expenses in 2018
Suraya's Monthly Budget Update

My Total Income and Expenses in 2018

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Doing a tally of my total incomes and expenses for the third year in a row! In this annual series, I’m as financially naked as I can be – you’ll know how much I earned for the whole of 2018 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.

FYI, incomes are recorded via a Google spreadsheet while expenses are recorded via my expense-tracking app Money Lover.  If you’re a regular reader, you should already be familiar with my expense breakdowns anyway – I post them every month.

Income in 2018

In the My Total Income and Expenses in 2017 article, I wrote: ‘In 2018, I don’t actually want to ‘earn as much as I can’. I want to take it slow, earn where I can, but mostly focus on personal projects and self-development.’

I did just that. In 2018 alone, I produced my first theater show, organised a writing competition to self-publish a book and created a deal-finding website.

I also traveled to Hong Kong and Japan, danced at music festivals, went on retreats, attended workshops, funded my parents’ umrah and only took on jobs that fit with my schedule. It was an incredibly memorable, fulfilling year.

My total income in 2018: RM70,739.14, or an average of RM5,894.93 per month.

Some notes about my income in 2018:

  • It’s a good amount, I’m grateful. However, it’s also lower than what I earned in 2017 AND 2016 (RM170,718.33 and RM76,151.19 respectively).
  • The majority of the earnings came from (1) sponsored posts, (2) writing projects, and (3) ad money.

No doubt I had fun doing ‘just what I want to do’ for the whole of 2018, but I can’t continue that approach anymore. I need to hustle hard, need to step it up in 2019 so I can get financially independent faster.

So with that note, I need me some of that #abundancementality mindset, that juujuu which attracts wealth and abundance. If you see it, please send some my way pls thanks the very much.

Expenses in 2018

How I got my total expenses in 2018: I use an expense-tracking app and simply compiled all the spending data in 2018.

Total expenses in 2018: RM105,369.41 or an average of RM8,780.78 per month (rounded up to RM8,800 per month)

I know I spent more than I made in 2018 way before the year ended.

I’m quite ashamed of this fact, but accountability is accountability, I’m not going to conveniently edit that part out from this article. Knowing that 2018 was a year of ‘fun’, I should have scaled my expenses back, but I spent more even more than the previous year (I spent RM102.8k in 2017).

In short, I got used to my lifestyle upgrades and didn’t know how to live on a lower amount.

That’s bad, but at least I now know this about myself while I’m still young. I still have time on my side to work my ass off and play catch up.

Breakdown of expenses:

And here it is sorted by categories, from highest to lowest:

Breakdown and comments on each expense category

1) Donations and Gifts – RM29,871.58 or RM2,489.30 per month, on average

The biggest chunk of my expense in 2018 was RM15,580 for my parents’ umrah. If you’re interested to know the motivation, I wrote the background story in the October 2018 budget update article.

And then the rest is just the usual: zakat, gifts to friends and family, donations to organisations I like, things like that.

…Is there… such a thing as giving too much money away? I’m aware that sounds like the most annoying humblebrag ever, but please hear me out: I’m torn between ‘the more you give, the more you receive’ narrative and the ‘only give away what you can afford to give away’ narrative.

Err… any advice?

2) Business – RM18,306.25 or RM1,525.52 per month, on average

If I earned an average of RM5,894.93 per month, and my business expenses averaged RM1,525.52, then my nett profit aka salary per month is just RM4,369.41 :/

Things I paid as business expenses in 2018:

  • Facebook ads
  • Ezoic Premium, an ad-optimisation software
  • WhiteSmoke, a proofreading software
  • Domain renewal
  • Technical support when my website went haywire (from the ever trusted ClickWP)
  • Attending the Female Entrepreneurs Movement Bootcamp (FEM Bootcamp)
  • Fees for my upcoming book’s editor
  • Fees for my upcoming book’s illustrator
  • Memberships to trade organisations
  • Laptop instalments (paid off!)
  • Virtual assistant (although I decided to stop using a VA since May 2018)
  • Writers’ retreat
  • Books
  • Transportation to various events, meetings and networking opportunities
  • And other misc expenses

My business expenses in 2019 is likely to increase, since I plan to ramp things up. Oh dear God please give me good ROI on those business expenses.

3) Utilities & Rent – RM14,964.63 or RM1,247.05 per month, on average

Gotta live somewhere.

4) Dates/Travel – RM7,603.03 or RM633.59 per month, on average

My personal life sure was interesting in 2018. That’s all I’m going to say.

5) Insurance and Medical – RM5,501.81 or RM458.48 per month, on average

Mostly the money goes to my medical card, PA insurance and braces instalment.

6) Misc Needs – RM5,281.97 or RM440.16 per month, on average

Misc Needs is a category for random ‘must pay’ things that don’t really fit elsewhere. I have to pay these, or I’ll either go to jail or will pay for it in some way or another.

In 2018, the following expenses got logged as Misc Needs:

  • Tax payment
  • Cat food
  • Replacing a lost security pass
  • Replacing home stuff like towels
  • Stationaries
  • Phone screen cover
  • Stocking up on toiletries like shower gel, shampoo, sunscreen etc
  • Eyebrow threading
  • Replacing my broken bed and broken stand fan
  • SSM renewal
  • Replacing old jeans, tank tops etc
  • Sports equipment and accessories
  • Replacing phone charger cables
  • And other misc stuff

It’s good to know my Misc Needs expenses can reduce – it averaged RM660 per month in 2017. Although I think it’s due to luck and timing too :/ I mean, if I’m slapped with a RM1000 fine or go to jail, obviously I will pay the fine right :/


7) Groceries – RM5,271.53 or RM439.29 per month, on average

Kind of the same amount from the previous year. My groceries bill is kind of consistent, wow.

According to my app, I logged 117 transactions for groceries alone. That means I go grocery shopping an average of once every three days. I don’t know what to make of this info LMAO. Oh well, I love grocery shopping, never mind <3

I have to say HappyFresh (my review) is just such a godsend. I get to make purchases from Mydin more often (they tend to be cheaper than other supermarkets), and also plan my meals around items on sale easier. Love it a lot, 10/10 would recommend.

8) Social – RM4,948.80 or RM412.40 per month, on average

Eh? What? I’m not a social butterfly or anything, why is this expense category so high?

Ohhh no wonder. Top social-related spends for 2018 were:

  • Kevin Hart stand-up show
  • Birthday treats for family and friends
  • Good Vibes
  • Hong Kong trip
  • Skytrex Shah Alam

I’m not quite sure if I want to scale it back. I like doing all these – they’re the best parts of my 2018. RM400+ per month is such a small price to pay for such good memories.

9) Public transportation – RM4,148.21 or RM345.74 per month, on average

My public transportation costs doubled from 2017! But I also pay way less for No 12 – Petrol, Parking & Toll, so I don’t mind the increase.

10) Misc Wants – RM4,028.83 or RM335.74 per month, on average

The amount is lower than the previous year, but since I’ve recently quit smoking, I think I’ll save more money for this category in 2019 🙂

Aside from tobacco (estimate RM80-100 monthly), a lot of my ‘wants’ in 2018 was beauty products, clothes, shoes and books. I kinda splurged on hair – permed my hair twice in one year (around RM500 in damages). Something to stop doing.

A win: Exchanged my Maybank TreatPoints with 2 x RM200 Lazada vouchers, so I used those to buy some home stuff. I enjoyed that guilt-free spending very, very much.

9) Loan Repayments – RM3,468 or RM289 per month, on average

Monthly deductions for my 25-year ASB loan. Technically I’m still paying instalments for my laptop until August 2018, but that’s in the Business category and not included here.

10) Mobile – RM1,320.50 or RM110.04 per month, on average

I switched from Maxis postpaid (RM128+GST per month) to Yoodo and now average about RM70-RM85 in monthly payments. It’s nice because I can increase/decrease my data usage for the next month if I know I’ll be using more/less.

If you want to try Yoodo out too, get FREE RM 20 when you sign up using my referral link (I get RM20 too).

11) Food – RM532.22 or RM44.35 per month, on average

Reduced by almost half compared to 2017! Good job for not snacking as much when you’re out and about Suraya! (Why did you gain weight tho??!)

12) Petrol, Parking & Toll – RM120.05 or RM129.18 per month, on average

Significantly reduced. I paid RM1550 for petrol, parking and toll in 2017, and less than 10% of that in 2018. I just didn’t use cars that much in 2018.

Conclusion and self-reflection

2017’s savings rate: 39.77%. 2018’s savings rate: -48.95%


Ouch ouch ouch.

I dipped into my savings so hard in 2018, you guys. I took around RM35k from my savings to make up the difference in income.

The thing is, I love my life. I love my lifestyle. I don’t want to make drastic downgrades and changes in 2019, I want the same amount of fun and happiness and joy.

So that means I have no choice but to work hard and increase my income. Remember the only mantra to successful financial management? Spend less than you earn, earn more than you spend. I need to focus on the second part of that mantra in 2019.

Action plan for the year:

  • Reduce my donations. Limit it to… say RM1000 per month. That’s still a good amount right? As far as donations go?
  • Do more sales work to promote my services and get more clients. In 2018, I’ve relied mostly on clients approaching me. Imagine how much I can earn if I make the effort! 1 x new client per month is a doable target.
  • Launch and sell books. Please buy Money Stories from Malaysians: Volume 1 when it comes out! You get 10 short stories, including one of mine! My short story in there is set in a dystopian Malaysia that implements universal basic income 😀
  • Goal: at least 25% savings rate (percentage of money left over after income minus expenses)

Well alright. Saying is one thing, doing is another. Wish me the best! And share with me ONE thing from your 2019 money action plan in the comments section!


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  1. Hi Suraya,

    Impressive figures. Even though you need to take out saving to cover 2018 expenses.

    Life is like that. We take a break and enjoy some of our labor, so that we can have more energy to move ahead.

    In 2019, among the financial things I want to do is to register for EPF i-Saraan, to ensure I still contribute to my retirement plan even though I am currently taking a break from employment.

    Btw, may I know how many hours of sleep (per day) you had in 2018, 2017 and 2016?

    All the best in 2019!

    1. Hi Michelle,

      Unfortunately I don’t track sleep time. But I like to think I balance play and rest alright. A nice perk of working from home is the ability to take naps if needed 🙂

      I didn’t know about EPF i-Saraan – is that different that the usual EPF account? I’ll look a bit more into it!

  2. Hi Suraya,

    Yes, just make sure have enough rest.

    EPF i-Saraan is previously known as 1Malaysia Retirement Savings Scheme or SP1M).

    Self-employed individual like you and me, even housewives can contribute to EPF i-Saraan.

    It is the same as the usual EPF account.

    But, interested individual need to register for EPF i-Saraan at EPF office to enjoy the government incentive of 15% on the amount contributed, subject to a maximum of RM250 a year.

    This government incentive is extended to year 2022.

    I wrote about it in one of my post recently. And I completed my EPF i-Saraan registration last week.

  3. Hey Suraya, interesting financial wrap-up for 2018! I’m curious to know, out of your total income, how many percent/ringgit came from ads? How much does your ad management service Ezoic cost, and is the ROI worth it? Also for your ASB loan, does the year-end dividend help to pay off your loan monthly payment? If so, do you add the additional sum to your income?

    1. Hi Joe H,

      I like your questions! Will try my best to answer them:

      – how much I earn from ads – RM1000 approx per month from ads, not including sponsored posts and referral/affiliate income
      – Ezoic costs – the basic one is free, but I’ve recently upgraded to the premium version costing $44 per month. So far the amount generated per month exceeded the cost. That makes it worth it
      – ASB loan – I try not to touch my dividends at all. My monthly loan amount is paid out of pocket

  4. This is my first time reading your blog, Suraya. Love your vibes, honesty and openness in sharing about financial stuff and your life! Think I fail to do the part that you love like “having fun” and contribute more to needy. All I did last year was to donate RM100 for BFAS,save some but pay never-ending bills.

    1. Hi Michelle,

      Thanks for swinging by, new reader! Hey don’t compare alright? Everyone’s journey is different. You’ll have better years ahead of you 🙂

  5. Hi Suraya

    Interesting book keeping and very good start to a well planned & managed future.
    Most young females I know just live & let live and get by with what they have.
    Good job! I am sure you will be very successful in your life.

    Cheers & all the best

    1. Hi Liew@ Rahman,

      That’s interesting, because most young women I know have great financial habits and mindset. Thanks for the compliments!

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