“I’m going to have to eat roti/maggi mee/grass from now until my next paycheck comes in.” Most of us will have undoubtedly heard (or used) this line when it’s almost the end of the month, or after splurging on something expensive. Are we really that destitute, or simply bad at managing our finances? Here are 8 reasons why Malaysians can’t seem to save money.
#1 – Low salary
For those earning five figures a month, saving should not be a problem. However, for those earning less than RM1000 or on the lower end of four figures per month, this may seem more of a fact than an excuse. Living in the city, especially, is tough when you’re trying to save money while maintaining a household, but every little is essential when it comes to building your nest egg. From another perspective, if you cannot manage to allot some savings from your current salary, perhaps it’s time to try making some side income.
#2 – Loans and debt
Swiping that credit card and getting that new toy on the spot feels amazing, but paying off multiple debts doesn’t. Credit card loans, student loans, car loans and housing loans can be a huge burden that can affect your savings, therefore it is vital to keep up with your debts and avoid taking on new debts. Systematically paying off debt is saving, because as the amount you owe goes down, so does the amount of interest you pay each month.
#3 – Lack of financial literacy
People with higher financial literacy are able to better manage and be responsible for their finances. Budgeting, managing expenses and debt, saving for retirement, and investing are examples of financial literacy that is essential to build financial security and achieve financial well-being. There are so many resources that allow you to learn more about personal finance and boost your financial education, so if you can check your Facebook feed every day, you can definitely arm yourself with some financial knowledge.
#4 – “Later lah”
Also known as procrastination, this is a common mistake by most young individuals who think that they can ‘catch up’ on their savings later by saving a larger amount later. It is in fact much more advisable to start saving earlier on, as you can get away with making smaller monthly contributions, and take advantage of the compound interest to increase your savings.
#5 – High cost of living
We’ve all heard this one before. High cost of living makes it increasingly difficult to save each month, but that shouldn’t deter you from saving entirely. Instead, review your budget and adjust the amount you save each month, so that you’ll be prepared for unexpected bills or expenses. Cook your own food instead of eating out (no GST on fresh groceries), change to a more affordable coffee option, or take public transport to town on weekends instead of driving.
#6 – Sales and shopping malls everywhere
With easy access to malls and almost year-round sales, it’s no surprise that a significant portion of most people’s incomes inevitably end up being used to finance purchases that they can barely afford, be it the latest designer bag or limited edition watch. However, saving money while indulging in a little retail therapy is possible; spend wisely by taking note of sales prices (don’t buy anything that’s less than 70% off), or simply indulge in a tiny purchase (give yourself a limit of below RM20 a week) to satisfy that craving to buy something. Give yourself a pat on the back if you manage to spend less than your budgeted allotment, and put that spare change into a piggy bank before you change your mind.
#7 – Food heaven
One of the most often heard exclamations among Malaysian foodies is “Where did all my money go?”. In the food heaven that is Malaysia, more often than not, a large chunk of your income has unknowingly gone to your stomach. Weekend outings to gourmet ice-cream parlours, artisan coffee outlets, all-day breakfast cafes, and fancy dessert stores can be a real drain on your finances, but having meals outside every day also contributes to the drain. Why not try cooking up some simple rice dishes for dinner, or prepare sandwiches or spaghetti for lunch? Healthy, home-cooked meals are good for your body and wallet in the long term.
#8 – Thinking that you can’t save
The mind is a powerful thing. If we keep telling ourselves that we cannot do something, chances are we never will be able to. (Read: Self-fulfilling prophecy) Therefore, it is important to convince yourself with the positive mindset that you can do it, and it seem easier to find ways to save money. Take cues from your favourite sports brands: “Just do it” and “Impossible is nothing“.