PETALING JAYA: A business owner who was once in the upper-income bracket has been forced to downgrade her lifestyle due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and increasing cost of living.
Winnie Lim, 35, from Kota Damansara, ran a profitable home appliances business with her husband before the pandemic. Back then, they were in the T20 income group.
The couple was forced to shift their business to online sales at the height of the pandemic.
Lim’s income was slashed from over RM12,000 to around RM6,000 per month, putting her in the M40 category.
“Previously, I was earning more than RM12,000 per month, but after deducting the company’s funds, I am now earning only RM6,000 per month,” she said.
To cope with expenses for her family of 10, she was forced to sell two cars and buy a second-hand car with 10 seats.
“All the family’s expenses had to be cut in half; no more trips abroad and all the children’s hobby classes have stopped. If I need to spend extra every month, I will have to use my savings,” she said, adding that she and her children wear second- hand clothes and only buy a new set of clothing for Chinese New Year.
Lim’s household comprises her six children ranging in age from seven to 13, her husband, sister and mother.
She and her husband are constantly looking for ways to raise their family’s income.
“I save money by waiting for special discounts from restaurants and takeaway food platforms before ordering food,” she said.
“I always plan for meals in advance and cook at home whenever possible. This saves money while allowing us to have healthier meals.
“I look for discounts, deals or bulk- buying options to save money on groceries, household items and other essentials.
“I also plant vegetables at home and my children are growing sweet potatoes.
“My children are now more appreciative of their parents’ difficulties as our lifestyles have become more challenging.
“They don’t whine about buying toys and now take the initiative to save,” she said.
For housewife Cindy Low, 40, her family spends a good portion of their monthly household income on food, clothing, housing, transport, insurance, car and home loans, and utility bills.
“My two children, one in kindergarten and another in first grade, need RM1,200 per month for school expenses.
“The children are still young, so there is no saving on their food,” she said.
“However, we cook at home and only go out for meals on festivals and birthdays,” she added.
She said individuals under the M40 group have their own challenges.
We have to spend on our children’s education, and it would be a bigger burden if one wished to give quality education through private institutions, Low said.
“I hope the government will be able to subsidise private education too, not just public education,” she added.
Low said her husband used to run a business but had sold it during the pandemic. He now works part-time and occasionally does odd jobs to supplement the family’s income.
“Prices are rising and inflation is taking its toll on people who don’t earn that much.
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“The government’s assistance could be improved, especially towards the M40 who are often overlooked in the annual budget.
“It’s a challenge to balance living expenses with monthly savings to live in the city,” she said.
Ahmad Faizeli, 42, an event consultant from Kajang, Selangor, has three children, one in secondary school and two in primary school.
“Because of my job, I have to rely on school buses to pick up and drop off the kids, who have different school hours.
“One of my sons attends secondary school in the afternoon, another in primary school (Primary 6) in the morning, and my daughter attends primary school (Primary 3) in the afternoon.”
He said school transport costs him RM200 per month.
His monthly income is RM4,000, so he and his wife do side jobs to earn enough for the family’s living expenses.
“Only after the pandemic did some businesses hold events and my income became stable,” he said.
“However, to provide a good life for our children, we must find other sources of income.”