Why Whine About Price Hikes When You Can…

Millennial sad rising cost of living Malaysia

Petrol prices are up and subsides for cooking oil have been removed. For many of us, such measures are untimely, as we are already burdened with the rising cost of living.

Lecturer Ashley Greig recently made headlines for her plea to Datuk Seri Najib Razak, asking the prime minister to put the people’s needs first.

“Today, you decided on an increase on the price of fuel and cooking oil. Today, you decided on going ahead with your plans of increasing the cost of basic necessities for living. Today, you decided to bring upon suffering to people who are helpless and have nowhere to turn to,” she said.

But crying on Facebook is not going to solve your financial woes. After all, government policies will continue to affect us one way or another.

The only option is to take charge of your finances and you don’t need much to begin with. We’ll show you how:

Skip dining out for homecooked goodness

Malaysians spend about 31.2% of their income on food, that means roughly RM1,560 for someone earning RM5,000 a month. It is estimated the average Malaysian spends about RM700 a month just on dining out.

Eating in helps a person save more and to stretch savings, do these two things: buy more vegetables, less meat and stock up on GST-exempt items. Yep, scrap that salmon fillet off the list, why pay more for food colouring?

In fact, going vegan for a while can save you RM4,355 a year. If you slash the booze, you save an additional RM2,880 a year – and this is just a conservative estimate.

More saving tips:
  • Pack lunches and prepare meals in advance.
  • Create a grocery list in advance to minimise what you spend on food.
  • Buy snacks in bulk.
  • Avoid upgrades in restaurant meals.
  • Cook in bulk and save leftovers for a day or two and have them for lunch or breakfast.

The removal of oil subsidies shouldn’t get you peeved, too. To recap, the government has removed subsidies for all cooking oil packages other than the 1kg polybag and 5kg bottles. But on January 1, 2017, the subsidy for 5kg bottles will be dropped, meaning the government will only continue to subsidise the 1kg polybag.

Fine, just boil or oven bake your food. If you on a time crunch, slow-cooking works and if you are seriously pressed for time, just whip up a salad.

Get a (part-time) job

Malaysians went ballistic when Datuk Ahmad Maslan, the deputy international trade and industry minister, mooted the idea of getting two jobs.

Remember #2Kerja? Perhaps it’s not that ridiculous a suggestion after all.

If you are mulling over side income gigs, check this out: car ownership in Malaysia is the third highest in the world with 93% of people owning, renting or leasing a vehicle, double that of neighbouring Indonesia ad Philippines.

One thing most Malaysians have in common (if not all) is their mutual hatred for the traffic. This creates the perfect market opportunity for you to earn some cash.

Yep, take up ride-sharing. The proposition is not farfetched. We found that with only six trips and four hours a day, an UberX driver can earn up to RM2,373, while a GrabCar driver can fetch about RM2,248. In a year, you earn RM28,476 and RM26,976 respectively.

That can easily cover your home or car loan, making it easier for you to cope with the rising cost of living.

With extra income
Without extra income
Clear credit card debt
Outstanding balance: RM10,000
Interest rate: 15%
Pay higher fixed amount every month
Monthly repayment: RM2,000
Time to pay off the balance: 1
Year, 11 Months
Total interest paid: RM158
Just paying the minimum payment
Monthly repayment: Minimum payment of 5%
Time to pay off the balance: 6 years, 11 months
Total interest paid: RM3,158
With the extra income, you are able to clear your debt 5 years earlier, and you save RM3,000 in interest!
Getting an MBA at Nottingham University: RM46,000Investing a larger amount every month
Monthly contribution: RM2,000
Interest rate: 6% p.a.
Time to achieve RM46,000: 21 months
Investing a smaller amount every month
Monthly contribution: RM500
Interest rate: 6% p.a.
Time to achieve RM46,000: 6 years 3 months
With the extra income, you are able to save up enough for an MBA in less than 2 years, while it will take you more than 6 years to save up that amount by saving RM500 a month!

Do this while doing your bachelor’s degree, and you stand a chance of furthering your education without even needing to take a loan.

You can also opt for this right after graduating or during your first two years of working full time. By the time you get into grad school, you’ll also have working experience.
Clear PTPTN loan of RM90,000

Administrative cost: 3% p.a.
Monthly repayment: RM1,914.49
Repayment period: 3 years 8 months
Total interest incurred: RM4,602.18
Monthly repayment: RM1,914.49
Repayment period: 7 years 2 months
Total interest incurred: RM12,820.22
You’ll be able to clear your PTPTN loan within 4 years with the added income!

If your car is more of a bane than boon, then just sell it. How do you get around? Read on…

Carpool or take public transport

In Greater Kuala Lumpur, it is estimated that congestion costs the economy up to 2.2% of GDP while Malaysia as a whole, a third of urban roads are “at capacity or extensively queuing”.

Despite that, only 17% of commuters in Kuala Lumpur use public transport, compared with 62% in Singapore and 89% in Hong Kong.

To be travel savvy around the city, rely on public transport and carpooling. For carpooling, there are two choices: GrabHitch and UberPOOL.

The mechanics are simple: you either get a few friends with you to your destination or hitch a ride with other strangers heading to the same location as you. Everyone in the car pools money and pays the driver a flat fee.

SS2 to KLCC (GrabHitch)
Two-way travel fees:
No of passengers:
Total per month (20 working days):
Total per person:

That’s just a fraction of what you will be paying in petrol, toll and parking if you were to drive to KLCC yourself.

If you hitch a ride to and from work every day, here’s how much you save:

Petrol (per month)
Monthly parking fees
Total spent
Overall saving (minus Hitch fees of RM150)

That means you save RM3,600 a year just by opting for carpooling, and this amount does not even include your car instalment if you are still paying for it. What if you can’t carpool every day? Then, take the bus, LRT or the soon-to-be-launched MRT.

It’s all about you

At the end of the day, we can’t always expect someone else to swoop in to make all our problems go away. Any government that promises to solve everyone’s personal debts, is a government that will be driven to bankruptcy. What it can do is provide incentives to lighten the burden of its people, just like the annual budget.

Beyond that, it is all up to us. Why opt for a Starbucks latte every day when there are cheaper options available? Drop that off your must-haves list and you save about RM4,000 a year – just from coffee.

Even the gym. Who says you need fancy equipment to get fit? Forget spending RM3,000 a year, and access a decently equipped gym instead, which costs half that price.

Also consider your time horizon and make your money work for you. Boost your retirement fund, invest in stocks and shares and unit trusts, and do what you can – even if it means getting a second job – to increase your spending power.

Ultimately, work on cutting your debt. Defaulting on credit card payments or even dodging that PTPTN loan gets you blacklisted, but shouldering a debt is just a pain in itself.

So, stop whining… and start doing something about it.

Image from Huffington Post.

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