Ms Melati Hashim allocates about RM20,000 (S$6,550) a year for overseas holidays, but the travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic have seen her splurge in other ways.
The 31-year-old insurance agent now buys things she would never have considered before, as a consolation for not being able to travel.
“I use the money to buy things I normally find ‘wasteful’. The most ridiculous thing I’ve bought so far is a hairstyler, which cost RM2,100, and some make-up,” she said.
“I thought of getting a new car too, since mine is super old, but that would mean having to commit to a five-or seven-year hire purchase loan.
“So I decided to just dine at some of the restaurants I’ve always wanted to try, and also got myself a brand-new iPhone 11 Pro Max to replace my seven-year-old phone.”
Malaysians’ love for travel has seen both outbound and domestic tourism grow steadily over the years.
Last year, residents here spent RM44.8 billion on holidays abroad, compared with RM31.1 billion in 2015.
Domestic tourism expenditure was RM92.6 billion last year.
Malaysia remains in the recovery phase of its movement control order (MCO) until Dec 31, during which social and economic activities have been mostly allowed to resume, with safe measures in place.
Although interstate travel in Malaysia has been allowed since June 10, many holidaymakers remain wary of travelling amid a pandemic.
The country’s borders have been shut to international travellers since March, and those allowed to fly into the country must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Unable to scratch their travel itch, would-be holidaymakers have dipped into their travel funds to indulge various whims.
They have bought anything from portable swimming pools and picnic tarps for outdoor activities with children, to fancy bejewelled face masks and extravagant objects like an 18K gold bookmark.
Freelance writer and avid traveller Hajar Hakim splurged on entertainment and local holidays.
“I bought things during the MCO that I would not have bought otherwise,” said the 42-year-old mother-of-two.
“I bought a Nintendo Switch for the kids, and I just bought an Android projector for my son because I don’t want him to watch Netflix or YouTube on the phone, tablet or television as I heard the projector is better for the eyes.”
She added: “I also bought a deep freezer, pressure cooker and steamboat grill.”
The central bank said Malaysians spent RM10.2 billion domestically via credit card in July, nearly double from RM5.3 billion in April.
This also shows that the level of credit card spending has returned to almost the same level last year.
Car sales were up in July by 1.7 per cent year on year, showing a rebound from June’s 4.5 per cent decline.
Perodua reported 23,203 cars sold in July – triple its May sales – while Proton’s July sales figure was the highest in eight years.
Both local brands are the most popular car makes in Malaysia.
Asked if she sees herself rechannelling her expenditure to travel, Ms Melati said: “I actually prefer to splurge on holidays than shopping, but since there’s no sign that Covid-19 is going away any time soon, maybe I’d just continue to treat myself like this.”