Living in KL is fun, if you’re a city kind of person. Moving to KL was a dream come true of mine.
There is a wide range (like, super wide) of income disparity between KL-ites. Some people make a few hundred a month. Some people make a few hundred thousand a month.
This guide draws on my experience when I was living in KL. As a benchmark, I was a single female in early 20s, with a job that netted me about RM3000 a month. I moved out from my parents’ house for good at around 22 – and I remember this as I started my Masters during this time – and have been happily living by myself ever since. I lived in Serdang, Old Klang Road, and PWTC area. Now I live in Ipoh (Related: Ipoh and KL living cost comparison).
If you are moving out for the first time, be prepared to know how much you actually need before you can even consider it.
#1 – Rental+Deposit
Renting a place is a fun process if you have money, NOT a fun process if you’re on a tight budget.
Ideally, you’ll want:
- Somewhere close to public transport
- Or, if you mainly drive, somewhere with free parking space
- Somewhere close to work, so you get to hit snooze a couple of times every morning
- A whole
placeroom to yourself (let’s be real)
- Of course, housemates you can get along with
- A kitchen, because you have daydreamed about throwing dinner parties
- A kickass living room, because you have daydreamed about throwing parties
- Furnished room with a comfortable double bed
- Attached toilet!
- Life comforts – Air-conditioning, hot water heater, water purifier, washing machine, etc
- Added facilities, especially for condominiums – swimming pool, gym, tennis court, security, etc
If you want ALL of the above in Kuala Lumpur, the minimum rental is something like RM1000, if you’re lucky. Actually, this is yesteryear’s price. I’d say it’s now closer to RM1500 a month. If you want to pay less than that, you’ll have to give up some of the benefits. I have a somewhat guide on what kind of places you can afford on a RMx500 salary in Kuala Lumpur.
Renter’s typically pay: 2 months’ deposit, 1 month advance rental, and 1 month utility deposit = 4 months’ rental before you can even move in.
There might also be other added costs like tenancy agreement fee, security deposit, utilities (sometimes the rental place adds this cost to the price, sometimes it doesn’t), etc.
How to save money on rental:
- Don’t stay anywhere where the rental costs more than 30% of your salary
- You can try this trick – this is how I rented a master bedroom in KL for RM150 per month
- If your utilities are not included, find out how to pay it fairly, especially if you only use fan but have an air-conditioning demon of a housemate
#2 – Home stuff
Suddenly you’ll miss the convenience of home, where you’ve had everything at your disposal. I’m talking about the other stuff that makes a house, a home, that you didn’t think of. Like, a clean floor. If you don’t sweep daily, your feet will be dusty all the time. I am personally disgusted with the amount of hair I shed – this was not something I noticed when I still lived at home!
At your own place, if you don’t buy dish soap, you’ll get cockroaches. If you don’t buy Shieldtox, that cockroach stays alive. For clothes storage, you’ll need hangers and hooks (as well as an area where you can hang your washed underwear without shame). List goes on.
How to save money on home stuff:
- Obviously I can’t list out everything you need. But if you’re like me, you’ll visit Mr DIY a lot. They are consistently cost-effective, and are everywhere.
- When you move in, have a few hundred ringgit to buy the absolute essentials, and dedicate some money in your budget on monthly basis. You’ll discover that you will need to get more things you need, trust me.
- It helps if you have more money than you need, because you can buy stuff in bulk, which will work out better for your budget in longer term.
#3 – Food
Tl;dr If you don’t know how to cook, learn.
I say this because its too.damn.easy to overspend on food in KL. Delicious food everywhere. If you have transfers at KL Sentral, that’s it. Hokkaido cheese cake and Chatime everyday. “I haven’t tasted [x] in a while” is like a daily thought.
I used to… steal… the odd tomato or two whenever I go back to my parents’ home. They pretend not to notice, but I’m sure they do, because they always give me a couple days’ worth of gulai to bring back to KL. Thank you Mami TT_TT
How to save money on food:
- You can read how I average RM2.86 a meal when I was living in KL. I had a kettle, stove top, oven, and rice cooker at my disposal.
- As long as you have hot water, you can make instant noodles – add cheap vegetables like kangkung and stuff in it ~RM2
- Cold Storage/Tesco/Giant/Aeon bargain bins
- If nothing here works, go on keto. This helps a lot to minimise hunger craving – simply boil eggs and eat with good oils like coconut or real butter ~RM1-2
Eating out: here are some cheap eats suggestions:
- Tosai/Roti Canai kosong + ais kosong + extra free dahl ~RM2
- Nasi campur with 1 or 2 vegetarian side dish ~RM3
- Nasi kandar with a mountain of rice from the mamak – discreetly divide into two or more portions and eat that for a few consecutive days ~RM8 split to two
- If your office provides food, go ahead and take it (reasonable amount, mmkay)
#4 – Transportation
Home visits? Money. I was lucky my parents’ only live in Shah Alam/Klang, not East Malaysia.
Car? Money. Petrol, car repairs, insurance, parking costs, driving license renewal was all up to me.
Public transport? Money and time, which is arguably the costliest.
Save money on transportation:
- Don’t get a car if you can’t afford it. If your job requires you to have a car but you’re barely getting by, you need another job or an extra job.
- Use Uber instead of a car. Uber is awesome! Use my invite code ‘surayazue‘ for your first free ride.
- I would say walk everywhere but who are we kidding, this is Malaysia
#5 – Decoration/Furniture
When you move out for the first time, you’ll have this crazy idea in your head. “I’m gonna deck my place MY way!”, you’ll say.
Then you find out how much exactly it costs to ‘deck out’. Shit. What. How much for a table? Never mind I’ll eat on the floor tqvm. Ok, maybe not that extreme, although I did live for a year at a place with collapsible picnic table as a dining table.
What I’m saying is: adjust your deco expectations. Clean is a good look on its own, and keeping things clean is surprisingly more expensive than you thought.
How to save money on decoration/furniture:
Forget your Muji-style dream house and settle for ‘mismatched but clean look’I’m not giving up on this. One day, I’ll have you, Muji.
- Get a place already fully furnished or semi-furnished
- If you got a non-furnished unit and are in need of basic furniture but don’t have the money for it, my suggestion is: subscribe to Freecycle KL and wait for people to offer free furniture. Once you see something you like, pounce (politely) like nobody’s business. Make sure you add value to the community by offering something back, too. Disclaimer: I haven’t used Freecycle in Malaysia, but I did in UK – they’re legit, but use common sense.
- You could throw a house warming party and ask for basic stuff as presents. I’ve attended a few of these. Make a list of what you need. I’ve gifted a carpet and kitchenware before.
- Or simply repurpose what you have. I’m no Pinterest guru, but I used one of my scarves as a table covers and I’m so proud of myself omg.
There you have it. Moving to KL, or moving out in general can be costly. Here are some expenses you should note of for a great overall experience of living in the city. If you want to move out, save money to cover all these expenses before you take the plunge.
Know anyone who’s moving to KL soon? Share this article with them, it might help 🙂