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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.

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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Budget Update: November 2019

budget update november 2019

Budget Update: November 2019

I spent RM5066 in November 2019 – top 3 expenses were Rent & Utilities, Business and Public Transportation – all functional expenses. Quite happy with my spending decisions for the month. You can see the deeper breakdown below, in the yay and nay sections.

Here I want to take the opportunity to share my thought process for future work decisions. By this point in my career, I have given so many talks that I can give the following presentations from memory:

  • Investment options for Malaysians
  • Budgeting tips and implementation
  • How to charge clients
  • How to publish a book
  • Starting and growing a website
  • Digital marketing for content creators
  • Personal branding
  • And more

Doing presentations and talks still make me go dub dab dub but what they say is true – the more you do it, the better you get at it. And feedback so far has been good and very very encouraging.

I had few discussions with friends and fellow colleagues and it’s been increasingly clear that I should pivot from providing writing services (my main service offering for the last 4 years) to providing trainings, workshops and consultations in areas related to personal finance and digital marketing.

I’ve already been doing the consultations on as-requested basis so it’s not like there’s no demand. As for writing work inquiries, I can always pass those to writers in my networks, who are always looking for jobs. Not an issue.

What do you think? Is there anything that I’m not considering before I make the switch and edit my Hire me page?

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Budget Update: October 2019

Budget Update October 2019 1

Budget Update: October 2019

Oh my, my expenses in October 2019 was in the RM6k, almost RM7k range again. Urk. Business, Utilities & Rent and Insurance & Medical expenses took the bulk of it though. Even after all this time, even knowing how I shouldn’t skimp on these expenses, I still wishfully dream for under-RM3k monthly expenses.

Is that kind of monthly expense realistic, though? To thrive (not merely survive), at least RM4k+ per month is needed no? I know that many companies advertise jobs with starting pay of RM2.2, RM2.5k. And they expect people to be able to ration that out all thoughout the month?

And I guess other people got sick of that unrealistic expectations too, because boy did this tweet go viral:

Yes, YES, we *could* live on that amount. If we *only* spend on what we need to spend on to just live, we could.

BUT that would mean a living a life devoid of any entertainment, any leisure, any trips home to see the family, any activities with friends, any personal fulfilment, any meaning. How DARE they judge every single bubble tea, every nice meal we have, when that could be the only thing that makes life tolerable for us.

I’m going to share this article again: 3 Ways to Get A High Salary in Malaysia

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Budget Update: September 2019

budget update september 2019 1

Budget Update: September 2019

I spent a little under RM6k in September 2019, with half of that going to Medical and Rent & Utilities categories. I’ll expand a bit more about them in the Yay and Nay sections below.

Now, let’s talk about how dope personal finance is, as a topic. I can’t get enough of it, I’m still obsessed with it. There’s always something that challenges my thinking.

For example, I have been a ‘buy experiences, not things’ practitioner. Been so for years. But the tweet below made me seriously evaluate my approach.

Sometimes I forget how different people value different things. Who am I to decide or judge how you interpret happiness?

I think it’s time to retire ‘buy experiences, not things’ from my personal finance approach. Instead, I will use the phrase ‘intentional spending’ instead, the opposite of ‘mindless spending’. I want to be more mindful of what I spend on, regardless whether they are experiences or things.

(Although, it’s fair to note here that research did say that spending on experiences, not things usually makes people happier. So don’t use this as an excuse to splurge or anything.)

And thus, I find myself buying non-thrifted art for the first time. I’ve never allowed this purchase for myself. I’ve never bought something beautiful for the sake of it being beautiful. Whatever pretty knick-knacks I have, must also be practical: think boxes, containers, pillows, candles.

And you know what? This art piece does make me happy. I don’t regret the purchase.

Any of you hold back against collecting art – however you define it – because of the ‘buy experiences, not things’ approach?

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Budget Update: August 2019

budget update august 2019

Budget Update: August 2019

Have you ever used learning as an excuse to NOT do something? Like, in a “oh I can’t possibly do that yet, I’m still learning about it” way.

Yeah. Hi. Can I join the club?

Creating video content is that thing that I’m forever ‘learning’. So far, in the last couple of years, I’ve:

  • Asked many people for advice
  • Bought some equipment
  • Bought a video-editing software
  • Bought and went through courses (including one in August designed to conquer the fear of being on camera, a course called ‘Confidence on Camera’)
  • Made a looooong list of possible video content angles

And yet – and yet! – at time of writing, I still can’t bring myself to actually do it. The only reason why I have a Ringgit Oh Ringgit Youtube channel set up (if you want to be an early subscriber…) is because I need a place to house a collaboration video done with HelloGold.

On one hand, ok fine baby steps. On another hand, this baby needs to grow the hell up.

Someone smack some sense into me please. Or suggest video content you want to watch, maybe that might help. I don’t know.

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Budget Update: July 2019

july 2019

Budget Update: July 2019

I spent over RM7k in July 2019. It’s an okay amount, considering I’m super blessed with work at the moment.

Let’s talk about work. Aside from business writing work – my main source of income outside of Ringgit Oh Ringgit – I’ve seen a noticeable increase in sponsored post inquiries from potential clients. Is this a side effect from higher focus by the government to improve the nation’s financial literacy?

If yes, and I do think so, then woah it’s in your benefit to jump into the personal finance blogging space. Go check out my 6 Personal Finance Blog Ideas, Absolutely Free for You to Take article.

 

july 2019

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Budget Update: June 2019

budget update june 2019

Budget Update: June 2019

What a memorable month. More about that under ‘Yay of the month’ section below.

For the past few months, I’ve battled my ‘solopreneur’ identity quite a bit. I feel like I should take advantage of this momentum I’m having and expand, get a team under the Ringgit Oh Ringgit brand. I thought of hiring a team of writers and video editors, create more content.

But slowly, through personal reflection, I figured out that (a) I’m really happy being a one-person team, (2) I have no desire to be the boss of anybody, and (c) having a team would require an office, and I worked so hard so I didn’t have to *go* to an office every day.

Maybe I’ll change my mind in the future. Maybe that’ll still happen, out of necessity or change of heart. But for now, I’m loving the way I work. I can still outsource if the workload gets too much. I can still collaborate with other people to create content that I can’t personally create.

Any of you consider yourself solopreneurs? Do you plan on staying that way or planning to expand? Let me know in the comments section.

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Budget Update: May 2019

budget update may 2019 1

Budget Update: May 2019

An okay month, budget-wise. Things slow down due to fasting season, less events and meetups than usual. That gave me more time to spend on online courses.

The one I’m enlisted in now, Dream Job course by Ramit Sethi, has a component forcing me to identify and list down my mental barriers, or negative beliefs that stop me from achieving whatever it is that I want to achieve.

After taking some time to think about it, I came up with 6 mental barriers that I personally have:

  1. Fear in managing a team. This has kept me as a solopreneur all this while, a one-person team. I realise that while I can grow fast, I can’t grow far without hiring people.
  2. Hard to get out of scarcity mindset. It’s not as bad as before, but my default is still to save money rather than earn money.
  3. Need to improve my presentation & speech skills. It can be better. It can always be better.
  4. Stingy with higher-cost self-development tools and courses. Self-explanatory.
  5. Don’t like working with VIPs or bigshots. So I prefer not having them as clients, despite the big paychecks. I’m okay with this barrier actually.
  6. Uncomfortable with outbound sales. I guess the solution for this is to be really, really good with inbound sales.

‘Fixing’ myself will be a process, hopefully a fun and fulfilling one. I just want to be the best version of myself, you know? After talking to some friends, a few suggested going to Toastmasters meetups to improve on #3.

If anyone has more suggestions on how I can improve my presentation skills, I’m all ears 🙂 Been getting more speaking and presenting gigs nowadays. I just want to do a good job and be worth people’s time.

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Budget Update: April 2019

budget update april 2019

Budget Update: April 2019

In April 2019, I spent just under RM6k, inclusive of Zakat payment. That’s alright, I guess.

Okay let’s talk about something else. I like brainstorming for different ways to make money – regular readers know that. Recently, I thought of two more ways in addition to what I’m already doing now.

  1. Coaching services – Not for financial planning, but for financial organisation. I’m good at tracking my expenses, putting them neatly in categories, and reviewing them regularly to look for patterns. It’s a service I can sell on an individual or group basis.
  2. Personal finance retreat – Think of it like yoga retreat but for financial mindset. I figure this is a good way to get a fully-paid retreat for myself while helping others at the same time.

Which one would you join?

Again, both are in the consideration stage, nothing’s concrete yet, they just sound fun and financially worthwhile to do. I’d probably give early access and get beta testers from email subscribers, so join the mailing list if you’re interested.

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