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How to Shop When You're Super Broke

by Rachel Yeoh. |



"Then don't shop la!"

That's what your mom would be telling you.


But oh, come on, who are we kidding. We love shopping and that's why you're here.

The question should be 'When are we not on a budget?'

This topic could span a whole diploma course, but let’s settle with this article for now.

We all need to shop, even if you despise shopping. Food and clothes do not stock up for themselves at home.


Here's how you can be smarter with your purchases the next time you are on a budget - which personally, would be all the time.

1. Apparels at Shopping Malls or Outlet Malls


The most common place to shop proves to be one of the best places to shop when you are on a budget. It has everything you need under one roof and you do not need to hunt and pay for parking to get an item at a separate location.

But let us direct you to the SALE section.

Never buy anything that is not on sale - especially clothes. Try this out the next time you are looking for a fresh outfit on a budget.


A. Walk into a store with a SALE sign.

B. Scour through the rack, rail or bin (you have time, not the money) and only pick out the items with 50% slashed off the tag.

C. Put it back if it's not your size.

D. Ask yourself, am ‘I willing to part with RMxx for this item?’ Please note that it's RMxx because anything more than two digits is not recommended for someone on a budget.

E. Head to the changing room. Channel your inner Marie Kondo. If it's super cheap but doesn't spark joy, don't buy it.

You might not walk out of the store with an item, but that's okay, you are on a budget. Repeat for the remaining stores you enter.


2. Get Raw and Real at the Wet Market

The reeking smell of poultry and briny wafts contributed by fresh catch from the sea will have to be tolerated. It is time to summon the chef in you when on a budget because it is cheaper to cook then to head out to dine. A better option, get your broke friends together to cook and split the cost. You may be broke, but you ain’t boring!


Here’s a tip. Opt to buy your meat and seafood from the wet market because it can save you up to 20% than if you were to get them from supermarkets. Also, learn to charm the aunty and uncle sellers and they might give you a discount.


Average cost of meal for one person when shared with friends: Approximately RM5 depending on what you buy.


Tip: However, do note that for vegetables, it is better survey the prices at the supermarkets as they can run cheaper than the ones at the wet market. Keep a mental note to always ask for the price before buying them.


3. Try your Luck at Thrift Shopping

If American hip hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis can compose a hit single about thrift shopping and ‘popping tags’, there is no reason why you should not try your hand in it.


Find hidden gems, furniture with vintage flair, old school knick-knacks and if you are lucky, luxury items with a small defect at a fraction of the price. If you are one who deems pre-loved items as dirty, unusable, of bad quality or just somebody else’s trash, you certainly have not heard of the proverb, ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’. There is no knowing what you are going to find.


Alternatively, if you are with a company of creative broke pals, buy imported pre-loved apparel bundles. Vacuum packed in bundles of 10kg or so with a price tag of RM10-RM50, have a field day unraveling the items, trying them on and laughing some styles that seem out of this world.


Source: 2nd Street Malaysia


Guaranteed to be tons of fun – just remember to wash the apparels before you actually wear them out!


Tip: Check out thrift stores like Jalan-Jalan Japan or 2nd Street


4. Opt to Buy at Online Stores & via Mobile Applications

If you think you could save your Ringgits at physical stores, the red carpet of online shopping is now spread out before you. Think coupon codes, affiliated links and e-wallets – it’s a whole new ball game here.


The thing about online shopping is that you do not need to leave the comfort of your home to get an item you want. You can also get it cheaper via hundreds of online marketplaces. We suggest buying from legitimate online shopping websites such as Lazada, Shopee, 11 Street, Zalora and etc. so you won’t be scammed.


But here’s the how you make your money streeeeeeeetch when online shopping.


a. Always access online shopping websites via cashback websites or affiliated links from your favourite YouTubers or social media influencers.

Earn 0.5% up to 12% cashback with every item you buy. It’s gonna take awhile to actually. If you studied Bahasa Malaysia, you’d know the proverb, ‘sikit-sikit, lama-lama jadi bukit.’

Tip: Check out websites like ShopBack


b. Resist the urge to browse.

Type in the item you’d like to purchase and view each and every one of them. Be meticulous. Look at the price, the size, the seller and if there are any shipping charges. Don’t be lazy to do the math. Also, check out other marketplaces that sell the same item. Compare them to get the best deal.


c. Try Your Best to Find A Coupon Code

If you are using a coupon code linked to a certain credit card, remember to use it to complete the payment. Or else, pay via an e-wallet like FavePay or GrabPay. There are a ton of deals to look out for especially when you want to get your bubble tea fix.


E-wallets like Boost, allow you to shake for a reward upon every purchase and they might also credit cashback directly into your e-wallet a day after your purchase. Always do research on payment systems so you always get money back for what you buy online.


d. Collect Points

Once the transaction is completed, opt to collect the reward points. It may be points credited directly to the account. For example, to your B Card or Air Asia BIG. Just key in your card number because you never know when you need those points in the future.


5. Love a brand? Stay loyal.

Source: Free Malaysia Today


Your favourite brands could have their own loyalty card which could score you great discounts, access to early sales, redeem your points into cash or products and even free stuff on your birthday month!


Let’s admit it, we are Malaysians and we love all that goodness. Yes, some stores do have a minimum fee to allow you to sign up but think about it, if you shop at that particular store often enough, it could actually save you a lot of money.


Do remember to practice these tips with precaution. If it’s cheap, it doesn’t mean you should own it. But man, these hacks will save you a bank load of money (okay, we are exaggerating). Also, if you are really on a budget, you can always do without or loan it from your friends. The bartering system is still relevant today.


Remember, don’t go broke trying to look rich!



You may also find Rachel on Instagram.

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