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Suraya’s Monthly Budget Update

Suraya’s Monthly Budget Update: See how I budget my money while living as a young adult in Malaysia.

Budget Update: August 2020

Budget Update August 2020

Budget Update: August 2020

Over RM17k. I’ve never spent this much money within a month in my life. Two categories made up 80% of the total spending in August 2020: Wedding (44%) and Donations & Gifts. (36%)

What can I say? I guess I learned that (1) Wedding planning is expensive, even with drastically reduced guest count due to pandemic – thanks pandemic, (2) being a filial daughter is my obligation, I will do my best to fulfil financial expectations, and (3) having the money to do both without getting into debt is one of the biggest blessings one could ever have.

Still, I acknowledge I do experience financial anxiety, even without debt. I keep thinking of what I can do to increase my income so I can ‘replace’ that money, keep revisiting non-viable and previously dismissed business ideas. My head goes, what else can you do, Suraya? What else can you do?

It’s exhausting but nothing worth having is easy, ay?

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Budget Update: July 2020

Budget Update: July 2020

Being an adult is accepting, and preparing for at least one major expense per month.

You can’t escape it. If it’s not paying taxes (my biggest expense in July 2020), it’ll be something else – home maintenance, car repair, replacing broken appliances, buying ‘smart’ upgrades (like a nice mattress so you’ll get a good night sleep, or noise-cancelling headphones to work better), medical treatment, whatever.

Once in a blue moon, you’ll get through a month without incurring a major expense, but later you’ll find that some months will incur multiple major expenses, so it averages out.

I’ve read somewhere that the only way to break this cycle is when:

  • you’ve successfully upgraded all your essentials to high-quality versions, so they break less and therefore need replacing less often
  • you put the payment on an instalment plan. You’re still paying, just not in one BIG chunk. Obviously this is cheating because you still end up paying the same amount
  • you can afford to pay for longer terms instead of shorter (ie paying for 5 years of driving licence instead of renewing annually). But yeah this is still delaying, not eliminating

I wonder if there are other ways to stop the major ‘Misc Needs’ or ’emergency’ expenses. How can one even FI/RE if we have to deal with this wildcard, forever? If ‘just budget it in’ the best answer?

Thoughts on this topic?

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Budget Update: June 2020

budget update june 2020

Budget Update: June 2020

There goes half the year. How’s everybody doing? Still alive right. Thankfully we were spared from the murder hornet and the swine flu storylines.

In terms of spending, the data says that I spent a total of RM7,508.45 in June 2020. The top 3 highest-expense categories were (yet again) Donations & Gifts, Utilities & Rent and Business. The Donations & Gifts data is simultaneously true AND a bit misleading – read more under the Yay of the Month section.

In terms of earning, well let’s just admit that I failed spectacularly in achieving my lofty ‘moonshot’ new year’s resolution goal, ‘earning RM100k by June’. Not even half that. But my earnings weren’t that bad to be honest, considering everything. I still have the rest of the year to work on it. Plus my investment value and net worth still went up, so that lessens the sting a little bit.

Talking about investments. Will it keep going up though? We’re acting like everything is okay (well, the stock market is). I’m not buying it – I do think we’re in a horrible, horrible bubble which is about to pop, and recession will be something we’re forced to deal with, instead of pretending it’s not there.

But of course, I’m no economist, and I know many parties are working hard to AVOID the worst-case scenario from happening.

What are your thoughts about everything? Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?

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Budget Update: May 2020

Budget Update: May 2020

In May 2020, I spent a total of RM4799.69, with two-thirds of that across only 2 categories: Donations & Gifts and Rent & Utilities.

Most donations went to Raya food orders (saved my family the trouble to cook on Raya Day 2) and duit raya giveaway. At first I was like hmm I should donate to other causes too (and I did), but then I remembered, charity starts at home.

May 2020 was a very strange month. I think I was out of focus for a good chunk of the month, due to (1) fasting, and (2) still processing the pandemic. Some days I feel like I’m handling it well, some days I just kinda zombie out and just do the bare minimum, professionally speaking.

What would you suggest I do? Advice wanted. I want to ‘snap out of it’ so bad. I want my pre-pandemic mental clarity back.

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Budget Update: April 2020

Budget Update: April 2020

Another month where only 4 categories showed up in my expense-tracking app:

  • Business (RM4,877.69) – mostly paid the balance of book order, and packaging for deliveries
  • Utilities & Rent (RM1,352.47) – ze living quarters
  • Misc Needs (RM565.22) – restocked cat food and cat litter, bought office chair, new stand fan and kettle (more on that under Nay section below)
  • Everything else

Let’s talk about something. Donations. This has been on my mind, and I just want to let it off my chest.

As you know, a lot of people are having financial hardship. A lot of people are seeking help.

I think… I’ve become increasingly desensitised to the many, many donation calls which appeared in my social media timeline. Nowadays I simply scroll past most of them, opting to take the ‘don’t see, don’t know’ approach.

As time goes on, I know that I will only give my attention and money to the donation calls that are especially gut-wrenching. The ones with emotional pictures and copywriting. They work, you and I know they do, think of the last donation you made. And as NGOs understand how well they work, they’ll use that strategy more and more.

The higher volume means I’ll get desensitised to those soon enough, too.

Feeling guilty for not doing more when I have the means to do so is a constant feature of my life now. I’m aware how much this sounds like virtue-signalling – I’m pissed off at myself too because boohoo kesian Suraya wow she feels horrible, wtf Suraya this ISN’T about you, how DARE you think YOU have it rough when millions, maybe BILLIONS of people will starve. In 2020.

I don’t know, you guys. Does avoidance as a coping mechanism make me a bad person? Is choosing to prioritise my FI/RE journey a bad thing? I hate that I hate wealth inequality, yet choosing to do the exact same wealth preservation strategy the rich are making, by ‘staying invested’.

Bleak thought process? Well it’s a bleak world. I’ll try and focus on the good, but I can’t lalala my way out of this. The journey to understand my own psyche continues. I hope eventually I’ll come to a better way to cope and/or manage resources. This is part of personal finance too.

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Budget Update: March 2020

budget update march 2020

Budget Update: March 2020

For the first time ever, my Expense chart only showed 4 categories:

  • Business (49%, representing RM5,535.74 – mostly RM4200 as 50% deposit for book printing),
  • Donations & Gifts (RM3,850.95 – mostly Zakat and Covid-19 donations),
  • Groceries (RM716 – stocked the hell up), and
  • everything else (combining the other 8 expense categories).

A lot? Yes. Some, I planned. Others, nope. It’s a lot of expenses, but all most of it were mindful, non-frivolous expenses. I gave what I could, even though I always feel like I could do more.

In terms of mood, I would divide March 2020 into:

  • First two weeks: oh I’m sure this problem is nothing we can’t manage, the government/other parties will sort it out soon enough
  • Last two weeks: OMFG YES WE MUST ALL DO OUR PART TO OVERCOME THIS

What a decade, this first three months of 2020.

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Budget Update: February 2020

Budget Update: February 2020

Did anyone get any work done at all during the two-week political crisis??? Holy smokes on a stick, all that really did happen didn’t it??

Whatever happens, I just hope that (1) we don’t normalise corruption again, and (2) good economic policies benefitting Malaysians – not just rich Malaysians! – will be made.

Now back to my expense breakdown. Business, Rent & Utilities and Groceries expenses made up two-thirds of all my February 2020 spending. Travel and Public Transportation categories are lower than usual, due to lack of events to attend and cancelled events.

I wonder how long this will continue. I’ve read how COVID-19 is accelerating the number of companies offering remote-working option. If this goes on, maybe this will even be the new norm :/ What a situation we’re living through right now.

Does COVID-19 affect your expenses at all? In what way?

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Budget Update: January 2020

Budget Update: January 2020

I had a good start to the year, if I do say so myself! There were definitely more ups than downs in January 2020, I’m feeling very grateful 🙂

In terms of expenses, I guess not breaking RM6k is a minor win, given all my ongoing projects – both business and personal. I think I struggled a bit with focusing, reducing anxiety and ‘switching off’ (because there were too many things going on!) and while my coping mechanism could be better, it’s not horrible either.

For example, here’s an unnecessary cause of stress: feeling guilty that I enjoy being distracted with work *while* I’m exercising, because it makes the time go faster. It feels like cheating somehow. I actually felt better after giving myself permission to just do it, because at least some exercise is better than no exercise right? Small matter, but there you go.

Here’s another unnecesary cause of stress: my parents – because they love me so much, and also adat – want a more elaborate wedding procedure than what I would have planned for myself (oh surprise I’m getting married this year). It was hard for me to accept, but I guess it is what it is and above all I want to make them happy. So my solution? I gave them a budget to stick to. Let’s see if that works.

All these, I guess, are examples of ‘change what you can, accept what you can’t’ in practice. As much as you want to try and change the situation, sometimes you just can’t, you gotta admit that and be okay with it and move on. Life just don’t hand you everything you want because you ‘want’ it or ‘worked’ for it.

What’s something you don’t particularly like but kind of accepted in life, and try to make the best of? How do you reduce unnecessary stresses? Share with me in the comments section!

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My Total Income and Expenses in 2019

Welcome back to my total incomes and expenses report, now in its fourth year! In this annual series, I’m as financially naked as I can be – you’ll know how much I earned for the whole of 2019 and what I spent on during the year.

Seriously, I love that I keep such meticulous record of my financial data (even though it’s nowhere near perfect, but perfect is boring and not to mention impossible). I love that I can share this information with you, so you get to see how record-keeping is beneficial in practice.

This article is divided into two big sections: incomes (recorded via a Google spreadsheet) and expenses (recorded via my expense-tracking app).  If you’re a regular reader, you should already be familiar with my expense breakdowns anyway – I post them every month.

Income in 2019

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Budget Update: December 2019

budget update december 2019

Budget Update: December 2019

Note: My expense-tracking app, Money Lover got a new visualisation update. I like it fine, except it removed the ‘biggest single expense of the month’ segment in the above graphic. I miss it 🙁

So I spent RM5,444.39 in December 2019. Top 5 expenses were: Dates/Travel, Rent & Utilities, Business, Groceries and Social. More about the breakdown below.

As I write this, New Years Day have came and went. It’s 2020 y’all! It’s still surreal, but I’m sure we’ll all get used to it soon enough.

Lately, I’ve been thinking of the ways that the environment shape our money behaviours. One concept is Nudges, a term popularised by Nobel Prize in Economics winner Richard Thaler. Nudges are measures implemented to gently guide society members to pick one decision over another.

The simplest example is the items positioned at eye level in grocery stores – you still have the freedom to buy whatever you want in the aisle… but you’re more likely to buy the ones positioned at eye level (that’s why companies pay for that space btw).

One powerful nudge is social pressure. For example, studies show that people in a neighbourhood are more likely to recycle if they know that all their other neighbours recycle, too. You don’t want to be the odd one out.

If your new year’s resolution is to save more money or make more money, then use this information to your advantage. Increase your exposure to nudges that work to your advantage.

For example, increasing your exposure to personal finance content creators in various social media (websites | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube). If your feed is telling you that it seems that everyone is trying to get better with money, you will too.

Likewise, try and recognise when for-profit companies are trying to take your money by nudging you a certain way.

That’s the end of that thought process for now. Let’s continue to be better. All the best in 2020, fam.

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