Simple living made it possible for me to move to Australia


I owe a lot of my life in Australia to simple living. Or, let’s use its trendier monicker these days: Minimalism. Simply put, if not for minimalism, I wouldn’t be in Adelaide because a) I wouldn’t have been able to save the money for it b) the mindset of “acquire more stuff” would have made me misreable about my rather slim paycheck.

Minimalism is not just about having a home devoid of stuff and clutter, like the ones you see in trendy interior decorating magazines. It’s about living within your means, living in such a way that would impact the Earth as little as possible and of not using stuff or a lifestyle to fill that emotional void inside. Living a minimalist lifestyle goes beyond decluttering; it’s a change of mindset and lifestyle.

Nearly fifteen years ago I was living paycheck to paycheck. I never seem to have enough money. At first I blamed it on my miniscule paycheck, but as my paycheck grew my problem remained. It came to a point that I had a RM10,000 credit card debt. Towards the end of the month I came to rely on the credit card to pay essential bills like petrol and food. Something was not working.

So I sat back and decided to do something about it. I read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and listened to his shows. Through his debt snowball method I eventually pulverised my Rm10k debt and even paid off my car a year ahead of time.

Now all that money that used to go to credit card repayments went to my savings account. Soon, I had a nice emergency fund and was debt free except for the house loan.

When I decided to move to Australia, I realised that I have to have money – a lot of it – to at least survive the first six months in Australia without a job. So, I worked doubly hard, taking on additional tasks to earn more money. After two years of blood, sweat and tears (really), I saved enough for that and then some.

By then I had changed the way I spent my money. I used to spend RM500 a month on books and DVDs. I pared it down significantly by the time I moved. But that 1,500 book and DVD collection I had to give away was a painful reminder of all the money I had parted with in order to fulfill that void in me to feel ‘better’.

Thanks to the habits I learned to simplify my finances and spending habits, I live very comfortably in Adelaide eventhough I’m living on a “minimum wage”. (Though the minimum wage in Australia is definitely very generous and wonderful, where you earn up to $20 an hour compared to the US where you earn a mere $7.)

Still, I have a long way to go. I realised lately that I’ve been eating out way too much. I eat out at restaurants almost every day and go to cafes not once or twice a week as a treat but almost every other day! And that means spending about $10-20 a go each time. Some days I would spend $50 a day because I ate out! Ouch! As a result, I’m not eating as healthily as I’d like.

Worse, I’m starting my old habit of spending way too much on books and DVDs again. My only saving grace is that I can buy books and DVDs very cheaply here (some libraries sell used books at 20 cents to 50 cents a pop – how can you resist that?), but I’m gathering stuff that I don’t need again. I definitely don’t want to end up in the same situation like I was in Malaysia where I had to get rid of hundreds of books and DVDs when I moved!

So, the next few weeks I’m going to monitor how much I’m spending and WHY I’m spending things. You’ll see how, as a single, I manage my finances in Oz 😉 And maybe you can have an idea how one can live frugally in the land where the standard of living is considered one of the most expensive
in the world.


A Malaysian minimalist in Adelaide


When I applied for my visa nearly five years ago, I did it mainly because I felt desperate to change my life. I had no idea what I wanted to change then, but I thought getting out of home base (ie, Malaysia) was the way to do it. A funny thing happened on the way to the immigration centre – after signing the papers, I began changing my life anyway.

So much so that by the time I got my visa in 2011, I thought I would ruin all the changes that I’ve made by moving. By then, I realised that I didn’t have to move countries to change my life. All I had to do was change my mind.

Nevertheless, I did decide to come to Australia. That journey that I thought would be scuttled because of my move to Australia? Well, that never happened. If anything, moving to Australia has changed my life even more. Sure, I’ve been through agonising times, but I’ve also discovered new things about myself, I’ve done things I never thought I’d be able to do, I discovered a new strength in myself, and am finally pursuing my dreams with a gusto.

Why is living in Australia so awesome?

Not just because of the weather, the exchange rates or the fact that I’m free from the negative buzz I’m constantly subjected to in Malaysia.

It’s mainly because of the lessons that I’ve learned since I’ve got here. It’s because of what I’ve discovered about myself. For one, I never thought I’d:

  • Cycle 60km a week by commuting everywhere with a $50 bike I bought from Gumtree.
  • Ride that bike at midnight in winter, and in freezing, pouring rain.
  • have my own vegetable garden and eat from it.
  • Live on very little and still be happy about it.
  • Take care of very ill and frail people.
  • Be confronted with blood, other kinds of bodily matter and remain unaffected. Looks like I’m not the type to faint at the sight of blood – and I did see someone covered in blood once.
  • Comfort relatives and cry with them when a loved one passes away.
  • Write a novel. Sell stuff on Amazon.
  • Get published in an anthology back home.
  • Give hugs to people daily and tell them it’s mandatory to get one every day.
  • Be getting myself ready to study nursing in 2015.

If I’d stayed in Malaysia, I would not have experienced any of these things.

I’m so glad that I turned down four high-paying jobs to come here. The money I would’ve earned would not be enough to pay for the lessons I’ve gotten here.

From now on, on Sundays, I’ll be blogging about an area of life that I’m really passionate about: Simple living. Or Minimalism, or Minimalist living. I was on that journey even before it became a trendy word. And being in Australia helped me further along the way. Being a minimalist in Australia is a lot easier than in Malaysia for many reasons.

Why blog about Simplicity in a blog about being a Malaysian immigrant in Australia? Well, most of us left Malaysia to change our lives, and I was no different. These simple living principles have made my life in Oz such a joy. And I hope to share them with you and with that perhaps you can see how it can change yours too 🙂