Money Diaries

Mixed up money: Life over-subscribed

Mixed up money is a series of friends’ financial questions. I am not a CFP by training so I do not recommend an investment, do not sell products, and are not affiliated with any of the financial tools providers. The names have been changed for anonymity.

Soni is a 29-year-old software engineer, her job pays RM5500 net. Unlike thousands of Malaysians, she did not get furloughed or pay cut in this harsh economic environment. However, since the lockdown (Apr-July 2020), she has racked nearly RM12,000 in credit card debt and has no savings.

Her monthly commitment
WiFi RM150
Cable TV (Astro) RM150 
Mobile phone RM250 
Utilities RM450 
Car RM1200
Petrol RM300
Groceries RM800
House maintenance RM200 
Family (for parents) RM800
Insurance RM400

Even with free lodging, her monthly commitment takes up RM4,300. Having grown up in the city, she thinks these are all necessary spent and not a splurge. All of us have different needs but in her case, she defines every part of her life as a need.

A further examination of her transaction statement shows that she has other subscription commitments, a handful of aspiring purchases, and expensive treatments. She never cancels any subscription because she feels that canceling is a sign that she has no money.

Before we probe into the numbers, we dwell on the underlying values and tricky situations. We discuss the reason for including these commitments in life, the value these costs bring to her life, what is her purchase triggers, and how removing these costs does not make a person less valuable.

Proposal

Her priority is to get the debt down to zero while maintaining her lifestyle. Understanding that making a slam dunk on savings can be too sudden a change, I suggested a YOLO budget without overpaying for any category.

Here are some of the steps we agreed:

  • Have clarity in her priorities and what category spend to cut in her life.
  • Apply credit card balance transfer and 0% installment payment to minimize interest payment.
  • Review the Telco plan and cancel cable-tv. Saves RM 350 a month.
  • Review insurance as it should be kept within 5% of her pay.
  • Set up a budget, including RM600 free to spend money, which works out to around RM20 a day.
  • Open an investment accounting with Stashaway and set a direct deposit of RM100 on payday.
  • Weekly reporting for me to work with her.

*****

In this generation, we have businesses offering affordable subscriptions on one hand, and the social media show-down on the other. It is important to clarify your priority, or you will end up with a list of junk payments.

Feeling the same? List out your subscription and cross-out the ones that do not bring value to your life. Here’s my list of all-savings tips for everyone.

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