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Managing your finances as a student can be tricky, no matter where you are. It can seem even more imposing at first as an international student. On top of being busy with schoolwork, you’ll have to navigate how to spend and save in a different economy than the one you’re used to. As intimidating as that can seem, it’s far from impossible. There are plenty of ways you can easily manage your finances as an international student in Malaysia.
Malaysia is a great place to be if you want to take more control over your budget as a student. The nation ranks as one of the most affordable countries for students, thanks to its low cost of living, similarly low tuition fees, and many student discount opportunities. Of course, you must know how to take advantage of these factors to make the most of your time abroad. Here’s how to manage your finances as an international student in Malaysia.
1. Get a Student Card
The first step you should take to gain control over your spending as a student in Malaysia is to apply for a student card, or KADS1M. The KADS1M is part of Malaysia’s Ministry of Commerce program that aims to reduce the financial burden on students. With this ID card, you can get discounts and special deals at numerous stores across the country. To get one, open an account with Bank Rakyat—the nation’s national bank — and apply for the card online.
The KADS1M program has changed a few times in the past, so how much you can expect to get from it may shift. Similarly, the qualifications may vary, so not every student may be able to get one, but it’s worth trying. Even if you don’t qualify for the KADS1M, don’t worry. Similar options may be available at other banks or through private programs. The International Student Identity Card — a multinational student discount program — is worth looking into.
2. Create and Track a Budget
Next, it’s a good idea to create a working budget to keep track of how much you can spend. These records will be most helpful if they cover smaller timeframes, so aim for a monthly or weekly budget instead of an annual one. Start by recording how much you earn in a given period, then add up your monthly or weekly expenses using past bills to estimate totals. You can create easily readable budgets in Excel to streamline the process.
After you create a budget, you’ll have to record your expenses and check them often. Even if you always stick to your budget, keeping track of every time you spend money will help you become more aware of your spending habits. You’ll naturally start to make smarter financial decisions over time. This step is easier with technology’s help. Instead of writing everything down manually, use a spending tracking app and your bank’s electronic system to streamline and simplify it.
Creating and tracking a budget is an important step in ensuring that you are able to manage your finances effectively and reach your financial goals.
3. Look for Employment Opportunities
Saving money is only half of managing your finances — you need to make money, too. As an international student, finding a job may be a little more challenging than if you were a citizen, but it’s still possible. The Malaysian government limits the hours you can work as an international student, but you can still legally do so. Look for opportunities and programs at your university to learn more about what’s available.
You can add to your budget outside of a traditional job, too. You may be able to get an education sponsor to help pay for your tuition or other expenses, depending on your situation. How these work and where they come from varies, but you can check online and around your university for organizations and individual investors looking to sponsor students. As you look for opportunities like this, avoid the temptation to find unofficial or unreported employment, as this could get your visa revoked.
4. Capitalize on Cheaper Options
Finally, you can make the most of your budget by looking for and capitalizing on cheaper alternatives to regular activities. While Malaysia has plenty of affordable food, buying ingredients and cooking for yourself is still cheaper than eating out. You can still go out and spend more now and then, but avoid doing it regularly and remember to record these expenses. Similarly, consider buying used textbooks, clothes, and other items instead of new ones.
You may fly in and out of the country fairly often as an international student. Flights are often expensive, but if you book them far in advance, you can cut down on these costs. Remember that the furthest possible advance date isn’t always the cheapest option. Monitor flight prices closely to find the lowest prices, which usually fall a few months before the travel date. There are plenty of flight-price tracking apps you can use to help.
Malaysia offers a variety of affordable options for education, allowing students to capitalize on lower tuition costs and cost of living expenses.
Managing Finances Doesn’t Have to Be a Challenge
Finances are often tricky, especially as a student and even more so in another country. However, they don’t have to be as challenging as they seem initially. If you plan ahead of time, know what saving and earning opportunities are available to you, and approach it carefully, you can do it with minimal stress. Follow these four steps and take complete charge of your finances, regardless of your situation.
Do you want to study abroad in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia? Find out more about Asia Exchange’s study abroad programs in Kuala Lumpur
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