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The Average Cost of Living in Malaysia

Living as a single individual in Malaysia, particularly in bustling cities like Kuala Lumpur or Penang, involves managing a unique set of financial challenges.


In this article, we will dissect and analyze the expenses that shape the daily lives of single individuals, offering a comprehensive view of what you can expect to live comfortably, while also providing insights into smart financial management, savings strategies, and investment approaches.


average cost of living in Malaysia

Accommodation


Housing is a major cost component. The price varies significantly depending on location and type of accommodation.


According to Numbeo, a one-bedroom apartment in city centres can cost around RM1,500 per month, while outside city centres, the cost drops to approximately RM800.


This difference underlines how crucial it is to choose where you live wisely, considering how close it is to your workplace and what kind of lifestyle you prefer.


Food and Daily Expenses


Groceries in Malaysia are reasonably priced, with a monthly estimate of about RM400-600 for basic items. Dining out, however, can raise this budget, with meals at inexpensive restaurants costing around RM10-20.


Utilities (electricity, water, and others) average around RM100 per month. Internet subscriptions add another RM100-150 to the monthly expenses.


Transportation


For most Malaysians, it’s not uncommon to have some sort of personal vehicle to get you to places. If you’re a single person with a car, this means the cost of living involves handling various automotive expenses.


The purchase price of cars, like the popular Perodua Myvi, ranges from RM40,000 to RM50,000. Fuel costs also play a role, with prices such as RM 2.05 per litre for RON95 petrol as of 2023. Annually, maintenance and insurance can set you back roughly RM1,000 - RM2,000 and about RM1,500, respectively, depending on your vehicle and coverage. Additionally, road tax, which is quite reasonable at RM20-100 yearly, along with parking fees in urban areas and toll charges which are miscellaneous expenses.


However, using public transportation in Malaysia, such as buses and trains, can be significantly cheaper than owning a car. For example, a monthly pass for unlimited travel on RapidKL ranges from RM50-100, which is much less than the monthly costs associated with car ownership.


While public transit offers financial savings and reduces the hassle of traffic and parking, it may not provide the same flexibility and convenience as having a personal vehicle, especially for those with specific travel needs or living outside well-serviced urban areas.


Leisure and Entertainment


For leisure, a single person might spend around RM300-500 monthly on activities like cinema, short trips, or social gatherings. Malaysia offers a variety of affordable leisure options, but of course, lifestyle choices can significantly impact this budget segment.


Saving and Investments


It's also crucial to consider savings and investments, which can vary based on individual financial goals and income stability.


Assuming an average income of RM 4,500/month, here’s a feasible plan that might work for you:


Savings


1. Emergency Fund

Ideally, this should be 3-6 months of expenses. Aim to save RM1,000/month until you reach RM15,000.


2. Short-term Savings

For vacations, car upgrades, etc., allocate RM200/month.


Investments


1. Retirement (EPF)

Mandatory contribution already deducted from salary (11% from employee, 13% from employer).


2. Private Retirement Scheme (PRS)

To diversify your retirement savings, invest RM 200/month.


3. Stock Market

Start with RM200/month in blue-chip or dividend stocks. Perhaps, going on Bursa Malaysia would be a good starting point for research.


4. Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)

As we always say, diversification is key so diversify your investments with RM100/month for broader market exposure.


5. Unit Trust Funds

Allocate RM200/month for this and choose funds with a solid track record.


6. Online Savings Account

For any remaining savings, consider high-interest online savings accounts like money market funds.


I understand that this savings and investment section might seem like a lot so it’s important to review your financial plan and adjust contributions based on salary changes, financial goals, and life circumstances.


Additional Considerations & Long-Term Financial Goals

  • Health and Life Insurance: Besides basic health insurance, consider a life insurance plan.

  • Debt Management: If you have any debts (personal loans, credit card debts), prioritize paying them off.

  • Career Advancement: Invest in skills and education that can increase your earning potential.

  • Home Ownership: Start a separate fund for a down payment if you plan to buy a house.

  • Wealth Building: As your salary increases, proportionally increase your investments.


The Bottom Line: The Average Cost of Living in Malaysia


For a single person living in Malaysia, the average monthly cost can range between RM3,000 to RM5,000, depending on lifestyle choices and location.


The key is to balance living costs with savings and investments which requires discipline and strategic planning. It’s also always wise to keep updated on economic changes and seek professional financial advice when necessary.


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