A Week In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, On A $73,891 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
Calling all entrepreneurs: We want to hear from you! If you’re a freelancer or self-employed, we’d love to feature your Money Diary. Submit here.
Travel Diaries: We're looking to get the inside scoop on when, where, and how our peers are using their vacation days. Open to tracking your travel expenses during an upcoming trip? Email us at traveldiary@refinery29.com.
Today: a director of operations working in fitness who makes $73,891 per year and spends some of her money this week on Kinder eggs.
Editor's note: All prices have been converted to U.S. dollars.
Occupation: Director of Operations
Industry: Fitness
Age: 30
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Salary: $73,891
Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $6,157 (gross)
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $788 (I split our rent 60/40 with my partner — I pay 40 — which includes utilities and Wi-Fi for a furnished flat outside of the city.)
Student Loans: $1,200 (I had over $82,000 in debt in 2017, but when my business sold I cashed out my equity and paid down over $62,000.)
Netflix: $0 (I use my partner's.)
Roth IRA: $300
Savings: $200
Spotify: $20
Financial Times: $10 (with my partner's cousin's student discount)
The Economist: $10

Day One

11 a.m. — It's Sunday and I stayed up too late last night, so I've slept in a bit late today. Sleeping in is one of my greatest loves. Two of my friends own a restaurant and are hosting a gorgeous brunch. I panic for a bit in front of my closet because I am not great at dressing up, but settle on yellow printed shorts and a white top.
5 p.m. — This brunch is glorious. There are about eight people from all over the city with interesting jobs and hobbies. All five courses arrive seamlessly. Bread, butter and jam, then an assortment of fresh seafood, including escargot, which I have to stab and coax out with a giant knitting needle (sorry to vegan readers). A spread of small plates arrives including braised leeks, Caesar salad, grilled squid and harissa, mushroom ragout, and sheet pasta. We mellow that out with cauliflower soup with noisette crumble. Then the mains: grilled sirloin, pan-seared sea bass, braised lamb. The dessert bar wraps it up, and although I am almost in physical pain, I can't stop myself. Apple and olive cake, yuzu mousse, bread-and-butter pudding, and espresso. Everything is washed down with rosé and three bottles of wine. We split the bill between us. I am officially popping out of my shorts and will not eat again. $95
7 p.m. — My partner, T., and I live together, and he's leaving tomorrow for a conference in Singapore. I help him pack up his stuff, and we chat about the weekend and touch base on life. This month has been insane for both of us, and we haven't had much time to really connect. We talk about a restaurant we're looking to invest in and make plans for the weekend when he gets back.
10 p.m. — I wash my face and slather on Clinique 72-hour face cream to protect my skin from the dryness of our air-conditioned bedroom. I begrudgingly agree to watch one Netflix episode in bed before we go to sleep. My mom always told me that watching TV in bed will lead to a sexless relationship, so I am cautious with these things. We've already boned, though, so I think it's okay this time.
Daily Total: $95

Day Two

8:15 a.m. — I wake up a little late and start flipping switches to turn on our hot-water heater and light in the bathroom. The master bedroom is one giant room, including the closet and bathroom. The toilet and shower only have glass partitions, so not loads of privacy. I wonder what type of person made a bathroom/bedroom with glass walls while I brush my teeth. Probably a man. I alternate between slathering Korean skin-care products and sunscreen on my face before I book a Grab (Kuala Lumpur's Uber) car and jet off to work. $4.60
9:15 a.m. — I sneak out of the office almost immediately after I arrive to grab an Americano from Starbucks. It's basically black coffee and I could make the same thing on my own, but I like chatting to the baristas and getting to walk outside a bit. It's already 95 degrees out, so you can only be outside in sprints. I save 75 cents by bringing my own tumbler and order an Americano with a splash of milk. $1.90
1:30 p.m. — I am finally somewhat hungry after yesterday's feast. I order pho from the shop across the street. I bring it back to our ice-cold air-con office and eat at my desk. $6.40
7 p.m. — After work, I take the short walk to the grocery store. You can literally buy everything here that I could in an American grocery store. I buy cherry tomatoes, chicken breast, minced chicken, gluten-free flour mix, broccoli, zucchini, onions, garlic, bell pepper, mushrooms, blueberries, and baby corn. My most expensive item is semi-sweet chocolate chips ($5), but my overall total is $21.18. Afterward, I jump in another Grab car home ($3.20). $24.38
8:30 p.m. — I originally planned to cook dinner/lunch for the week, but I get a call from work and end up leaving the groceries for tomorrow. I eat cold pizza from the fridge standing up. I manage to meal prep some overnight oats with almond milk, maple syrup, flax seeds, cinnamon, and fresh blueberries.
11:45 p.m. — I have a video call with T. with a sheet mask on. I am trying to discuss serious topics, but this face mask looks ridiculous and he keeps laughing at me. We say good night, and I take off the mask and go to bed.
Daily Total: $37.28

Day Three

7:45 a.m. — I am out of bed at a reasonable hour. I make the bed and grab my oats on the way out. My Grab driver this morning gets a little lost, so I wait in the lobby of our apartment for 10 minutes. Finally make it to the office with time to spare. $3.40
2 p.m. — I snacked on my oats for breakfast, so I'm not super hungry for lunch. I grab a sandwich from the 7-Eleven next door. This sounds really gross, but 7-Elevens are actually quite delicious here. I grab a sandwich from the chiller ($2) and a mini Snickers bar ($.49) and walk back to the office. I stop by Starbucks again ($1.96) on the way in. $4.45
6:45 p.m. — I go for a class at a new yoga studio. Even though I work for a gym, I try to work out elsewhere as much as I can. I had a woman yell at me in the changing room once about her gym membership while I was naked and wet, and I realized I need boundaries. I got a special for this studio since it just opened. The space is gorgeous, but the classes are very expensive. I buy a ten-day pass for access to all mat-based classes for $24. After this expires, the per-class rate is $15, so I don't think I'll come again. The class is great, though, and I'm glad I went. $24
8:30 p.m. — I get a car home using a coupon, so I don't pay anything. When I get to the flat, I strip down and start cooking. I make Thai coconut curry with all the veggies I bought yesterday and some local green curry paste we have in the fridge. I put the minced chicken in the freezer, since I doubt I'll cook again after I made all this curry. I cook up some basmati rice and make a big bowl. I portion the rest out into four containers to eat over the course of the week. I watch Broad City as I eat.
10 p.m. — I slather my face with night oils and put lavender spray on my pillow to help me fall asleep faster. I do a Lumosity brain training before tucking in for the night. I buy a yearlong subscription for $35. This seriously works, train your brain. $35
Daily Total: $66.85

Day Four

8 a.m. — I have an appointment with my personal trainer at 9 a.m., so I head into the gym early. I don't bother with makeup or hair, since I'll train in an hour. Instead, I throw on yoga pants and sneakers. I work for a chain of gyms but in the head office, so I use this opportunity to chat with the general manager before my session. I don't usually train in the middle of the morning like this, but it's the only time I can get in today, so I figure I'll work from this location. I buy coffee for the manager ($6.50), and we touch base for a few before my session. $6.50
4 p.m. — I have a meeting in town, so I jump into a car and head into the city. I answer emails in the car and scroll through the news. $4.18
7 p.m. — The meeting went well and tomorrow is Nowrooz, Persian New Year. My partner is half Persian, and I try to do holiday things for him, since we're far away from home. I have to go to the only Iranian store in town that sells all the things I need for our haft-sin. I head to the one spot to buy Iranian things in KL and hope they have the goods. I sit in traffic for 40 minutes in a Grab ($6.20). I buy live wheatgrass, sumac, samanu, senjed, and serkeh ($7.88). For a proper Nowrooz table, there should be a live goldfish to symbolize new life, but I feel some kind of way about goldfish murder. I buy a plastic fish ($1.40) that is meant for fishing tackle from an odds-and-ends store and will pretend like it is real for the photos. I feel like I've saved a life. I also pick up some chocolate Easter eggs. You're supposed to use real dyed eggs, but Easter is not celebrated in Malaysia, so I settle for Kinder eggs ($3). I jump in my last car of the day ($6). $24.48
9 p.m. — I set up my haft-sin. T. is still away at his conference, so I take pictures and send to him and his mom. She thinks this is very cute. I eat more leftover Thai curry and bust open the chocolate chips. These are meant for cookies I plan to make this week, but a few now can't hurt. I eat a handful before they melt in my palm.
9:45 p.m. — I am working on a six-sigma certification, so I do two hours of studying online. I bought this at a huge discount on Black Friday for $700, and it will probably take me a year to get through the whole thing. I'll also have to take an official certification, which is $400 for each level, and there are two major ones. I try to spend some money on my education every year. It's ironic, because I am still paying off $20,000 in student loans, but hey, education never stops! I finally get into bed around 11:30.
Daily Total: $35.16

Day Five

7:45 a.m. — I wake up and listen to a podcast while I get ready. It's on the dwindling population of butterflies and insects, and it freaks me out. I hurry out the door and listen to Spotify in the car on the way to the office. I grab coffee on the way in and get to it. $6.25
1 p.m. — I have lunch with two colleagues. One reports directly to me, and the other once reported directly to me but was promoted (proud moment!!) and now is on a more peer level. Even though they are both younger than me, they're both engaged and it is very strange culturally for them to have a non-married female boss. We have Nassi Lemak, the national dish of Malaysia, fried chicken, sambal (coconut curry), and rice. It's delicious, and now we're all tired. $18.22
4 p.m. — My best babe (like best friend!) messages me that he scored VIP tickets to Art Basel in Hong Kong. I feel bad for a minute that there are only two tickets and T. won't be able to come, but I get over this quickly because my best babe and I haven't seen each other in a while. I quickly look online for hotels and am SHOCKED by the price. I find two rooms at a nice hotel for almost $1,000. I book with a voucher from my credit card and save $100. I pay for both rooms and assume my friend will pay me later ($900). I don't worry about flight tickets, because since T. works for an airline, I get a discount on flights. I ask T. to book for me, and because it is only $10 off the ticketed price, T. pays. $900
5:30 p.m. — I am out for a walk around my office to stretch my legs from sitting all day, and there is a Nespresso pop-up shop. I buy four boxes for the Nespresso at home; these will last about three months ($24) because of my Starbucks addition. $24
7:45 p.m. — It was a late day at the office, and I am the last to leave (I get a Grab home). I am still not hungry when I get home, so I eat some tomatoes and scrambled eggs. $3.45
Daily Total: $951.92

Day Six

9 a.m. — It's Friday, yay! I get to the office ($3) and get my coffee (a free one!) before anyone else is here this morning. I schedule a meeting with my boss for lunch, since I have some news. I download Instagram again. I delete my Instagram Monday-Friday because it makes me a bit depressed and sucks my time, but I allow it on the weekends as a little treat. The excitement of getting through the latest posts has worn down over time. $3
1 p.m. — I take my boss out for lunch, and I quit my job. My role has changed a lot in the past six months in a way I don't love. I have been offered a job in Singapore and have decided to take it. He is surprised and upset at the news, but overall supportive. We negotiate down my leave time to two months. We both order the lunch special (burger and fries), and I order a lemonade with no sugar. We chat pleasantly while we munch, but it is a bit somber for me and stressful for him. I pay for lunch for us both, and will expense it later ($7.88 expensed).
6:30 p.m. — I'm off work and walk past a wine shop with my colleague. We pop in and browse the selection. Everyone there is so friendly. We chat about wine (I know very little), and they pop open a bottle to let us taste. One of the perks of living in a foreign country (I'm originally from Seattle, but have been here for three years) is that when people meet you, they are sometimes excited because you are so different. I feel very lucky that Malaysians shower me with such acceptance. I came in for one bottle, but the friendly staff encourage me to buy three. I tell myself this is okay since I am celebrating! $108
7:45 p.m. — T. is finally home! He is excited about the haft-sin and is exhausted from his trip. Neither of us is very hungry, so we open a bottle of wine and eat tuna from the cupboard and chat. T. is excited for me that I put in my notice at work, but we're both a bit sad. Things are about to change, and it feels like the beginning of the end for our life in Malaysia. We're now voluntarily embarking on a long-distance relationship for the next seven months. We talk about if I made the right choice for the 20th time and agree that yes, it was the right choice. I'll be working for a very cool startup! Although the monthly salary is a little more than I make now, I will no longer take a bonus, and Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world. I'm stressed I won't be able to save as much and enjoy the same quality of life.
9 p.m. — T. is asleep and I have to work in the morning, so we put away the unfinished wine (I regret buying so much!) and head to bed. I put on a face mask and read for a while before I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $111.00

Day Seven

8 a.m. — I am out of the house early today, heading into the city to supervise a photo shoot for work. I walk over to the Starbucks by my house and buy a coffee and a chicken curry puff pastry, but don't have my tumbler, so I pay a bit more. I call a car and head into the city. $16.86
11 a.m. — Everyone is running out of energy at the photo shoot, so I buy some Gatorade and Pocky Sticks from the 7-Eleven next door. I could expense this but probably won't. $12.86
2 p.m. — The photo shoot is over, and I pick up lunch for T. before I head home. I stop by a poke bowl shop and order two big bowls with salmon, rice, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and edamame ($14.28). I stop by Marks & Spencer food shop on the way out and pick up two packets of T.'s favorite cookies. This is the only store in the country that sells them, and I am right next door ($6.89). I take a car home but use a voucher, so it's free. $25.60
5 p.m. — T. booked us each a 90-minute massage. We do this at least once a week, another perk of living in Asia. We both select a traditional Thai massage. I am forced to wear a matching brown, two-piece pajama outfit for the massage. I am grateful it's dark, so no one sees this fashion faux-pas. My therapist is a tiny older Thai woman and pulls me in every direction possible. She does such a great job, I want to give her a tip. I'm out of cash, so T. gives me $10 and I pass it to her. $87.92
7 p.m. — Out of the massage and feeling so good! I decide to have another chill one. I'm away for the next two weekends, so I don't feel too much FOMO for having a lazy one at home. We walk over to the grocery store nearby and pick up groceries for dinner and breakfast tomorrow. We buy a rotisserie chicken, cilantro, tomato, Romaine lettuce, green chilis, bacon, Brie cheese, bell pepper, pumpkin, yogurt, chicken breast, six eggs, olive oil, and trash bags. T. makes more than I do, so he pays about 20% more than I do for rent, and I pay for all our groceries and treat for things as much as he'll let me. This works for us for the time being. T. books a car home. $67.98
8:30 p.m. — We make BLT wraps with bacon, rotisserie chicken, Romaine lettuce, and tomato. We have a glass of wine and eat an entire packet of chocolate biscuits. Whoops.
Daily Total: $211.22
Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women's experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.
The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.
Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here.
Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here: r29.co/mdfaqs

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series