marketing messages of buy more, spend more. Unless, of course you have a willpower of steel.  For the rest of us, we’ll just have to be more conscious about our purchasing habits, and be more intuitive in our spending. 

Now excuse me while I go apply some of those damn body butters I don’t actually need.

Hello!

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How To Be A Cheapskate: Christmas Edition

When I was younger, I used to scoff at people who’d go out of their way to get free samples.

“There’s shower gel at home, why on earth would anyone want to take that tiny little bottle that will probably only last for one use?” was basically my attitude to people who took amenities from the hotel after a stay. Spoken like a true spoilt brat lol.

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But as with everything in life, change is the only constant – and now that I’m at that age where the burger boy actually calls me ‘kak‘ instead of ‘cik‘, I can finally understand why.

I come from a middle class family, and growing up, I knew my parents weren’t rich so I’ve never asked for anything. But at the same time, I’ve never wanted for anything – I’ve always had quality clothes to wear, good food to eat, all the books I could ever read. I had a Digivice, a Walkman, a vid game console, and in my teens – a mobile phone – which was more than what most kids my age (at that time anyway) could say they had.

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After coming out to work, though, I’ve come to realise the value of money. Now if I wanted something, I had to work for it. And as you get older and have more commitments (family, household, etc.) you realise that every little thing adds up t – and if you can get something that would help you save, no matter how small, you’d jump on it in a flash.

2020 has, all in all, been a pretty shitty year for a lot of people. I count myself luckier than most (Haven’t been laid off. Yet.) but I’ve also been more cautious in spending.

Since it’s the festive season, though, I wanted to give myself a little treat after a long year of ‘fasting’. So I devised… a little plan.

THE PLAN

The ‘plan’ was actually accidental.

I’m not a girly girl, and I rarely buy makeup / clothes / accessories / bags. My only weakness is body products and fragrances. I love candles, scents, shower gels, lotions, face masks… that sort of thing. Because of this, I follow a lot of brands on social media like The Body Shop, Lush, L’Occitane, etc. It so happened that while scrolling through my feed recently, I happened across an online event by The Body Shop, which promised a free jute bag: all I had to do was RSVP to the event, take a screenshot to confirm that I was ‘going’, and redeem the bag when I next visit any of their physical stores.

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Who can resist a scented vanilla candle and a nice diffuser? Photo for illus only don’t actually put candles on your bed, folks. Via Pexels

So … you know how ad targeting works on the Internet ? Once you’ve clicked on one thing, the system records this ‘interest’ and will recommend (read: bombard) you with related ads. I was suddenly getting dozens of body/ beauty product ads – most of which were offering promos/sales for Christmas. Some were even gamifying their campaigns, to make them more fun and interactive.

With this in mind, I started looking up different brands, to see if I could get a similar ‘deal’ as the one from The Body Shop. My goal was to look for giveaways with no minimum purchase – so I could get stuff for free, with no strings attached.

My second goal was to look for brands that were all under one roof, so I wouldn’t have to go to and fro and waste gas money. Since 1 Utama Shopping Centre is close to my work place, and they have dozens of beauty brands, I used the place as a ‘benchmark’ for my search: by looking up all the possible beauty brands available in the mall’s directory. Yes I know I have too much time on my hands lol.

The first one I found was Kiehl’s. They had made this nice little interactive game, where players had to complete a few in-game tasks like answering questions about their product and playing some mini games, which would then entitle them to free samples. The next was L’Occitane, which had a similar campaign – register, play some games, get samples.

CASHING IN

I went to the office on Sunday to get some packing done, so I dropped by the mall. My first stop was L’Occitane. It was actually pretty fuss-free. I showed my screenshot of the voucher code from their mini game to their staff, and they gave me a packet containing the promised 12 sachets of hair and face care samples. They also invited me inside for a look, although I’m pretty sure they knew I wasn’t there to buy stuff lol. Gotta commend L’Occitane staff though. You know how some staff members treat you dismissively coz they know you’re just there for free samples? None of that here: service was still impeccable.

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will the day come where I’m so rich I can buy stuff without looking at the price tag? We may never know
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Next, Kiehl’s. I’ve never even set foot in a Kiehl’s store before because I know I could never afford their items lol. Still, the brand has a good reputation and it seems like their marketing campaign worked well – because there was a long line of customers waiting to go into the shop. I had nothing better to do so I spent 40 minutes lining up lol. Ask a 20-year-old-me and I’d probably tell you you’re dumb to spend that kinda time for free samples. but like I said, people change.

Again, the staff at Kiehl’s was very profesional – she even explained to me what each sachet is for and how to use them.

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Last but not least, The Body Shop. Unfortunately the 1U outlet had run out of jute bags. I got this from IOI MALLwhile I was out running errands.

WAS IT WORTH IT?

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This might seem funny but I did feel a sense of accomplishment at getting all these samples. While I doubt I’d see much effect from one use, it’s still nice to get what is essentially a treat, and would have cost money to buy under normal circumstances.

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Also, I managed to do a fair bit of Christmas shopping (gifts for friends) while I was at the mall. If it had been solely to get samples, I think I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to do so.

And that is How to be A Cheapskate: Christmas Edition! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it ! And if you have any tips on saving during the festive season, I’d be delighted to hear about it in the comments below.

Seasons Greetings, and have a good one!

If you enjoyed reading this, please consider supporting my website. Contrary to popular belief, I do not make big moolah from writing – and this will go towards hosting fees and ensuring that I can continue to deliver authentic content for your reading pleasure. Thanks for stopping by!

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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) 

PS2: The weekly updates will be on Patreon. You can subscribe here. I haven’t had the time to give my Patreon some lovin’ – things have been crazy at work, and I’m also trying to squeeze in some time to get into the course I just enrolled in. Follow me on other social media channels on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Your support would mean the world to me! 🙂

Money Matters : Recouping My Finances

Hey guys! 

Been a little busier than usual. Hustling two side jobs on top of my regular job, which is currently undergoing a transition/change of management. Not sure if it’s a good thing, but there are a lot of teething pains atm that I have to keep track of.

Anyway, I blew a big chunk in my savings recently (about RM8k – or USD2000). It wasn’t entirely necessary, but the money was spent and there’s nothing we can do about it now lol.

While I still have savings, they aren’t at a level I’m comfortable with, especially since I’ve been in the workforce for over six years. And with the economy now in a slump (I work in the media/travel industry), the future of my career seems pretty uncertain. I am of course worried about how I’ll be able to tide this over if things go tits up.

To recenter my thoughts, I’ve listed down a cost breakdown of necessities I spend on each month:

  • RM500 – ‘Rent’. I still live with my parents because it’s more cost saving, but I make it a point to pay them this amount every month as ‘rent’. Living with your nuclear family is still a common thing in Asian societies, and I get home cooked meals – but my mom drives me nuts sometimes. Also, I can’t have cats at home. I will talk about the struggles of owning a house in a separate post, probably.
  • RM120 – Phone/internet bill, for the Mom and I
  • RM100 – Internet bill (home)
  • RM100 – Parking at work
  • RM200 – Gas (to and from work). About RM50 each week (my car is small and doesn’t consume much).
  • RM100 – Toll. Because tolls are inescapable in the Klang Valley. The path I take to work has a mandatory toll booth. The other path is free but the distance is further so the expenses come to almost the same amount anyway.
  • RM200 – Unit trust fund investment, deducted monthly.
  • RM50 – Donations to UNICEF.

Total: RM 1,370. 

I haven’t included food because this is where I have no self control. I love food, and I don’t mind paying for a nice lunch. The problem is when I keep paying for nice lunches and dinners – sometimes I can spend up to RM1000 a month on food (don’t judge lol).  This is an area I need to seriously improve on.

Even if I’m not going to cafes and whatnot, an average meal (no frills, hawker stall, no air conditioning, no drinks) in the Klang Valley would cost around RM7 – RM10. So say you’re only eating out for lunch, that’s still about RM300 per month, not inclusive of the cost for home cooked meals that one can make for breakfast and dinner.

Usually at the beginning of the month, I force myself to save a chunk (Anywhere from RM500 – RM1,000) in my separate savings account, which I do not touch. These are the funds I withdraw from for holidays, emergencies, car breakdowns, insurance payouts at the end of the year (health + car = RM1,500 per annum wtf. btw my car insurance > my life insurance so y’all know how much my life is worth lol). I also pay to run this blog (about RM600 per annum for storage, domain, etc.) because it’s a passion of mine. I earn zilch from it.

Other than that, I don’t spend on anything else, aside from the occasional books (I shop at Book Xcess to save money). I don’t buy makeup, I don’t buy clothes unless it’s the Lunar New Year, I don’t have a Netflix / Spotify account or subscribe to any entertainment of any kind (Youtube ftw) and I’ve worn the same pair of shoes for over a year. I also haven’t watched a movie in the theatre since Avengers: Endgame, not just because of the Coronavirus scare, but also because there hasn’t been anything that piqued my interest. If I’m in dire need of entertainment, I usually watch Youtube, read, go to museums or bookstores.

I know there are aspects that I can improve on, namely the food part. Some people might also argue that I can forgo driving and take a public commute instead, but I think that’s only an option if I’m desperate due to time concerns.

For the next couple of months, here are my plans to recoup my finances:

Continue my side hustle(s). I took a break from it for awhile because having to use my brain for like 16 hours a day was taking a toll on my wellbeing. I work from 10AM – 6.30PM, a large chunk of which is spent writing, then I go home and work for an hour or two on my writing side hustles. On weekends, I write for a full 8 – 10 hours as well. That’s not to mention running this blog, because as funny as it sounds, I need a space where I can write in my own voice, to retain some measure of sanity. The money from these side projects is actually peanuts compared to the workload, but they’re something to fall back on in case I lose my regular job.

Eat out less.  I’m setting a goal to only eat out once or twice (sometimes I skip breakfast because I can’t get up early – then I’d usually buy a sandwich from the grocery, and those are expenses). And I want to try not to use more than RM20 per day for food. That’ll still be RM600, minus weekends.

Reduce stress levels. This is another thing which I think will be very challenging, because I get stressed easily. I have anxiety, and the women of my family (my grandma, my aunts, my mom) have a history of mental illnesses related to neuroticism, like depression and anxiety. I tend to eat for comfort as a coping mechanism. Which creates this vicious cycle of stress – eat – stress – eat. Not only is it not good for the waistline, but also my health and finances.  It’s easy to tell someone not to be stressed, but it’s damn hard to practice it. I’m just going to try practicing mindfulness, and channel my stress into something else such as exercise or reading, rather than eating. 

Keep a record of expenditure (and stick to it). I have a bad habit of starting a journal to track stuff, whether it’s food or expenditure – filling up a couple of pages, and then abandoning it. I’m also not much of an apps person, which is why I prefer writing things down physically. I think having a financial diary is important because you can really see in black and white where tf your money has gone for the month.

And that’s about it. I’ll check back in a month and share how it goes.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear if anyone has tips on saving up and managing their finances – your input is much appreciated! 🙂

 

 

Get Cashback from your Online Shopping with ShopBack

I don’t want a discount…. said nobody ever.

Especially Malaysians. We’re natural bargain hunters.

The festive season is an exciting time for shoppers – so much to buy, so little time!

As times change, an increasing number of people are ditching malls and turning to online shopping sites like Groupon, Lazada and Zalora. Everything under one virtual roof, and you never have to step out from the comforts of your home.

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With Raya just around the corner, most of us will be buying new clothes, new decorations for the home, stocking up on cookies, etc. Our wallets are sure to feel the pinch!

Now, what if I told you… there’s a way to get money back from allllll that online shopping?

Got so good meh? you ask.

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If I’m lying you can smack me around like Batman.

 

Well, enter ShopBack Malaysia, the cashback site that literally pays you to shop.

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What is Cashback?

You get your cash back. Not hard to understand.

ShopBack rewards cashback for online shopping, giving you a portion of the amount you spend on their affiliated merchant sites.

The concept is already well-known in countries like US and the UK, and is slowly picking up in Asia. Founded in Singapore, ShopBack spread its wings to Malaysia a year ago, and has since cashed back millions of ringgit to shoppers.

They work with no less than 500 merchants, including some very big names in online shopping.

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Shoppers can look for Hari Raya shopping and promotions – baju raya and shawls from Zalora, consumer electronics from Lazada – or find the latest vouchers from Groupon Malaysia.

The cashback rewards are not limited to just products, but also things like hotel stays from booking.com and Agoda, travel packages from Air Asia, beauty treatments from Hermo, and even food delivery services from foodpanda!

Wah, I want! So how to shop?

Simply go on to ShopBack and register for an account. Oh, and… (Malaysians love this word) – it’s free.

Once done, click on the products and services listed on Shopback, to be redirected to the merchant sites where you can shop as usual. Just by doing this one extra step, you’ll get up to 30% cashback, plus enjoy merchants existing discounts and credit card rebates!

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Make it rainnnn moneyyy

After shopping, the cashback will go into your ShopBack account, which users can cash out at the end of the month through their local banks (Maybank, CIMB, etc).

TLDR: Watch this tutorial video.

Must share-share:
Good things should be shared, so tell all your friends! Best of all, they give you added rewards when your friends sign up, so you sama-sama happy. Just invite them through this link: https://www.shopback.my/referral/invite

Selamat Hari Raya and Happy Shopping! 

 

No Money No Honey – Starting Married Life in Debt

Til Debt Do Us Part ? – article from Malay Mail.

Okay, so it’s not a new story: it was written in 2013, but I saw it reposted on a friend’s account and it got me thinking.

If you read the article, it talks about how about how some young couples spend thousands of ringgit, just to have what they think is the ‘perfect wedding’. I don’t know how it works in the West (do you guys just register, go to a church and get married or something?) but here in Malaysia, a wedding is not just an affair between two people. It involves all our families, our relatives to the ninth degree, friends and friends of friends, the entire neighbourhood…. well, you get my drift. It has something to do with our Asian culture: everything should be loud, boisterous, flashy and gets the whole community together. Many things also have to do with ‘face’.

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Pic: Aliexpress.com 

What is face? you ask. Face is a facet of ‘pride’. If you humiliate someone in public, you make them ‘lose face’. The same applies if something is not ‘good enough’. If you are highly successful and influential people, for example, and you have a small private wedding with just a few friends and family, some might say you are losing ‘face’ because as successful and rich peeps, you should have a lavish wedding to show your wealth and prosperity. This is particularly prevalent in Chinese communities (of which I belong to lol) and the older generation.

Since it’s best if I talk about something I’m familiar with, I will explain how a typical Malaysian Chinese wedding is like.

“You are not considered a married woman or a married man if you do not have a wedding dinner.” – actual quote from some Chinese auntie I was talking to 

Prior to the wedding dinner, we have a tea ceremony. Groom and bride will offer tea to all the elders according to rank (rank is important in our culture) and receive blessings in the form of red packets (angpaus). Then the groom will fetch the bride back home. They prepare for the wedding dinner.

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Sorry, only wedding dinner photo I had and we all looked kinda fugly after alcohol.

The dinner will usually be at a Chinese restaurant, or a hotel where they serve nine courses of ridiculously lavish sht like birds nest, sharks fin, suckling pig and what not.

Each table seats 10pax, and will cost the bride and groom upwards of RM1,888++ (about 300USD) per table. Why all the eights? Because eight sounds like ‘prosperity’ and we are suckers for symbolism. The wedding, at a minimum, will usually have 10 tables or more. Some big dinners have upwards of 30 – 40 ie 300-400 pax. You do the math of how much it will cost. And that’s excluding makeup, bridal gown, photoshoot or whatever else.

Guests who come are expected to give a red packet. It really depends on where the dinner is held. If it’s a nice place, they can give RM100 (pretty standard in the KL where I stay)….but it’s really up to the person coming. Nobody will point a knife at you and say you have to pay the minimum, it’s just courtesy. Some families of four will come and pay only RM100 for all four people lol. So even though the red packets help a bit, it is usually not enough to cover the cost.

At the end of the day, couples spend at least RM30,000 and above for their wedding dinner. That’s not counting costs for makeup, bridal gown, photoshoot and various miscellaneous stuff.  Heck, I can tour Europe for a month with that kind of money – I’d rather blow it on that than a dinner that only lasts ONE NIGHT. 

Some of you might argue, “Hey! It’s a wedding ceremony! It’s a once in a lifetime thing so it’s okay to be lavish.”

I beg to differ.

In Cantonese, we have a saying: “ngoi cheng yum sui bao”, or ‘If you’re in love, even drinking water will make you full’. With all due respect to ancient Chinese scholars or fishwives or whoever came up with this, the reality of life is not a bed of roses. Starting a life with your significant other is.. well, life changing. Sure, you now have two combined incomes to share –  but with that comes other ‘married life things’ you have to think about. Like getting a house together, a family car, possible children, etc.

However, many traditional Chinese parents strongly encourage (which is a politer way of saying demand) their children to have wedding dinners. Back to the ‘face’ thing, because they want their relatives, friends etc to see that their children are doing well and are able to afford a lavish ceremony….Which is really just putting their kids in debt. Some even have to borrow from their parents in order to pay for the expenses.

Imagine starting married life with no savings, because you blew it all on some wedding dinner for ‘face’. lel 

I’m lucky that my parents aren’t too traditional. They told me I can do as I like, as long as it makes me happy. 🙂

What’s your take on lavish weddings? Splurge coz it’s a once in a lifetime thing and memories can’t be bought, or.. save for stormy weather ?

Let me know in the comments below!

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’.