cost of living in kl

Cost of living in KL or Ipoh – Which is more expensive?

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cost of living in kl

In this post, I broke down how I spent my RM3500 salary while living in the heart of Kuala Lumpur (PWTC area, to be precise). It remained one of my popular blog posts. I also wrote about the average cost of my meals (RM2.86) and how I managed to rent a master bedroom for RM150.

Some of you know that I moved to Ipoh 6 months ago, more or less. Even though I can’t make direct comparison with current data (1 year vs 6 months), I thought it would be interesting to show the breakdown anyway and how my living expenses have changed. I want to know which lifestyle allows me to save more money – a social worker in KL or a freelance writer in Ipoh.

Enjoy this table, with an analysis whether my spending in particular categories has increased or decreased.

(P/s – All expenses were tracked via this app)

Category KL life (per month, on average) Ipoh life (per month, on average) Analysis
Donations & Gifts RM446.45 RM561.95 Increased. Mostly donated to my sister’s wedding as well as zakat.
Utilities & Rent RM408.05 RM329.19 Decreased.
Misc Needs RM408.05 RM322.78 Decreased. Not much home repairs here.
Loan Repayments RM388.31 RM289 Decreased. PTPTN debt repaid.
Groceries RM286.29 RM233.83 Decreased. Interesting, considering I’m on a keto diet and now have cat-related expenses.
Misc Wants RM205.50 RM90.7 MASSIVELY decreased. No smoking + less shopping in general
Dates RM200.09 RM147.43 Decreased
Social RM153.40 RM60.49 MASSIVELY decreased. No friends in Ipoh lol
Insurance & Medical RM120.54 RM173.79 Increased. Included gym costs.
Food RM61.91 RM77.66 Increased. WTF did I eat.
Business RM84.85 0 Expense eliminated. No more bizz
Petrol RM41.72 RM61.75 Increased
Public transport RM39.55 RM69.39 MASSIVELY Increased. No more reimbursement from work + a lot of Ipoh/Klang trips
Mobile RM28.15 RM78.08 MASSIVELY increased. Paying for mobile data via prepaid.
Parking & Tolls RM7 RM8.47 Increased. Still peanuts.
Website RM4.84 RM110.32 MASSIVELY increased. Bought new theme and 2-year hosting.
AVERAGE COST OF LIVING IN KL AND IPOH PER MONTH RM2888.03 2661.57 Decreased by 200 bucks

Self-reflection on spending habits since moving

Nice. As you can see, I can provide proof that moving to Ipoh saved me about RM200 per month in expenses. I managed to decrease my expenses in most categories, which is great (except for less social activities, so that made me sad). Note: I’m not saying you should move to Ipoh because it’s cheaper. The salary scale here is actually really sucky. I’m lucky to earn more as a freelancer.

I’ve also taken on (and paid for) more health-related expenses. I have gym and fitness costs now. I used to pay for unlimited CrossFit classes (for RM120 a month) but now go to the gym instead and lift weights there (RM50 for 10 passes, which usually lasts 1.5-2 months). I also have a yoga mat and skipping rope, and do a lot of body weight exercises at home. Look at my Tabata record from Jan-March below heheh.


IMG_20160417_165840 IMG_20160417_165907

Ipoh, all in all, is a place for me to focus on my work with less distractions. Work-related expenses are cheap – working at home means no more need to upgrade my work wardrobe (although I enjoy thrift shopping here) and no more LRT cost (I moved right after the LRT price hike).

What I can improve on: food cost. Dammit what the effing eff did I eat????

Self-reflection on saving habits since moving

You’d think that I can now put in more money in the ol’ savings account, but this turned out to not be the case at all. I think I force myself to do this. I like freelancing, but I hate that I will no longer receive EPF contribution.

Also, I because I get paid in mostly bitcoin and USD, I kinda like to just leave the money in those currencies for its potential rise in value. I’m one of the few people in Malaysia who actually hated it when MYR strengthen against USD recently – my pay is now worth less. Selfish reason, I know. As for bitcoin, I’m not going to cash out until at least June/July (everyone in Bitcoin community is waiting for it).


I really enjoy doing these comparisons. Someday, I hope to become a full-fledged digital nomad and move from country to country for the heck of it. I’m thinking Poland, because I’ve heard that the cost of living there is cheap. Those will make awesome reference for ‘actual cost of living’, don’t you think? 🙂

(Do you or anyone you know is living overseas and interested to collaborate with me to make these posts? Contact me!)

People living in KL or Ipoh, care to chime in? Comment here or tweet me at @surayaror 🙂

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  1. welcome to ipoh! six months late. it’s interesting to see the comparison and in the end it’s really not that much of a difference. I’m in ipoh as of now with a salary scale, as you put it, sucky but it’s home and I kinda save on a lot on meals. Ipoh be a lonely place without friends to be honest. Once you have friends here though, that comparison might actually be a lot smaller. Anyhow, nice comparison! Hope to see more of your posts soon!

  2. Hi Suraya,
    I really like your article, and this is a great starting place for someone considering either, or both. I would love to collaborate with you, but unfortunately, I’m about six months away from starting my journey, and efforts as a digital nomad. I am curious why Poland next for you though, as everything I’ve read and heard, Romania, and possibly Bulgaria are cheaper, have more beautiful countryside and blessed with blazing internet speeds.

    In fact, I have planned to start my excursion in Eastern Europe, which is still mostly undiscovered for it’s beauty, old world charm, and overall values. It may possibly be the world’s best kept secret for everything collectively that most of the countries there have to offer to potential travelers or retirees. Including everything from a world class city like Budapest, to the mountains across the Transylvania region of Romania and on to the Black Sea beaches of Bulgaria. Macedonia and Serbia also have some beautiful and very inexpensive areas worthy of consideration for either getaways or retirement. Decent apartments can be found in almost any of these countries (outside the major cities) for as little as $150 (or less) a month. Thanks again for the interesting comparison, as Malaysia is certainly on my short list of places I’d like to spend some time during my travels. Best of luck, and Kind Regards, JC

    1. Hey JC,

      Thanks for reading, and yes let’s do that collaboration when you start! I’d love to know more about Eastern Europe.

      Malaysia’s a pretty chill place, horrible politics aside. Ipoh, where I’m living, was recently included in Lonely Planet’s top places in Asia to visit. When you come, let me know and I’ll take you makan (eat)!

    1. Hey Barry,

      All my makan-related expenses is actually spread across multiple categories:
      – groceries = makan at home
      – social = makan with friends
      – dates/travel = makan during travel or dating
      – food = makan alone, because I forgot to plan earlier, usually junk food (that’s why I track it)

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