Editor’s Note: Following the first #SINAG Financial Literacy Digital Journalism Award in 2014, we will be sharing with you the winning entries in the coming weeks. Here’s one by our third place winner Jerome Herrera.
Jerome’s financial freedom journey started when he left the comforts of his hometown to work in Manila. He quickly realized that he was on his own with nobody to rescue him if he encounters financial hardships. This led to create an emergency fund long before he heard about the term “emergency fund”. Pretty soon, he started reading up on financial literacy blogs and began investing in stocks, mutual funds, and UITF. Know more about him at http://allicanhandle.blogspot.com.
While I live very frugally, there are moments in my life when I stumble or experience bouts of overspending. When this happens, I don’t budget and I don’t do any accounting on my expenses. I discovered however that one good technique which snaps me out of an overspending spell is starting to list all my expenses again. One of the reasons why listing all your expenses will stop your overspending habits and ultimately help you save money is that this practice allows you to get a snapshot on how much you actually spend.I recommend listing your expenses every thirty days or every two payroll periods. Do this for at least two months. During this period, bring a small notebook and a pen with you so that you can record expenses real time and won’t forget to record any purchase no matter how small it may be. Please remember to record every single expense including MRT fares, bus fares, coffee, cigarette, and even the coin you give to the occasional beggar. Every single expense must be recorded because they all add up.Remember to group purchases into categories like utilities, food, rent, fare, dining out, clothes, entertainment, etc.After pinpointing where you’re overspending, it is now time to cut down the amount of money you spend on that category. # 2 Bring Your Own Lunch to Work
I know bringing your own lunch to work is very unpopular, either because it takes a lot of time to prepare it or it is embarrassing. I have had my share of taunts when I bring lunch to work. I remember a colleague asking me one time: “nagtitipid ka ba”? (Are you trying to save money?* believe me, it sounds more hurtful in Filipino) when I brought my baon (packed lunch) to work.
However let me tell you that you could drastically cut down on your expenses on food if you bring packed lunch to work. If you work in a call center in Makati, you are most probably spending about seventy pesos per meal. But did you know that you could already make two meals with that same amount of money at home? Don’t you always feel like those food concessionaires are selling you overpriced food?
One way to save money if you don’t cook is buying a small can of tuna which costs about twenty pesos and it would be even healthier.
While you’re at it, why don’t you stop buying overpriced snacks from the vendo and convenience store? Don’t you know that you can save money buy buying in bulk from the supermarket? Most of the things that vending machines and convenience stores sell can be bought by bulk from the supermarket at half their prices. The truth is a lot of the food sold in offices located in Makati is just so overpriced that it’s not even funny. You probably think that paying ten pesos for something that you could get at five pesos is no big deal but when you do this every day it will surprise you on how much you could save if you just stop doing it.
# 3 Eat Out Less
If you’re the typical office worker, you probably eat out on average four to six times a month. Every payday, you and your friends from work would probably go out for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and treat yourself (and/or your friends outside work and family) to a restaurant meal. On weekends, you occasionally would feel tired to cook food and decide to just eat out. All this contributes to your expenses!
Eating out is harmless if you don’t make it a lifestyle. But when does it become a lifestyle? If it’s once a month, it is not considered part of your lifestyle but when you do it at least twice a month, then it is already definitely a lifestyle.
Most of you will probably realize that eating out is where a large part of your salary goes. I don’t blame you. Most of you will probably don’t even think about it when you pay about three hundred pesos a meal every time you eat out however I hope you start realizing that the cost those meals you eat at restaurants stack up very quickly.
One of the reasons why someone would eat out a lot is laziness. If you’re just lazy to cook, then it is up to you to change. However another reason why you might be compelled to eat out a lot is your friends. I remember declining a lot of invitations to eat out from my friends. Some of them stopped associating with me simply because I don’t like to eat out but the true ones stuck around and understood my decision to live a frugal life.
# 4 Smart Buying
The typical call center agent always has the latest gadgets. Let me tell you that spending your money on gadgets is absolutely the most stupid thing that you could do. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t buy electronics. All I’m saying is that you should know what you need or what you’re looking for and buy that. If you wish to take photos of your trips then go buy a camera but make sure that you’re paying only for the features that you need. If all you need is a point and shoot camera, then you can get one at around four thousand pesos and that would already take great photos. You don’t need a ten thousand peso camera which has wifi and other features which you won’t have any need of. If you need to call and send text messages then buy a cellphone but for pete’s sake don’t buy a smart phone which has so many features that you don’t need. You might feel like it’s sulit (or great value for your money) to buy a smartphone which costs only five thousand pesos with gazillions of features versus a basic call and text phone which costs a thousand pesos but remember that if you don’t need those features, then it doesn’t have any value to you.
This is also true for items that are on sale. Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean it’s sulit (worth it) to buy it. If you need it and it’s on sale, then it’s definitely sulit but if it’s something that you don’t need, DON’T buy it just because it’s on sale. Remember that if you don’t need it, it is of no value to you.
So many times, we buy toys like tablets, cameras, or smart phones because they are status symbols. Let me remind you something, it is better to impress people with your personality, character and intellect than with meaningless status symbols.
Another thing that you have to consider is that a lot of things depreciate. When you buy electronics and clothes, those depreciate. I remember seeing the Samsung Galaxy Tablet being sold at about forty thousand pesos when it initially came out. About two months after, it was only worth just a little over half its original price. So you see how fast electronics depreciate?
If you will really have to buy a smart phone, please wait for at least a year from the date it initially came out to make sure that you get a good deal. Remember that that phone of yours will be the “latest gadget” for only a few days.
To avoid impulse buying, try to postpone purchasing an item for a week or two. If after that time period you still feel like you need to make that purchase then go ahead and do so but believe me when I say that most of the time, we will often feel buyer’s remorse only a few days after making an impulsive purchase. So save yourself the trouble and just wait it out.
# 5 Staycations
Instead of going on vacations, why not have a staycation. I love staycations. I think they are the best things ever thought up of by humans next to toasted peanuts and garlic. There are many ways to have a staycation. You can have a DVD marathon with your friends or by yourself. You can also cook a special dish and invite your friends over. If you love books, then why not stay in bed all day long with a good book? Of course if you’re just a bed-spacer, a staycation won’t be really much fun. For people who don’t really have places conducive for a staycation, you can forego a vacation for a trip to the museum or the zoo. Come on, when was the last time you’ve been to the National Museum or the Manila Zoo? You’d be surprised at how amusing a museum or a zoo can be no matter how old you are. Of course it goes without saying that you should make sure to go with people you like to ensure enjoyment on your part.
# 6 Don’t Get Fooled by the Piso Fares and Group Buying Deals
One thing that these group buying websites and airline ticket sales have in common is they both create a sense of urgency among people. When you open these websites, make sure that you are strong enough to resist temptations. If you find a good deal on a group buying website, remember that the product will most probably be offered again. How many times have you bought something from a group buying website just because you saw that it was on sale for a limited time period and you didn’t want to lose a great deal only to see it being offered again the next day?
Now I have to admit that I’m a sucker for Piso Fares myself. I remember booking a flight on Piso fare last year but I never was able to go on that vacation. Luckily it was back when Piso fares totaled to only one hundred and fifty pesos for a one way ticket. I know people who book discounted plane tickets as expensive as two thousand pesos thinking that it’s okay even if they won’t be able to use them. The logic behind this is they look at it as gambling. When you gamble you spend money in the hopes of multiplying your money. When these people book discounted plane tickets, they do so in the hopes that the ticket price would go up (and it does go up) and thereby giving them big savings. Of course there is also the possibility of losing money in gambling as there is also the possibility that you won’t be able to use your plane ticket (which you booked so far in advanced).
I guess if you earn five hundred thousand to a million pesos every year, then a few thousand pesos may not put a dent on your wealth. but if you’re earning less than five hundred thousand pesos a year, I don’t think you have the right to say that a few thousand pesos is nothing.
# 6 Stay Away from Bad Debt
I remember last summer when the heat was unbearable (which is fast becoming the norm every summer), my friend applied for a credit card simply to buy an air conditioner. It is sad to say that many call center workers have this mentality. I know people who would get a credit card just to buy a cellphone or a laptop. The worst part is most of them end up defaulting on their payments which is probably why most banks would deny credit card applications if they know that the applicant is a call center agent. Oh no, wait… that is not the worst part, the worst part is that most people apply for a credit card and max it out without any intention of making any payments.
In making big purchases, strive to save the money that you will need first AND THEN, make the purchase. Bear this in mind, if you have to get a loan to buy something then it most certainly means that you can’t afford it.
# 7 Create a Budget
Now assuming you have gotten rid of all those impulse buying, eating outs, and other wealth corroding practices, it is now time to learn about budgeting. Budgeting is critical for you to have a limit on your spending. To make sure that you are indeed following your budget, it is important that you still continue to record ALL your purchases. When making budgets, it is ideal to do it every thirty days or every two payroll periods
# 8 Make Sure to Track Your Progress
By making a budget and accounting all your expenses, you can now check the amount of savings you have each month. It is ideal to save at least sixty percent of your savings (especially if you are single and earning big).
# 9 Don’t Do Something That You Don’t Like
One of the things that you will have to check within yourself is whether you are doing something that you don’t like. In most cases, doing something you don’t like leads to overeating or worse overspending. When you dislike the work that you do (and let’s be honest; a lot of us hate our jobs), there is a high tendency of “rewarding” yourself with a trip to the movies, a shopping spree, a vacation, a dinner, or a gadget at the end of a grueling week or every payday. If you find yourself “rewarding” yourself every week or every payday, why not “reward” yourself by putting the money away for the future?
# 10 People First, Then Money, Then Things
I have met a lot of people who would claim that the reason they are unable to save money is because they have to help their relatives or their parents financially. The bigger question I guess is how much money they actually give to their parents or relatives. You’ll be surprised to know that there are people who allocate less than twenty percent of their income but feel as if majority of their income goes to their parents or relatives.
The lowest amount of money (I think) a call center agent can earn is fifteen thousand a month. If you send thirty percent of that amount or four thousand five hundred pesos a month to your parents in the province, this will still leave you with ten thousand five hundred pesos. With that amount of money, you can still save three thousand pesos a month and live comfortably. You however have to keep your lifestyle in check. Of course if you give fifty percent of your income to your parents, then you have a really good excuse not to be able to save. You can still however save money with this scenario if you live extremely below your means.
# 11 Live below your Means
Living below your means is very hard. It is hard enough to live within your means let alone living below your means. Let’s look at how you can check if you are living above your means. A good indicator would be your debt. Do you find yourself with debt and living paycheck to paycheck? If you do, you are most definitely living above your means. For me, it is not enough to have five to ten percent in savings every month for you to say that you live below your means. I believe that you have to save at least forty percent of your salary every month in order for you to say that you live below your means.Being able to save five to ten percent of your income every month (I feel) is only living within your means. Of course, this depends on how high your income is.
# 12 Make Use of Available Resources
Instead of paying for internet, why not use the internet at your office. Call centers typically have computers available for use by employees wherein websites like Facebook are not blocked. Check with your HR if they offer shuttle service and take advantage of it. Some companies will have this perk. If your office has free coffee (most call center offices do), then take your coffee in the office instead of at home.
This concludes my tips on how to save money. I hope you received valuable information and will put them into practice soon. Remember that you can always contact me if you have any questions.
Image used under Creative Commons from Holger
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