how to save money in malaysia
Saving Money

49 Ways I’ve Tried to Save Money in Malaysia, From Easy to Impossible

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How do you save money in Malaysia? What works? What doesn’t?

I thought it would be fun to show you what I personally did to save money. Some were successful, some were not – I’ve listed what I’ve I tried, and gave them a rank: easy, medium, hard, and impossible.

Note: This is not a comprehensive list of all the ways to save money in Malaysia – I can’t claim I’ve ‘tried it all’. Regardless I think it’s a good start 🙂 

I’ve sorted these money-saving tips in the following categories:

  • Accommodation
  • Transportation
  • Food
  • Clothes
  • Health & Beauty
  • Entertainment
  • Mobile
  • Small leaks
  • Optimising spending
  • Reduce temptation
  • Being organised

How to Save Money on Accommodation in Malaysia

1. Make rent as cheap as possible

Level: Medium

Why: When I lived in KL, I managed to reduce my monthly rent to RM150 a month. In Ipoh, I lived in a low-cost flat. For most of my life, I have housemates/ people to share bills with.

Rent shouldn’t take more than 30% of your income. For me I try to make it less than 10%, either by drammatically reduce my accommodation cost or by earning more.  

2. Live with family

Level: Hard

Why: I know its common to live with family, but I love my independence too much. I also believe in learning to be self-sufficient. 

For y’all out there who always dream of moving out, I will be blunt here. Living by yourself is significantly more expensive.

How to Save Money on Transportation in Malaysia

1. Not having a car

Level: Hard

Why: It’s hard to have a car, it’s hard to NOT have a car.

When I had a car, there were so many things to pay for: maintenance, petrol, tolls, parking. It also broke down a couple of times (once, on the way to Genting, I had to pay RM500 for towing!), screen shattered due to stray brick on the highway, flat tires… I don’t miss those times.

Yet when I didn’t have a car, I had to plan my schedules very carefully. Was fully dependent on ehailing and public transportation.

Update: Now, between e-hailing and husband’s car, it’s not so hard anymore, so maybe 1 car + WFH is the sweet spot? I can also book a rental car for the day if I need it. Read: SOCAR Review: 7 Tips to Get Cheap Car Rental in KL, Penang and Johor

2. Cycle

Level: Impossible

Why: Look, I like cycling and everything, but it’s not realistic to depend on them. I used cycle when I lived in Ipoh and I used it to go to the gym, but stray dogs and road bullies scare the crap out of me.

How to Save Money on Food in Malaysia 

1. Pack lunch to work

Level: Easy

Why: Back when I still had my office job, I’d bring packed lunch to work almost every day. This saved me tons of money – assuming lunch is a modest RM6 every day, I saved RM132 per month (22 days x RM6) or RM1584 per year.  

Packing lunch is simple. When cooking (usually dinner), make more than what you need, then turn leftovers as lunch for the next day.

For those of you peer-pressured into going out for lunch, can you do me a favour and share how you say no to invitations? I always feel a bit awkward. 

Related: 5 Things I Did To Reduce My Damn High Groceries Bill

2. Plan meals around sales

Level: Medium

Why: I love using HappyFresh, the grocery delivery service for this. After you pick a hypermarket you want to buy from (Tesco, Mydin, Cold Storage etc), you can go to ‘Best Deals’ section and look at all the items currently on discount easily! 

Related:

3. Have a herb/vegetable garden

Level: Impossible

Why: Not lucky enough to have green thumb, and not motivated enough to learn at the moment.

I like the idea of aquaponics, though. It’s a garden on top of an aquarium – the waste produced by the fishes becomes the nutrients that the plants need. 

4. Know how much common staples cost

Level: Hard

Why: Having a rough idea of how much things cost is handy. If you go grocery shopping often enough, you would know more or less how much things usually cost.

However, I admit to only keeping track of a few items, not a lot. It takes a lot of mental space.

5. Bring water bottle everywhere

Level: Easy

Why: Already become habit. This is one of the best things you can do for your wallet, skin, health and the environment.

6. Don’t order drinks/ Order cheap drinks

Level: Medium

Why: Water bottle tip (above) saved me hundreds of ringgit when dining out. 

Not immune to peer-pressure, though. I relax this rule when going out with friends or on dates. I also try not to be cheap when dining at small businesses.

7. Have a manual water filter at home

Level: Medium

Why: I love the idea of hot/cold dispensers, but why do they cost a hundred every month? 0_0

My drinking water system, ladies and gentlemen. They need replacing and occasional maintenance, but at least I don’t have to get water delivered or buy water filters every month.

Image credit: aliexpress

8. Buy from bargain bins

Level: Easy

Why: I’d argue this is my favourite way to save money, even if I sometimes buy stuff I shouldn’t! My favourite bargain bins are from Ben’s Grocers, Cold Storage and Jaya Grocer 😀

9. ‘Shop the perimeters’

Level: Medium

Why: In grocery stores, I try to shop around the edges and not in the middle. The middle is where they put most of the processed foods. Delicious, expensive marked-up processed food.

I’m not a saint. I like bad-food-for-me too. Thankfully bargain bins (above) has helped me to eat some of the weirdest shit.

10. Eat out pantry

Level: Easy

Why: More often than not, ‘there’s no food in the house’ is a myth. If you’re open to experimenting, you can be creative with odds and ends and try new combinations of flavours.  

Related: I Figured Out The Perfect System to Stop Food Waste

How to Save Money on Clothes in Malaysia 

1. Small wardrobe

Level: Easy

Why: When you grew up fat, you tend to not like looking for clothes so much. I also don’t care much for fashion tbh :/

If you’re a fashionista, you can still have this hobby – just make sure that you make extra effort in other money-saving areas.

Related: Save Money on Fashion: 5 Steps I Use to Optimise My Clothing Budget

2. Thrifted clothing

Level: Easy

Why: Thrift-shopping is enjoyable for me.  

3. Repairing clothes

Level: Medium

Why: Don’t particularly enjoy sewing.. but if I have to, I have to.

4. Get free stuff from Buy Nothing Group

Level: Hard

Why: I have both given and received free items from Buy Nothing Group on Facebook. To join one, type in the name + your area, see what comes up. If none exists, you can create your own. 

The reason why I put the level as hard is a lot of luck is needed into getting what you want. Not only the gifter must choose to gift to you (they can have their own requirements), you also have to sort out delivery/collection.

Note: You can give/receive more items beyond clothes in Buy Nothing Groups

How to Save Money on Health & Beauty in Malaysia 

1. Exercise on the cheap

Level: Hard

Why: Can’t lie – I want to be the kind of girl who has gym memberships and personal trainers. I think their guidance can be worth the money, but it’s hard for me to shell out more than RM100/month for them :/ My Crossfit classes were RM120 per month, but I quit because I’m a cheapo.

How much do you spend on fitness per month? I wonder if I’m the only one who picks fitness activities based on how cheap they are.

2. Use menstrual cup

Level: Medium

Why: People with uteruses, hear me out. You can save so much money if you switch to a menstrual cup. I buy maybe one pack of every couple of year, just for ‘in case’ situations. 

Mine was about RM80 (please get the quality one not the China one), made of medical-grade silicone and pretty comfortable once used to it. 

Assuming you spend RM15 a month for pads/tampons, and the menstrual cups lasting 10 years, you’ll save at least RM5000. My menstrual cup paid for itself a long time ago.

Image credit: fleurcup.com
Image credit: fleurcup.com

3. Cut own hair

Level: Impossible

Why: After 5 or so tries, I have to finally admit that I am not talented at this.

4. Buy generic medicine

Level: Easy

Why: I am lucky enough to be healthy, but when I need the odd paracetamol, I take the no-brand ones instead of overpriced Panadol.

5. Quit using shampoo

Level: Impossible

Why: A couple of years back I read about the no-poo movement. People were swearing by it – healthier hair and scalp, they say. Just wash your hair with water, and use baking soda as ‘shampoo’ and apple cider vinegar as ‘conditioner’.

I tried it and didn’t even last a week. It was so greasy and smells like vinegar (not nice, FYI). My hair even fell out wtf.

6. Quit smoking

Level: Damn hard

Why: Nicotine dependence. But I have to quit smoking, it’s making my teeth ugly! 

UPDATE: Quit for 1 year. Unsure where savings went

UPDATE: Smoke-free for a few years already! 

How to Save Money on Entertainment in Malaysia 

1. Low-cost entertainment

Level: Medium

Why: I like free/almost free entertainment. Being online is fun and cheap. Free content is amazing.

UPDATE: I subscribe to both Spotify and Netflix. Combined, they cost around RM20 per month, which is low for entertainment. Hard to even get movie tix at that price nowadays 

Related:

2. Buy Steam games only on sale

Level: Easy

Why: Just add the games you want in cart and eventually they will go on sale 🙂

By the way, did you know you can use Playstation controller to play (select) Steam games? Yes, you can!

3. No magazine subscriptions

Level: Easy

Why: Most content I want to read is free anyway.

Hack: If you do need to subscribe (cheap subscription promo for the first month/year, etc), then use BigPay card. Reason: you can ‘freeze’ your card, so you’re not charged for the next payment.

Obligatory Bigpay referral link.

4. Not really into festivities or holidays

Level: Easy

Why: I’ve never really been a Valentine’s Day person, or Hari Raya person, or any other special day really. Not being in celebratory mood saves me money on decoration costs, clothes, single-use props, and other stuff that makes the day special.

Note: This has tons of downside (i.e. being a killjoy), but this is my natural state.

How to Save Money on Mobile in Malaysia 

1. Only use prepaid phone plans

Level: Easy

Why: I love Yoodo. You can adjust how much data, call minutes and SMS you want to get. My 150GB data with 50 call minutes plan is just RM93 per month, much more value for money than 40GB plan with unlimited calls and SMS for RM128 that I got under Maxis last time.

It’s easy to switch – just download Yoodo app and you can order SIM card and do porting (to keep old number) from there. Use my code ‘zwbai7716’ to get RM20 in your wallet.

It’s hard to decide which telco is ‘the best’ because coverage depends on location. Here’s how to pick telco with the best upload/download speed in your area:

2. Use free methods of communication whenever possible

Level: Easy

Why: Thank you, Whatsapp and Skype.

How to Save Money in Malaysia – Small leaks

(Small leaks = reducing/stopping addiitonal costs for things I pay for anyway)

1. Avoid bank fees

Level: Easy

Why: I check my online banking accounts at least weekly for transactions made during the week (to make sure I wasn’t charged anything that I’m not supposed to pay for) and pay off my credit card balance. 

2. Switch off unused devices when I don’t use them

Level: Hard

Why: Bad habit. Thank goodness I married someone who is diligent about switching things off. 

3. Choose low-cost investments

Level: Easy

Why: Investments with high fees, in my opinion, are an unnecessary waste of money. Feel free to provide data to disprove this if you don’t agree. 

Related: 3 Best Investments in Malaysia (+ The Best Way to Invest Your Money)

How to Save Money in Malaysia – Optimising spending

1. Use cashback products

Level: Medium

Why: Sometimes a bit hard to keep track of them, but here’s all cashback products that I have:

It’s hard to calculate exactly how much money I saved with cashback products, but I’ve earned at least RM6000 via Shopback and ~RM20-50 per month via cashback credit cards.

2. Use e-wallets for discounts

Level: Easy 

Why: I love e-wallets! Saved a fair bit of money from them. EDIT: Since original post, e-wallets discounts are not as great anymore. 

Related: Best E-Wallets in Malaysia: Comparing 38 E-Wallets in 7 Categories

3. Sell stuff I no longer use BEFORE I buy ‘unnecessary’ stuff

Level: Medium

Why: I had a lot of success selling unused stuff. Once, I bought a secondhand Wii, played it to my heart’s content, then managed to sell it for more than what I bought it for.

Hack: how I sell a lot of stuff without spending too much time:

4. Limit monthly recurring payments

Level: Medium

Why: As much as possible, I look for free options and products offering one-off payments so I can limit the amount of subscriptions I have. 

5. Check every receipt and change received, and scan the register

Level: Easy

Why: Highly recommended you to make this a habit. Sometimes people will try to stiff you or they entered the data wrongly. Just check your change and the receipt before you leave the store. 

How to Save Money in Malaysia – Reduce Temptation

1. Don’t be brand loyal

Level: Impossible

Why: I say impossible because I do prefer some brands over the other. Kicap Kipas Udang > other kicap. Ayam brand sardines > other canned sardines. Kewpie mayonnaise > every other mayo. Do not argue with me on this. My mind is set.

Thankfully the majority of items in the produce section – where I spend most of my time – is not branded haha. Aside from a select few, the rest I just pick whatever’s cheaper and on sale. I like to think it balances out.

2. Delay purchases

Level: Medium

Why: My impulse purchases are quite rare, unless its food and groceries. For non-food items, if I really like something, I allow myself to buy them if I still remember it months later (usually I forget though).

I can credit the 30-day rule, which I heard about some time ago. According to this rule, if you want something bad enough, you’ll remember it 30 days later. If it’s a big purchase, you can extend this to a few months or even years. 

3. Unsubscribe/Uninstall shopping platforms

Level: Hard

Why: I have a junk email address so all the shop promos go there. Barely open those emails. I also turn off all notifications for shopping apps.  If you tend to make purchases after these ‘reminders’, unsubscribe and uninstall them today.

….is what I want to say, but I still keep them in my phone for convenience.

4. Learn unethical advertising

Level: Medium

Why: I have natural interest in psychology, specifically consumer psychology. What have they implemented so that they can get more money out of us? It’s fascinating. The more aware I am of their tactics, the less interested I am to buy their products. 

Related: 10 Manipulative Advertising Techniques You Should Know

5. Avoid the mall

Level: Impossible

Why: Part of not spending is to avoid temptation in the first place. However, I admit I enjoy window-shopping too much to quit. I rarely make impulse purchases though, so all good.

6. Use cash

Level: Medium

Why: If you have problem with controlling your spending, then using cash is recommended. A crisp RM50 is more painful to hand over than a credit card. When money is abstract and you can’t see it, you will spend more… 56% more. It’s psychology.

I use cash when I can, unless there are obvious financial benefits to using digital payments (ie credit cards and ewallets)

7. Don’t shop when hungry

Level: Medium

Why: Being hungry makes you shop more, and not just on food.

8. Calculate prices at the store

Level: Medium

Why: Ok, this is slightly embarrassing. I like to make mental calculations at the store. Sometimes I even take out my phone calculator and go, ‘Hmm, Item A is RMx.xx per 300grams, but Item B is RMx.xx per kilo. Which is more worth it?’ *calculates*

How to Save Money in Malaysia – Being organised

1. Periodically list out all annual expenses subscriptions

Level: Medium

Why: It’s just 30 mins of journaling, but so worth it because it helps me plan out my budget for the year, and not be ‘surprised’ when it’s time to renew whatever needs to be renewed, like passport or diving license. 

Related: All The Annual Expenses I Have to Make Every Year

2. Bring notebook everywhere

Level: Easy

Why: I’m forgetful. For my similarly-forgetful friends, keep a notebook in your bag. It’s a pretty big difference. ‘Shit I forgot to get X’ happens so much less nowadays.

I also write down reminders to:

  • Pay off credit cards
  • Check if I’m paid by clients or not
  • Reply back to potential buyers when I sell stuff online
  • Reply back clients
  • Update budget
  • Stop spending on some categories, if I go overboard that month
  • Transfer money to investment accounts

Related: 17 Things to Include in Your Money Journal

3. Use company benefits

Level: Medium

Why: Check your company manual for hidden goodies. For my previous employment, I got reimbursed for dental work, transportation and internet subsidies, and more.

Read: Malaysians Share Their Best Employee Benefits!

Conclusion

There you go! 49 ways to save money in Malaysia. Again, not comprehensive, so I invite you to list your own ways to save money in the comments section below.

If you tried any of the above, I want to hear from you – do you agree with my ranking? Do you find them easier or more difficult?

As you can see, you don’t have to be good at all of them. But you can try some of them, for sure 🙂


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23 Comments

  1. Found your website while browsing thru jobless.my(?) website (I’m trying to make extra money to clear off my study loan asap!). Love your posts on personal finance. Keep it up!

      1. Its been 3 months and I still have difficulties inserting them T_T
        How long did you took to get used to it?

        1. I got used to it within days? Can’t remember…

          May I suggest a smaller size? It might be more comfortable for you. A suggestion anyway, everyone’s anatomy is a bit different

  2. Hi there

    I found about you in an article at BI M’sia..and undoubtedly your blog is amazing… informative and hilarious too =).

    All the best and keep writing interesting stuff!

  3. Hello there!! Stumbled upon your blog (or is it a website?) while googling for stuffs. I gotta admit that what you said is true “The problem is that the Malaysian personal finance blog scene is pretty much nonexistent oklah got lah but very sikit and not appealing to me”. But I believe you have filled that gap to reach out to millennial like me by sharing information and your opinion on how we can better manage our finance. Millennial have been plague with many financial problems and some of them doesn’t have the chance to start on their live yet! Needless to say you are doing a great job and I hope that you can continue this far into the future!

    P/s: I’m relived that I’m not the only one doing this LOL
    “Hmm, Item A is RMx.xx per 300grams, but Item B is RMx.xx per kilo. Which is more worth it?’ *calculates*”

    1. Hello Hafiz Amzar,

      Thanks for the kind words 🙂 Glad to hear you liked what you read, and even related to some of them!

      You’d be surprised, there are more people like us, people who look for the best value for our money. I always smile when I see other people calculating in between the aisles 🙂

  4. #17
    Aeon memberships are worth it if you often park in the mall for the parking discount (and sometimes free!) The accumulative parking charges far exceed the membership fees. 🙂

    Good guide. I think the most impossible one is #48 haha

    1. My AEON card paid for itself hurray! Coincidentally received voucher upon a purchase sometime back. You just reminded me to check my points, hmm.

  5. For packing lunch to work thing – schedule one day a week for lunch with your colleagues. It’s good bonding time and it’s something to look forward to!

  6. Hi Suraya,

    Awesome website you have there. I have been looking for Malaysia-specific financial blog for quite some time. Glad I stumbled across RinggitOhRinggit!

    About #47 Manual water filter system, do you mind sharing what is the brand and model you are using? I have been looking for one myself. Considering the fact you have been using it for 4 years, I imagine it must be good enough.

    1. Hey Eric,
      Glad to have you here!
      On the water system, I like the Panasonic brand over the rest. It doesn’t last me 4 years, maybe 1 at the most? I have to keep replacing them due to moss, accidental cracks etc

  7. Use prepaid card / debit card. Some bank allow you to lock certain amount of money like OCBC so u can’t overspend. And i open up a SC bank acc just for their 0 charges for MEPS / House transaction. No more google map search for ATM

  8. Hi Suraya (and all readers),

    My personal tip for #1…you don’t necessarily have to say ‘no’ to going out for lunch with friends, you can bring your packed lunch along with you and still eat with them. I had a lot of (unneeded) anxiety surrounding this when I started out years ago. And then I realised…I’m not saying ‘no’ to lunch/hanging out with my friends, I’m just saying ‘no’ to buying cooked food when I can prepare it myself. On top of that, I think I’m quite lucky to be in a department with colleagues who LOVE cooking and we’d have ‘no lunch outside’ and ‘gym for lunch’ challenges from time to time.

    When joining friends in places with strict ‘no outside food’ policy…I make sure I prepare my own lunch/dinner(or whatever meal) and eat it first before going out. And when I join my friends, I order a drink or an appetiser (since it’s far cheaper than ordering main meals anyway).

    I’m personally a socially anxious person and it took me AGES of worrying so much about socially pleasing everyone, especially when it comes to saying ‘no, thank you’. Hope the tip above helps everyone here, regardless of whether you have social anxiety or not.

    1. Hi MMB,

      That’s an amazing tip, thanks for sharing! I’ve hung out with friends and only ordered drinks. When they asked, I say I’m full and just there for the company (which flatters them a lot hehe).

      Btw I envy your circle of friends, they seem dope!

  9. For mobile plan, I use Umobile P99 for unlimited data and calls, and take advantage of discounts on shopping platform to reduce the net bill to around 40+.

    For games, instead of Steam, I collect free games from Epic games and only choose what to play from the list of games available in the library. If I don’t feel like playing anything heavy, I go for mobile games that earns me tiny bit of crypto coins as reward, accumulated some RM100 worth of BTC that way thus far.

  10. Interesting post. I’ve recently changed my lifestyle and focus on getting healthier while not spending more money:
    1) intermittent fasting (2MAD): I have a super light alas-perut-ish breakfast like a cereal drink or a piece of toast, skip lunch and have homecooked dinner. Lost 10kg in 4 months without even exercise. I still do 1 cheat day every week, girl have to enjoy life too!
    2) Homecooking: I learned to be 60% vegetarian and plan to increase it (thanks to my partner who is a vegetarian). I now enjoy buying all kinds of vegetables, even those that I never eaten or used before. (Who knew labu air masak lemak stew or enoki mushroom with tomato HK style soup, could taste so fucking delicious!) I learned all my cooking via YouTube (my mom passed away in my 20s, at that time I wasn’t into cooking).
    3) Exercise: started to slowly incorporating exercise. At first I try to walk more but now I do HIIT at home in the morning around 15 minutes (or until I sweat), 3-4 times a week. My equipments: yoga mat, resistence bands & dumbells. I’ve to admit I’m not an exercise person, doing it out of health. And I learned not to push myself too hard & have rest days. So far, it is slowly gaining momentum.
    4) transportation: honestly speaking, working from home (on most days) can save a lot of money. I spent more on transportation in my first job at my 20s (9 to 5 desk work) than now.
    5) Choose the right life partner: thank goodness, we both are homebodies, minimalist and enjoy a good Netflix and chill whenever we can. 🙂
    6) water: can’t stress that enough! I’ve completely stop taking sugary drinks and it’s life-changing. No more sugary craving & light on the wallet. My go-to order: limau O, teh susu O, Americano O, milo O, sky juice.
    7) Avoid lifestyle inflation: Just recently stumbled upon this term. Basically learning to live a simpler but richer life. Travel in Malaysia over overseas trip, road trip to small towns/locally owned eateries than going to malls/fast food chains, read existing books over buying books, stop impressing others (include reducing social media presence), take good care of stuff than buy new every 1-2 years (my first car MyVi is still serving me miles after more than 10 years), etc.
    8) Being childfree: ok, that is really a huge money saver. I’m ambivalent about kids or motherhood, don’t hate it but don’t crave it either. Maybe if I want it then I’d figure it out, but now my partner and I are happy being with just the two of us.
    9) Mindful shopping: I used to buy for the sake of buying, now I enjoy just window shopping. If I saw something good in the mall, I’d buy it at a bargain online or on thrift. Eg, I’d purposely go to beauty counter to test out perfumes, but once I found what I like, I’d go online and buy an original, good-quality perfume that is rm100 cheaper. Bulk buy on neccessities that can last more than a year & reduce consumption as much as possible. Eg. I only have 4 pairs of shoes – sneakers for sports, comfortable sandal for walking, heels for special occasions & boots for travelling.
    10) Mortgage-free: It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I don’t dream of owning a house. With remote work becoming more popular, I don’t mind moving from town to town, country to country or wherever opportunity takes me.

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