Month in Review,  Personal Finance

My 2018 Expenses and Income


Some days ago I read a blog post from Suraya of Ringgit Oh Ringgit in which she reveals her annual income and expenses for the last year. I thought, “Hey, I’ll do that too!”

Naive, little ol’ me thought that this was going to be an easy breezy fun post to write. I was sorely mistaken.

I spent the whole weekend confronting the numbers that my year essentially boiled down to.

The more I looked at them, the more anxious and afraid I became about sharing it with the world.

It’s one thing to hold those numbers close to yourself but it’s a completely different thing to let other people in on your money secrets.

This public way of declaring my finances holds me accountable for my actions because as much as I think I don’t have to answer to anyone, there’s an audience here that can benefit from learning about my pitfalls.

It’s a vulnerable thing to do, especially when people around you look at you like some sort of “money guru” that has it all figured out.

Personal finance isn’t about having everything figured out. It is personal, imperfect, messy and sometimes downright daunting and horrifying. But like with any scary realization, it’s best to confront it head-on, acknowledge it and work to improve it going forward.

2018 Expenses

Rent & Home Maintenance21,913.82
Car & Transport17,131.72
Donation & Gifts2,854.12
Shopping 2,378.55
Insurance & Healthcare2,338.60
Personal Care2,310.47

Whew, ripping off that financial plaster was not pleasant. Let’s put this in perspective, shall we? In 2017, I didn’t even earn anywhere close to what I spent in 2018.

Rent & Home Maintenance

Understandably the bulk of my expenses went to putting a roof over my head. While living alone was not the an ideal financial decision, it was my best investment in 2018. Living contributed to the betterment of my mental and emotional well-being.

Because I was also taking on freelance work, my home functioned as a workspace. No need to pay a bomb to get a desk at a co-working space. My rent came up to RM13,200 and the rest of the money spent in this category was for furniture and other home items.

Car & Transport

I despise this category with all my heart. Owning a car, paying for parking, tolls, fuel, car insurance, and maintenance is such a goddamn waste of money. On top of that, the amount of hours I have spent sitting in traffic jams is just too many to count.

I absolutely hate the fact that it’s such a money drain and many people in KL deem having a car a necessity. Unfortunately, they’re right. In my household, three people, including myself, rely on my car to commute to and from work. I’ll have appointments and classes all over KL, which requires me to drive from one location to another throughout the day as well.

Moving to Singapore and being liberated from driving has given so much time back to me and cut down my travel costs substantially.


Okay to be fair, I really could have done without this category. I think if it weren’t for the expenses here, I will have at least some savings by the end of the year. In any case, I took this as a “life investment”. Holy shit, did this expense category give me so much perspective and well worth every penny spent. If you wanna learn more about my vacation spending, you can read My Not-So-Budget Trip in Europe.


This includes both groceries and eating at restaurants. It averages to RM500 a month. It’s been fairly consistent over the years, except now I can see the expenses skew more towards the grocery side than dining outside. It indicates how aunty I’m becoming.


Also about RM500 a month, this includes internet, phone, electricity, and water. Not much comment on this section. I don’t use air conditioning at home and I make an effort to conserve water. I try to reduce my energy consumption, not for cost reasons but because I want to minimize my environmental impact (owning a car kind of defeats that purpose, to be honest).


Expenses related to running a freelance one-woman show. This includes business registration, domain registration, printing and stationery costs and so on.

Gifts & Donations

I’m actually surprised that this number is that high. I didn’t think I contributed much in 2018 and I’m aiming to give back more time and money this year.

Personal Care

This number has dropped significantly over the years. The main reason is I’ve stopped signing up for facial, massage and pedicure packages. A bit sakit hati to give up these pampering “self-care” services but I always get sucked in by the hard sales tactics and buy packages I can’t afford. So, now I avoid completely (unless someone wants to sponsor me, ahem).

Insurance & Healthcare

Medical insurance monthly payments.


Paying off my CFA exam fees. I’ve given so much money to that exam board.


I’m surprised this number is as high as this. The majority of this category was paying off my iPhone. Fun fact, I went on a No Clothing Spend streak for over a year. The last I bought a non-essential (not undies/socks etc) piece of clothing was in January 2017. I broke that streak in May 2018 when it came time for me to travel and I needed comfortable travel clothes.


Yeah, didn’t put much in actual investment last year. Just enough to qualify for the PRS youth incentive scheme.

Entertainment & Miscellaneous

No extravagant concert ticket purchases last year. Actually, there was but it fell into the Vacation category so it doesn’t count.

2018 Income

Part time work16,811.99

I was extremely lucky in 2018 when it came to working opportunities. Well, I worked hard to earn my keep too but luck also played a role. My income averaged about RM6,500 a month. Though technically, I only worked about 9 months or so last year. Most of my income came from fixed jobs I had during the year; classes, digital marketing work, and content creation.

The rest of my income came from other sources such as one-off side hustles and odd jobs. For instance, I did Valentine’s Day bouquet deliveries to earn a bit of cash. Some inflows are attributed to miscellaneous entries such as getting my Shopback cashback, money I lent to friends and family being returned, sales of my clothes and furniture and so on.

The final income source is from my investments. The equity income only gets taken into account when I withdraw from my investment account. The rest of my gains were reinvested back to my stocks.

2018 Savings Rate

Prior to 2018, I had a consistent savings rate of 20-30% per year. That was when I was employed full-time and lived at home with my parents.

Throughout last year, I struggled to maintain that savings rate. While I managed to increase my overall income, my cost of living skyrocketed along with it.

Even though I keep track of all my spending and earning, I’ve don’t often look into each category thoroughly. I’m also not entirely stringent with the way I track my expenses either. For example, I don’t input my credit card spending by category, I just input whatever figure I paid up on the card that month.

Something like this:

Yeap, you read that right, it’s RM32k just on my credit card alone.

This meant going back and checking my bank statements to see where that money went. I started transferring all my credit card expenses since 2014 onto an Excel sheet last September in order to analyze my spending habits. I finally finished that Excel sheet and ho boy, did it have some shocking revelations. But that’s a story for another time (another post, maybe).

Anyways, last year my savings rate dropped into the negative territory for the first time since 2013. I’m down by RM6,500 last year or -8.4%. To be frank, this difference is, well, marginal. But it still hurts to know that I didn’t really achieve much in a monetary sense.

However, I am looking at a very bright silver lining to this. While I’m no closer to my net worth goal, I gained so much value from all the things I spent on last year (yes, even the car expenses).

2019 Goals

My goal for 2019 is to get back on track to accumulate wealth, save aggressively and diversify my investment.

  • I am targeting a 40% savings rate and a 10% emergency fund pool.
  • I want to double my portfolio size but I’m not sure how I’ll achieve that. Yet.
  • I am looking to set aside about RM5,000 or so into my Travel the World fund.
  • I plan to reduce my personal care and shopping expenses significantly.
  • Transport costs are projected to reduce as well.
  • I want to give back more in terms of time and money
  • Work on more projects that are rewarding and fun.
  • Invest in education more (books, courses, etc).
  • Create more content for this site, market it better and maybe monetize it.

How are you feeling about your money goals going into 2019? Let me know in the comments or find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Image via Unsplash


  • Suraya

    I’M SO HAPPY YOU MADE A POST ON YOUR 2018 EXPENSES TOO!!! Your expenses look okay what, except the costs associated with car ownership – woah that’s a lot. I don’t have a car, and once in a while I lust after one, but the costs always discourage me. Its a money sucker, that thing :/

    Hey what plugin do you use for the table? That’s a cool way to show the data, I like 😀

    • Nicole

      Hey Suraya,

      Ahh thanks for reading & encouraging words. I‘m not used to such expenses that’s why feels a bit scary posting it up. But okay lah kinda freeing actually.

      Yes, don’t buy a car! I hope my high cost for the car deters you from that haha.

      Using TablePress for the table.

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