Money Management

7 Budgeting Challenges You Might Have and How to Overcome Them

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None of us are born with personal finance knowledge, so chances are all of us are going through different types of budgeting challenges.

In this article, I’ll list out the budgeting challenges you might have and how you might be able to overcome it.

(P/s- I intentionally omitted ‘not enough money’ from this list – you can’t budget yourself out of poverty, so if that’s your core problem, then learn income strategies in 3 Ways to Get High Salary in Malaysia and 25 Ways to Earn Side Income in Malaysia articles)

Let’s start with,

#1 – I don’t know where to start

The number 1 budgeting challenge I’ll address first is not knowing where to start. You’re simply overwhelmed. And you’re angry – maybe at yourself, maybe your situation, maybe the goverment – either way, you hate where you’re at right now.

What to do: Read Bergaji & Pokai (or any other beginner-friendly personal finance book)

The beginner-friendly part is important. I don’t know about you, but I personally spent a lot of time confused when I first started learning about personal finance. The materials I picked out were way too advanced for me – the equivalent of picking up Shakespeare when I just started learning ABCs.

On the other hand, Bergaji & Pokai is beginner-friendly, suitable for anyone who’s just starting out and even people who have been managing their finances for a while but wondering if they’re doing it right.

For Malaysians, I am biased here, but I highly suggest you pick up my book, Bergaji & Pokai instead of some book written by Americans/Westerners. You need to learn about EPF, not Roth IRA (both retirement accounts, but for different countries!)

You can get it from or Shopee, or at major bookstores nationwide. Click here to read Bergaji & Pokai book reviews.

#2 – I spend too mindlessly

Do you feel weird if you *don’t* spend money for something you want (not need) in a day? RM10 here, RM20 there, RM50 for that. Then this budgeting challenge applies to you.

What to do: Do a no-spend challenge

One of my favourite types of personal finance content is no-spend challenge write-ups by actual people, like the I Tried a #NoSpendChallenge for a Month and I Didn’t Buy Anything Extra for 3 Months – Here’s How Much Money I Saved articles. They’re just so much fun to read. This type of content usually include:

  • Their ‘rules’ – what expenses are excluded during the no-spend challenge (like medical, for example) (Note: I love the guidelines in this article)
  • How they adjusted their lifestyles
  • How and where they failed or caved
  • How much money they saved
  • How they learn to be more intentional with their purchases after the challenge ends

Important: You don’t ‘fail’ if you accidentally spent during the no-spend challenge. The point is to be more mindful, and learn your spending triggers. Most people who go through this challenge became less impulsive spenders afterwards – that’s a huge WIN.

#3 – I don’t know if I spend more OR less than I earn

So, you earn a salary or an income, but you don’t know if you are spending within your means or not. Maybe you have leftover money before payday? Maybe you don’t? You have no idea.

What to do: Use my 50/30/20 budgeting guideline template

Personal finance 101 – before investing, before insurance, before anything else, is cashflow management. In essense:

  • Earn more than you spend = good
  • Spend more than you earn = bad

The only way through this budgeting challenge is to know approximately how much you spend each month in different categories. I’ve made a template exactly to help with this: Can You *Really* Afford It? Use the 50/30/20 Rule (Free Editable Template)

Take the template and do it, it’s free. I made a video guide and everything.

#4 – I just like buying stuff

Shoppers have this mentality. They tell themselves that they just like buying stuff. That’s their identity

But the thing is, stuff accumulates. Often (but not always), that results in a messy head and a messy space. Look around you – is there stuff everywhere?

What to do: Declutter and Sell Unwanted Stuff Challenge

I think its ok to like stuff. Its just not ok when stuff takes over your life, you know? So if stuff is everywhere until you can’t even think properly in your rest space, take action.

Outer organisation influences inner organisation. Watch a couple videos on decluttering (I’m partial to Marie Kondo’s methods), then sell/donate/throw away what you don’t need.

The awesome thing about this budgeting challenge is you get IMMENSE benefits. Here are some:

  • Much clearer head afterwards
  • You can get $$ from selling your unwanted stuff, obviously
  • It’s an activity so it distracts you from mindless shopping due to stress
  • You rediscover stuff you already have = less buying the same thing
  • This is also an opportunity to learn and improve on your sales/marketing skills as well! Always handy

Problem: It’s probably easy to sell high-value items with existing demand, but how about the random RM5-RM20 stuff? They’re too mafan to list individually.

Solution: My top tip here is to sell/donate/throw away them away in bulk, not individually. For example, I regularly sell a box of books instead of individually. You can do the same with clothes, toys, books, etc.

#5 – I keep my spending low, but other people keep making me spend more than I should

You’re frugal as heck, but still spending more than you should.

Maybe people around you keep asking to borrow money. Maybe they always invite you to expensive activities. Maybe your colleagues keep asking you to buy the stuff they’re selling as side income.

What to do: Learn to say no

This is one of the trickiest (if not the most) budgeting challenge in this list. Chances are, you prioritise harmony, hate confrontation, and a people-pleaser. This is a whole article on its own: How to Say No to ‘Can I Borrow Your Money?’

#6 – I just enjoy [expensive habit] too much

This is also one of the tricker budgeting challenges in this list because we’re all creatures of habit. And its possible that some of those habits are part of your identity and something you do within your core friendship group.

What to do: Quit-a-bad-habit challenge

Some things to quit:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking (excessively)
  • Going to the mall/browing shopping apps just because you’re bored (I have this)
  • Mindless shopping trips with friends
  • Whatever activity that just got too expensive and out of your budget (even if its technically a healthy activity!)

What other bad habits would you add in here?

For me, quitting alone doesn’t work, you gotta have a replacement activity. This is the basis of my Free/Cheap Things I Do to Stop Online Shopping Habit article. Basically, I listed everything I could do *instead* of online shopping. It doesn’t work ALL of the time, but enough times, and that’s progress.

Something I should tell you upfront is you may lose friends along the way. I lost touch with most of my smoking buddies. It happens, and it’s okay.

#7 – I’m scared to spend money on myself

When we talk about budgeting challenges, we always assume that someone has a spending problem – they spend more than they should.

This is the opposite sprecturm – there are people who are extreme savers, who have earned and saved enough (sometimes even 50% or more of their salary!), but find it hard to spend on things that are good for them. You feel extreme guilt, even.

I know about this budgeting challenge firsthand, because I used to struggle with it. I even wrote an article talking about My Dilemma with Lifestyle Inflation.

What to do: Start addressing your money trauma

I’m not diagnosing, and you need more resources beyond this article, but you may have money trauma. You might see money as a protection tool. It makes you feel safe, so you want more and more and more of it, ‘just in case’ something happens.

The recovery (?) from this won’t happen overnight – there’s a lot to dissect, probably stemming from childhood or how you grew up. You don’t want to be in the same situation again.

Either way, know that buying products and services that enhance your quality of life – assuming you sorted out your savings etc – isn’t a bad thing. You can start with these 9 Things to Buy for a GREAT Financial Life.

Why start with those? They’re all products and services that are good for your financial life – you’ll feel way less guilt for buying them.

Which budgeting challenge are you going to do?

Like I said in the beginning, EVERYONE is working on addressing their budgeting challenges. Heck, I’m still working on mine. It’s a lifelong journey, but hey, that’s self-development in a nutshell.

So.. all the best. Let me know which of the budgeting challenges above you’re most keen to do for yourself in the comments.

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  1. Force yourself to put money aside, and save them while earning interest.
    Monthly challenge, place a RM2K fixed deposit at 12 months maturity, and continue doing it for 12 months. What you will realise is after 1 year, you’ll have passive interest every month (not much, but better than nothing – and it forces you to save money). Well, RM24K is a good amount to keep as a start. and you can start increasing the amounts year by year – and it compounds!

      1. Just adding on a bit to Edison’s tip, which I used to build up savings too. After that, can try looking out for promotional FD rates. Promo rates usually need a high minimum placement (5k or 10k) but offers good interest rates, up to 4%+ for short-to-mid term tenures.

      2. Hi Suraya,

        So far so good. Yes I’m doing it now, for 4 months consecutively. It takes a lot of like determination to like, yes I’m gonna start it now, but always procrastinate because like this is so troublesome.

        Anyhows, after 2 years of procrastination, I realise that I could have done it already. So, here i am officially doing it (a tip – would be challenge your close friends to do it, so we would remind each other).

  2. A mini challenge I do: shop the pantry/ fridge. Use up whatever ingredients and odds and ends to put together a meal, before they expire, go bad or get buried by new groceries. Sometimes yield some creative dishes..

    I’ve been doing #9 and it’s been a great help with achieving my savings goal for this year. Will definitely continue it for 2019, and maybe attempt #2 based on what I’ve learned about my spending through expense tracking!

    1. Hi Jo,

      I love your idea on shop the pantry/fridge! You’re right with the creativity – I’ve made some weird dishes myself lol

      All the best with #2 and #9 challenges next year!

      1. Budgeting: Create a budget to track your income and expenses and determine areas where you can cut back. Identify fixed expenses such as rent/mortgage and variable expenses like groceries, and prioritize saving a portion of your income each month.
        Reduce Expenses: Cut back on non-essential expenses such as subscriptions, eating out, and entertainment. Use generic products instead of brand names and negotiate bills like cable, internet, and insurance to lower costs.
        Increase Income: Look for ways to increase your income through side hustles or asking for a raise at work. Consider freelance work, starting a business, or selling items you no longer need for extra cash.
        Automated Savings: Set up automatic transfers from your checking to a savings account so you save without even thinking about it. This is a helpful way to make sure you are consistently putting money into savings.
        Avoid Impulse Purchases: Train yourself to resist impulse buying by waiting 24 hours before making a purchase and thinking about the long-term consequences of the expense.
        Investing: Consider investing in low-cost index funds for long-term growth. This is a passive way to grow your savings without actively managing your investments.
        Use Credit Wisely: Limit your use of credit cards and pay off balances in full each month to avoid interest charges. Stick to cash or debit for most purchases to avoid overspending.

  3. Hi Suraya! OMG it’s been awhile since I last read AND commented your posts. I finally have time now, doing this while on my bed lol

    Anyhow, just sharing, I’ve been on no spend challenge since september this year. It was so tough but im glad i got through it successfully 70% of the time 😂 but the challenge really makes a difference because i have saved about RM700plus since I started and if my iman cukup kuat and i dont buy that neelofa sometime bag that is on 30% discount as I wrote this, i wouldve saved around rm1k-ish? I hope i can resist the temptation though 😂😭 i really want it but i already have too many bags but i dont have that kind of bag. But then, i also dont need it so… (you see my problem here? Lol 😭)

    I’ve also been on tracking spending challenge since a couple of years too but only took it seriously early this year, like religiously tracking because #hidayahsampailambat

    Would love to try selling the unwanted stuff because i wanna let go all my duckscarves since i dont really wear them anymore but i am so malas wanna go post out the stuffs 😂🤦🏻‍♀️ haih

    Wanna try the meal prepping too but im at my in laws so restricted sikit i think 😅

    Anyhow, great post as always! Thanks for sharing =)

    1. Hi Nisa,

      Well thanks for coming back! You’re swell <3

      I'm glad your hidayah to do expense tracking came lmao. Keep it up!

  4. Oh ya! Since you’re going to do all except #7, maybe you can report about resist sales challenge first? Because i might learn one or 2 from you because i am SO weak when it comes to sales 🤦🏻‍♀️ i’ve tried the tips i found on the internet like uninstall zalora (but ive recently installed it back?😅), unsubscribed to newsletters etc. But yeah…. #imantakcukupkuat lol

  5. Great article, as always Suraya!

    #5 Selling unwanted junk is an ongoing process. Been cleaning up a bit and I’ve listed some stuff I haven’t been using but malas to load on Carousell :/ ‘Returns’ from last month is RM410 and RM50 vouchers which was not bad.

    Working on #2 & #6 but they’re tough! I’ve reduced shopping on my wants significantly but I did get things I needed. Tried #1 before but I’d rather stick to putting a certain amount into my savings account because I don’t withdraw much to begin with so need the cash at hand LOL

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