5 expenses to consider when moving to KL

Living in Kuala Lumpur is fun if you’re a city type of person but bear in mind there’s a wide income disparity among KLites – some make a few hundred a month while others, a few hundred thousand.

If you’re moving out for the first time, it’s good to know how much money you actually need before you even consider it.

1: Rental + Deposit

Renting a place is a fun process if you have money, NOT a fun process if you’re on a tight budget.

Ideally, you’ll want:

  • Somewhere close to public transport
  • Or, if you mainly drive, somewhere with free parking space
  • Somewhere close to work
  • A whole place or room to yourself
  • A housemate you can get along with
  • A kitchen
  • A good-sized living room
  • A furnished room with a comfortable double bed
  • Attached bathroom
  • Life comforts: Air-conditioning, hot water heater, water purifier, washing machine, etc
  • Added facilities, especially for condominiums – swimming pool, gym, tennis court, security, etc

With ALL the above criteria, the minimum rental is around RM1,000, if you’re lucky. Actually, it’s closer to RM1,500 a month.

Renter’s typically pay two months’ deposit, one month’s advance rental, and one month’s utility deposit, making it four months’ rental upfront in total.

There might also be other added costs – tenancy agreement fee, security deposit, utilities (sometimes landlords add this cost to the price, sometimes it doesn’t), etc.

How to save on rental:

  • Don’t stay anywhere where the rent is more than 30% of your salary.
  • If utilities are not included, find out how to pay it fairly, especially if you only use the fan but have an air-conditioning demon of a housemate.

2: Home stuff

Suddenly you’ll miss the convenience of home, where you had everything at your disposal. It’s the small stuff that makes the house a home.

In your own place, you’ll need dishwashing liquid, insect spray, hangers and hooks for clothes – the list goes on.

How to save on home stuff:

  • Visit Mr DIY – they are consistently cost-effective, and they have outlets everywhere.
  • When you move in, have at least a few hundred ringgit at your disposal to buy the absolute essentials, and budget for this on a monthly basis.
  • It helps if you have more money than you need, because you can buy stuff in bulk, which will work out better on your budget in the long term.

3: Food

If you don’t know how to cook, learn but only because it is too easy to overspend on food in KL. Delicious food is everywhere. If you have transfers at KL Sentral, that’s it. It will be Hokkaido cheese cake and Chatime every day.

How to save on food:

  • If you cook, you can average on just RM2.86 a meal with a kettle, stove top, oven, and rice cooker at your disposal.
  • As long as you have hot water, you can make instant noodles, and add kangkung and egg in it for a delicious meal.
  • Shop at Cold Storage/Tesco/Giant/Aeon bargain bins.
  • If nothing here works, go on a ketogenic diet – it helps minimise hunger cravings. Boil eggs and eat with good oils like coconut or real butter for an average cost of RM1-2.

If you eat out, here are some cheap eats:

  • Tosai/Roti Canai kosong + ais kosong + extra free dhal – RM2.
  • Nasi campur with 1 or 2 vegetarian side dishes – RM3.
  • Nasi kandar with a mountain of rice from the mamak restaurant – discreetly divide into two or more portions and eat for a few consecutive days – RM8 split into two or more.
  • If your office provides food, go ahead and take it (as long as it’s a reasonable amount).

4: Transportation

Home visits cost money. So does owning a car – petrol, repairs, insurance, parking costs, driving license renewal.

Public transport costs money and is time consuming.

Save on transportation:

  • Don’t get a car if you can’t afford it. If your job requires you to have a car but you’re barely getting by, you need another job or an extra job.
  • Use Grab instead of a car. It’s awesome!

5: Interior decor/furniture

When you move out for the first time, you’ll have this crazy idea of decorating the place exactly how you wish until you find out the cost of everything.

So, adjust your expectations. “Clean” is a good look, and keeping things clean is surprisingly more expensive than you think.

How to save on decor/furniture:

  • Get a place already fully furnished or semi-furnished.
  • If you have an unfurnished unit and are in need of basic furniture but don’t have the money for it, subscribe to Freecycle Malaysia and wait for people to offer free furniture.

Once you see something you like, pounce (politely) like nobody’s business. Make sure you add value to the community by offering something back, too.

• You could throw a house warming party and ask for basic stuff as presents. Make a list of what you need. Or simply repurpose what you have.


There you have it. Moving to KL, or moving out in general can be costly. If you want to move out, save money to cover all these expenses first before taking the plunge.

This article first appeared in ringgitohringgit.com

Suraya is a corporate writer-for-hire and the blogger behind personal finance website Ringgit Oh Ringgit. She is more of a minimalist, less of a consumerist, a konon DIY enthusiast, a let’s-support-small-businesses-over-big-corporations kinda girl. Prior to her current role, she worked in various capacities within the non-profit industry.