Money Management

Money Emergencies and How They Eff Up My Budget

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money emergencies

I track my spending. All of it. In an app. Each purchase gets categorised – for example, rent money goes under the ‘Rent’ category and Tesco bill goes under the ‘Groceries’ category.

One of the categories is ‘Misc Needs’ – things that I have to buy anyway, but they don’t occur often enough to have their own category. They tend to be ‘money emergencies’. For example, things I have to fix or replace. But they’re also things I *have* to do, like haircuts.

I just want to share my observations about my spending patterns in this budget category.

Observation #1:  I think I’ve somehow upgraded my lifestyle in 2017

See the pic below. It shows that between November 2015 until October 2017 (24 months), I’ve spent RM18,045.07 for all Misc Needs. On average, that translates to RM751.88 per month.

money emergencies

But then I divided that further by year. From the breakdown below, it’s clear that my ‘Misc Needs’ spending has doubled!

  • November 2015 – October 2016 (12 months): RM5,477.84, or RM456.49 per month.
  • November 2016 – October 2017 (12 months): RM12,567.23, or RM1,047.27 per month. 

Why is this? Is this how lifestyle upgrade looks like? Do I feel like I *need* more things as I get older?

Observation 2: I have a good idea of the small costs that cumulatively make up the big monthly amount.

The type of expenses are so varied, I can even make sub-categories under the Misc Needs category!

#1 – Things I have to renew

These are things like:

  • Passport renewal. RM200 every 5 years.
  • Driving licence renewal. RM30 per year.

#2 – Things I have to replace/buy anyway

These are things like:

  • Kitchen stuff, like replacing water filters, sponges and chopping boards.
  • Bedroom stuff, like mattresses, pillows and sheets.
  • Electronic accessories like charger cables.
  • Storage units for clothes.
  • Makeup, clothes and shoes.
  • *Phones and laptops go under ‘Business’ category

#3 – Practical tools that cost money but saves me time:

These are things like:

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Water flosser (worth it for someone wearing braces)
  • Washing machine
  • Containers for home organisation, so I spend less time to look for stuff
  • Powerbank

#4 –  Things that improve the physical body:

These are things like:

  • Sports gear
  • Sunscreen
  • Protein powder
  • Braces
  • *Medical items go under ‘Medical’ category

#5 – Things I have to do:

These are things like:

  • Haircut
  • Eyebrow threading
  • Neutering cats
  • Clothes tailoring for special occasions

#6 – Things I have to fix:

These are things like:

  • Electrical and plumbing problems, whenever they arise.
  • Car fixes, when I had a car last time.

#7 – Things I have to pay to avoid prison:

These are things like:

  • Tax balances
  • Fees and fines

Observation #3 – Furnishing a home is expensive, but not as expensive as the other option

I moved into this new apartment in November 2016. That coincided with the time when my Misc Needs expenses shot up. A lot of the items bought under ‘Misc Needs’ are home stuff – to furnish my rented apartment. Unlike previous places, the location I chose now did not come with a bed, mattress, fridge, washing machine, etcetera.

I remember preferring to move into a fully-furnished location, but decided against it because the rental amount didn’t make sense. My rent now is RM1200. The fully-furnished option at the same location is RM1800.

That means I would have to pay RM600 more for a fully-furnished apartment, or RM14,400 more over the course of two years (my lease duration). I remember thinking, “I don’t want to waste RM14,400. I guess it’s okay to pay more upfront payment to furnish this place than to pay more in the end in rent.”

It was absolutely the right decision. I spent about RM6-7k to furnish this place, less than half of RM14,400.

Observation 4: I really like tools that save me time

When I was younger, I didn’t mind going the extra mile to save a ringgit.

Now what I value most is time, and I’m so much more willing to pay for convenience and for tools that save me extra minutes and hours.

I use all that extra time to improve self-development, take on more work and make more money. It’s a nice cycle.

They say you need money to make money, but I say that you need time for yourself so you can make that money as well. Things that I’ve paid for that save me time, aside from tools mentioned above:

  • A virtual assistant – she helps me do research and marketing
  • A dependable laptop and phone
  • Maxis postpaid for the fast internet, even though I don’t like Maxis and they overcharge you
  • Cleaning services whenever necessary
  • And more

This reminds me of a study that linked greater life satisfaction when using money to buy time. What a cool life hack. Ultimately, I don’t want to be rich but too busy to enjoy it. I want a nice life.

What other things have you paid for that saves you time? I’d really like to know that.

Conclusion about money emergencies

Like it or not, I have to pay for these expenses. The good thing is, as mentioned above, a lot of these expenses help me save money in the long run and give a good return on investment on my life satisfaction.

~RM1000 per month is a lot of money to spend monthly, but I do expect the amount will be lowered on average – am not planning to make any other big-ticket purchases. I also put more priority on quality items, so it won’t need replacing so soon. I have rules when it comes to splurging and skimping – covered in this article: 8 Rules to When You Should Splurge and When You Should Skimp

What are your money emergencies? Does your lifestyle require you to you pay for additional stuff? Let me know in comments!


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  1. Hi Suraya,

    Your blog really is very interesting and I have read almost all of it. Thank you for your continuous effort in giving these tips and tricks. However, sometimes I feel it’s quite difficult to be like you ;where you calculate and track every single expenses in your life for many many years, calculating even the smallest things. I just wonder if all this is really necessary?. Dont get me wrong. I know that we have to be mindful with our expenditure and save and invest for future, but I just feel that if splurging money on everything is at one pole, you are at the extreme side on the other side of the pole. If I’m a guy who earns a living and wants to spend that money wisely and come across this blog, it’s hard for me practice what you say here coz it looks like this blog is meant for people who really sit down and think of the ways to keep cutting costs and expenditure, maybe some people really don’t have all the time in the world to have everything about their finances sorted and they just want some simple and basic ways to save money? Maybe they wanna spend time with their kids more rather than opening Money lover and start calculating all the intrinsic details?
    Please don’t get me wrong, I love your blog and I will continue to read your posts. I just wanna type out what I felt after reading all your tips. Thank you.

    1. Hi Moobs,
      What an interesting feedback. Tracking expenses is second nature for me, too used to it. But I see how it can seem overwhelming.

      Saving money is like trying to lose weight. Measuring before/during/after is important, because how’d you know if you improved or not without the data?

      Time-wise, it doesn’t take much. A couple of seconds to open the app, insert amount, choose category and write a bit about the purchase (ie RM25, Groceries, Tesco). It’s honestly very useful. Last time, I couldn’t remember when I last serviced my aircon. Checked the app, there it was. Saved me additional money, didn’t have to do an unnecessary home procedure.

      Tracking expenses is recommended by most ‘how to save money’ articles for a reason. But you can also try another tactic, if you wish – its called the envelope system. How it works: Withdraw all of your money for the month in cash, allocate them in labeled envelopes (ie Rent, Groceries, etc), and only spend what’s available in the envelopes for the month. Over time you’ll see a pattern as well – which envelopes run out faster, which do you ‘steal’ from to pay for another expense category, etc.

      Thanks for commenting and reading my posts. I love sharing my money experiences and make people think.

  2. I have a confession. I’m terrible with following a budget. I can draw one up like a pro, but following them? haha. How in the world did I end up paying off all my debts is a miracle (it’s a six-figure debt, mind!). But, anyway, I’m tracking my expenses now (inspired by you) and nearly fainted at the amount I spent eating out. RM147 in three days!! Egad. The next day I cooked my lunch and dinner instead. Maybe that’s the function of an expense tracker for me – scare me off from overspending!

    1. Hi Elizabeth,
      OMG, I know right. Sometimes I look back at my past few days’ expenses and went, yep, no more eating out until next week.
      Good job on paying off your debt! That’s an achievement!

  3. Hi Suraya,

    I use envelope system and it works for me. I used to ‘track’ my money only but it didn’t seem to get anywhere. With the envelope system, I preemptively plan for everything as much as possible. The goal each month is to use Misc funds as little as possible and if I do use it, I refill it to RM1k every month. So far my average spending is RM340+ monthly and that’s including occasional lending money to friends.

    Examples of things I plan for:

    1. Gadgets. I can’t remember the formula I used to calculate but I put RM250 every month in the gadgets category even though we don’t need to buy anything for now. We got to RM1k when my husband’s phone suddenly went kaput. It was nice that we can immediately buy a new phone with cash without making any adjustments to our budget. Now we’re close to RM1k again, all laptops and phones working fine though my phone is closing two years age mark already.

    2. Family. I set aside a portion for parents (mine and husband’s) each month. I don’t give them all the money each month, but any portions uncollected will remain in the fund. It’s nice when my mom calls and ask for money and I give her whatever’s available in that fund. Last time, admittedly, I get annoyed that I have to take from my savings to give to my mom but now the money is consider “theirs” though I have it in my savings until they request for it.

    3. Festive funds. Duit raya and baju raya (though I’m not so excessive as to buy multiple new pairs of kurungs each year). I think I set aside RM80 each month. Close to raya and it’s quite depleted now since my mom wants money for Ramadhan prep and my dad-in-law wanted contribution for pulut kuning.

    Other stuff includes car service/insurance, Dental, Medical, Grooming (toiletries and haircuts – makeups are from my own personal allowance :p).

    Also to @moobs above, once you start budgeting, you can’t imagine life without it! It’s not that we’re calculating every cent because we’re calculative but nothing can beat the unimaginable peace knowing where and how much your money is and knowing you can be on top of your bills, while at the same time removing your debts/building up savings and still have the occasional guilt-free splurges!

    1. Hi Ints,

      Love your breakdown of personal finance, thanks! Personally I don’t do envelope-style, but maybe I’ll take a stab at it just to see if it can improve my system now.

      I’m sorry, guilt-free splurges? What’s that? Hahahah I kid, I kid :p

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