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: January 2019

budget update january 2019

Budget Update: January 2019

Wake up. Brush teeth. Make coffee, have breakfast. Check my daily to-do list. Anxiety. Take out phone, scroll online for hours for distraction. Tell myself to get back to work. Anxiety. Find food to eat. Repeat until midnight. Repeat for days on end.

January 2019 should have represented a new start and a new beginning, but it didn’t, at least not for me. For much of the month, I was stuck in a destructive procrastination mode. I’d spend hours mindlessly scrolling the web and eating comfort food, knowing that those behaviours are my unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Guys. I want to do so many things. I want to achieve so many things. But they’re overwhelming and I fear failure and instead of rising up to the challenge, I… get anxious instead. When I feel that way I just want to distract myself (phone) or feel comforted (food).

Does this happen to you? What do you do to break yourself out of that spell?

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Budget Update: December 2018

Budget Update: December 2018

Happy new year! Welcome, 2019! Thank goodness I didn’t go out on New Year’s Eve, or I would’ve spent more than RM6000 in December 2018 for sure!

December 2018 was… alright. A mix of extreme happiness and extreme apathy; a strange, emotionally confusing month. I pushed the limits of my mental strength, and found it. In the same month, I tried to: go to the gym regularly, maintain a strict diet and quit smoking, all on top of my regular schedule and work. It exhausted me. I felt like I was not really ‘there’ most of the time.

I’m glad I found my limit though. Now I know what I can and cannot do, and be more careful when implementing multiple challenges at once (even though they’re all technically good for me). As of time of writing, I’ve decided to stop the strict diet (keto btw) because it’s beginning to be quite damaging to my mental health. At one point, my cravings got so bad I spent an afternoon making a list of food items I that I ‘cannot’ have but really want. It came up to 37 items.

Any of you tested your capability to follow through a strict self-development routine? How’d it work for you?

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Budget Update: November 2018

november 2018

Budget Update: November 2018

Spent under RM6k in November 2018. Top 3 categories were Business (no issues there), Utilities & Rent (ditto) and Dates/Travel (… I think I need to talk to the partner).

Anyway, hey, I want to talk about something else in this section. Martech. Do you know this word? It’s short for marketing technology, and companies love it because it helps them rake in more sales. In fact, companies love martech so much that Chief Marketing Officers are now spending more on martech tools rather than human marketers.

In November 2018, I attended a digital marketing bootcamp where I learned about the many types of martech tools. For example, chatbots which reply to people who type ‘pm’ in Facebook posts. Platforms connecting companies with influencers. Automated video creation tools. And more – I’m barely scratching the surface here.

Martech is fascinating to me for a few reasons:

  • It’s quite fun to go to a company’s website/platform and see what kind of martech tools they are implementing. Last time, they used to prioritise collecting emails. Now, I’ve received promotional updates via Facebook Messenger too! (I hate this btw, so invasive, any company that does this will not get my money)
  • Which martech tools can *I* use for my own websites? I’m constantly trying out new ones, hoping to find the perfect free+good combinations. Many martech services use subscription-based models, and they can get pretty pricey.

Learn about martech. If you’re a business, it’ll help you make/save money. If you’re a consumer, you’ll be more aware and therefore less susceptible to strategies companies use to part you with your money.

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Budget Update: October 2018

budget update october 2018

Budget Update: October 2018

I spent RM21,407 in October 2018. It sounds like a lot (it is), but almost three-quarters of that was a gift to my parents. I’m sponsoring their umrah trip.

When I was growing up, I heard how my parents – then newlyweds and financially struggling – saved a portion of their salaries every month. They told me the bottom of their car had a hole in it, and they didn’t even buy a bed until much later and simply slept on a thin mattress on the floor. They saved aggressively so my dad could afford to send his mom, my late grandmother, to hajj.

My parents have already completed the hajj, but they constantly talk about going back to Mecca so sponsoring their trip has always been in my bucket list. In October 2018, I transferred over RM15,580 so both of them could go for their umrah next year, in January 2019, under Tabung Haji. My mom was so touched, she cried. I feel happy knowing that my money can give them this kind of happiness.

What do you save up for your parents? Is there something you know for sure they’ll appreciate?

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Budget Update: September 2018

september 2018

Budget Update: September 2018

Confession: My bank account was dangerously low all throughout September 2018, and I almost had to dip into my savings, if not for payments from clients that arrived at the end of the month. If I ration it out properly, it should support me until the end of the year.

Now, what I really want to do with the money is invest it. I want to add more gold to my investment portfolio – the price seems great now. I saw a property in the RM500k range that looks promising as rental unit. I want to take another ASB loan to max it out.

But no action was taken yet. My excuse is that I don’t know when is my next big paycheck, so I should just leave all the money in my bank account ‘just in case’.

Isn’t that a stupid excuse for not investing? Rationally, I know I can just set aside a small amount of money every month – small but regular contributions are better than no contributions – so why do I still have this ‘go big or go home’ mentality? Why do I stop myself from investing when I can’t commit large amounts like RM3k and above in one go?

Does anyone else do this? How do you overcome the mental barrier and force yourself to invest anyway? Got advice for me?

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Budget Update: August 2018

 august 2018

Budget Update: August 2018

August 2018 was kind of a chill month. Spending-wise, I did good – RM6.2k was my lowest monthly spending since January 2018. I can’t wait to shave off around RM1k by the end of the year – that’s when both laptop and braces repayments will be fully paid off!

This is random, but just felt like sharing: I currently stay in a commercial area, as opposed to a residential area, and absolutely love this living arrangement. It’s just so convenient, most of the amenities I need are so near. At the place I’m renting now, I can walk to the bank, the groceries, the dentist, convenience stores, the mamak, the cinema, Starbucks, restaurants and more whenever I want (when they’re open la).

There are downsides, like paying more for utilities (I pay commercial rates) and facing the crowds during events, but overall, it’s pretty damn nice. I know for sure now that if and when I do decide to purchase my own home, I will get a place that will give me a similar lifestyle. Maybe a residential unit attached to a mall, to get the best of both worlds?

Those of you renting right now or living with your family. Have you thought of what kind of place you want to get? Or do you decide to just continue renting by choice? Let me know in the comments, I’m curious to hear your opinion about this topic.

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Budget Update: July 2018

july 2018

Budget Update: July 2018

What a full month! It was full of intense emotional experiences – from the low of my grandmother’s passing to the high of Good Vibes Festival to everything in between.

I shot my first video campaign (details coming soon!). Got angry at morally-righteous LGBT haters that I made a personal finance guide for LGBTs. Decided to visit my Japanese host family and splurged on a very-costly RM1765 flight tickets just because I want to fly off from Chubu Centair International Airport in Nagoya instead of cheaper airports like Osaka. I went on shopping sprees, both online and offline. I went on dates (good, bad and GREAT) and attended many events.

All this while working my ass off – I squeezed for that brain juice so often and so hard, I’m surprised it’s still working. Thank you for being reliable braiiiin.

Despite everything, my spending was… alright? Almost RM7k for this kind of month is okay. My spending is the lowest since January 2018. In the upcoming months, have to keep it even lower – have to save money for that Japan trip in September.

I have no complaints, only gratefulness that my income can sustain this lifestyle. How was your July like?

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Budget Update: June 2018

june 2018

Budget Update: June 2018

More than half of my June 2018 expenses went to Donations and Gifts. RM1250 given out as duit raya, and a whopping RM2500 given to a friend to help her out.

Might as well tell you what happened. A friend (someone really dear to me) was driving and got busted for having recreational drugs in her possession. The police demanded RM3000 in bribe money. My friend was not able to negotiate it down and didn’t have enough in her bank account. She had to find the money asap, and came to me.

I was pissed off. Pissed off at the friend, pissed off at the police blatantly asking for bribes, pissed off at myself for giving the money anyway thus contributing to this stupid corruption culture in Malaysia.

Never again. I will never do this again. This is not the kind of person I want to be.

Tell me your bribe stories. Everyone has one. Tell me what I can do to protect myself if this happens again. 

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Budget Update: May 2018

Budget Update: May 2018

I have a confession – in the last few months, I have been spending more than I earn.

This is weird to admit, but I have let lifestyle inflation creep up on me. I honestly didn’t realise my bare-minimum monthly spending – the amount I need to live comfortably but minimally – is now a whopping RM6k per month. Per month!

I dunno why. I kept thinking the number was closer to RM2.5k. Missed the mark by a mile. My goodness.

Breakdown of that RM6k:

  • Monthly must-pay (fixed) – Rent, Mobile, Insurance, Braces, Laptop payments, Investment repayments, VA – RM3.5k
  • Monthly must-pay (variables) – Business, Groceries, Misc needs, Transportation – RM1.3k
  • Monthly nice-to-haves (variables) – Social, Misc wants, Donations – RM1.2k

A few thoughts, since I guess I’m woke now.

Continue Reading…

Budget Update: April 2018

Budget Update: April 2018

In terms of my budget, it’s alright. A big chunk went to my business. A portion went to travels. A sudden request from my dad shot up the Donations category. Rent is the usual amount. These four things make up 80% of my total expenses, a high percentage. But all in all, nothing I can’t manage.

…Can I just say that it’s really freaking strange – coming from a self-confessed frugal person and all – to see your monthly expenses shoot up to five figures?? This is the third time my expenses went above RM10k per month in the last six months. I’m freaking out. Have I just been in denial, all these while?

These high expenses really should worry me, but strangely I’m not. Even now that I’m mostly living off the income earned from the past months and year, I’m not. I told myself that it’s okay, I have savings, work will come (I’m choosy nowadays), plus I need the time to work on my own projects anyway. The patronising part of my brain nags though: it said if I’m smarter, I would have just taken on whatever projects I can WHILE working on my own projects. Cut me some slack, brain.

Being self-employed means many things. There are ups, there are downs. But no matter what, you have to constantly create tasks for yourself, or you’ll be stagnant, and THAT is a downward spiral I’d really like to avoid. For the most part, creating tasks is fun to do. There’s a lot of personal agency behind it, so much control.

However, here’s something they don’t say: when life events throw you curveballs – and I had some of those in April 2018 – you get disoriented. Even when you force yourself to make a tasklist, doing them is not as enjoyable. At one point last month, I even started to crave office life, where your tasks for the day are sorted out for you. It’s a strange feeling. When I caught myself thinking it, I was stunned.

How strange, too, writing and confessing this to the world. Well, you did come here for personal finance content. I delivered, didn’t I? It’s futile to pretend our life experiences doesn’t impact our financial life in any way. By writing this, I understand my internal mind a bit more, and therefore my financial habits, especially things I do on auto-pilot when I’m mentally spent.

Go on and share your internal mindworks in the comments section, too. Let it off your chest. I assure you it’s very cathartic.

Yay of the Month:

  • Ringgit Oh Ringgit is now AI-enhanced! The ad parts, that is. Who knew there was a service which can test multiple ad combinations and optimise that for you, so you can earn more money from ads? That’s exactly what Exoic does. The integration process was not hassle-free – it took a few days and at one point, my website was inaccessible – but now I can see it’s consistently earning me ~USD5+ per day. That’s higher than what I was earning with Google Adsense.
  • Published a sponsored content I’m proud of – this article on designs on gold bars and gold coins. A world I didn’t know existed!
  • Went to Hong Kong. 5 days, 4 nights trip. I’m glad I went there, even though it’s not my favourite country, not by a long shot. Now I understand more about the financial hub. A budget travel guide to Hong Kong will be published in RoR later 🙂
  • Was reorganising the closet. Turned a pair of pajama pants into pajama shorts, and a dress into a skirt. I didn’t do that great of a job cutting/sewing them up, but they’ll work as house baju. Re-purposing makes me feel good. I should do more of that rather than just throwing out stuff I no longer use.
  • Gave away some stuff I didn’t need. Offered it to the Beli Nothing Project community on Facebook.
  • Decided to put more effort into Ringgit Oh Ringgit. Will try my best to post 2x a week now. New posts will be out on either Monday/Tuesday and Wednesday/Thursday. Why those days? Google Analytics say those are the highest-traffic days. #datadriven
  • Finally decided to buy new earphones. So I’ve been using my old one – missing one earbud and all – for close to 6 months now. Kinda ridiculous, and I told myself enough is enough, you cheapskate. Lucky break: the one I wanted, JBL CS100i, was listed as RM26.90 on Lazada. Then it appeared on Lazada flash sales for RM20.90! Quickly cancelled the earlier purchase (refunds from Lazada ewallet is easy and fast) and bought the same one for cheaper price. Win!
  • Read 4 books: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling; Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behaviour by Ori and Rom Brafman; Dear John by Nicholas Sparks and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. It seems that recent events in my personal life are drawing me towards fiction. Escapism, perhaps.
  • Attended a WordPress KL event. Love these guys, they are super helpful. One of those communities where they share information because they’re so passionate about it, you know? I love that culture of sharing. Find them in this FB group.
  • Watched 2 movies: The Avengers Infinity War (on IMAX 3D some more!) and Ready Player One. Both were great. I wonder how it’s like to be part of the script-writing process. Can just imagine writers shooting about ideas with each other. What a great environment to work. I want that. Any idea how to get into it?

Nay of the Month:

  • Disappointed my parents. My parents – love them and all – are both retired, and now dedicate themselves to only one thing: religion. And it comes up a lot when they remind me of their mortality, and the job they still have to finish before they pass on: turn me into the perfect Muslim daughter, then eventual wife and baby bearer. I wish they have other passions, something else we can talk about. But no. Every other conversation turns into religion talk. It’s draining, but worse of all I know it doesn’t come out of a bad place. It came out of love. I’m working to repair our relationship.
  • The trust/wasiat thing is STILL not sorted out.
  • My apartment’s stand fan gave up on me. Had to replace it. Thankfully it was cheaper than I thought – just RM95.50 from Lazada, including delivery.
  • This crushed me – a client gave me bad feedback on my writing work. No excuses. I have to perform better. Going to look for business writing classes to improve.
  • I’m dating around again. Downloaded Tinder – I like it, it’s a cost-effective way to meet people. But finding someone I like enough to keep going on dates with is proving harder than I thought. My last relationship was ridiculously easy – instant connection, lasted years. I wonder if Tinder can give me that. Guess I have to keep using it to find out.
  • Lately, I feel self-conscious that many of the stuff I own looks… old. Result: some clothes shopping. Mixed feelings. On one hand, I like being the type of frugal person who stretches her belongings to its full potential. On the other hand, I want to look presentable too, I’m not immune to peer pressure.
  • Bought a couple of books from MPH. I forgot to double-check the receipt before payment 🙁 They charged me RM52.90 for a book, instead of the sticker price RM45.90. MPH helpline is not helping, so I shot them an email. Let’s see if they will honour the price and refund.

Things to Look Forward to:

  • Growing Ringgit Oh Ringgit. It simply fits my plans: passive income; location-independent. I’d like to submit more guest articles to high-traffic sites, and make a digital product to sell.
  • Puasa is comiiiiing. Half excited, half dreading.
  • Putting more effort in my skincare and appearance in general. I want to look and feel my best. My confidence took a hit lately and this is one actionable way to go about it, since I have no mood to continue my exercise routine (I really should though).
  • My birthday. Turning 30 on the 15th.

Isn’t it weird that a third of 2018 is already over? Isn’t it also weird that you always think of the time that’s passed?

You know, I want to be the kind of person who’s like, yep, time passed. Wasted or not, it happened, move on. Can I learn anything from it? I can? Cool, let’s use that lesson for the future. This mindset is not automatic yet – there was some unlearning involved – but sooner or later I do hope to be the kind of person who lives her life on her own terms, and not of others’ expectations. I can handle society, but parental expectations… that’s the tough one.

Goodbye, 20s. I learned a lot from you. It’s been wild, I had a great decade, did more than I thought I was capable of. Even though no one knows what the future will bring, I know that the best parts of my life are still yet to come. Can’t wait.

To read about my past monthly budget update, click here. Graphs are taken from my expense-tracking app Money Lover (review).