Saving on Condo Interior Design and Renovations – Part 1



While still looking for a condominium two years ago, I was already thinking of how the interior of my unit would look like. I even contacted my friend, and told him that I’ll be needing his help. He’s an Architect, and he laughed at the idea of designing the unit for me for we were classmates back in college. Yes, I didn’t pursue a career in design and construction despite earning the degree.

After the unit turnover, things didn’t go as planned and I moved in to my new place without doing any interior renovations. I am putting that off until I get to earn enough money to do it.

For a few months, I was thinking of hiring a professional and let them do all the works. I’ve seen several interior designers whose rates are reasonable, and their works are quite impressive. But six months later, it looks like I’d be going back to utilizing whatever is left of what I learned from studying Architecture for over five years.

Yes, hiring an interior designer is definitely advisable especially if you are not too sure about what you want to do with your space. However, I decided that I’ll be my own interior designer in order to save on professional fees. I will then look for a contractor to execute my design, and slowly start decorating and furnishing my unit from there. Speaking of furniture, I’m obsessed with these white Barnes chairs!

Most of these contractors are experts on what they do. You show them the design, and you can be sure that they will be able to give you the finish product. The best part is, they pick and supervise their own workers themselves so that saves you a lot of time and headache too.

Aside from checking their sample works, one tip when looking for a contractor is to see if they have previous projects for spaces which are similar to yours. For me, I started looking for past renovation jobs done in our building, and that led me to finding several of them on Facebook. The fact that they have already experienced dealing with our building management means that I wouldn’t be needing to show or guide them about the process. In short, they’ll do all the paper works too!

I am looking forward to starting this project this year. I may not be able to afford a fully renovated and furnished unit by the end of the year, but I’ll start with the basics:

– I’ll have to design a floor plan of my unit, which I will be discussing with the contractor. I am no longer updated with building materials, so I will rely on their recommendations.
– This renovation will include: partition for one bedroom, ceiling design, customized closet and kitchen cabinets, countertop, kitchen tiles, bathroom renovation.
– Mirrors to create space.

– Lighting.
– Paint jobs.

I figured, it would save me money to settle for a basic finish and continue with the rest later on. I am going for an all-white finish, and work on this color by choosing the right pieces of furniture. If it won’t work, I could easily make changes with the help of wallpapers. There are many types of wallpapers available which anyone could DIY. Instead of the usual framed artworks, I am looking at printing photos from my photography archive and hang them on my walls. I have tons of photographs in my hard drives to choose from.

I wish the first IKEA branch in the Philippines will open this year. But according to the Facebook post by the Philippine Star, it will be opening in 2019. Last year (2017), IKEA announced that its first branch in the Philippines will open soon. News about its location were quick to spread, and lots of netizens were guessing that it will be in Cavite or Laguna. We’ll the first IKEA store will be built right next to the Mall of Asia Arena:
The parking lot between the MOA Arena and SMX Convention center will be developed to be the location of the first IKEA store in the Philippines, and the opening date will be in 2019. The second store is said to open in Fairview to serve #North residents.

How much does this interior renovation cost? I’ll update this post as soon as I have the complete breakdown. I’m excited to see how much I could save by designing the unit myself. I am hopeful that my contractor could execute the job well; I will be posting their contact details here too.

When Should you Upgrade your Computer?

At the office, our IT department has decided that our laptops can only be mandatorily replaced after six years. While this can be disputed whenever there’s a valid reason or justification, we were surprised at their confidence towards the lifespan and performance of laptops these days. I guess they are being reasonable in a way – I realized that I only owned two laptops in the past nine years, and both are still working fine.

My MacBook Pro is turning three this summer; it feels like I just got it last year. It is still performing like it did when I first used it. I was reading an online forum today where the “Average Life Span of a MacBook Pro” is a topic and someone candidly replied “As long as you want it to!“. Amusing.

My 2008 Dell laptop, and 2015 Macbook Pro.

It’s true, I think a MacBook can survive for many years, and that makes me a very satisfied customer. While there are moments when all those Apple restrictions give me headaches, a MacBook’s longevity is undeniably one of its best selling point.

Not to be left out, however, I have to mention that my nine-year old Windows computer is still alive too! It’s a Dell Inspiron 1420. It did crash after over a year where I unfortunately lost all my files, and the battery stopped working after less than three years. For a span of five years, I had to reinstall its OS twice, using two different installers until I decided to eventually go back to its original OS. It has been running fine since the last OS reload. I still use it for minimal computing needs as it starts humming after an hour of continuous use.

I think, laptops can be upgraded anytime within 3-6 years. It really depends on the usage though. If it is being heavily used, the chances of it getting slower over time is definitely higher.

After purchasing my MacBook in 2015, I am happy that I never had to upgrade, nor do I need a new one yet. In fact, I’ve never checked on new laptops ever since, not until now that my nephew needs one for school. I was asked to look for a good laptop, and I honestly am not sure which one to get for a limited budget. Looks like online is the way to go? What would you recommend?

Lazada Philippines

A Parent’s Unconditional Love

Sunday mornings are my favorite. It is always silent and calm, and even a noisy and chaotic place like Metro Manila share a few moments of such stillness. Too bad, I couldn’t wake up early on Sundays anymore. My body clock keeps me asleep until noon that when I am ready to get up, the reality that the weekend is about to end starts sinking in. I will then go back to bed in total surrender of the fact that the dreaded Monday is coming.

Waking up to this view.

That Sunday was different. I was at home and I woke up to the pleasant noises associated to the provinces – dogs, chickens, old songs playing from a neighbor’s transistor radio, and the occasional shouting of kids running around the neighboorhood. I reached for my phone to check the time – it was 30 minutes past 10AM. My mom’s text message popped up on my screen. I can’t help but smile while reading it, it’s in Ilocano:

Roughly translates to “Are you awake? Get up and eat. Your father didn’t come to church for he cooked for you, the food is ready.”

It was lovey and bittersweet. I spent the next ten minutes staring at the ceiling, trying not to feel disappointed of myself for oversleeping. I missed joining my parents at the breakfast table. I was returning back to Manila that afternoon, and thinking that I only have a few hours left made me feel bad.

It was a sudden change of emotion in contrast to what I was feeling before I left Manila. That week, I didn’t really wanna take the long, eight-hour journey home. I use to enjoy it during the first five years, but over a decade later, the thought of it alone is already exhausting.

But my father would ask me the same thing when he calls: when are you coming home? I would often make excuses, and I must have ran out of alibis one day that I answered “this weekend”. He got excited and quickly requested me to buy a new stove (of all things) to bring home. I didn’t want to break his heart so I reluctantly packed my bag that Friday, bought a stove, and took the early morning bus bound for the North.

My parents and I.

I went downstairs, and was greeted by the nostalgic smell of home-cooked food. My father was already busy preparing our ulam for lunch. I made my coffee, and munched on the fried fish and egg that he served for breakfast.

A moment that’s so simple but so precious.

It was over ten years ago when I moved to Manila. I would go home at least once every two months, or during especial occasions. And some things never change. My parents still cook for me. When I arrive, I’d leave my shoes and socks outside by the door. My mom would later pick them up and neatly place them on a shoe rack, then bring them out under the sun the next day. In my room, my bed is always carefully made. That distinct smell of freshly laundered, dried in the sun sheets, still gets me.

They would ask me what I want for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They make sure that I get enough sleep and rest knowing how long I have travelled.

That day, something dawned at me that I made the decision to visit them more often.

My parents are old, and now that their children have lives of their own and are oceans apart, their joy every time they see us is overflowing. They still look forward to our gathering together in the living room for our customary long talks. They still ask me the same questions – how’s my job, my health, do I experience flooding in my area, is my commute to work safe, when is my next holiday. My answers are always, I’m fine and I’m safe, and I’ll be home when I can. But they never get tired listening to my rather short stories.

Late afternoon conversations, over coffee.

That day, I was suddenly consciously present. I treasured every moment with them knowing that those simple times would make great memories. Indeed, we are too busy growing up that sometimes, we forget that our parents are getting old too. Looking back, life hasn’t also been very easy for us, but we’ve had countless memorable experiences together which are all priceless.

A selfie with (from L-R) my niece, aunt, mom, dad, and nephew.

Leaving is always the saddest part. They still wave and say their goodbyes as they did long time ago when I first left home for high school, when I moved even farther for college, and when I eventually decided to make Manila my second home. They still even ask me if I have enough money for my fare, believe it or not. They still give me the same last minute advices that they’ve been giving me ever since – stay safe, be careful when crossing the streets!

I see it now. In their eyes, I am still their child, and they will never get tired looking after me, guiding and helping me along the way in every way they can.

I see it now.

I see that unconditional love from parents that I am so blessed to experience. I am really glad that I get to recognize that today and not when it’s already too late. It’s true, life’s most beautiful moments could happen even in the most mundane situations. For someone who tends to overthink and over analyze, God sent me home that day and made me perceive above my thinking mind. He made me recognize, understand, and appreciate the simplicity of that which we often find too deep to define: unconditional love.

A faint reminder of our humble beginnings. I was the baby in this photo, and the bahay-kubo behind the bushes at the back is where I was born.

#OPPOF5 #CaptureTheRealYou

A Coffee Addict’s Way to Save Money on Coffee!

Aside from finding ways to saving on food and transportation, another thing that I needed to address is my coffee addiction.

While I am not really a Starbucks fan, I use to get coffee from them at least once a week. When I moved to my new place, there’s a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf beside our lobby, and a fancy Starbucks branch across the street. I would spend my Saturday and Sunday afternoons in any of these coffee shops for about five months. I am so glad I made a decision to take saving money seriously before things get out of hand.My love affair with cafés is another thing. There’s something about these cozy places that I find irresistible, and I use to not mind spending money just to be there. Well, it has everything that attracts my soul – the warm ambiance, unique and artsy interiors, nice looking people, and of course the smell of freshly brewed coffee. But again, it comes with a price.

Back home in the province, this is where I sip my coffee every morning. If only I have a similar view of my own here in Manila:
How do you save money on coffee if you are a coffee addict? I’ve tried my best in the past three months, and I am making a slow but consistent progress.

I don’t buy coffee for more than P50.

Yes, fifty pesos is the highest I would go when buying coffee outside. So far, I have two sources:

McDonald’s – P45 for a large cup, with FREE one-time refill.
Country Style – P50 for a small cup (they don’t have size variants), also with FREE one-time refill

I’ve been a drinking coffee from McDonald’s since 2013. I tried Country Style’s coffee three years ago, and I’ve been their loyal customer since then. Not only that their coffee is cheap, they don’t cater to the usual young, loud customers, and I love that.

I am now brewing my own coffee at home.

Putting these mugs that my sister gave me four years ago to good use.

I had to start by buying a coffee maker which is actually not that expensive. You can get one for just P600 here in the Philippines; I bought mine for P799. As much as possible, I bring my coffee at work (that would be my second cup for the day). Buying the fifty-peso coffee that I mentioned above is just an alternative. I think, brewing your own is the best and most effective way to save money on coffee.

When comes to coffee beans, I buy local.

I never really paid attentions to coffee beans before as I thought I could just pick one from coffee shops or grocery stores. But when I was in Sagada last November, I fell in love with their coffee that I had to ask the server where they’re getting it. I learned that it’s an Arabica coffee from Atok, Benguet. I wasn’t able to get one from Baguio, so I searched for stores that sell them here in Manila. They’re a lot cheaper, and I say local farmer friendly. Here’s a sample price list that a Quezon City-based seller sent me:

No to 3-in-1 coffee.

Not only that they are too sugary, but what’s with all those powder? They fill up almost 1/4 of my cup! I have to be honest though, we use to love them especially in the province. I see them a lot at the office too. It’s cheap and instant which we all like, but I also decided to stop buying and drinking them. It is more of a health issue for me, but actually, you won’t really need them if you are brewing.




Creating my own coffee corner at home!

I am planning to have my condo unit renovated this year, and I want a café interior as a theme! I’d like to find out if that would further keep me away from cafés, I hope it will. I have lots of ideas on my mind and I can’t wait to make them happen. With this, I can imagine my social life going from zero to negative zero.

Don’t drink coffee at all?

I don’t think I could do this, ever. There were others who were able to do it, but I do not think this is an option for me at the moment. That would be too much of a challenge. Could you actually get rid of coffee?

I don’t know where my coffee addiction came from exactly, but drinking coffee is nothing but normal in our household for as long as I could remember. When I moved to the city for high school, learning that kids there don’t drink coffee came as a culture shock to me. I was amused that I was the only one in our class who drinks coffee.

I eventually stopped drinking coffee during my mid-teenage years until I graduated from college. Years later after landing my current job, it suddenly became a daily routine for me to go to a coffee shop. The addiction came with the feeling of no guilt at all for spending P100 or so for coffee everyday. Not until I created this blog, went through a financial crisis, and made saving money a priority that I realized P100 a day actually totals to P36,500 a year! That’s enough to keep me motivated and continue with what I’ve started.

Are you addicted to coffee too?

Four Banks That You Should be Following on Twitter

Don’t we all love it when corporate entities are active on social media? Not only that we can tag or mention them when we have something to say, good or bad, about their products and services (in hopes that they will notice and listen), but it is also a convenient way to get in touch with them directly for our questions or inquiries.

It’s interesting to know that even banks have Twitter accounts, and that most banks in the Philippines have one. However, not all of them actively reply to tweets where they are mentioned. These four standout from the others, and if you haven’t yet, I highly recommend that you follow them.

4. UnionBank
I’ve always thought that UnionBank doesn’t cater to millennials. First, their website is boring and registering to their online banking is very difficult. When I opened my account, I had to make a phone call to activate my online access. A few weeks later, I mysteriously couldn’t login anymore. I didn’t bother to find out, and I resorted to using their app which they updated by the end of 2017. It was a good move for their new app is impressive.

And I can’t believe that they are actually very active on Twitter. Look:


3. EastWest Bank
I don’t bank with EastWest, but while scanning their Tweets and replies, I was impressed. I would definitely be following them if I were their customer.


2. Security Bank
I am glad that Security Bank also joined Twitter and is replying to mentions. I became a Security Bank customer last year, and I love their app. I haven’t tried contacting them on Twitter yet, but based on what I am seeing, they’re equally as accommodating:


1. BPI
Hats off to BPI’s social media representatives for doing a great job! For me, they have the best Twitter account amongst our local banks who maintains one. I think it make sense for they also have the largest number of followers. Their profile has been around for awhile, and is probably the first Philippine bank to own an official account on Twitter. Can anyone confirm?

Anyway, their timeline is always updated with announcements, and they are polite and quick when responding to mentions.
In case you’re wondering, I selected these four based on the following:

How frequent they tweet – they should be tweeting at least once a day. That means someone is actually monitoring their profile everyday.

How quickly they respond – most of them follow an 8AM-5PM schedule, so if they respond to our tweets or DMs within an hour during the day, that’s enough to keep us happy.

Quality of responses – we all hate copy-pasted responses, and it’s quite a turn off to see the same apology lines. Minimal spelling errors or grammar lapses are forgivable.  Not a UnionBank, Security Bank, and BPI customer? The following banks are also on Twitter:

UCPB – almost made it to the list if only they tweet more often.
China Bank
– they also reply to tweets but not as active as the other four above. I checked their profile on a Tuesday afternoon, and their last tweet (not pinned) is from six days ago.
LANDBANK 
– they do reply to mentions as well, but similar to China bank, their tweets are weeks apart.PSBank – their timeline is also not as active and busy as the others. RCBC – they are getting there. If I were to pick five, I’d probably give the slot to RCBC. 
Metrobank
– their Twitter account is only dedicated to their credit card holders.
While we may not get all the answers from our banks’ Twitter at all times, it still help to have an easier way of contacting them. We don’t have to make a call or go to a branch to ask about the basics such as swift codes, service charges, why their app is not working, and the like.

There are limitations to what these social media representatives can do on Twitter, so I understand why they need to refer customers to their phone support for account-related queries. I experienced doing chat support for over a year, and we were off-limits to anything that involves sensitive information. There are just things that can only be done over the phone for security reasons.

Anyway, I wonder why BDO is not on Twitter?

Is it Cheaper to Replace or Repair a Broken Appliance?

Lazada PhilippinesI bought an American Home coffee maker as a pasalubong for my parents last Christmas. Yes, it was more of a pasalubong than a Christmas gift. I wanted us to use it right away so I also brought home with me the ground coffee that my former boss sent me all the way from Costa Rica.

We used the coffee maker for a good five days, and it was working fine. I got back here in Manila before new year, and I was surprised to receive a text from my mom telling me that the coffee maker has suddenly stopped working. I called them and made sure that they are operating it correctly. My background in tech support was put to good use while asking them questions.

tightly plugged in to the wall outlet? – yes
power light on? – yes
does it make any boiling sound? – no
is it getting warm? – no
coffee dripping on the glass carafe? – no
is there water on the water tank? – yes
are you sure the power light is on? – yes
any damages on the unit? – none

Well, it looks like the coffee maker is not really working. By the end of January, I was back home and checked it myself. It is indeed broken and I was ready to bring it to the American Home Appliance repair center here in Manila.

I understand the rules about warranty, and I am confident that the one-year warranty for my purchase will be honored. There is no physical damage on the item, but in case they won’t honor the warranty, I made the decision of not paying anything for repair.

When is it cheaper to simply buy a new one instead of spending for repairs?

First, most electronics are always better when they’re brand new. Any repairs done to to the product often lead to more repairs. Before you know it, the total cost of getting it fixed is already almost the same as its original price when you bought it.

Second, this coffee maker is only P799. If it gets repaired for anything more than one peso, I’d rather buy a new one from a competing brand which I’m sure will last longer. I bought an Imarflex coffee maker for personal use this January, and I’m not seeing any sign that it will also malfunction anytime soon.

So when making a decision to whether or not get your broken appliance repaired, evaluate the costs. If it gets fixed, is there an assurance that it will take long before it starts malfunctioning again? Compare the repair cost versus the price of a new one, is there a huge difference?

The major rule is: if the repair will cost more than 50% of the price of replacing the appliance, you should get a new one.

All the Costs You Need to Know Before Buying a Condo

In my previous posts, I talked about the realities of owning a condominium unit in the Philippines, and the things that you may need to consider before buying one.

In this article, I will focus only on the fees. Yes, the many fees that you will be paying before and during your move-in, up until you start occupying the unit. It is good to have knowledge about these fees so that you could prepare and won’t get surprised or overwhelmed later on.

1. First on the list is the reservation fee.

So you’ve already decided on which property to purchase, and your agent is now regularly contacting and updating you. To seal the deal, you will be asked to pay the reservation fee.The reservation fee ranges from P15,000 to P20,000 (more or less). Just consider this as a processing fee for everyone who will be working on your papers, including your agent. For them, this is also an assurance that you are a serious buyer, and that they are not wasting their time preparing the paperworks for you.

The downpayment is not refundable after a certain period, but is often deductible from the total price depending on the policy of the developer. You would often see this in the sample computation that agents are giving out. Make sure to ask for the receipt upon paying the reservation fee.

Your contract will come during this phase. It will be notarized as soon as you sign the paperwork, and you will be given soft and original hard copies.

2. The downpayment.

A downpayment could go from as low as 5% up to 50% of the total unit price. You can talk this out with your agent as most developers are now offering terms which are very flexible, often meeting halfway with the client. The downpayment can also be paid via installment. This would be a practical option especially for a pre-selling property.

In my case, I opted for the 10% downpayment and 90% home loan. The 10% downpayment was payable for twelve (12) months, but can be paid in full at anytime within those 12 months.

3. After the downpayment, comes the hardest part – applying for a home loan.

Needless to say, this is not applicable if you are buying your unit in cash but for the majority of us, our options are:

– Home Loan or Housing Loan thru a Bank
– Pag-IBIG
– In-house Financing

I’ve discussed these separately in this post:

Buying a Condominium in the Philippines: In-House or Bank Financing?

I say, this is the biggest payment that you will be making, so it is very important to determine beforehand if you are illegible for a bank loan or a Pag-IBIG housing loan. It would help to begin making those inquiries from banks and Pag-IBIG before you even start paying the downpayment. I have shared my harrowing experience in getting a bank’s approval of my home loan in the below post, and it is something that I do not wish anyone to experience:

Applying for a Home Loan in the Philippines

4. Bank fees

Okay, your home loan application has been approved, congratulations! You will be signing tons of documents in the bank, and in order for your papers to get moving, you will be paying more fees!

Basically, you can consider this as another processing fee similar to the reservation fee above, but plus applicable tax and more. This is to be paid in full, and comes with a 3-5 days deadline. I paid around P70,000 in bank fees for my home loan back in 2016.

5. Time to move-in! You are not done paying yet. Prepare around P50,000 for the following:

– move-in fee, which is equivalent to one to three months of your monthly association dues. Note that this is not an advance payment; you will still start paying condo dues in your first month.

– other requirements such as fire extinguisher, grease trap and range hood installations.

– construction bond if you decide to have interior renovations. I haven’t done this yet so I couldn’t confirm if the construction bond is refundable in full.

6. On with the monthly bills:

Electric and water bills, plus the monthly condominium association dues. More about condo dues in this post:

How Much are you Paying for your Condo Association Dues?

Well, in addition to your monthly amortization, you will be paying for these three for as long as you own the unit. Say your monthly amortization is P15,000, add another P3,000 to P5,000 for these bills. You will be needing around P18,000 to P20,000 every month for your condo unit alone.

Why am I sharing all these?

The “for as low as P10K monthly” lines in bold letters that you see on those flyers are very enticing. I have some friends who paid for reservation fees because they were attracted to the supposedly low monthly payment. Unfortunately, they would later on learn about all these other fees and realize that they do not have the capacity to pay for them yet. Note that the reservation fee is often not refundable, so avoid giving away P15,000 or P20,000 for nothing.

It is important to research and be aware about the actual amount that you will be needing before, during and after buying a condo. I am lucky to have a very supportive family that together, we somehow became financially capable for this endeavor. It is one of the best decisions that I ever made, and I’m glad that I went for it.

Have you Claimed your New EMV ATM Card?

BDO is one of the first banks to issue ATM debit cards with EMV chips. I had to get mine yesterday because as of February 1, 2018, all BDO ATM cards without EMV chips can no longer be used.

What’s the difference you may ask? The EMV chip is an added security feature on our ATM debit cards. This is similar to what you see on credit cards. This move is mandated by the Banko Central ng Pilipinas to which all banks must comply by June 2018. For comparison, here’s a photo of the old and new BDO ATM cards:


Is the new ATM card free? Yes.

How do you claim your new ATM card? For BDO, you may simply go to your branch and bring your old ATM card and a valid ID. No appointments or registration necessary. The new card is already with them; the process is the same as picking up a card for a newly opened account. I got mine in less 10 minutes upon arriving at my branch.

What will happen to unclaimed ATM cards? Your bank will keep them, practically until those cards are claimed. Banks do not mail ATM cards, and doing so for these new cards will defeat the purpose of all these security measures.

How to Save Money on Your Phone Plan Subscription

Can you save money on your phone bill without totally cutting your plan subscription? I was asking my self the same question while reviewing my payment history with Globe. I can’t believe I’ve been paying P3,000-P4,000 for my phone plan in the past eleven months:

A quick throwback to almost a year ago when I decided to extend my 30-month phone plan subscription with Globe. I was originally subscribed to Plan999, and I upgraded to Plan1799 with an iPhone7 Plus handset (for P800 a month). That turns my total monthly bill to P2,599 for 24 months. Where does the additional P1,500 coming from? Excess usage!

What is the Excess Usage for?

Basically, the Plan1799 includes unlimited call to Globe and TM numbers, unlimited text to all networks, and a 10GB worth of data. I only call Globe and TM numbers, so I know right away that these charges are from my excessive data usage. We are all aware about the data capping that Globe and Smart are imposing. Well, because I do not allow myself to be limited by this data cap, I made the decision to pay the price. How much? P1,500 it is.

So if your plan offers a 10GB data for a month, every KB of data in excess to that is automatically worth P1,500. You’ll be paying for the excess charge anyway, so why not go unli with it? Here’s how my recent data excess charge was computed:

P1,339.29+%VAT equals P1,500 excess usage.

I understand that data is expensive so I feel that the excess charge is reasonable for a 55.6GB volume. This is the reason why I do not want to get cable as I could watch everything online. I am still hesitant to make that move to DSL or Fibr as I am more mobile as I thought; I can’t be without data when I step out of the house.

Now, how can we save on our phone plans???

Ask first if you really need the plan. Maybe consider cutting it after the contract expires, and go for prepaid. Nonetheless, if you feel that you are better off with a plan, decide on which plan is the best for you. Globe and Smart are quite flexible with their offerings, so determine which inclusions you would really want to spend on:

Data

If you have DSL at home, you definitely won’t need a high volume of data. Unless you travel all the time or you cannot live without streaming videos wherever you are, maybe it’s time to get a lower data plan. I would say 3GB is recommended for a month of regular mobile surfing:

Call and Text

Are you actually calling and texting all the time? If yes, the unli-text and call is perfect for you. Otherwise, get rid of it and look for a plan that includes a consumable option. Make sure to stick within that limit to avoid extra charges.

Other Inclusions!

Do you actually want all those inclusions? Perhaps your data allowance is already enough to cover everything, so check your bill for any unused inclusions. Ask your service provider to remove them if there are any.

Free Subscription that Auto-renews

Your plan may include free subscriptions to Spotify, Netflix, etc. They are free for a certain period, normally around 3-6 months and will auto-renew after that. If you do not want to keep the paid subscription for the succeeding months, contact your network and unsubscribe before it starts appearing on your bill.

Paper Bills

Do you really need the paper bill? Banks and other networks accept soft copies and print outs of your bill as a proof of billing. I don’t know which other purpose would you be needing the paper bill for. With Globe, that is P50 a month and they actually encourage their users to go paperless. Subscribe to paperless billing and save that 50 pesos (P600 per year)!

Source: Globe FAQs

Lastly, get a cheaper handset.

I want to keep my number so I am extending my plan with this as the major reason. I realized, I may not be wanting an iPhone again in the near future. I will also be going back to my old Plan999 after my current subscription expires, and will downgrade to a cheaper phone, most probably an Android. The expensive, new phones this year will surely get cheaper next year!

I get a lot of calls from Globe offering me additional lines, and I am always firm at declining them. Which reminds me – do not get an additional line! Unless you need them for business purposes, you do not want to pay for more than one phone bill a month.

How are you saving on your phone bills? Have you experienced switching from postpaid back to prepaid?

4 Reasons Why New Bloggers Should Join a Blog Contest

I remember joining my first blog contest ten years ago. My old page was just over a year old at that time, and Nuffnang Philippines just opened their second blog contest.

The mechanics are simple: write about your first memories of any Sony product and mention one of the new items that they’re launching! I tapped in to my sentimental side, and went nostalgic with my story:

Reading this post today, it’s so tempting to go back and edit. But I decided to leave it this way – raw and unpretentious.

I was selected as one of the 50 finalists and received an invitation to the awarding ceremony. It was to be held at the then newly opened SMX Convention Center. Sadly, I automatically eliminated myself by not showing up.

Almost a decade later, I decided to join another blog contest, this time through this site. I got a P1000 Sodexo gift certificate. Not bad.

So, can new bloggers join and win a blog contest? Yes. Most of these competitions are open to both new and old bloggers. The newer you are, the more that you should consider joining. This site was just four months old when I entered the Sodexo blog contest.

Why should you join a blog contest if you are a new blogger? Let’s see.

It’s fun!

Blogging may get boring after your first few months. A blog contest could keep the excitement going. From putting together your story, to publishing and submitting an interesting article, and then finally waiting for the results, the anticipation keeps you excited! Regardless of the outcome, you will for sure find something out of the experience to blog about next (hint: this blog post is an actual example!).

It’s an opportunity to get creative.

Writing a full article is already difficult. Writing an article and relate it to a topic which may not be very familiar to you is even more challenging. Being able to do so without sounding too promotional, and a**-kissing could land you a spot in the organizer’s short list.

Win or lose, the experience will challenge you to improve on your writing. If you could produce high-quality posts for a competition, you can duplicate that for a regular post.

You’ll be inspired.

Running out of new ideas and topic to talk about is normal. It is one of the realities that hit every blogger all the time. Joining a blog contest will not only push you to write something, but inspire you to create a high-quality post. You want to win as much as you want to publish another article, and you are sure that someone will scrutinize your post, so why not give it your best?

If you have a niche, it becomes more challenging. Go for it! These are just one of the small risks that you need to take in order to learn, and improve your blogging.

You need the exposure!

If you win, your blog will be published by the contest organizer. Not only that you get an instant monetary reward, Google will recognize your site even more. In the long run, the backlinks that your blog get from other websites will be your biggest prize. These links give Google the impression that your page is significant, hence, giving it a higher page rank.

If you have doubts, just keep going. Join not only for the prize and bragging rights, but for the experience and lessons that come with it. These blog contests connect you to other bloggers. You get to learn more about them and how they are doing in their niche, and consequently, on how you could level-up on yours.

I wish you the best of luck on your first blog contest entry! Keep on joining!