It is undeniable that the living expenses in Malaysia are getting higher at a much faster rate, although inflation reports that the rate is low. Feeling the pressure of petrol subsidy cut, and rising cost of almost everything, from toll charges to hawker food – life is definitely getting harder.

Humans are extremely flexible. We can cope with the situation with some compromise and sacrifice. When money is no longer enough, we can always find ways to cut some expenses. Being frugal simply means living below your means.

However, less money spent does not indicate lower quality of lifestyle. Because of the advancement of technology and the Internet, you can even spend less to enjoy the same benefit, if not better than we used to have.

If you are living in Malaysia, here are top five monthly expenses that can be cut from your budget:

1. Monthly Astro bill

I know most of us Malaysians have the Astro installed in our home. I used to subscribe to Astro too a few years ago. Now the cheapest package is more than RM50/month!.

After having it for a while, I found that it is really a waste of money and time. To get your value back, you spend hours of time watching TV. But in fact, time is wasted for unproductive activities, that’s for pure entertainment.

If watching movies, TV series or live sports is so important to you, there are many alternatives that’s free of charge. Youtube has tons of entertaining videos and short films, even though the video quality is not as good as other service providers. But with the broad range of users and content providers, you can find a wide variety of videos for your pure entertainment. Some even provide video tutorial and educational materials there.

2. Monthly Newspaper Subscription

Photo by shutterhack

Do you still have the newspaper sent to your house every morning? Newspapers in Malaysia publish controlled materials and news. A typical Chinese newspaper is more than 100 pages! This includes advertisement, world and local news, but most are reporting bad news and crimes.

Moreover, you need a place to stock your old newspapers and wait for the recycle team to drive by and sell them of a few ringgits. This is a pure waste of paper, and trees.

I opt for a more environmentally friendly option. I read the news and articles on the Internet. My favourite web destination include The Star, and some local blogs such as Jeff Ooi.

I also follow some niche reports and blog via RSS subscription. My news and updates are delivered real time whenever I want to access them via my Dopod M700.

Update Dec, 2013
I’ve switched to iPhone since Apple’s first launch and I’ve been stuck with iPhone and use almost every new generation. Meanwhile, Google had stopped Google Reader service.

3. Monthly Fixed Line Home Phone

I still use Tmnet Streamyx because there are really no competitors all these time. However, recently some mobile connection service providers such as Maxis and Digi have come up with broadband plans. In order to use Streamyx broadband, I need a fixed local line with Telekom which is completely redundant. The home phone line is costing me RM25/month even though I never need to use it.

Now, at least we have some choices to switch to mobile broadbands, which provide unlimited usage anywhere, anytime. If Streamyx is not going to absorb the fixed phone rental, I don’t see any attractiveness in its broadband package anymore.

When you have Internet access anytime, anywhere, you are exposed to wide variety of Voice over IP service providers such as Skype. The alternative is to use some popular instant messengers such as Yahoo Messenger, GTalk, and MSN Messenger.

Even if you don’t use the Voice over IP service, using SMS and direct dial via your mobile phone is very affordable nowadays.

Update Dec 2013
I am using the Unifi package now on the 20MBps plan – costing RM250/month, due to business needs. Comparing this to other developed countries, we are still paying a relatively very high fee for broadband service.

4. Credit Card Insurance

Bank telemarketers call you from time to time asking you to subscribe for one scheme or the other. (hospitalization income benefit, accidental plan, etc) Have you ever signed up for one? I never do. But there are some who will sign up eventually, if not, the telemarketers will be out of jobs.

Those who signed up probably are sold because of the seemingly better benefits and limited offer. But don’t forget that there are terms and conditions that you might have overlooked.

Every time you get this kind of sales call, ask for the black and white of the terms and conditions. Ask the following questions:

  • What are the terms and condition?
  • How do you cancel it in the future?
  • Who is going to help you, give you personal service when it comes the time to make claim?

Another type of credit card insurance is one that helps you cancel your credit card liability. This means that when the cardholder passed away, the liability will be cancelled off.

This benefit requires a premium of a few ringgits depending on what your credit card balance is. But do you really need this? When you charge the purchases on your credit card, you are supposed to have the money ready to pay it off in the first place.

If you say it is for the estate creation, for the protection of your family, it should be properly done with insurance planning, not through a telemarketer who sells you this stuff. They probably never purchase these protection for themselves.

5. Trips to the Banks

This is an activity that costs you petrol, parking fees, and most importantly, a complete waste of time. Here is how I handle my bank accounts, monthly bills, and also credit cards.

  1. Set up auto debit instruction to charge my credit card for recurring bills, such as electricity, mobile phone, Streamyx broadband, life insurance policies etc.
  2. Use internet banking to do intrabank transfer (free of charge), and interbank transfer ( cost RM0.50 to RM2.00 depends on banks) (Update Dec 2013 – now it only costs RM0.10 per interbank transfer, BRAVO!). Internet banking lets you pay your bills and transfer money from anywhere as long as you are connected to the Internet.

So, the only trip to banks is to withdraw a few hundred ringgits cash for the whole month expenses, plus depositing cheque payments that I receive. These two tasks can be done using the ATM machines and cheque deposit machines.

However, if your transaction requires a personal service at the counter, you can do it during OFF office hours too. How? Some banks have branches inside shopping malls that open from 11am to 7.30pm. Just plan your trip and you don’t have to squeeze yourself in the long queue anymore.



Please share your opinion and tell us some tricks to save on regular expenses we don't really need.


Personal finance author and trainer

    17 replies to "Top 5 Regular Monthly Expenses We Don’t Need"

    • […] presents Top 5 Regular Monthly Expenses We Don’t Need posted at KCLau’s Money Tips, saying, “An article discussing some of the ways one can […]

    • […] presents Top 5 Regular Monthly Expenses We Don’t Need posted at KCLau’s Money Tips, saying, “An article discussing some of the ways one can […]

    • […] presents Top 5 Regular Monthly Expenses We Don’t Need posted at KCLau’s Money […]

    • […] presents Top 5 Regular Monthly Expenses We Don’t Need posted at KCLau’s Money Tips, saying, “An article discussing some of the ways one can […]

    • […] Lau presents Top 5 Regular Monthly Expenses We Don’t Need posted at KCLau’s Money Tips. An article discussing some of the ways one can reduce […]

    • Relax

      Hello. I have not visited your site for some time already. sorry…

      I have a deadly trick. I eat only once or twice a day.

      a full grown adult can live many weeks without food. Eating one or 2 meals less per day is no big deal really. Buddhist monks eat once a day only and they are OK. I asked my friend who studied nutrition about it and he told me that it is OK as long as there is no sign of malnutrition.

      Children need 3 square meals a day for growth but adults should eat less. You just need to accustom your stomach slowly by eating lesser gradually. The body’s metabolism will slow down as you eat lesser.

      Eating less means you save a lot of TIME and MONEY. This simplifies your life make you efficient.

      Eating less also means healthier life as you consume less toxic from daily food and every day you go through many hours of “mini fasting”, which is good for your body. By eating less, you also consume less, which reduces the high stress on food resource, which is harming our environment greatly.

      Anyways, I spend about 8 hours doing computer engineering work and I eat only once or twice a day. I do not feel weak or sick and I feel happy with my life style. Every month I save roughly 180 Euro on food.

      I do not advice you to eat less if you are younger than 24 year old because you have to eat more in order to grow up. You should not sacrifice health for money

      • KCLau

        Welcome back Relax! I am glad to hear from you again. And you’ve just given us the best advice on money and health!

    • @pp

      Hi kc,

      I really like your posts and info. It helps people to be better in their knowledge and life! Keep it up!

    • […] presents Top 5 Regular Monthly Expenses We Don’t Need posted at KCLau’s Money Tips, saying, “An article discussing some of the ways one can […]

    • The Personal Financier

      Another Edition of the Investment Basics Carnival

      Welcome to another edition of the Investment Basics Carnival. I’ve picked the following articles because I believe they offer added value. I’ve added my own thoughts to each article. Hopefully you’ll find them stimulating.

    • This blog post has been included in the “Carnival of Money Stories #51” at Life Lessons of a Military Wife. Hope you will drop by and read some of the many other wonderful entries received this week!

    • […] Lau presents Top 5 Regular Monthly Expenses We Don’t Need posted at KCLau’s Money […]

    • […] KCLau’s Money Tips gives the Malaysian perspective with Top 5 Regular Monthly Expenses We Don’t Need. […]

    • Tee

      I love these tips!! I like how you not only point out the financial hit, but the hit to the environment (printing newspapers, driving to the bank).

      These are points that I’ve been making to friends and family for a few years now – I’m forwarding along this link for sure! Thank you!

    • fathersez

      Hi, KC,

      We have cancelled the ASTRO subscription for about 3 months now. The kids grumbled at first, but have no gotten used to it.

      I have also (following your advice) called up my credit card issuer and asked for a fee waiver. Looks like I would be getting it also.


      • KCLau

        Hi Fathersez, your children have many other activities and entertainment. I thought in their current age, internet would be their major entertainment source.

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