Cost of living in Penang

Leaving aside all accommodation costs, which obviously vary depending upon personal choice, is anyone able, please, to provide a fair estimate of monthly living expenses for a UK couple in their 60s/70s to lead a comfortable like in Penang.  Would RM 7,500 be sufficient (I repeat - not including any accommodation costs)?

Many thanks.

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Personally I think that RM7500 per month is fine. If you assume around RM800 for electricity bills, cable TV, internet and mobile phones, and knowing that even if you eat out, food in Penang (and the rest of Malaysia) can be very cheap, then I am sure you will be fine.

Many thanks again, Hansson!

Thank you, Stumpy!

Have you been to Penang before, to try out any spending habits?

Yes, but that was when I was working as an expat in Hong Kong.  Things are different now!!

Housing aside, 7500 is probably twice what you need. Older people spend less and have a simpler lifestyle. Personally, i as a couple would have a hard time spending that much. Housing aside, I dont spend more than 2000 so I cant imagine what id spend 7500 on unless I was frequently traveling outside Malaysia. And a 2000 budget includes owning a car and motorcycle.

Maybe medical expenses would be a greater concern. Without insurance medical costs are much lower compared to UK/HK but could still add up if one had a variety of illnesses to contend with.

THe problem in all of Asia is rampant inflation. I spend twice as much today for the same foods I was buying five years ago. If Malaysia indeed becomes a high income country  then the time will come 7500 will be the same as 2500 today and thats quite scary.

I should add another thought.

As its been said on all expat forums, nobody can predict another persons spending and lifestyle.  I know people with spendable of RM25,000 a month who consider themselves sad, depressed and starving to death.

Myself, on my low budget, im frugal and for example dont go to any bars ever. Someone enjoying the pub life could blow a RM7500 budget just on that one thing. I spend carefully, nothing unnecessary, if I need a TV I shop all over for the best deal, not simply buy the biggest and the first one I see.

Lets spin that off and just talk about a TV or washing machine. You can spend RM4000 for a TV or you can spend RM500. Which one to buy? Me, I think it through and say I dont need more than 32 inch and the best deal is about RM900 currently. And by the way, inflation gets you in different ways. That RM900-1000 TV was RM500 recently but a weak RM has caused massive price increases of imported goods. Malaysia imports everything, maybe everything except palm oil, so residents here suffer whatever is happening in the outside world. Also contributing to RM weakness are the multiple scandals under which outsiders are increasingly investing less in the country and therefore demand for the RM is weak because they wont be exchanging their currency for it. But back on the TV, my lifestyle says I can have a 32 inch TV; yours says you simply must have that 200 ft stadium monitor that costs RM300,000 and then you buy it and say "poor me, poor me, im starving to death........." Same with the washing machine. My washing machine which works fine cost RM300 but one could easily spend RM6000 for a matching set of a luxury washer and dryer and there went your whole monthly budget on one thing.

So which are you? What lifestyle have you previously enjoyed? If it was high, are you prepared to rachet down that lifestyle to live here on that budget or do you insist on maintaining your old life? Who knows? To me, 7500 is a luxury life, to others its panic, sleepless nights, vomiting, starvation, misery, and a deep sense one has fallen into a dark abyss, never to return.

I drive a secondhand Proton Wira. Its simple, practical, cheap to maintain. If you insist on a Mercedes, the road tax and maintenance will eat your budget. In the Mercedes, giant monitor, luxury washing machine and pub life, then 7500 is certainly not enough.

Given the high inflation and potential for high medical, the combination of spending as little as possible and looking for ways to still earn money to continue to add to a savings account may well turn out to be your best friend.

Thank you, cvco

Most expats believe before they come to SE Asia that they can enjoy whatever their old lifestyle was at 1/4 of the old cost and they find this concept very exciting. I wish it were true,

Over time ive seen a pattern, that expats come having done little research and full of hope. Unless they enjoy the isolation and protection from problems that comes with a generous company contract, the hopes are soon dashed as they come to realize they cannot transplant their old life and income comfortably. They become annoyed and jittery, go out looking for alternative countries and finally leave SE Asia altogether.

Ive survived here because i had an open mind from the first day and have found I had to do all the adjusting, and willingly so, and not the locals. I had to adjust thinking, budgets, politics, everything. Even after years its still painful in ways because one cannot become Asian and Asia doesnt become you either. One is caught inbetween, constantly trying to balance who one is and who one cannot ever be. Its not easy. will sort itself out if a person is willing to adapt and adopt. Though my mind is frequently elsewhere I do live mainly as an average local lives, I go where they go,  eat like they eat, (try to) think like they think. The person having the least financial problem is the one who did the most psychological adapting.

People never stop asking how much it costs to live here. My answer is another question, how flexible is your mind? Answer that first and then I can predict what it will cost to live here.

I think everything said above is true if you are considering moving to Malaysia for retirement. You will basically have to live as the local Malaysians live in order to make your savings or pension last.

Malaysia is becoming more and more expensive these days and whereas in the past it was considered by many as the cheaper alternative to living in Singapore which actually it still is, the increasing cost of living in Malaysia is making it a fairly expensive place to live unless you make a lot of compromises.

As cvco says, you really must be prepared to adapt and adopt and then you can make it work well for you.

Moderated by kenjee 2 weeks ago
Reason : Publicity not allowed on forum. Drop advert in Housing section.

I have to keep reminding that Ive been here 17 years so that readers see clearly the length of perspective about costs of living.

When I came everything really did seem dirt cheap. I was shocked what one could buy for $1, for $1000, for $10,000. Everywhere I looked, really its THIS cheap? REALLY?

Today I have reverse shock. I cant believe what one cannot buy for $1 or $10,000 or even $100,000 or $1,000,000,00. Its only the period 2000 until now. Its not that long!

Forget what it cost before or even today. I tremble at whats coming. If you consider the rate of the growth of inflation, that being the weakening of dollar value, 17 years from now people will be dying of poverty and starvation. Dying in the streets. That is to say, the number and growth of starving and rioting people will have grown to exponential numbers and will be unstoppable.

Only a few short years ago RM3000 salary was considered very good. Now its just about poverty level and everyone in a Malaysian family must consider ways of bringing money into the house.

The continued concentration of wealth into ever fewer hands, trending for the past 100 years, will mean that the masses are rising not into wealth but into dire poverty.

Youd think its impossible, that everyone will live and figure out ways. The problem everywhere is that the dirty masses keep pounding government for solutions because they lack the ability, for whatever reason you choose, to better their own lives. All government can go is play with interest rates to encourage or discourage societal production. So dont wait for Najib to fix this, he cant and wont.

The solution isnt to beg mercy from the government or kill all rich people but to develop the ways to increase your income. Dont worry about costs, or even how to live cheap, worry about how to raise your income 50% a year from now on because if you dont, you'll die like a dog in the gutter. The problem of course if that not everyone can or will do that. Some will beg mercy from their employers and some will get it but most will not. Let desperation be the mother of invention and re-invent your (OUR) lives as many times as it takes to find that income because even a hermit in a cave at some point needs cash, too.

All my life I didnt worry about this because inflation was contained by market forces if not by government. But today all bets are off and it doesnt matter what country we are talking about. And food, the most mandatory thing, is rising faster than anything else. Pretty soon all a familys resources wil be going into food.

Poor people think government can just tax the rich and then give free rice bags to people. Fine! But what will you do for an encore after the taxes and after the last bag of rice is passed out? What then?

At the end of the day you have to save yourself and thats something to learn very quickly. So, again, RM7500 is OK today in Penang but very soon it needs to double and thats a persons homework assignment.

I know I wrote a very negative post but consider the math over my opinion.

Today starts the new rate for Pos Laju packages, an increase from RM6 to RM7. Its only a ringgit but its 15% in just one increase.

This means that as you go around and multiply similar increases for other goods and services, in 7 years prices will have doubled.

Many goods and services are rising faster than that. Keep track of your shopping and see that Tesco and others routinely raise prices arbitrarily. Something that was RM3.29 a year ago is now RM4.69, a 30% increase. Why the increase, where did it come from? Who knows?

From Jan to Dec, I save all receipts and come the next year I review receipts and get shocked at the small and unnoticeable increases that occurred during the year that add up to that shock.

So, back to the first post, if you take RM7500 and add the smallest increase of 15%, then you have to constantly increase that income to keep up. Five years from today, serious struggle will be felt on that income.  Young people can always take a third or fourth job or start a business, but many retirees have a fixed income and cant work or increase that income which makes them the most vulnerable.

Some degree of inflation is a given, but Asia is going wild as countries ramp up their overall economies to try to get out of third-world status. Asia, for all its positive lures is slowly pushing out those who cant keep up.

People dont think about those who retired in Malaysia years ago. I know a few who were at least comfortable on RM1500 a month. Imagine how they feel now, if they are even still here.

I have to agree with CVCO's take, I have an ex-wife that couldn't live in Malaysia for less than RM25K - 30K per month, and is struggling in the US on $150K per year (single). When we were living in Malaysia back in the late 1990's I was working as an expat earning a US salary with an exchange rate close to what it is now. I think my pay was in the RM30K range when converted to RM, my ex was  working and earning about RM9K. So between the two of us it was close to RM40K when you add in housing allowances and such. We lived in Bangsar at that time, and after two years we had RM0.00 saved!!!!! We managed to live paycheck to paycheck with a RM40K per month salary - I know many people that don't earn that in a year. (I'll let you guess why she's an ex-wife)

OTH, My present wife (been married over ten years) and I get by fine on less than RM2000 per month (our house and cars are paid off, so no rent or car payments). I'm extravagant in her mind that I tend to run the AC about 15-18 hours a day and our electric bill is about RM600 per month. But our cooking gas is less than RM25 per month, water RM6 per month and since I've started using my scooter for main transportation to/from work we spend less than RM100 per month on petrol. But other than my grocery shopping for western food at Ben's, Jaya or Sams we buy almost everything at Aeon or Giant, eat out almost exclusively at local stalls (I've not been impressed with western food in restaurants here - even the ones that people rave about - so I save my money and stomach and cook at home).

We drive inexpensive local cars (an Alza for me and MyVi for my wife), I think my yearly road tax and insurance is about RM800-850 per year on each. At one time my ex-wife (with 3 speeding tickets including one over 95mph on her record) drove a Mazda RX-8 and our MONTHLY insurance bill was what I pay for a year on both our cars.

The only thing I found more expensive than KL (actually about the same) when I was in Penang (my brother-in-law and his family live in Penang along with my former sister-in-law, so I've been there quite a bit) was housing. I believe that Penang used to be more expensive than KL, but think KL has caught up to both JB and Penang. Maybe not JB??

But you could spend a fortune in Malaysia trying to live like you did back in the UK or US, esp for restaurants and alcohol. My only weakness is cigars, they're a LOT cheaper in the states than here. But I just keep track of it, and stock up once in a while on trips overseas or anywhere duty free.

BTW - healthcare costs in Malaysia are most likely going to more than the UK since UK has govt healthcare. Healthcare is MUCH MUCH MUCH cheaper in Malaysia than the US, even with employer paid health insurance. I could be wrong and there's significant costs that are not covered by the govt health insurance in the UK, but I'm guessing that HC is something they'll need to consider.

It should be more than enough.

Thanks for all your replies, folks.  We'll br in Penang by January - DESPITE the plunging value of the British pound!

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