As we all know, the GST will be upon us in two days’ time, and it will affect everyone regardless of income group. This 6% tax will be on top of several other taxes that already exist — such as the 10% service charge imposed by most restaurants and eateries — bringing the total tax to a whopping 16%. There is nothing we can do to stop the GST from raising living costs, but there are some adjustments that we can make to save money despite the implementation of the GST. Here’re a few ways:
1. Eat at home/learn to cook
This would be hard to do, but not without merit. It’s very hard because Malaysia has a lot of good food, and we don’t all have the time to be great chefs. But here’s the thing: we’re not asking you to be great chefs, nor are we suggesting that you stay home all day and eat all three meals at home (though if you can, why not?).
Eating out has gotten seriously more expensive, but if you still live with your family, I’m sure they’d be more than happy to cook for you. Each meal you have at home will save you approximately RM10-20, which you can put to better use.
2. Try to go out less
This is also hard to do. We Malaysians have very strong ‘lepak-ing’ tendencies. If I were bored and needed some company, all I have to do is send a message to my WhatsApp group, and we’d all end up in a hipster café somewhere sipping on RM15 coffee — or even at a mamak eating RM15-20 worth of food and drinks. Why? Because it’s simply too boring to stay at home.
But making trips like these involve a number of hidden costs that we often overlook, such as petrol, parking and even potential tolls. So instead of making trips outside, call your friends over, or go to someone else’s place, download a movie, order some food (or even cook for them) and have a fun-filled gathering at home. You could even try a board game, swim or even play a sport together, if your home happens to have the facilities.
3. Use only as much as you need when it comes to utilities
Utilities are what we take for granted the most, seeing as our parents were usually the ones who paid for them while we were growing up. As a result, we sometimes forget to turn off the tap, leave the lights on all night, and even leave appliances plugged in when we’re not using them.
It’s little things we do that create bill shock. To prevent this, use lights only when it’s too dark, switch on the fan instead of the air-conditioning, and unplug anything you’re not using. Unless you want to end up with a bill like this:
4. Minimize your commitments
Do you really need that phone plan that has a RM175 commitment? How about that RM200 commercial gym fee? It’s these little commitments we make that drain our money every month, and there are plenty of substitutes for these commitments which won’t require you to break the bank.
Opt for a lower monthly plan, or choose prepaid if you can. Unless you visit the gym every day, try to look for a cheaper gym to join — there are plenty of those in KL. These little adjustments will definitely help you save hundreds of ringgit per month.
5. Substitute phone calls with Internet calls/voice message applications
Sadly, even phone calls will be taxed with GST. To minimize your spending on phone calls and texting, why not try Internet/voice messaging applications? There’re plenty to choose from, such as Skype, Viber, WhatApp and Talkbox. All you need to do is connect to WiFi, or use your data plan. Just try not to spend too long voice-calling if you’re on data, as you may finish up your monthly quota quickly.