It has been established that Malaysia is not a very expensive place to live in. Even with the cost of living rising, our lifestyles typically cost less than other countries. Heck, living in Kuala Lumpur is 53% cheaper than living in Singapore! And you thought your rent was high…

However, you may actually find that because things are cheaper here, spending is also easier. It all adds up and if you aren't careful, one day you'll find yourself close to broke (I'm looking at you, students). You name it – education, transport, food, entertainment – everything comes at a cost. However, since daily life itself sucks up a majority of your depleting funds, you’ll be at your wits’ end conjuring more money to fund your endless spending. So, we've gathered some tried and tested tips for you to help you lower those crazy costs (we can't do away with the GST, though!).

*Note that the tips here are just suggestions that have been applied by real people. We understand that they will not work for everyone's lifestyle, but at the very least, we hope that you guys will grab some good ideas to help surpress your expenses!

1. Organise and Prioritise Your Buying List

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Make a list of the items that you need to buy. This list is going to consist of the things you require to ensure that your daily routines are not impaired. This should include personal hygiene items like shower gel, shampoo, toothpaste and toilet paper; food items; bills and fines; parking coupons (if you drive); and transport fees. Make sure you label the amount that you need to spend on these factors. Lay them out clearly so that you’ll remember. With this, you’ll be able to plan your finances accordingly. While this seems like an easy task, we tend to digress from the budgeted amount. Thus, plan it once and plan it good!

Next, make a list of items that you want to buy. This list, in contrast, will consist of the items that you desire. That will of course include a shopping list of things that are not as important as previous listed, but will nonetheless improve your life in one way or another. Once you’ve laid out what you desire, label the amount you will spend on that. Now, here comes the most important part: prioritize them according to practicality and importance. Put a specific date on when you will be buying these items. Those items that rank low on importance should then be identified with a date that is some months later (could be around your pay day!). This is essential because you are basically telling yourself that there is a time when you can buy them, but the today is not it.

2. Save Your Mobile Data For When It Matters – Read Books Instead

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The motivation to look through your social networks on your phone doesn’t require much, especially when waiting becomes a chore. That is why people tend to thoughtlessly explore these channels so easily. Here’s a better idea. Read books. Read a book while commuting instead of mindlessly reading your social media timeline. The knowledge you’ll receive from reading books far surpasses the information you get from stalking your friends. Save those kilobytes of mobile data for when necessary like for using GPS, or information searching. Besides, texting brings about the death of your language skills from its bad usage. Revive it by reading. Don't waste money on buying books though. Library memberships go as low as RM10 a year. There, problem solved.

However, if you still need to use your phone to read things like daily blogs and articles, then I encourage the use of RSS feeds like ‘Feedly’. RSS feeds enable you to gather content from your favourite s automatically so that you’ll get to read what’s important to you! It is much more efficient and it lowers your chances of using too much mobile data on unimportant matters.

3. Meaningful Gifts are Made, Not Bought

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The age old advice of making gifts instead of buying them usually goes unheeded. Since we’re a consumerist culture, acceptance come in the form of high-end goods and other expensive items. However, gifts do not always have to be all about expensive things. Whether the gift is for your good friends, a special someone, parents, or siblings, gifts are items you give to commemorate the ties between you and the recipient. With this, gifts are most effective when they exude meaningfulness. Effort is an aspect that adds meaning to your gift. The more effort you put in making the gift, the more meaningful it is.

Here are some good examples of meaningful gifts:

  1. Make a book out of the letters, emails or drawings that you and the recipient had ever done
  2. Draw the person and frame it (if you have the skill)
  3. Compose a song and record/video it!
  4. Buy a plain, white mug and draw on it
  5. Make personalized stickers that represent the recipient
  6. Treat him/her to his/her favourite, inexpensive lunch/dinner
  7. Make a scrapbook from the memories you share with him/her

Yes, purchasing the raw materials for these items do cost a little, but it sure is cheaper than that Braun Buffel bag your girlfriend/best friend has been eyeing!

4. Learn the skill that you are frequently paying for

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If you have a hobby or something in your daily routine that requires you to pay someone for their service, why not learn that skill so that you can do it yourself? More money can then be saved!

If you play musical instruments like the guitar, learn the proper ways to maintain the quality of the guitar such as restringing and cleaning! If you play a brass instrument, be sure to polish it and tune it frequently. You could also learn the basics of barbering so that you could maintain the trims yourself. Simple and minute self-trimming can then be done easily instead of spending all that money. How about learning to alter your own clothes? If you find yourself needing to send your clothes for alteration frequently, it is time for you to DIY. Besides, you know your own body shape the best! Car washing is another thing that you could do yourself, rather than going to a car wash station or driving across the border. Some multi-storey carparks have water dispensers for washing. Find them! Lastly, cooking your own meals would definitely help you save heaps of your finances in the long run. Invest in that skill and you’ll quickly find yourself wanting to cook more! You don't have to spend heaps of money on classes for these things: use the internet! There is a step-by-step tutorial for everything you could ever want to learn out there.

5. Shop at ShopBack.my

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If your desire for shopping is so terrifyingly needy and it requires immediate satisfaction,then shop online at ShopBack.my instead; we're an online portal that carries hundreds of big name merchants like ASOS, ZALORA, HipVan, Apple, Groupon and more!

Here’s the incredible thing about ShopBack – we pay you when you shop. Yes, you heard that right. GET PAID TO SHOP. You’ll actually get paid a percentage of your purchase, depending on the shop that you’re buying from. It sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? Well then, only one way to find out: try it out HERE.

*Post has been edited since date of publication

*Keep a lookout for ZALORA promo codes!

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