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! 🙂