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[PERSONAL] 7 Mind-Blowing Concepts That Shaped My Personal Finance Mindset

Correction: 7 concepts that I can think of *now*.

Sometimes, abstract concepts float around in my head, and once in a while I’d catch it with a metaphorical net and write it down in a jumble of intelligible notes, until I come across the exact literature that describes what the concept is.

The mind-blowing part comes from ‘oh wow, someone articulated this before, this is exactly it’ (slightly compounded if the writer already passed away, and I feel like I’m communicating with the dead), and my only hope here is to share it with you, in the hopes that these concepts appeared to you abstractly as well, and finally you know the name or term for it.

Let’s start.

#1 – Permission habit

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Wedding Planning During Covid-19: How Plans & Budgets Changed

“Wow, so lucky you do wedding planning during Covid-19. Can save cost!”

Generally speaking, that’s true. Not denying the cost-saving aspect of it. My wedding, scheduled in Nov 2020, will be significantly downsized.

Additionally, I have extra money to re-allocate towards the wedding as my tunang event, which was scheduled during MCO, got cancelled.

I don’t know how much everything will cost yet, but I doubt it will reach RM50-70k originally planned.

If I’m honest, I am… 80% happy and 20% sad about all this. Happy because, yeah the cost will be lower than projected. But I can’t ignore the 20%, which comes from OH I DON’T KNOW PEOPLE DYING AND BREADWINNERS LOSING JOBS AND INCOME AND STUFF. And also, seeing deals I can’t take advantage of.

So I thought I’d write a post about it, to both organise my thoughts and also find people in the same boat (in my experience, writing about it attracts people in the same predicament). I’d like to share how it was like to plan a wedding when you have Covid-19 rudely interrupting the process.

Note: This is written from the woman’s perspective. I’m not responsible for a few expenses, like rings and mas kahwin and stuff. You can check out BalkoniHijau’s wedding survey for the guys’ perspective.

Planning Stage

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[VIDEO] BOYFRIEND TAG (Actually Fiancé): Should We Combine Our Finances? & Other Money Questions

Everyone, say hi to my partner and future spouse, Aizat 🙂 We were just hanging out one day and I can’t remember which one of us suggested to do a video together, but somehow we ended up recording this session where we asked each other money-related questions (he knew who he was dating lol).

In this video, we asked each other:

  • Will we combine our money or keep it separate?
  • How much could we spend without consulting each other?
  • Do you know anything about investing?
  • Do you think there is “good debt” and “bad debt”? Why or why not?
  • Where do you want to go on a honeymoon? How much do you think we should spend on our honeymoon?

View the full answer in the video, watch it below 🙂

Do you and your partner talk about money? What was the last conversation you had about it? Tell me in the comments section!

Links to the articles that I mentioned in the video:

  1. 84 Questions to Ask Your Partner About Money from YNAB
  2. Love Language quiz
  3. How money affects my dating life
  4. Places to automate your investment in Malaysia

[PERSONAL] Upgrading vs Making Do: My Dilemma with Lifestyle Inflation

I have a very complicated relationship with lifestyle inflation.

In personal finance literature, lifestyle inflation is bad, full stop. It is the ruin-er of life, the reason for debt and bankruptcies and subsequent financial hardships, broken families and in the worst-case scenarios, suicides.

Yet even knowing this, and even as I write this as a personal finance blogger (who is supposed to know what she’s doing), I, too have let lifestyle inflation happen in my own life.

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What’s On My Bookshelf: What I Read and HIGHLY RECOMMEND

Let’s just skip the whole ‘why reading is important’ part because you already know that and I don’t want to insult your intelligence.

After showing you the contents of my bag, today I want to show you another aspect of my personal life: the books I read. These are the worldviews and ideologies that shape me: I am who I am because of these materials. Everything I write is directly or indirectly influenced by these authors.

My bookcase contains more than personal finance books.  I read a wide variety of topics, mostly non-fiction. If you want personal finance-specific book recommendations, do check out these articles instead:

Without further ado, let’s start. I’m not going to list ALL of my books, just the ones that truly made me think and self-reflect, even years after I read them. Some of them also inspired RoR articles (I’ll link them too).

Have fun checking out what’s on my bookshelf. As if you need a reason to buy more books, lol.

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4 Financial Goals I’ve Failed to Achieve

What are the limits of your abilities?

That’s an unpleasant question to ask yourself, isn’t it? No one likes to think of their own flaws.

Yet as the world prepares for the new year decade, all excited to start their financial goals, I can’t help to go the other route and think of where and what I’ve failed to do in the past.

Why talk about failed financial goals

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a negative person. In fact I’m annoyingly optimistic.

(“Crashed your expensive car? Thank God you still have your life”; “Lost a limb in the accident? Insurance payout time kachinggg!!”).

It’s just, I’m battling a dilemma. I want to make financial goals, because failing to plan is planning to fail and all that.

But do I make ambitious financial goals and fail (again) but at least ‘miss the moon and land among the stars’, OR do I make super-realistic financial goals and not feel challenged or excited by them at all?

After thinking about it, I decided that the former is a better alternative than the latter.

But what if we… combine them? Set ambitious goals which are also realistic. To get there, it’s not a bad idea to do some risk-reduction activity – think of where I have failed in the past so I can (try) avoid the same problems.

So here are all the financial goals I’ve failed before, to ground me back to Earth.

#1 – Getting a scholarship

This is old, deep feelings I’m digging out. Late teens, early 20s stuff. See, I’ve never really gotten over the fact that I’ve never gotten a scholarship.

You might say yeah Suraya many others didn’t get scholarships as well, but let me just counter back – almost all of my best friends during high school got scholarships. I was the stupid less-clever one, the one who didn’t study enough.

The only reason I got an overseas education is because of my parents’ money, not of my own merit.

(Well, maybe a little bit of my own merit. Just a tiny bit)

I might also add – oh gosh I’m so embarrassed to admit this – I actually failed my admissions interview into UiTM Shah Alam, too. Yes, the university known to help Malay people.

Underlying core problem which contributed to the failure: underpreparation

#2 – Have a career in social work and work with United Nations

Before Suraya-the-personal-finance-writer, there was Suraya-the-social-worker. Up until my mid-20s, I was working in a few NGOs, including for intercultural exchange, SOGIE rights, HIV/AIDS, refugees and women human rights, just building experience.

I’ve since left the field and industry, but sometimes I still think about the ‘what ifs’. My ultimate goal then was to work in the United Nations, where salaries are high.

Like really, really freakin’ high. I thought, well that’s a nice two-birds-one-stone situation. I would satisfy my lifegoal of ‘doing good’ while making money at the same time.

Why didn’t I still pursue this goal? Well I think I realised that I’m simply not angry enough to make a good activist, the type that demands rights and drafts policies and organises protests and all that. I’m too comfortable with my privileges to act.

Underlying core problem which contributed to the failure: cowardice

Related: [PERSONAL] Malay and Money: A Reflection

#3 – Continue BestDealsMalaysia.com

Sometime back, circa 2018 or early 2019, I bragged about coming up with a new business slash website idea – BestDealsMalaysia.com. It’s like HotUKDeals.com, the deal-hunting website but for Malaysians (obv). I even made an article about its creation process: The Exact Steps I Use to Build & Launch BestDealsMalaysia.com in 7 Days

I was so excited about the project in the beginning. But as time went on… I got lazy, and just stopped working on it.

No excuses really. Once I did the beta website, the passion for the project died off :/

Underlying core problem which contributed to the failure: Laziness; loss in motivation

#4 – Doing outbound sales

Generally speaking, there are two ways to get sales/clients: inbound and outbound marketing.

So far in with RoR, I’ve relied mostly on inbound marketing, ie clients liking my work and/or personal brand and coming to hire me directly. It’s a good strategy.

In the past few years, and especially after the publication of the Money Stories from Malaysian: Volume 1 book in early 2019, I’ve challenged myself to be more comfortable with doing outbound sales, ie approaching target clients/customers directly.

And let me say… it’s still hard. Some days I have the confidence to do it, but other days, no.

I want to say small progress is better than no progress, and that is absolutely true, but I also want to push myself harder. Sometimes I even wish I had a boss who’d force me to do sales so I’d have to do it! But no, being a solopreneur means all the initiation and motivation must come from my own self.

Underlying core problem which contributed to the failure: my fear of rejection

Conclusion

To be really, really honest with you, this post was originally supposed to be a list of my financial goals in 2020.

But I thought instead of just sharing with you what I want to do, instead let’s use this space to

(1) remind you that I’ve failed more times than I care to admit, and so does everyone else;

(2) failing is completely normal, don’t be too hard on yourself, shit happens, and

(3) you only truly fail if you don’t learn and grow from your mistakes.

Thus with that logic, financial goals are bars you set for yourself, yes, but also above all its a tool for self-growth. If you achieve it, good. If you didn’t, also good – knowing what you didn’t know you didn’t know is also valuable information!

So. Having said all these. I want to know – is the process of goal-setting is an easy or hard process for you? What have you learned from your own failed goals? As always, do share in the comments section 🙂

[Personal] 5 Things I Learned in my 20s: Advice I’d Give to My Younger Self

Wow. 2020s is coming. It’s weird to be welcoming the year that is also used to signify ‘the future’, isn’t it? It feels crazy to be entering a new decade, even though I know that’s just how the normal, brutal, unstoppable passage of time works.

(YES I KNOW TECHNICALLY THE NEW DECADE STARTS IN 2021 BUT LET ME HAVE THIS OKAY)

I’ve spent the 2010s being in 20s and early 30s, and learned so much, though I know there is much more to learn still. Please indulge this writer’s self-reflective post – I’ve always wanted to write something in the ‘for my younger self’ style.

Dear younger Suraya, if you could do it over, please take this advice which older Suraya learned from experience:

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How I Spent Over RM10k During My Braces Journey

In my late 20s, I finally decided to act on something I’ve been self-conscious about all my life –  fixing my crooked teeth by wearing braces. The treatment took one and a half years, and I took it off for good last January 2019.

Note: It was fast because I got Damon braces. See 3 Things to Know About Braces Cost in Malaysia for types of braces and cost comparison.

Now that the braces are off, it feels like a distant dream. In a, ‘wow, I can’t believe I went through with it’ way. I thought I’d jot down everything I spent before, during and after my braces journey before I forgot all about it.

I hope this article will help everyone planning to do braces (or going through it now) to plan your budget, and perhaps help in choosing tools to buy/avoid. I’ll divide it into three sections – things I paid before, during and after wearing braces.

Things I Paid for During My Braces Journey – Before

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[PERSONAL] Malay and Money: A Reflection

Oh boy. This is a hard article to write.

Right. Let’s start with this. My name is Suraya. It’s an obviously Malay name. Even though technically I am of mixed parentage, I am 100% culturally Malay.

This is embarassing to admit, but when I was younger, I went through a period of being ashamed of my own race. I wanted to erase that identity. So much that when I was living in Japan, I went by Aya. When I was studying in the UK, I took the name Sue.

I’m no longer that person. I’ve learned to accept my Malay-ness. I love my name. In fact, I insist on it – always call me Suraya, not Su, not anything else.

But why was I embarassed of my Malay identity in the first place? How did I eventually accept it? I wanted to pen this essay to just kind of, dive deep into this complicated, complex psyche, through the lens and intersection with personal finance and money management.

Here we go. These are all reasons why I detached from my Malay identity. Read until the end – this article only makes sense if read as a whole.

#1 – Blind loyalty makes us follow bad leaders

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[PERSONAL] How I Get Great Clients Who Pay & Treat Me Well

I love my clients. They are freaking awesome. The best. They pay AND treat me well.

I feel like it’s time for me to be forward with my experience working with great clients, because if social media is to be believed, well-paying and respectful clients are supposedly hard to come by.

But let me just say – they’re not. I’ve had the odd bad apples, but in my four years (so far) working in self-employed capacity, the majority of my clients were nothing but absolute joys to work with.

(Note: I have two types of clients. Those who hire me in my capacity as Suraya the communications consultant and corporate writer to write reports and stuff, and those who hire me in my capacity as Suraya the blogger from Ringgit Oh Ringgit to promote their products and services. Both are amazing).

This post is a jumble of self-reflection – how and why do I get these amazing clients? I still don’t know for sure, but here are my theories.

Factor #1 – Luck

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