Here is a summary of how much my trip cost. All prices are in US dollars.
Trip length: 15 days, with 12 days in Malaysia and 3 days in Singapore
Total spent (includes airfare): $1073.95
Airfare: $476.48 (44%)
Food: $215.55 (20%)
Lodging: $171.25 (15.9%)
Transportation (does not include airfare): $83.38 (7.8%)
Attractions: $75.47 (7%)
Shopping: $64.79 (6%)
Bottled Water: $4.78 (0.45%)
Other (this includes things like toothpaste, and laundry): $9.30 (0.86%)
My daily costs ran to $71.60 a day if you include airfare. Malaysia was $34.15 a day (not including airfare), while Singapore was $62.54 a day.
I feel like this trip was not especially budget friendly. However, I wasn’t attempting to make it as cheap as possible – I wanted to spend less than $1000, but I didn’t quite make that. I didn’t travel with a mindset of sticking to a budget or spending less. It was vacation, and a paid one at that (during the two weeks I made just about as much as I spent). So that is part of the high cost. The other part was some unusual expenses: I bought a camera bag and UV lens filter in Singapore ($60), I ate at one of the best Italian restaurants in Kuala Lumpur and paid for half of a local friend’s meal ($35), and I paid for Jeff’s entry to the Singapore Zoo as a birthday present ($20). I took advantage of the cheap food in both countries to eat a whole ton, and I got juice or tea with every meal instead of just drinking water. Also, sometimes I paid for Jeff or he paid for me, so the totals are a bit skewed (although I did subtract the money Jeff owes me).
We stayed in hostels and all but 3 nights we got private rooms. I chose a more expensive hostel in KL the first night for AC and location, and then decided to stay there on our last night too. The extra 3 nights were 2 nights in a dorm in Singapore (the most expensive accommodations of the trip) and one night in the Conrad Centennial in Marina Bay, Singapore which we got for free with Hilton rewards points (a $350 value!).
Of course you can travel for much cheaper in the area. You can stay in dorms or CouchSurf to save on accommodations. You can do a longer trip and move around less (we took 5 long distance buses which were $3-10 but that adds up). You can skip or find discounts on the more expensive attractions (I was just sort of lazy about it). You can eat less roti (but would you want to?) or generally not eat constantly. You could save $3 and not buy an amazing peacock t-shirt.
The area I plan to cut out in future travels is buying bottled water. I know, I spent barely $5 on water for two weeks, or about 40 cents a day (I bought no water in Singapore for various reasons so I’m not counting those days). But at that rate (assuming water is as cheap wherever else I go, which I can almost guarantee it won’t be in some places) bottled water will cost you $146 a year. Not to mention the negative environmental impact since many countries, like for instance Malaysia, have no recycling. What I plan to do instead is buy a filtered water bottle, like this one. That’s kind of a pricey one but it’s nice and is supposed to last 6 months. So if I went for that, it would cost about 22 cents a day or $80 a year. Cheaper filter bottles could be only 16 cents a day or $60 a year. This is a small but easy way you can save $60-80 over a year of travel, which will allow you to spend more on food or things to do!