When the lockdown first started, I tried to look on the bright side of things. “So what if I can’t go out?” I told myself. “At least now I don’t have to spend money traveling to and from work everyday!”
Alas, a few months later, I had to resort to borrowing money from my mother in order to avoid starving.
While it’s true that the lockdown has made some expenses shrink over the past year, others have grown to take their place. Things like deliveries and online shopping have made our lockdown lives more bearable, but at what cost?
Even if you don’t go out, there are still so many bills to pay. Electricity, internet, groceries, rental — if you don’t manage your money properly, you can go from having a healthy bank account at the start of the month to just barely scraping by at the end of it.
1) Cut Expenses By Cutting Bad Habits
We all have our bad spending habits. It’s the things that we keep telling ourselves to stop buying, yet mysteriously find themselves in our shopping carts anyway.
I used to be a bit of a drinker, but I didn’t go out to get drunk every night or something crazy like that. Instead, I bought a six-pack or two of beer at the start of the month so that I could crack a can open whenever I needed to relax. But it was something I enjoyed and I eventually forced myself to stop because I just couldn’t justify the expense any longer.
Nowadays, I just buy ice cream instead. It’s cheaper and it’s something that I can enjoy together with my family.
Whether your particular vice is smoking, drinking, gambling, eating ice cream or something even more unusual, now might be a good time to kick the habit. This doesn’t mean just quitting cold turkey — simply changing what you’re buying or cutting down on how often you indulge can end up saving you a lot of money in the long run.
2) Setting A Target
When it comes to saving money, I have a problem that I call “just this once”.
I start out alright, saving money just like I planned, but then something happens. Maybe my car breaks down. Or a friend needs to borrow some money. It could even be seeing something that I like on sale. Whatever the situation, it always ends the same way: I tell myself “I really shouldn’t… but just this once…” and the next thing I know, my bank account is in the red once again.
How do you stop this? By harnessing the power of your own greed.
Saving up for the sake of saving up can feel like a chore, an obligation that you don’t really want to do. Instead, set yourself a target — something that you really want to buy but can’t afford right now. Perhaps it’s a new phone. Or maybe a car. Heck, it can even be an apartment if you’re feeling ambitious!
Whatever it is, now you have a target to aim for, a goal to reach. The next time you start going “just this once…”, remind yourself that spending money from your savings is taking money away from your new phone, car, etc. It really can make a big difference in your mindset.
3) Do I Really Need This Subscription?
Technology is great and all, but at some point it’s important to step back and ask yourself “Am I actually using this thing anymore?”
Take Spotify, for example. Back when I was still working in an office, I’d put on my earphones and enjoy my favourite songs while traveling to work. But now that I’m working from home, it’s often a lot more convenient to simply play music on Youtube instead.
At this point, I’m barely ever using Spotify anymore, so is it really worth the subscription? A Spotify premium account only costs around RM15 a month — which doesn’t feel like a lot at first glance, but the money does add up.
This doesn’t just apply to Spotify, by the way. The next time you receive a bill for a product or service, ask yourself “When was the last time I actually used this? Am I planning to use it again in the future?”
4) Cancelling Newsletters and Promos
Even if you’re determined to keep your Spotify account, there is one thing that you should cancel if you’re trying to save money: newsletters.
If you’ve ever signed up for anything, you’ve probably get a whole bunch of spam or marketing emails every week telling you to buy this or that. At best, it’s more like annoying clutter in your inbox. At worst, it might convince you to spend more money on new deals and promos when you should be trying to save up!
The next time you check your email, do yourself a favour and just unsubscribe from any unnecessary groups or newsletters.
To avoid having to sort through all the spam in the first place, just use an alternate email account whenever a site asks you to sign up for something.
5) Don’t Shop Just Cause You’re Bored
One thing I’ve learned over the past few months is that boredom is a big problem. When you have nothing to do and a lot of free money in your bank account, it becomes all too easy to just… go check out what’s on sale right now.
“It’s just window shopping,” You tell yourself. “No big deal, right?”
Oh, it starts out innocent enough. Maybe you find something nice on sale, or you click ‘Add to cart’ because a new product catches your eye, but then the next thing you know you’re trying to explain to your mom why there’s a delivery guy carrying a big box to your doorstep.
Don’t go shopping just cause you’re feeling bored. Instead, do something else. Read one of those books that’s been on your shelf forever. Play a game that you bought years ago but never actually opened yet. Heck, you can even try picking up a new hobby like cooking or painting. And as a very last resort, you can pick up your phone and try talking to an actual human being.
Actually, never mind that last one. Just WhatsApp them like a normal person.
6) Punish Your Inner Child
I am a grown man. A responsible adult. A mature and intelligent person.
Yet, whenever I see something that I really like, all of that disappears. My brain falls under the control of an excited 6-year-old who keeps screaming “I want it! I want it NOW!” and the next thing I know, all my food money for this week has been spent on a new video game.
So how do you control your naughty inner 6-year-old? Treat him the same way your parents treated you whenever you were being naughty: lock him up in his room and ignore him for 72 hours.
The next time you find yourself going “I want it! I want it NOW!”, take a deep breath. Write it down and stick the note somewhere that you’ll see, then go about your day as usual.
In three days time, come back and look at the note. Have you been able to work normally or has your head been filled with thoughts of this item for the last few days? Are you still feeling excited about it? Are your hands shaking with pure, unrestrained need?
If your answer is yes, then go ahead and buy the item. If not, then go ahead and throw the note away just like how your parents threw away your toys when you were a kid.
7) Make It Harder to Spend Your Money
At first glance, this might seem a bit odd. After all, don’t you want your money to be within reach?
The truth is, you don’t. At the very least, you want to make it as annoying as possible to spend your money so that you don’t just spend it on a whim. In my case, I have two bank accounts: one for saving and one for spending.
At the start of each month, I transfer some money to my spending account as the budget for that month. Inevitably, I’ll use it all up and have to resort to my savings account instead.
However, the trick is that this account isn’t linked to anything.
No e-wallet, no online shopping platforms, nothing. If I want to buy anything, I have to do a manual bank transfer, which is really, really annoying because I used a random password generator to create a super long, complicated password that I have to key in every time I want to take money out.
“Wah, so mahfan one,” My future self sighs as he carefully double checks the 16 digit password to make sure it’s correct. He cries as the transfer is rejected due to a misplaced capital letter, forcing him to retype it again. “I shouldn’t have spent all my money early this month!”
Is it annoying? Yes. Is it an effective way to encourage you to stop spending so much money? Also yes.
The Importance of Managing Your Money
Money isn’t everything, but at times like these it’s more important than ever before to manage your finances properly.
Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has wrecked our economy. Just this week, the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) released a report showing that Malaysia’s unemployment rate has shot up to 4.8% — that’s around 768,700 unemployed people all across our country!
People are finding it harder to get work, to keep their jobs or even put food on the table.
In this kind of situation, it is critical to control not just how much money you earn, but also how much you spend. If you’re interested in more money saving tips, be sure to check out: