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Living on a Student Budget, the Sharing Way

BY Caitlyn Ng

Updated 13 Nov 2019

When you were living at home with your parents, all of your needs were mostly taken care of. Rental, food, transportation, and the likes were not part of your daily worries. What if you’re required to live in another state for your studies? Having to carefully budget for every day quickly becomes a real issue as your basic responsibilities increase. That's not even inclusive of other financial commitments such as student loans and credit cards.

What's covered in this article?

Sharing is caring, so they say. Students (and even young working adults) should thus consider sharing the costs of their living expenses to be able to effectively survive on a restricted budget. Here are just some of the common examples.

1) Transportation

When you first get the keys to a car, you’re excited and can’t wait to drive your friends around. When the petrol tank’s light starts flashing on your dashboard though, that’s when the fun is over. Petrol prices in Malaysia are constantly fluctuating, ranging on the pricey side nowadays. It would make sense to carpool, thus saving on the cost, but this isn’t a common practice.

Let’s see how much it costs for a student to travel from his rented place in Taman OUG to his campus at Taylor’s Lakeside University (not taking into consideration tolls, traffic jams and detours, which would add on significantly to the total amount).

- Fuel efficiency of the Perodua Myvi = 7.2L/100KM
- The latest price of fuel = RM2.01 (RON 95)
- Distance from home to campus = roughly 10km
- Cost per 1km = RM0.14472
- Total cost for a two-way trip = RM2.90

Petrol: RM58 per month

Now imagine if you had three friends living in the vicinity and they were willing to split the petrol bill with you, it would work out to RM14.50 per person per month instead. See how much you’d be able to save, plus you’d have people to keep you company during your karaoke sessions!

2) Rental

We come to what must be the bulk of any student’s budget: renting a place of their own to call their second home. While you may value your own personal space and want the privacy that comes with a studio unit, that is unfortunately a luxury that many students cannot afford.

For example, a fully-furnished studio unit at Residence 8 will set you back about RM1,100 per month for 330 sq ft of living space. Whereas if you still practice the sharing spirit, a medium room at a fully furnished unit in Endah Promenade will only cost you RM750 per month. If you have a roommate, all the better, since the cost would be greatly reduced.

Granted, the space is much smaller and you’d have to fight for the bathroom every morning and/or evening, but you’d be saving up a couple of hundred ringgit each month!

3) Food

Malaysians and food cannot be separated; we have always prided ourselves on being a haven for good food, thanks to the hotpot of cultures.

That’s why if you were to tell a student that he/she would have to subsist on a meal of instant noodles for the next year or so in order to save money, you’d have one very depressed Malaysian.

Eating out all the time, while on a student budget, is no laughing matter. Let’s take the quintessential hangout spot for most Malaysians – the mamak – as an example. A plate of fried rice with chicken and egg plus a glass of iced teh tarik will cost about RM9.50 and that’s just for one meal. Plus, you know eating at the mamak every day is going to take a toll on your health (not to mention the waistline).

One thing which many savvy students nowadays turn to is home-cooked food, with friends and/or housemates sharing the cost of the ingredients. Not only are you able to get healthy meals at a more affordable rate, you’d be – that’s right – sharing them with good friends. Here are two of our favourite fool-proof and fail-safe recipes:

3a) Aglio olio spaghetti (spaghetti aglio, olio, e peperoncino)

Living on a student budget, the sharing way

You can’t go wrong with a pasta dish, since this crowd-pleaser is the kind of meal that makes you stop and admire how the simplest of foods is actually pretty darn amazing! This aglio olio spaghetti with garlic, oil and chili pepper flakes is a traditional Italian favourite because of how it sticks with the bare basics. With no more than six commonly found ingredients, you’re able to whip up this beautiful and heartwarming meal from scratch.

What is needed?

1. 200g spaghetti (Prego spaghetti 500g @ RM2.99)
2. 2 large or 3 small garlic cloves, minced (white garlic 500g @ RM6.95)
3. 1 1/2 teaspoons of chili pepper flakes (chili flakes 100g @ RM2.15)
4. 1/4 to 1/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil (Ybarra extra virgin olive oil 250ml @ RM8.39)
5. 3/4 teaspoon salt (Tesco refined salt 350g @ RM0.49)
6. 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper (Elisen premium black pepper coarse 30g @ RM5.19)

Total cost: RM26.16

You can find the steps for the full recipe right here.

3b) Tuna salad pita

Living on a student budget, the sharing way

How could we leave out any form of bread from this list? Also, a tuna salad is probably one of the easiest meals to make, without losing out on its flavourful taste – just combine canned tuna, black pepper and mayonnaise, then you’re good to go! If you’re looking to cut down on the calories, then this protein-packed recipe is all you’d need, since it substitutes the mayonnaise with lemon and olive oil.

What is needed?

1. 2 whole-wheat pitas (Nature’s Bake pita 400g @ RM5.29)
2. 1 can tuna canned in water without salt (Tesco tuna chunks in spring water 185g @ RM4.29)
3. Lemon juice from 2 wedges (1 piece @ RM1.29)
4. 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil (Ybarra extra virgin olive oil 250ml @ RM8.39)
5. 1/2 small onion diced – purple or red onion adds color (small red onion 500g @ RM1.89)
6. 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper (red capsicum 500g @ RM8)
7. 1 tablespoon chopped parsley (Signature Italian parsley 20g @ RM1.05)
8. Salt and pepper to taste

Total cost: RM30.20

You can find the steps for the full recipe over here.

There you have it, proof that your mother was right (again) when she advised you that sharing with others is a good habit to practice.

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About the Author

Caitlyn Ng


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