You need a household income of about RM 12k to live comfortably in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia without children.
How did I come up with this number?
- I created a survey on social media (Twitter & LinkedIn).
- I created my own budget as a newly-wed couple living in Kuala Lumpur.
Disclaimer: This article & video is not financial advice. My calculations are very rough estimates and is intended for general knowledge. Please consult a real financial planner/advisor.
My Definition of a ‘Comfortable’ Life:
My definition of a ‘comfortable’ life in Kuala Lumpur is based on the typical lifestyle of M40 & T20 couples around me without children:
- A home in a decently convenient location
- A car to go to work & run family errands
- Restaurant & café weekend outings
- Travel locally and maybe internationally once a year
- Able to save & invest at least 10% of monthly salary
- Have enough money for a hobby
But what is a good salary (household income) to be able to afford a ‘comfortable’ life as a couple in Kuala Lumpur?
To find out, I created a poll survey on social media and asked my followers:
Survey: Cost of Living From Real Malaysians
The majority (67%) of the voters believe that a household income between RM 5,000 to RM 10,000 is enough to live a typical middle-class lifestyle in Kuala Lumpur without children:
Real Malaysian Cost of Living Survey:— Helmi – Balkoni Hijau Blog (@HelmiHasanBH) May 11, 2021
How much monthly household income (couple without children) do you need to live comfortably in KL?
– Can enjoy restaurants & cafés
– No debt except mortgage & car
– Can travel
– Can save at least 10% monthly
– Can afford a hobby
However, everyone lives a different lifestyle. My vote is that we needed a combined income of between RM 10,000 to RM 15,000. Here’s our budget:
My Budget For a ‘Comfortable’ Couple Lifestyle
|Expenses||Monthly Percentage||Monthly Budget (RM)||USD Equivalent|
|1 Decent Family Car||27%||RM 2,650||$ 627|
|Housing||25%||RM 2,480||$ 587|
|Necessities||14%||RM 1,400||$ 331|
|Luxuries||8%||RM 760||$ 180|
|Savings||15%||RM 1,463||$ 346|
|Money to Family||10%||RM 1,000||$ 237|
|Total Take Home Needed (After Tax & EPF Deductions)||RM 9,752||$ 2,307|
To estimate the gross income or salary to support a ‘comfortable’ life as a couple in Kuala Lumpur, I assumed taxes are 7% & EPF deductions are 11% (retirement savings).
CAUTION: Tax calculations are complicated and everyone has different deductions. I am using an estimated 7% income tax as a ball-park calculation.
- You need a household income of RM 11,893 to live comfortably as a couple in Kuala Lumpur
- Car expenses are shockingly high, sometimes more than housing.
- Saving a min of 15% from take-home pay is quite tough.
Let’s dive a little deeper & start with the car ownership costs:
Malaysian Car Expenses
Let’s be honest, Malaysian public transportation sucks. Most couples need a car to get to work, visit the in-laws, do weekend outings, and running errands.
The cheaper the car, the better it is for your finances. But a Mercedes is too expensive, and on the opposite extreme, a Perodua is cheap, but it sucks. So what’s a nice middle-ground?
From my research, the Honda Civic Turbo is the best value, all-rounder family car under RM 130,000 ($30,000) & it shows as there are so many of them on the Malaysian roads.
Let’s take a look at the monthly cost breakdown if I were to own this car:
|Honda Civic Turbo Ownership Expenses||Monthly RM||USD Equivalent|
|Hire Purchase to bank (7-year loan)||RM 1,800||$ 426|
|Petrol||RM 300||$ 71|
|Touch N Go (Tolls)||RM 50||$ 12|
|Maintenance1||RM 50||$ 12|
|Insurance2||RM 292||$ 292|
|Road Tax3||RM 7.50||$ 1.8|
|Parking||RM 150||$ 35|
|TOTAL MONTHLY COSTS TO OWN A HONDA CIVIC||RM 2,650||$ 627|
1: Maintenance costs around RM 300 every 6 months. Divide this by 6 is how I got RM 50 a month.
2: Full-rate insurance will cost me RM 3,500 a year without any NCD discount.
3: Road tax a year is RM 90 for a 1.5L engine.
RM 2,600+ a month to own a common Honda Civic? Absolutely shocking.
Thinking Outside the Box: If you choose to not own a car and use car-pooling, trains & car rentals everywhere you go, It might not cost you more than RM 2600+ a month! Plus, you don’t have to deal with driving, parking, and maintaining a car.
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Housing Expenses in Kuala Lumpur
We all want a decent place to stay not too far from where both of you work. For example, Bandar Utama is a decent place to work and live.
A quick search for property rentals in that area shows that there’s a healthy selection within a budget of RM 2,000 a month:
Not the best property to live in, but it’s good enough if you’re not overly picky.
Here’s the estimated cost breakdown if I were to stay at a similar place:
|Housing Expenses||Monthly RM||USD Equivalent|
|Mortgage / Rent (min 2 bedrooms)||RM 2,000||$ 473|
|Building Management Fee1||RM 200||$ 47|
|TNB (Electric bill)||RM 150||$ 35|
|Internet||RM 90||$ 21|
|Water Bill||RM 30||$ 7.10|
|Indah Water (IWK) – Sewerage Tax||RM 10||$ 2.37|
|TOTAL MONTHLY COST TO LIVE IN A DECENT HOME||RM 2,480||$ 587|
1: Maintenance Fee: You don’t have to pay for this if you are renting. The landlord usually pays for you.
From my observations, a min 2-bedroom housing in Klang Valley rental/mortgage can be classified as:
Low End: Below RM 2,000
Average: Around RM 2,000-RM3,000
High End: Anything above RM3,000
Cost of Food & Groceries
|Basic Necessity Expenses||Monthly RM||USD Equivalent|
|Regular food (for me, anything below RM15 per meal)||RM 500||$ 118|
|Groceries||RM 400||$ 95|
|Insurance (RM 300 each)||RM 600||$ 142|
|TOTAL COST OF BASIC NECESSITIES||RM 1,400||$ 331|
Cost of Lifestyle in Kuala Lumpur
This budget is important. I believe it’s healthy to splurge in moderation in something that you and your partner enjoy doing.
For my wife & I, we love to eat out at decent restaurants & cafés at least twice a month.
You can pick how to splurge your money in this budget category. Here’s mine:
|Luxury Expenses (Nice to Have)||Monthly RM||USD Equivalent|
|Restaurant / Cafe outings||RM 300||$ 71|
|Travel / Staycation1||RM 200||$ 47|
|Phone bill||RM 60||$ 14|
|Giving money to family2||RM 1,000||$ 237|
|TOTAL COST OF LUXURY||RM 1,560||$ 369|
1: We might not travel or spend on a staycation each month, but this budget can be accumulated for an even nicer experience in the future.
2: I believe that I should be treating family regularly. Unfortunately due to my career change, I can’t achieve this budget target yet, but I am working on it.
Saving 15% from our take-home pay may sound small, but having the discipline to do this is actually pretty tough.
There’s always something breaking down and needs to be replaced that needs money.
So it’s super important that you stick to your min savings plan of at least 15% each month.
To read how to invest for beginners, check out all the stuff that I’ve tried.
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Summary: A Good Salary to Live Comfortably
The majority of Malaysians who answered my online survey say that they need a minimum of between RM 5k – RM 10k to live a ‘comfortable life as a couple in Kuala Lumpur.
However, from my budget, we need at least RM 12k. But if you look at all the breakdown, it’s by no mean super luxurious either and totally relatable to the desires of most M40 & T20 Malaysians.
Car expenses are shockingly high, amounting to more than 25% of my monthly budget.
I recommend not to spend too much on a car, so you’d have more money to spend on other things that might be more meaningful.
Transfer Money to & From Malaysia
If you’re reading this as a foreigner who’s planning to move into Malaysia. You’d probably need a reliable cheap money transfer.
I’d recommend Wise as I’ve been using them to transfer money back to Malaysia when I was working abroad.
Let me know in the comments what you think about this survey.