It’s 2017 and many of us may be feeling uncertain about our financial position as the Ringgit continues to weaken, we’re reading headlines of continued price hikes especially on food items, it just seems a little gloomy. On the upside, the 2017 Budget did announce a few measures to help alleviate financial burdens across the income groups.
Here are some savings you might be able to take advantage of but do keep in mind the escalating costs before you get too excited. There is no better time than now to track your expenses, set your monthly budget, and commit to it!
The MRT is alive and kicking, well at least some of the stops on the Sungai Buloh – Kajang line. On any daily commute, we spend on petrol, road tolls, and parking fees.
Let’s say on average, you spend RM80 every 2 weeks for petrol (RM6 per day), RM5 on toll, and RM8 on parking. That’s an estimate of RM19 per day. But with the MRT, you can eliminate all of that and spend at most RM10 a day (with the highest single ticket fare at RM4). Also, children under 7 years old can travel for free on the MRT and feeder bus services.
Students, take advantage of Concession Tokens and enjoy a 50% discount on fares. That brings your total spend to a mere RM5 a day! Also applicable for senior citizens and those with disabilities (OKU-registered). But bear in mind you can only purchase concession tokens at the stations.
With cashless payments on the rise, you can also enjoy reduced fares if you pay with your Touch ‘n Go Card. Check out the difference in fares here, after all, every little bit of saving counts.
For those who travel on the KTM Komuter, you can buy the KTM Komuter Link Card for only RM2. That’s a saving of RM8 but the promotion is only valid until 5 February 2017.
Let’s not forget Grab and Uber and their slew of promo codes that can help you save money every time you ride. If you still think you need a car to get around in Malaysia, consider the alternative options you have before you land yourself in debt with a hire purchase loan.
See also: Easy Ways To Save Money On Your Commutes
If you’re currently breastfeeding, don’t forget about the RM1,000 tax relief you are entitled to on the purchase of breastfeeding equipment. It’s especially handy to support working women, and the relief would be granted every two years.
This covers the purchase of manual or electric breast milk pumps, coolers, containers for the collection and storage of milk.
Some breast pumps are on sale for as high as RM800, and if you invest in a full set, it could even go for as high as RM2,500. Though the RM1,000 doesn’t seem like much when you compare it to the actual costs, it will help in some way and we’ll take that for now.
Don’t forget about the free mammogram screenings and HPV vaccinations that the government has allocated RM30 million towards. For now, you need to go to a Government clinic near your home, look up Klinik Kesihatan on Google if you aren’t sure which is the closest to you.
Lifestyle relief and aid for education loans
For those of you are still shouldering the burden of a PTPTN loan, or perhaps if you have been barred from leaving the country because of the dues you still owe, now might be the time to free yourself from those shackles. The government announced that those who pay off their loans in full will enjoy a 15% discount to settle your payments, or if you can only afford to pay off half first that’s still ok too. You’ll get a 10% discount. Either way, you’re being rewarded for paying off your loans (albeit a little late).
Make full use of the Lifestyle Tax exemption of RM2,500 that was recently announced by the government. What does it cover? Reading materials, a computer, sports equipment, printed newspaper subscriptions, smartphones and tablets, internet subscriptions, and gym membership fees.
Honestly speaking, RM2,500 doesn’t take you very far. In fact, I feel a monthly subscription of TM UniFi at RM190 per month, already adds up to RM2,280. You can’t really claim much else. But it’s something. It’s a relief that hopefully will help reduce the total amount of tax you need to pay.
Potential increased expenses
If you haven’t already read our first article on food price hikes, we suggest you do so. Food is a necessity so we’re going to have to eat, and there’s no way I’m compromising on that. It’s safe to say none of you will either. After all, the first question we as Malaysians often ask those we see is “dah makan?” (have you eaten?).
The price of coconuts are going up, cabbage, red chilis, canned sardines (by a whopping 155%!), cooking oil, sugar. What can you do? Look out for cheaper alternatives. Canned santan might have to be a solution if you don’t want to pay the higher price of fresh coconut milk that is estimated to increase by 30% to 40%.
Online shopping might be a great thing. You can scout online grocery stores for their deals and discounts. You can even make your money work for you, and by that we mean to apply for a cashback or rewards credit card. At least you know that even though you’re spending more on groceries, you’re also reaping more rewards.
You may want to consider buying groceries in bulk, at least the ones that don’t expire too fast and you can enjoy savings than if you were to buy then individually every month, including coffee, tea, detergent, fabric softener, rice, cereals, pasta.
Some cards that offer great cashbacks on groceries include:
HSBC Amanah MPower Platinum Credit Card-i with 8% cashback every day on groceries, Citibank Cash Back Card with up to 5% on all retail spending, Maybank Islamic MasterCard Ikhwan Gold Card with 5% cashback on groceries on Friday and Saturday only, to name a few.
With polystyrene and plastic bags being banned, and even Styrofoam too in efforts to be greener, we may be feeling the added pinch in other ways. Eateries may end up charging take-away customers for the plastic containers with some admitting to charging RM1 for take-away containers.
To avoid being burdened by any potential increase, you could bring your own containers when doing take away especially if it’s just a simple rice dish and you don’t need more than 1 container.
School items and school supplies
School going children may not necessarily feel the escalating costs of school books, equipment, and uniforms. But as parents, we feel it and we’re not going crazy. Preschool education costs are going up, although some relief has been provided to aid this. Parents can now claim tax relief when they enrol their child to registered nurseries and preschools, but your child must be 6 years old and below, and the tax relief is up to RM1,000 per year.
But it still doesn’t deny the fact that prices of school supplies have doubled with some parents spending as much as RM500 on school supplies (not including mandatory school fees and books) according to the Malay Mail.
In fact, school bus fares are expected to increase to help operators cope with GST. Operators will need to discuss this with parents and come to an agreed term, so negotiations could differ from operator to operator. It’s currently around RM100 per month, but newer buses and those that come equipped with air conditioning may fetch a higher price. Bear this in mind when setting aside funds for your children’s education.
While we may be enjoying savings in some parts of our life, we could see increases in others. Cutting corners might help but would be in your best interest to evaluate your finances towards a long-term goal, including to create a budget, clear your debts, build savings and grow investments, and set aside funds towards your children’s education.
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