Personal Finance

The all-time list of saving tips

If you are new to managing your personal finance, reviewing your expenses and cut your life cost is always the first step. I included more than 60 saving tips that are useful and proven (unless noted otherwise).

I intend to update this list whenever I stumble upon a great idea, so if you love this list, please bookmark this page for future reference! 🙂

“The saving man becomes the free man”

— Chinese Proverbs

Housing

  • Decide to rent or own. | While the most common belief is to own a property, not all rentals are bad. The place I stay will cost double to own and are lightning prone. I like staying in this place, but I don’t intend to make it an investment. This building might not be safe to occupy when climate change hits.
  • Save interest on installment payment. Because of the way housing interest is calculated, you can actually save interest by paying extra principal each month. The optimal point is to pay 10-12% above the installment. Alternatively, you can hire a professional to count for you. 
  • Unplug the electrical appliance. | This daily habit will save about 5% of your electricity bill. 
  • And here’s a related tip by a reader: Bring a portable power bank and charge at the office. 😮
  • Set your thermoset or air-con temperature to a degree higher. 

Food

  • Made your own sandwich filling. | I stop ordering a sandwich at O’briens or Starbucks. Nutella with banana slices, chicken meet with mayo, and cranberries cost less than RM2 a set.
  • Mix your own tea, coffee, and any cordial drink 
  • Buy groceries in bulk | somehow it’s mostly cheaper 
  • Grow the staple greens | Onions, green onions, potato, radish are easy to grow at home. Cut off the stem/roots, soak underwater and transfer to a soil pot when it has sprouted. 
  • BYOB of water when you go out | This means never buy water or sweet drinks because you are thirsty. But if you want to drink something sweet, go ahead. 
  • Meal planning and cook in bulk is an excellent skill if you have a big family. Don’t try fancy recipe daily, stick to things that are cooked quickly. 
  • Mix your own sauce or spice mix with the base ingredient | Onion powder, ginger powder, five-spice powder, basil, paprika, rosemary, masala salt, soy, sesame oil, salt, wine 

Transport

  • Public transport card | RM100 now RM 30 a month in Malaysia. Best deal for anyone who can access to public transportation. Why did they have to change the ministers?
  • Buy a second hand, low maintenance car.
  • Maintain it your own. | Just the basics like top up your coolant and engine oil when you can. 

Clothing

  • Buy clothes on sale/ from outlet store | I sell my old clothes on a phone app.
  • Buy online and don’t pay retail | Paying retail is for emergencies, like real emergencies. The only exception is when retail is on sale.
  • Only buy a few colors that look good on you. And maintain a closet with those colors. Life will be so much simpler; you’ll be receiving compliments and save at the back. 
  • Buy solid colors. Dark colors always look more expensive. Prints are usually a recipe for trends purchase. Meaning you tend to need to replace it after a season or two. 
  • Re-sole a good shoe. 
  • Since we are a tropical country, if you need a winter coat, find at Jalan Japan store or rent one. 

Products

  • Somethings are better to buy quality and some, at the lowest cost possible. | In general, I buy my kitchen tools from Diaso, cleaning material from hypermarket and products from a discounted store. 
  • Buy niche brand products during member sales. 
  • Don’t buy a discounted coupon unless you really want to use it. Very likely, you will forget or spend more because you want to save.
  • Think future. A digital notebook is more forward-thinking than a handwritten journal. While it is not financially sound to catch up with the latest gadget, thinking about how this spending will change in the future helps to reduce cost and time in the longer run. 
  • The new standard for cosmetic and skincare products is 50% off retail. Stock up during those sales. 
  • Buy two colors of lipstick, and use them as a blusher too. Or a nude shades palette that you can use as a highlighter, bronzer, blusher and eyeshadow at the same time. 

Learning

  • Read with Libby| Get free access to libraries around the world. You still need the library card, but there are many ways to get around. I use the Singapore National Library and the selection is amazing and inclusive.
  • Access to Ivy League course in Coursera, Edx, for free.
  • Certified education for free. Get a specialization certificate at Coursera at nearly free. Do all the work with course audit and upgrade to a certified course once you are ready. Submit all the coursework at one go. You probably just need to pay a month for the project assignment. 
  • Learn a new language with Memrise or Duolingo. 
  • Warren Buffet says: Read, read, read. Facts are now at our fingertips, don’t tell people there are 500 countries in the world ( If you’re Malaysian, you’ll get the joke).

Entertainment

  • Listen to free music in Spotify or Youtube.
  • Share Netflix with 4 families

Financial products

  • Keep your money in high-interest account | 2.3% should be the minimum with M2U savers. [Interest rate are too low to save now]
  • Consider bond or income fund instead of fixed deposit | Income fund returns are usually higher and stable in valuation. 
  • Breakaway from high fee Mutual Fund | Invest in low fee fund. I use StashAway. 
  • Use e-wallet for discount and cashback | Seasonal. Make sure the e-wallet you sign up for is reliable. 
  • Maximize investment tax relief | 401K or PRS in Malaysia  
  • Sign up credit cards for application offers | Remember to cancel a card that you don’t use, or you will be charged RM25 a year each.
  • Alternate the credit cards used to top-up Uber or Grab, depending on the offers. 
  • Air-miles card gives one the best reward value if your spending is above the threshold. Consider them. 

Digital

  • Share | your WiFi, Netflix, and any other digital subscription with your neighbors and friends. | If you share your internet with both your neighbors at 50% each, you don’t need to pay anything.
  • Pay for VPN for content in Netflix, Hulu | You can ditch Astro right away. | I got a plan at RM 5 a month.
  • Review your subscription yearly | Wait for the 50-70% offers promo. 
  • Turn on energy saving on laptop monitors, phones.
  • If you are a student, sign up for all the student benefits before you graduate. 

Others

  • If the gym fee is a significant expense for you, consider learning a few basic moves and mix them together.
  • Look for all admission pass while traveling. 
  • Style your hair once and then move to quick-cut to maintain at low cost. 

Moving on to the frugal

Frugal tips on the smaller items. Skip these if you find them too little to be bothered.


Free and easy

  • Ask for beauty products samples in different malls
  • Collect teabags when you go for conferences
  • Buy loose-leaf tea or soup herbs. 
  • Cut your used bath towels into kitchen towels for dirt use. 
  • Cut T-shirt into a floor mat. | You can use it as-is, but it looks better when you cut and sew the edges.
  • Join the freecycle group for free things or get rid of your furniture without cost. 
  • Collect clothes in goodwill centers. Ask friends for hand-me-down
  • Aside from the library, read inside the bookstore  
  • If you have access to WiFi, get a prepaid line – reload only when you need it. | The average postpaid spend is RM75, is your spending on this too high? 

Takes a little effort

  • Bath at the office gym.
  • At home, eat beans, eggs, and rice. Outside, order value meals and not drinks.
  • When you get invited to parties with expectations to bring gifts, tell the host you really love to go but are short of money that month due to XYZ.
  • Make a birthday cake with Swiss rolls or mini cakes. 
  • Save your washing machine/ dryer lint as a BBQ fire starter. 
  • Pour distilled water into the engine cooler (instead of coolant all the time, works for the tropical country)
  • Get a few Simcard to qualify for multiple offers | This is similar to credit cards sign up offers, but takes more time for less reward. 

If you are desperate.

These saving tips are probably not illegal but not that ethical. 

  • Get free food from the food kitchen. | Don’t abuse if you don’t need it. 
  • Collect paper rolls at public toilet | Now that toilet roll runs out everywhere, this may well be a need to do rather than want to do.  
  • Sugar, salt. ketchup and pepper from the fast-food outlet 
  • Bring small bottles and fill-up product samples over the counter | I’ve seen people do this for over-counter products like SKII, Lancome. 
  • Find a cheaper subscription on all things digital in the dark web (save up to $1000 a year) | I see sellers offering a year of Blinkist access for as low as USD5. 
  • Look for costly books or digital items on downloading sites. I am not proud to say this, but if I had bought all the books I refer to during university, I’d be in debt by the thousands. 
  • Use a free Simcard (phone number) to redeem online deals twice.

Just for fun

Lastly, here are some life-hack saving tips for the fun of it. 

  • Feel like you have a new gadget by changing the wallpaper
  • Freeze banana as the best alternative ice cream. 

The End

I will update this list now and then when I find new ideas. But any plan is only useful if you have the heart to make it work. If there is no change to your lifestyle when you cut costs, you are just reducing waste. Cutting expenses is rarely a pain-free experience. It takes some motivation and willingness to change. 

Any ideas you like to add in this? Sent your comments below, I’ll qoute you! Thanks! 

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