Most of us are living under tighter COVID-19 restrictions again, as a second MCO has been implemented in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and certain parts of Malaysia. To help ensure that you’re better prepared this time around, here’s our survival guide.
The first Movement Control Order (MCO) in March 2020 taught us the importance of planning for life’s uncertainties. Now more than ever, amidst MCO 2.0, rising COVID-19 cases, reduced incomes and job uncertainty, we need to know how to safeguard our well-being and finances in the new norm.
Adapting to the MCO 2.0 SOPs
As the relevant authorities strive to contain the pandemic, we can do our part as well by following the latest standard operating procedures:
Areas: Penang, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Labuan, Melaka, Johor and Sabah
Duration: January 13 to January 26
- No interstate and interdistrict travels.
- No social gatherings – such as weddings, religious processions, meetings and group sports.
- Roadblocks will be mounted. If you’re travelling in a vehicle, your movements should be limited within a 10km radius of your home.
- Only two people per household are allowed to head out to purchase groceries at nearby supermarkets/grocery stores.
- Only two people are allowed in a vehicle.
- Anyone who violates these rulings will be subjected to a maximum fine of RM1,000 under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342).
- Five essential economic sectors are allowed to operate: manufacturing, construction, services, trade and distributions as well as plantations and commodities.
- Practise physical distancing at all times.
- Non-essential services staff should work from home.
- Eateries and hawker stalls may operate but only take-aways are allowed.
- Food delivery services are allowed.
- Supermarkets, healthcare services (including clinics, hospitals and pharmacies) and banks are allowed to operate with strict SOP compliance. Always wear masks and use hand sanitisers frequently.
- Stay at home if there is no immediate or urgent need to head out.
- Students who are due to sit for the SPM are allowed to attend school with strict SOP. The Education Ministry will detail this SOP.
Now that you’re aware of the SOPs, let’s see what other protective measures you and your family can practise in order to stay safe.
Stock up on the necessities (but don’t panic buy!)
According to a recent article by Malay Mail, the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs has assured the public that there is a sufficient supply of goods in all retail sectors, so there’s no need to panic buy.
Besides, certain foods like fresh milk, bread, vegetables and fruits have a limited shelf life. They are more likely to spoil within days, so if you have bought too much food for your family, that’s money wasted.
Instead, you should purchase a moderate amount of long-lasting, nutritious foods such as beans, nuts, dried fruits and vegetables, granola bars, whole grains and preservative-free canned goods. This way, you’ll be reducing food waste and your loved ones will have something to eat on the days where it’s inconvenient to cook or use food delivery services.
The same moderate approach should be applied when you’re stocking up on other essentials like toiletries, pharmaceutical products and household maintenance items. Getting these items from convenience stores and pharmacies is so easy now as you can always order them via GrabMart or foodpanda shops.
The Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs has assured the public that there is a sufficient supply of goods, so there’s no need to panic buy.
Create a crisis budget
Creating a household budget for MCO 2.0 can help ensure that your income is sufficient to support your family as well as increase your savings in the new norm. With budgeting apps like Mint and Goodbudget, it’ll be easier to keep track of your daily, weekly and monthly spending. These apps are able to show what your balance will be once all your bills have been paid.
Speaking of bills, with everybody at home more, your electricity and water bills could be higher compared to the pre-MCO period. However, you’ll be spending less on car petrol and other transportation costs if you are working from home. Use the money you have saved from reduced transportation costs to accommodate the higher electricity and water bills.
Additionally, more people are using cashless payment these days in order to minimise cash usage and physical contact. So if you are using e-wallets such as Touch ‘n Go eWallet, GrabPay and Boost to shop, be sure to include these expenses in your budget.
You should also remember to allocate a particular sum for your savings and emergency fund. Even if you are just saving the money you would usually spend on petrol each week, it all builds up – that RM20 you are saving weekly will amount to RM1,000 in a year.
Use your emergency fund only if necessary
COVID-19 has taught us how vital it is to set up an emergency fund. Faced with retrenchments or pay cuts, many of us had to dip into our savings to cover monthly expenses. In times like these, having an emergency fund is valuable.
As the name suggests, your emergency fund is an amount of money which is kept aside for an unexpected crisis. You ought to have a financial buffer that will last you for at least six months in case you suddenly lose your source of income.
It’s also important to figure out what counts as a true emergency, as you should not simply use up your emergency fund to pay your way out of any unexpected situations. You can start planning your emergency fund usage by differentiating between your needs and wants in life.
For instance, if your TV breaks down, do you need a new big flatscreen? Probably not, but if the refrigerator stops functioning, you’ll definitely need to buy a new one as your food will spoil without it. Once you have established a clear distinction between essential spending and splurging unnecessarily for luxuries, you’ll be able to better manage your emergency fund.
Create a quarantine routine
As most of us are staying indoors more frequently, it’s important to set up a daily routine and stick to it. You should allocate an adequate amount of time for work, meals, caring for your kids, leisure activities, exercise and sleep. By following this routine each day, you’ll be able to become more efficient.
Without a routine, you could end up making hundreds of decisions in a single day, and the stress and anxiety will add up. These questions will constantly be popping up in your mind:
”Should I go grocery shopping today or wait until tomorrow?”
“What time should I start making lunch?”
“Is it time for bed, or should I finish watching these series?”
You can take the pressure off by listing down the things you need to complete daily (according to how urgent they are). Then you can work your way through the list. This added structure and stability will be beneficial for both you and your family. In fact, if you are a parent, you should help your kids establish their daily routines as well.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also disrupted children’s schooling and daily routines. According to Malay Mail, the Education Ministry has announced that only students taking national examinations such as Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) are allowed to physically attend school during the MCO, while students from Standard One to Form Four will undergo online learning.
So for most kids, the new normal has been a roller coaster ride of uncertainties filled with short periods of attending school and a mixture of online learning sessions. You can help make your children’s prolonged stay at home a productive and comfortable experience, as you’ll have more opportunities to spend quality time with them. Do help out with their school work if you can. Solving mathematical equations and completing school essays together can be fun and enriching for both of you! Your presence will also be reassuring for the kids as they navigate through distance learning.
Besides school work, leisure time with your children can also be equally enjoyable. Join them when they are watching movies, reading and playing video games. These activities can strengthen the bond between parents and children.
Additionally, you should make sure that your kids study, play, eat and sleep according to a regular schedule. With just a little extra planning like this, everybody in your household can enjoy a hassle-free, fulfilling lifestyle – even during the MCO.
By following a daily routine, your family can enjoy a hassle-free, fulfilling lifestyle – even during the MCO.
Prioritise paying down high-interest debt
Rising unemployment and pay cuts might have left most of us running low on cash as we enter the second round of MCO. With limited funds, you may not be able to service all your debts at once, especially if you have credit card bills, mortgages, car loans and student debts.
So it’s important to figure out which debt you should pay off first. Under these circumstances, we highly recommend that you clear your debts with the highest interest rates ASAP, because the longer it takes for you to pay it off, the more you’ll have to pay over time.
So if you have accumulated debts like those from credit cards, where banks usually charge an average of 11% to 18% of interest on outstanding balances, you ought to focus your financial resources on settling these bills first.
You can start by paying off the credit card bill with the highest interest rates while also making the minimum monthly payment for your other debts – as you’ll want to avoid incurring additional fees. Once you are done clearing a particular debt, you should repeat the same payment process with your remaining arrears.
The faster you become debt-free, the sooner you can start working towards other financial goals – like contributing to your emergency fund and adjusting your household budget so that you’re financially prepared for any pandemic-induced lifestyle changes. We believe you’ll get there one day!
Keep calm – never sell stocks in a panic
As we brace ourselves for further economic uncertainties, you might feel it’s counterintuitive to continue channeling your money into the stock market. However, as an investor, it’s best to stick to the goals, objectives and time horizon that you have established for your investment plan. Regardless of whether you originally planned to invest for the short-term or long-term, you should continue with your original plan, and avoid joining the crowd of investors who sell or buy in panic.
Additionally, according to Forbes, if your portfolio has been designed properly, you will be able to withstand a drop in the market. In the same article, its finance contributor Eric Brotman also emphasized that investors should take advantage of the current state of the stock market.
“If you’re older and retired, you should have enough money for the income that you need. If you’re young, market drops are a great opportunity to buy those high-quality securities while they’re basically on the clearance rack. What panic selling really does to long-term savings is to destroy it. It's one of the biggest mistakes investors can make,“ he emphasized.
We hope you’ll find this guide useful as you continue adapting to life in the new normal as well as the MCO. Keep your chin up and stay safe!