The new mantra of today’s world is to eat cheap, live cheap and spend less in order to be able to sustain yourself, reduce your debt and perhaps buy a property. But this is a true story of a boy who surpassed all with only a salary of RM3,000.

Mike* is a typical young boy who used to earn only RM3,000 per month. Hardly an extravagant spender, he nevertheless barely had enough money to use monthly. One day, he read a story which resonated deeply with him - about a boy by the name of Adam* who earned RM4,000 in salary per month and was suffering the same situation. Even earning more than Mike, Adam barely had enough to get him through once he deducted all the compulsories and monthly spendings.

Adam had an RM1,000 condo rental per month to pay, RM550 for his car, insurance of RM150, food expenses of RM500, transportation costs inclusive of petrol and toll of RM440 and an internet cum phone bill of RM200. On top of that, he also gave his parents RM500 per month. Naturally, his net income of approximately RM3,500 per month was barely enough to cover all his expenses.

Upon reading Adam’s story, Mike was burning with anger at the injustice of society. True enough there was room for cutting down his expenses, but would eating a cheaper meal truly help him save more money? Or would perhaps buying a motorbike instead of a car bring him a better lifestyle?

Fuelled with his burning anger, Mike attacked the situation in an unusual way. He continued with his rather moderate yet thrifty lifestyle without cuttings costs, but with an indirect; yet significant; difference. He devoted the entirety of his free time into study and self improvement. 

Here are among some of the things that Mike did:

1. Self improvement - Mike devoted his time into improving his banking career skills by reading books, manuals and hounding his seniors into helping him improve his job knowledge. With this, he decided to stop driving to work and take the LRT instead so that he would have more free time to study while commuting. Aside from making full use of his time instead of getting stuck in traffic congestion on a daily basis, Adam found that not only was he saving time but also reducing his commuting and travelling costs significantly.

2. Perhaps recognising his talent, Mike’s bosses persuaded him to take his Professional Accounting qualification as he is from the Finance line. As a result, he began to study extremely hard for his exams over the weekends and week nights; which in turn cut down his social life for 2.5 years. This in turn resulted in an extreme reduction in his entertainment and food costs, as he began to cook his own meals in order to maximise his study time.

3. While studying hard for his exams, Mike also built quality relationships with his bosses who eventually became his most treasured mentors. His bosses recognised the effort he was pouring into his work and work-related self improvement skills, and was rated as the top performer of his division that year. He was also promoted and received an increment of RM1,500 within a single year.

4. In that year, he also received an RM20,000 bonus - a significant amount considering that his pay was only RM3,000 then - which would have taken him years to save even at his thriftiest. The first thing Mike did was to use the money as downpayment for a property which provided him a smooth cashflow thereafter.

As can be seen above, cutting costs is not necessarily the only way to get rich. If you choose to cut costs in order to succeed financially, you will only be able to do so if you combine it with some other skill or invest wisely.

In Mike’s case, he vested much effort in self-improvement, which in turn led to him saving money; which his self-improvement journey might not have began if it started from him saving money first instead. So while Mike still advocates the virtues of saving money, he encourages his friends to find more ways to make money at the same time while improving their skills.

As such, Mike still encourages his friends to continue with their lifestyle; but they just need to make sure that they can sustain themselves while investing regularly and increasing their income. He advises exploring your venues, and not being afraid of being different. After all, mediocrity is the product of a stagnant mind.