Thursday, February 25, 2016


Crunch time is back again, no thanks to the imposition of a hefty 6% GST and the weak ringgit. With the downturn in the economy, and workers being retrenched in the hundreds and thousands, we need to take a serious look at how to stretch our ringgit.

That's right, folks. It's time to tighten our belts a notch or two. How can we do it without feeling the pinch too much? Is it possible to still enjoy life without sacrificing too much of our creature comforts?

ABSOLUTELY! Here are 10 suggestions:

1. Give luxuries and branded items a miss at least for now
What can we give up without feeling too much pain? Definitely luxuries and branded items. Ladies, do you really need that RM3000 LV bag? Won't a RM150 bag do just as well? Guys, this isn't the time to buy that RM5,000 Tag Heuer watch. Wait till your bank account improves. In the meantime, stick with your current watch which still does a good job of telling time.

2. Do you really need all those expensive health supplements?
Take a good look at your health supplements. Do you really need that many? Seniors spend hundreds of ringgit a month on multi-vitamins, health juices and tonics. We should consider alternatives for maintaining good health like exercise, proper eating habits, adequate sleep and a positive mental attitude, all of which are free. Keep supplements to a minimum, and only those that work for you.

3. Downsize, downsize, downsize
We can't repeat this often enough. If it's just you and your spouse, sell the family-size house and move to a smaller one. Less time and energy spent too on maintaining the place. Consider renting a smaller place if you want to keep the house, and get a tenant for the family home. As for the family car, the sooner you sell off the fuel-guzzling monster for a compact, fuel-saving and reliable Myvi, the better off you will be in terms of savings.

4. No shame in hand-me downs
This applies more to electronic devices like computers, smart phones, and cameras. If your adult children are in the habit of upgrading their electronic devices each time the latest model is on the market, let them know you'll be happy to be the new owner of their discards. We know of retirees whose homes are equipped with second-hand items like TVs, karaoke systems, refrigerators and washing machines all handed down from their children, and all still in pristine working condition.

5. Consider cheaper options
Eat at home, or at food courts when out in the city. We can give ourselves a treat at a nice restaurant every other week. Going for a vacation? Book with budget airlines, and stay at no-frills budget hotels. The difference between a 3-star hotel and a 4-star one is just one star, but it could mean a saving of a few thousand ringgit for an extended stay. Take public transport and leave the car for places not served by trains or buses, or for when you need to get somewhere in a hurry. You will be surprised how much you can save on fuel.

6. Ask for senior discounts
Nothing to be ashamed of in asking about senior discounts. Many restaurants, cinemas, and retail outlets do offer special rates for seniors aged 60 and above. Apply for a warga emas RapidKL card to get 50% off on train and bus services. Better still, make use of the free Go-KL and PJ City shuttle bus services. If you shop regularly at certain establishments, get a member's privilege card to enjoy discounts or special rates.

7. Less is more
So true when it comes to food, clothes, credit cards, indeed, almost everything. Over-eating can lead to obesity and ill health, over-buying can lead to clutter and hoarding, and over-possession of credit cards can lead to debt and financial ruin. One credit card should suffice to cover your purchases. The same goes for trips abroad - set a limit that is within your means. By the way, ladies, less is also more when it comes to wearing make-up, perfume or jewellery. To look younger, wearing a smile is more effective than getting a face-lift. So much cheaper too.

8. Look out for sales and bargains
Patience is a money-saver when it comes to shopping. You can get fantastic bargains on books at the Big Bad Wolf sale or the annual Popular Bookfest. Shop for clothes when departmental stores are having massive discounts. Shop at discount stores like Mr DIY or convenience stores like 99-Speedmart where prices are kept low and affordable. As for groceries, opt for wet markets, night markets and hypermarkets.

9. Don't try and keep up with the Datuks and Tan Sris
If you don't have a healthy bank balance, you should refrain from living a lavish lifestyle just to keep up appearances. You don't have to celebrate your birthday in grand style if you can't afford it. And you don't need to throw a lavish dinner for your daughter's wedding if it puts you in the red. In short, don't be a kiasu.

10. Count the costs and check your budget
You won't go wrong if you adopt a practical and sensible approach towards managing your finances. Spend only when necessary, and do the math before you part with your money. Go for value. Ask yourself if you can afford it, if you really need it, and if there's a cheaper option that's almost as good as the one you have in mind.

Better to be called a cheapskate than to be declared a bankrupt. Better to sleep soundly with peace of mind, than to be hounded by creditors and re-possessors, or worse by Ah Longs.

Unless you have investments that pay generous dividends, unless you have a business that generates high revenue, unless you have a job that comes with a handsome salary, the best way to ensure your savings will see you through your retirement years is to LIVE A SIMPLE LIFE.

Warren Buffet, one of the wealthiest men in the world, has the last word on why we must learn to spend wisely:

Tuesday, February 9, 2016