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The rocky economic situation in the past year has forced most companies to scale back and unfortunately, this has affected many employees’ sources of income. Sadly, it was revealed that more than 99,000 Malaysians had lost their jobs from March to November 2020*. A survey conducted by Jobstreet in May 2020 discovered that 48% of the employees’ feedback revealed that they experienced a negative impact on their salaries**.


This leads to concerns over financial issues. While there are financial aids available to help tide things over, how do we manage our finances with a reduced income for the long-term?


Here are four ways that you can implement to survive a salary cut. 


Revise your monthly budget with this simple method 

Cutting back on spending is tough for most of us. But in order to stretch the revised pay check further, reviewing your budget should be on the top of your to do list. This can be an added stress especially if you’re not used to budgeting and tracking – so here is a simpler yet effective way to manage your money.


Try this: Group your expenses into 3 categories and colour code them (for example: green, yellow and red).


  • Green - Things you need
  • Yellow - Things you can reduce
  • Red - Things you can drop completely


Your revised budget should mainly consist of the green category. These are essential expenses, such as groceries, utility bills, rent, savings, loans and insurance. You can immediately see how much you need to fork out each month to cover these expenses. Itemising your essentials this way can also help to focus on where you can reduce your spending even more (for example: your monthly grocery bill). 


The yellow category consists of items that you can try to reduce or cut off. For example, internet plans, monthly subscriptions, personal care items and miscellaneous/discretionary spend.


Your last and least important category is the red category, which are things you can completely remove until your financials are back on track. These include vacations/staycations and purchasing non-essential big-ticket items.


With this method, you don’t need to painstakingly track every spending (although you absolutely can if you’re used to doing it). It is structured enough to know how much you need for each bucket and if you have the funds to cover the essentials. This alone can help you be in more control of your financials and to ease the anxiety of having a salary cut.  

Time to look at rewards redemption on your bonus points

If you’re a credit card user and have been accumulating reward points, now is the time to take advantage and claim your points. Those who often use their cards for essential spending can use this benefit to good use and save some money. After all, every little bit of savings counts! 


For non-credit card users, also check if your debit card spending can accumulate points for future redemption. 


For CIMB Cardholders, you can check out potential perks (such as making purchases with your points!) here and card services here.  

Take advantage of merchant promotions, cash back and store discounts 

If you’re looking to trim down your “green code” expenses, getting things on discount can help a little bit. Most banks have participating merchants that offer discount, promotions and cash back – all you need is a little bit of survey to find the best deals for you. Stores also run independent promotions from time to time and you can be in the know by signing up to get notified on the latest promotion catalogue.  


This is also a good time to start exploring e-wallets (if you haven’t already). Using e-wallets can give you additional deals and promotions while some online shopping sites offer free shipping if you pay using their featured e-wallet. 


Renegotiate commitments 

Two areas that can’t be cut from our budget are, unfortunately, our loans and rent. However, it is possible to renegotiate the terms to fit your current situation. If you're renting a property, have a word with your landlord about the problems you're facing in terms of cash flow and seek some changes in rental structure until you're back on your feet. Try negotiating a reduced rental for a couple of months and pay it off later on when things are looking better for you.


If you qualify for the financial assistance offered by banks, you can apply to reschedule or restructure your loan. But do ask all of the questions you might have and keep informed on the terms of your restructuring. This may not be ideal in the long-run but it does protect you and your cash flow during this unprecedented time and will keep you afloat.


If you have more than one credit card debt, you can also try to convert one of the cards’ balance into monthly instalments to keep your monthly expenditure low.  Give your bank a call and seek any balance conversion promotions that they might have – this way, you get to reduce the interest on your balance and have a set amount of monthly payment.


Most importantly, keep your spirits high and keep abreast on the news for financial initiatives that could help you ride through this hard time. 



This article is brought to you by CIMB as part of our ongoing efforts to raise the level of financial literacy among Malaysians. Financial knowledge and understanding are key to making well-informed and meaningful financial decisions that will improve all our well-being. This, in turn, achieves CIMB’s purpose of advancing customers and society.