So you want to learn how to save money as a student in Malaysia.
Maybe you’re doing it because you heard it’s part of ‘adulting’. Maybe your parents can only afford to give you a modest allowance. Or maybe you don’t have a choice – you have to save money to survive (no allowance from parents and have to depend on PTPTN money for the whole semester, for example).
Either way, you want to know student-friendly strategies to save money. What I’ve done is I’ve reached out to Malaysians and asked them what THEY did to save money as a student, and compiled their answers in one post.
However, don’t see this as just a compilation of advice – these are actual lived experiences. These Malaysians have survived their student days using these money-saving strategies, and hopefully so can you.
Much gratitude to everyone who shared their tips here. All comments have been edited for clarity.
How students can save money on food
These grocery tips are always helpful, whether you’re a student or otherwise:
Ling Mien Yeo – For groceries, I tracked prices, bought when they are on sale, and also buy near to market closing time.
Some repeated cheap yet substantial meals to get by:
Rick (@r1ckkkkkkk) – Almost every morning I will eat oats. Oats save a lot of money and is healthy too. The big pack is about RM10-13, and it can last around a month.
Many mentioned how they welcomed opportunities for free food. Aside from joining free programmes and activities that provide food, some also appreciated Ramadan month for the easy availability of free food:
Rick (@r1ckkkkkkk) – The best time is during Ramadan – I can get free sahur and dinner for a month.
This is surprising, but quite a few people credited the kakak nasi campur for allowing them to take extra rice at no extra charge:
Samefame (Anon by request) – Since rice costs the same whether you take a little or take a lot, I would take a whole mountain (i.e a food container full) of rice and 2 or 3 different lauk to split between lunch and dinner.
Adhura (@adhfwn) – As a student (foundation and degree), I eat once/twice a day, with plain water in between to beat the hunger. Budget meals were the best – we had this akak catering with diff dishes per day at RM4 for nasi + ulam + lauk sent at lunch and/or dinner. If I can’t get those, I eat at 4PM once a day.
RM5 covers both lunch and dinner. It was only after I started working in between classes and got a scholarship that it got better, (and I can afford to) eat twice a day.
All I can say is, bless all the kakak nasi campur for feeding students this way :’) If you don’t know one, go find one near you.
How students can save money on accommodation
I didn’t get many respondents specifically sharing how they saved money on accommodation. Perhaps it’s a given that students usually live at student accommodation, which is usually affordable.
However, people who live off-campus can use the effective roommates strategy to save money:
Mark Perkins – Another thing that helped me save money was by having roommates – three of us lived in a one-bedroom flat.
How students can save money on transportation
In Malaysia, car ownership among students is somewhat high, perhaps due to factors like location (no choice but to have a car to go to class) combined with car loans products targeting students.
Having said that, there are Malaysians who survived without cars, even though they admitted it was hard:
Ling Mien Yeo – I used public transportation or walked, even though it took more time.
Hwa Shi-Hsia – I biked. (To avoid it being stolen,) don’t be stingy on the bike lock. The cable kind is not reliable, it needs to be something solid like a U-lock or solid chain. Otherwise, bye-bye bike. I learned the hard way.
How students earned the money to save
Obviously, to be able to save money as a student, you have to have some money to save in the first place.
The source of income among respondents varied. Some saved some money from their allowance and/or PTPTN:
Cheah Zinnirah – During university, I saved RM300 from PTPTN to put towards emergency savings.
Quite a few respondents reported working to earn side income, to either survive on or supplement their allowance.
In case any of you think that students are supposed to focus on studying not working, I’d like to share this HSBC-led research, which said that ‘the academic performance of students who work 10-19 hours per week is superior to their peers‘.
Neutrals Fong – I worked part-time jobs like promoters, agents, as well as joined contests/competitions that pays money.
Tararumpum (@flabibiii) – I had a side business doing printing service in my room. I was living on campus and all the printer shops were located in the faculties all in the middle of campus and closed on evenings. It was quite troublesome if one needed to print documents/assignments at night for the next day submission.
That’s how I started this side hustle from my room. I initially bought the printer for my own use and thought of the demand of this service. I used to print little posters and pin them on every noticeboard. Demand also increased if this was towards the semester end.
A way for students to get food AND money
And last but not least, this genius ‘two birds, one stone’ solution which both help students to save AND earn money at the same time – take jobs that provide food:
Muhammad Amar Hasshim – I worked at the student center while studying. You have no idea how much food they threw away that is still good. So as someone whose main job was to throw away that food, I did throw them away…. inside my fridge.
Mark Perkins – I worked as much as I could and ate whatever leftovers or food they gave me. I worked in the catering department in the school. In the summer, I did janitorial work at the school. This gave me access to free food most of the time.
Hope this article will give students out there ideas to save money on food, accommodation and transportation, as well as ideas to generate income at the same time. If you have any other student-friendly tips to save money, please share them in the comments!
Next read: Find out what jobs are great options for students, and where to find them at 4 Best Jobs for Students in Malaysia Looking for Fast, Quick Money article.