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: 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

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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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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