Throwback Thursday - The RM10 Challenge 2 Years On

by Austin Victor

Personal Finance News

Just two years ago, our article titled, 'Can you survive living in the Klang Valley with just RM10 a day?', created quite the uproar of mixed views and opinions amongst most working adults and students. From comments on-site to Facebook and even local forums, the topic was debated.

As a throwback Thursday special, we decided to re-look into the question. Where cost of living is concerned, much has changed over these past two years: the Goods and Service Tax (GST), electricity tariff, petrol, toll and even profiteering over something as simple as lady's fingers all seem to be the norm in daily newspapers. The cost of food continues to stretch our ringgit to breaking point.

Throwback Thursday - The RM10 Challenge 2 Years On

Today we examine the lengths to which your red note can possibly stretch in a daily landscape of affordable meals where everything seems to be on the rise.

Stretching Your RM10 Bill

We first need to remind you that this assessment started off in good fun two years ago and should be treated such today. Inevitably, it has struck a chord in most of us about the rise in cost of living as well as to appreciate little that you have because someone else might not be as fortune favored.

Getting back on track; its almost impossible to utilise a RM10 bill to fulfill three meals a day in modern Klang Valley. Some agree, while others don't. The fact of the matter is RM10 for a day works more as a nutrition-jeopardising survival kit rather than a self-imposed way of life.

Like how the above statement is debatable, some actually find joy in eating cup noodles or even nasi lemak bungkus regularly while others see those consumables as red flags for health.

The table below will illustrate the steady ascension of price in these potentially hazardous popular and affordable foods which can be included in your meals. Bear in mind that these prices are in the form of averages, therefore they are presented in ranges rather than specific digits.

Food / Drinks Year & Price
- 2013 2014 2015
Nasi Lemak Biasa RM1.20 – RM2.20 RM1.40 – RM2.30 RM1.50 – RM2.50
Roti Canai RM1.00 – RM1.20 RM1.00 – RM1.20 RM1.10 – RM1.50
Thosai / Dosa RM1.20 – RM1.70 RM1.30 – RM2.20 RM1.60 – RM2.40
Maggie Goreng RM3.00 – RM4.00 RM3.40 – RM4.50 RM3.80 – RM4.80
Teh Tarik RM1.00 – RM1.30 RM1.00 – RM1.50 RM1.20 – RM1.80
Ais Kosong RM0 – RM0.20 RM0.20 – RM0.40 RM0.20 – RM0.50

*Prices may vary depending on establishment standards and areas outside of Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya.

So, how much can you really afford with a RM10 bill for, let's say three meals in a day by having some of the popular inexpensive food and drinks above? Even at the cheapest item - an RM1.50 roti canai and RM0.50 ais kosong; you've hit RM6 per day and have just one of the multitude of food groups you need to survive. Contrast this with prices just two years ago? RM4.20 for the same meals.

Notice how steadily prices have increased every year? This means that in time to come, even affordable food and drinks will no longer be, well, affordable. And there most certainly are other counter measures to surviving on the given amount, but of course everything comes with a price. Cup noodles or packet noodles that are considerably cheap contain preservatives, which a lot of people see as a running medical tab while some believe its a small price to pay for an inflated credit.

Whilst at one time, we could eat cheap and unhealthy food to keep within budget - now even the cheap and unhealthy grow steadily out of reach.

Some would perhaps still suggest cooking at home but even regular groceries have not been spared the insidious price hikes. Considering the time and effort it takes to cook and pack lunches to take to work - will the effort really save us money once we factor how expensive basic goods have become?

At the end of our calculations for daily meals, it appeared we have little left to cover even a bus ticket. Such a far stretch of an RM10 note to even buy 3 meals a day made the thought of putting in a cost for commuting seem rather disingenuous. With petrol costing so much more and public transport fee hikes - there seemed no real way we could stretch that RM10 to factor transportation as well unless we all rode bicycles to the office.

Picture rights: the Malay Mail Online.

The Verdict: 2 Years Later

Whilst we said two years ago that it would be possible but tough; today we cannot. Although, GST was only supposed to be 6% - the cascading affect seems to have caused food prices to balloon 30-50%. A plate of wanton mee is RM5.50; a cup of teh-o RM1.40; and the once reliable pack of Hup Seng Cream Crackers cost a good RM4.80 per pack now. What was once a humble meal - is now rivaling the price of a sit down, air-conditioned diner.

Of course, the hawkers will decry this unfair assessment. Price increases have affected them too and they claim they are forced to increase their prices. Maybe this is fair; maybe it isn't.

But whilst we argue the fairness or lack thereof contained in the cascading effect of government consumer policies; the unfortunate lower income brackets ponder their next meager meal or which one to skip to make ends meet. The question of whether we are paid enough remains unanswered. One thing's for sure though, the impending doom of hikes in affordable food and drinks as well as cost of living is here to stay. We shudder at the thought of what prices will be like another mere two years down the road.