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Malaysians Share Cheap Things They Have Done

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Frugalism is a good trait to have. Wealthy people tend to have frugal characteristics. In the classic The Millionaire Next Door book, the author found that while wealthy people may have lots of money, most of them don’t look rich.

That makes sense, since you don’t get rich by spending all your money away correct or not.

But this is not an article about frugalism. This is an article about cheapness, it’s lesser cousin.

I observed something. Many people, while trying to be frugal and be responsible with their money, would do things that are considered cheap before they learned to become more frugal.

For example,

  • A cheap person would choose the longer route just to avoid the toll.
  • A frugal person would realise that the extra RM2 toll is not worth the extra 20 minutes in jam and 5km extra in distance.

  • A cheap person would bargain and threaten local sellers into lowering their prices at the market
  • A frugal person would take into account the quality of their work and wares, and pay them a fair price

  • A cheap person would ask their friends to pay for their meals or cover other expenses, while splurging on themselves
  • A frugal person would treat someone they respect for coffee at a nice but affordable place to build long-term relationships (and maybe use discounts/vouchers/rebates)

The point I’m trying to make is: Cheap people look at price. Frugal people look at value.

In a mini-forum organised at Ringgit Oh Ringgit FB page, I asked readers about the cheap things they have done. *I’ve* certainly done them.

Now, the Ringgit Oh Ringgit audience tend to be frugal, not cheap, because I’ve never advocated being cheap for cheap’s sake in any of my content. But I thought it was fun to see the remnants of cheapness that remain in them.

Here are some of the cheap things Malaysians do, as shared by readers. Some made me lol. Thank you to everyone!

Sara Razz – I would tapau foods from events if I get any chance. I also order one Bottomless drink for both me and hubs.

Shafiq Ibrahim – I go to bookstores to see latest book offerings. Then go back and download the ebook versions.

Alya Shaiful – My primary school teacher used to get mad at me because I write conservatively on every line so I don’t have to buy a new notebook.

I distinctly remember her saying something on the lines of “your parents are rich, you can afford a new notebook”. That is probably the one thing I remembered about this teacher

The Stockmonger – I eat cereal and milk with a fork. So that I can save milk. #lifehack

My sister wakes up at noon so she doesn’t have to spend on breakfast.

Anon – (I’m cheap about) saving on face care products. After I wash my hair, I’d let the foam and water rinse over my face.

cheap things malaysians do

Archibald Frankie Undam – There used to be a stall last time when I was in Uni. If you eat there, they would charge you extra 10 cents. What I did was everyday was to tapau the food but sit to eat there and get the sup kosong and air kosong for free.

Hakim – Sometimes I don’t order foods when I eat out with families because I know they won’t be able to finish their foods and I can be the DBKL. Also meal for one can be sufficient for two people, according to a hadith (Sahih Muslim 2059).

Pelham Blue – If you go to a FocusPoint outlet, you can ask nicely for a spectacles case, new cleaning cloth, and contact lens case free of charge. Not to mention the FOC cleaning service.

(Suraya’s notes: And then their frugalism came out) But do purchase something and be a repeat customer as courtesy. We ought to support outstanding businesses/service. We personally support the company by buying the stock.

Kia – I would go around to find a baby room to fill up my water bottle in malls, because bottled water for RM4 is daylight robbery! If not, there’s Plan B of buying bottled water from grocery stores for RM1 for a bottle.

But if I’m REALLY being cheap, I’ll just wait it out, especially when I’m out with friends/siblings who never finish their drinks!

Ara Mira – Not me but my father. He would order tapau drinks but drink it at the restaurant WITH his meal. Simply because tapau drinks have more volume and he can continue to drink if he can’t finish it at the restaurant.

Nezyrin – Upon staying at a hotel, I will request more instant coffee/tea bags so I can bring it back home. I would also ask the cleaning lady if they could give me more (usually they would).

Afiqah Mazli – Oh you mean like clearing (stashing it into the luggage) the toiletries of the hotel sink and request for more every day/ every chances kind of cheap?

Cheah Zinnirah – I love to visit my sisters’ and aunts’ houses when they doing house clearing. I’d help them throw unused items while look for something that I can use. Usually I’d get preloved/never worn clothes, accessories, perfumes, bed sheets, free gifts that they don’t want anymore, things like that.

Zarinah Mohd YusoffI seldom order drinks for myself when I am dining out with my family. And I share my husband’s drink, hoping to save the cost for six.

The rule of cheap

Be as cheap as you want, as long as your cheapness is justified, for example:

  • You really REALLY cannot afford to spend the extra money
  • It doesn’t negatively affect individuals and businesses who depend on the income
  • You return the favour with friends and family, not just take take take only

I don’t really care if you reuse things to oblivion, or waste your time searching for the best possible prices for an item, or anything like that. As long as you use the rule of no harm to others, you’re good in my book.

In what way are YOU cheap? Share them in the comments!

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  1. 1. When I was on a long leave, I used to having to shop for essentials/electric items on shopping sites. I used to spend time comparing which shopping sites offer the best possible prices, including shipping, Boost rewards/Digi rewards offset, shopping coupons, Shopback cashback, credit card points..and compare them. Sometimes in between those choices, the differences were just mere few ringgits only.. Now thinking about it, I wonder so much why I spent the time for that. Now i’m back to work, I hardly have time to go to toilet sometimes even!

    P/s: Suraya, sorry this is kinda weird but mind to share where did u buy your ‘super absorbent bath mat’? I remembered u mentioned about it some time sorry!!

    1. Hi Adiba,

      My do I relate to that so much… used to spend hours, sometimes days and weeks comparing prices. Now I still find myself doing it for big-ticket items, but let the smaller ones go (and I still remember which shops/combos offer the best prices for regularly-bought items!)

      P/s – Found the bath mat in Tesco some time back. That’s probably not much help sorry 😛

  2. My friends don’t feel it’s worth spending time to learn e wallets or the many methods of cashback. Whenever we go out to eat. I offer to pay the bill (I’ll declare I may get benefits from it sometimes up to 10% discount). They don’t mind and they don’t want to waste time breaking the bill there. They pay me back later( I round up the numbers ).

  3. i tapau rollssssssssss of toilet paper from office (sikit-sikit at a time la, smart a bit) to use at home…been doing it for a month and am proud of it

  4. Ok, talk about cheapness, here goes:-

    1. While I was staying at my college hostel, I used to eat nasi tambah nasi with a telur mata and sausage banjir sos tomato which costs me RM1.60 (year 2007) for my dinner. This meal would last me a whole night. The canteen uncle knows my style quite well every time he sees me and would prepare my meal accordingly. The only time I splurge on food was when I went for dinner with my hostel mates once/twice a week, that I would order nasi goreng kampung and ais kosong. For breakfast, it would usually be roti kosong with ais kosong if I have classes on that day. If I have no class, then breakfast would be maggie mee or white bread with margarine spread.

    2. Do you classify someone who has only 1 pair of jeans and wear that same pair for 3-4 years as cheap or frugal? Every year, I would wear the same pair of jeans for CNY. I only buy one piece of red t-shirt/shirt (price below RM70) for first day of CNY. Second day onwards I would wear clothes from previous years. The only time when I buy a new jeans is when there are big holes visible to the eyes (usually at the knee area as I squat a lot working in construction line).

    3. For my mobile, I maintain only a prepaid sim which is without active data. I use the data on my company mobile. I do not call out using my prepaid number, so I would only have to reload my mobile with RM5 once every 3 months to maintain my number for incoming calls/

    4. I know this is bad for health, but I buy 1.5L bottled drinking water (Summer) by the cartons (some times up to 20 cartons at a time). That would last me for months. I have calculated that it would cost me only about RM60 per month for the consumption of my mom and I. But with the current promotion by Coway at RM85 per month, I am weighing my options and considering to apply for the offer. Will be paying RM25 additional per month, but at least we will have safer water to drink.

    5. I keep opened envelopes (I receive a lot of letters) on my table and use them to write notes to save on new paper. I will only dispose the envelope when it is scribbled to the brim.

    6. I use my toothbrush for a year, as long as I could still see the bristles standing straight. I know this is bad practice because it is recommended that we change our toothbrushes every 6 months or so. I do the same thing to my shaving blades. I will use until it becomes completely blunt before I change it.

    7. Although I get toothpicks from coffee shops for free, I would still keep them in my car and reuse them all the time until it becomes blunt or breaks. Again, bad practice due to bacteria and germs.

    8. Normal car service mileage is recommended at every 5,000km interval, but usually I would stretch it to 7,000km or a maximum of 10,000km to save at least 50% of the maintenance cost. It will not harm the car if we extend the normal lifespan of the engine oil. So it is safe to do so.

    9. My “kiasu” style asks me to hoard on groceries whenever I see a sale of between 15-20% off the normal price (they usually would give huge discounts on foodstuff like instant noodles, Kimball spaghetti and sauce, 100 plus, baked beans, shampoo, body wash, face cleanser, dish washing liquid, and wet cat food!). These are the usual stuff which I would stock up in quantities of tens and whenever I see a promo.

    10. I make my coffee with coffee bags, so once I mixed the coffee bag with hot water for the first round, I would quickly scoop it up to save it for a second round. That was I could have 2 cups of coffee for the day using 1 coffee bag.

    Well, I think that is all that I could think of for now. I don’t want to write about my cheapness as much as an article LOL. But there is definitely more to my cheapness, if you are considering to publish a book about cheapskate people, you may consider my entry XD

    1. Hi Alan,

      Thanks for sharing, I am impressed with your list. I do the groceries hoarding and reusing coffee (and tea bags) too 🙂

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