I truly believe that personal finance is beyond just simple, boring money. They show insight of who you are, as a person. They show what you decided were important enough to spend money on, and serves almost like a diary.
Well, this is my 2016 diary. It’s a bit nerve-wracking to show them, so be nice ya 🙂
Income in 2016
Total income in 2016: RM76,151.19 or an average of RM6345.93 per month.
2016 was my first year of self-employment, and it’s been good. Most of my income came from either writing services, advertising/sponsored post services, or affiliate marketing. I’ve written reports, press releases, interviews, online and offline articles, scripts, and also provided rapporteur, editorial and SEO services.
It’s important to note here that during my earlier months of self-employment, I barely made any money. In fact, my income for January 2016 was RM0. Since then, it steadily increased (thank God). My best month was November 2016 at RM17911.27 (close to 24% of yearly income), and that was the result of months of negotiation and pending invoices being processed.
I’m lucky that self-employment turned out to be profitable for me. Before this, my previous job paid RM3500 per month. Here’s my spending breakdown during the time, during October 2014-September 2015.
Related: Here’s how I got started in self-employment.
Expenses in 2016
This is the fun part! Dissecting my spending for the year brings me back to those moments – some I’ve already forgotten. It’s a fun thing to do, almost like reliving 2016 all over again. I remember specific purchases I made when I felt happy, or sad, or annoyed, or bored.
Total expenses in 2016: RM58,154.24 or an average of RM4846,19 per month (rounded up to RM4900 per month).
This covers all expenses, as much as I know, but I might have missed some expenses, so that’s why I rounded it up. I track my spending via my expense-tracking app Money Lover (review).
Breakdown of expenses, in a pretty chart:
I used to have 16 categories, but as I cleaned it up, it turned out that they can fit into 14. Here are the top eight, from highest to lowest:
Breakdown and comments on each expense category
1) Donations and Gifts
Once again, my biggest expense was Donations and Gifts. At RM13,423.89, I average about RM1118.66 per month. This surprises me, a little bit, in a very surreal way. I thought I didn’t give away enough, actually.
Looking at my expense report, I see how I got this amount: I paid zakat, helped my dad out, and paid for my parents’ multiple bills (mostly electric and water bills).
Please someone tell my parents to switch off the aircon when not in use TT_TT
2) Misc Needs
RM10213.13?? RM851.10 per month?? How????????????????
This category, made for unavoidable life expenses, is for expenses that don’t really belong anywhere else. For 2016, this included:
- Furniture, home items and electrical appliances for new home in Klang Valley
- Self-care items like dental floss and shampoo and stuff
- A new mattress
- Dentist bill
- Rental stamping fee
- Laundry (back when I don’t have washing machine)
- Non-optional clothing, including my outfits for my sister’s wedding
- Paying off my blacklisted number
- Spaying my cat
- Some fines and bank fees
Gosh, unavoidable life expenses do add up, don’t they? Maybe I should make different categories, but most of the above are not recurring enough to warrant its own category :/ If you have suggestions, I’m all ears.
To be fair, many of the expenses above is my own fault. I moved to Ipoh then moved back to Klang Valley. Moving is expensive. Thank goodness for friends who help you move, if not this would’ve been higher.
I plan to travel in 2017, too, so let’s see how this category will be affected.
4) Utilities & Rent
RM394.66 per month, on average. Ipoh was cheap to live in!
Now I’m paying a lot more than that for my accommodation in Klang Valley. But I figure, hey, it’s worth shelling out more for a comfortable place, now that I work from home (this is my excuse :P).
For a comparison between my KL and Ipoh living cost, read here.
RM344.51 per month on groceries. I’m happy with this amount!
I’m pretty frugal when it comes to groceries (see my guide to groceries here). I like the cheap+healthy+keto combo, so I’m glad I got to eat relatively well in 2016 for just this amount. There were a lot of eggs lol
(This doesn’t include food I bought for myself while going out or during social activities, though).
6) Loan Repayment
ASB loan repayments. Sigh, ~20 more years of this.
RM3500.28 for the year. Includes membership fees, website, software, business cards, VA services, and other things. I thought this category would be higher, actually.
I expect this amount will increase in 2017. I’m starting to get more Malaysian clients and attending more events.
Going out with friends and families. RM256.32 per month. I think this is alright, and it is a big jump from RM151.43 previously. I still feel a lot of FOMO though (fear of missing out). I wonder if it’ll ever go away…
Here are the next six categories:
9) Misc Wants
Misc wants is a category for ‘I want but I can’t fully justify it’ purchases. At RM252.71 per month, this is a bit on the higher side. I have to reduce my expenses in this category!
I spent on:
- Tobacco (money waster, I know)
- My abandoned aquaponics project
- A garment steamer (because I decided that I’m ‘over’ ironing. Sigh)
- Clothes and bags that are not strictly ‘needed’
- Facials and cosmetics (also not strictly ‘needed’)
- App purchases
Note to self: please, please quit smoking, you junkie.
10) Insurance and Medical
Medical card and PA insurance. I wrote about my insurances here. These are grown-up expenses, I can live with this.
11) Parking, Petrol & Toll
RM147.33 per month for this category. It’s funny because I don’t actually have a car. Mostly I spend for parking, petrol and toll when I borrow my friend’s car and fill up the petrol and Touch N Go in exchange.
It’s kinda high, but I’ll be damned if I don’t contribute. An ex-friend of mine, back in college, used to take advantage of me and request free rides all the time without helping to pay for anything (and I’m not the type to ask). I never want to be that person.
12) Public Transport
On average, I spent RM117.32 per month for public transport. Mostly Ipoh-Shah Alam bus trips, but now in 2017 this is mainly Uber, Grab and LRTs.
Sometimes I feel pressured to have a car, but I don’t think it’s a good financial option for me now. I still dream about my dream car (Suzuki Vitara) a lot, though.
RM86.41 per month. This is OK, right? Right??
I’d love to switch to cheaper mobile plan but unfortunately that’s not possible now. My place, as awesome as it is, charges commercial rates, which means all internet packages are the more expensive business ones. I’m not going to pay RM180 per month for mediocre internet, so phone internet it is.
RM53.75 per month for snacks (like Chatime. I’m legit sad they’re closing), all of them going to my waistline *cries*
To be fair, it used to be RM61.91 per month, so it’s a small victory I guess.
Conclusion and self-reflection
As I write these out, and compare them to my old budget just 2-3 years ago, it shows how much lifestyle inflation can creep up on you. I used to spend RM2888.03 on average, per month. Now it’s RM4900. That’s almost 1.7x more! In 3 years!
Here’s my old budget:
- Salary: RM3500
- Minus: Spending (RM2,888) + EPF (RM385) + SOCSO (RM14.75) + tax deductions (RM33.60)
- Total left from salary: RM178.65
And this is the new budget:
- Salary: RM6345.93
- Minus: RM4900 (not including EPF or SOCSO!)
- Total left from salary: RM1445.93
…I now spend more than I made in my old budget. As a self-identified frugal person, I’m not particularly proud of this fact.
But on the flipside,
- I have more disposable income per month
- I no longer have housemates
- I can afford to support my friends’ businesses
- I can afford to donate more
- I can afford to go travelling
- I should stay put in one location, at least for a few years (until I’m bored and feel like living somewhere else), so I’ll save on moving costs
- I don’t think I have to make any big purchases for a while (mattress, fridge, couch etc)
- Some business expenses can be deducted (I think)
- I don’t have to get much ‘business’ clothes
- I contribute more to investments
- Generally, I’m happier and more stress-free
I apologise if this post seems like bragging in any way, but I’m genuinely fascinated by the insights that my spending habits gave me. I’m glad that, at the end of the day, my biggest expense is still donations to people I love.
Like I mentioned in my 11 things I learned about self-employment in Malaysia post, I’m now in ‘earning money’ mode rather than ‘saving money’ mode. Now I’d rather earn more than save more. I think I can probably cut down 20-30% of my expenses if I really try, but I’d rather not live miserably and miserly.
Truthfully, I still have trouble digesting my sudden increase in disposable income. So far I’ve chucked most of them in various investments, because I don’t know what to do with them and I feel uncomfortable seeing them not doing anything. I wonder how other people deal with their disposable incomes, after life expenses? Do they actively look for things to buy? Do they save up for properties? Do they party it all away? It’s fascinating how money amplifies a person’s personality.
With that thought, I’m signing off for now. I would love to hear how you decide – consciously or unconsciously – to spend your money and disposable income. If you feel comfortable sharing, do comment.