The Many Ways You May Have Denied Yourself of FREE Money Without Knowing It!

Is there even such thing as free money? We’ll, we use to receive money from our parents, relatives or friends (or strangers if we’re lucky).

And we all know those days are long gone. The free money stopped coming in after we celebrated our 18th birthday, or when we graduated from college, when we got our first job, or right after getting married.

But there are many ways in which we can still receive free money as adults. They come in many forms, and we may have ignored the chances and opportunities when they presented themselves, without us even knowing it.

Here are some of the ways that we may have denied ourselves of “free money” before. See if you could relate to these.

Passing up on Rewards Card Offers

Almost every store offers a rewards card, some for free when you buy a pricey product. These rewards cards earn you points which can be used in your next purchase.

I think the SM Advantage card is the most common and flexible rewards card available in the Philippines. We all go and shop at SM, so why not get the card? No, I am not promoting this product at all! In fact, I’ve always thought that the P100 fee for the card is ridiculous that I never bothered getting one. But things changed when I received the BDO Rewards Card which has the same function and usage as an SM Advantage Card.

Related Article:
Why the BDO Rewards Card is Better Than the SM Advantage Card

And you are right, you don’t always need to get a rewards card. To cite an example, a branch of ACE Hardware offered me their card when I purchased several items from them last year. I thought it would be useful as I will be needing to go back to the store for more, but I barely earned points after that. I still have a year before the card expires though, so I hope I’d be able to at least recover the P100 that I spent for the card.Lesson learned: If you are unsure if you will be a regular customer to the store, get their rewards card only if it’s free!

Not Using Your Points!

So you have all these cards and you never used the points you’ve earned. Before you knew it, the redeeming period had already lapsed or the card has is already expired. Or perhaps you always forget to use them when you shop? That would be points and money wasted.

Make sure to check those cards in your purse or wallet when you can. They may have already earned you free money for your next shopping.

Not Taking Advantage of Discounted Payments

Aside from looking for discounted items when you shop, you might be paying bills where you could get a discount by paying in advance.

One example is the Real Property Tax or Amilyar. I just started paying mine through my developer, and next year, I’ll be making the payment in the city hall myself. I am already planning to go and pay in January next year right after the holidays! Why so early?! Because I want to get that 20% discount, while intentionally avoiding the long lines occurring towards the end of the deadline.

Ignoring Company Discounts

Some shops would partner with companies or offices to offer discounts to their employees. This gives your company ID some discounting powers! Check if your company is getting any of these, or perhaps you did not read the email?

Avoiding Credit Card Perks

Because they are evils that lure us towards spending more.

But in summary, there may be some discount offerings from merchants which are exclusive to your bank’s credit card holders. I often ignore these promos, but it doesn’t hurt to know if there are any offer which you can take advantage of. This category actually deserves an entirely separate article because there are actually a lot of credit card perks that you can get if you are a wise credit card user.

IMPORTANT: DO NOT purchase because it’s discounted. Swipe because you NEED it, it is TIMELY, and it is DISCOUNTED.

Freebies

I am guilty of this because I don’t often like freebies the same way that I stay away from free tastes at grocery stores.

But freebies, are still free money in disguise. Be careful though and do not fall in to the trap of being so attracted to freebies, and purchase an item just because of the free stuff that comes with it. So, similar to rule about credit card promos above, only get an item that comes with a freebie, if you need it! Or if the freebie comes without any conditions, that would be perfect!

Referral Fees

There are also many ways in which you could earn from referral fees. Let’s start at work, your company’s recruitment team may have a referral program where you get a cash reward when an applicant that you refer gets hired.

If you are a Grab or Uber rider, you also get points or free rides when someone downloads the app and sign up using your referral code. If you are a frequent traveler and is an Airbnb and Klook customer, they have a referral program which you could take advantage of too.

Do you know why agents are willing to move mountains in order for your credit card application, or bank loans to get approved? Because of the referral fees that they receive! So next time you take “referring” for granted, think again!

Could you relate to any of these? What other sources of “free money” could you share?

7 Reasons Why Saving Money is Hard for Most Pinoys

I have been working for over ten years now. By this time, I should already be maintaining a healthy savings account. At least, that was my expectations when I started planning on what to do with my life after college. But realities start to sink in when five years after landing my first job, I still had no savings. And worse, I was in debt!

Sadly, that was the only time that I started to practice saving money. However, I failed in all my attempts that until now, I still do not own that healthy bank account that I was expecting to have.

As I am teaching myself to save money now, I came to realize and understand the many factors that contributed to my poor financial habits. Most of these are rooted from the kind of financial upbringing that I was raised to, plus my unwillingness to take responsibility and take adulting a lot more seriously.

And while I’m on this journey of educating myself on how to be financially free, I am having all these light bulb moments, and I can’t help but look around and realize that I am not alone! According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP)’s latest Consumer Finance Survey released in January 2017, almost half of the entire country’s deposit accounts have a balance of P5,000 or less:

Data Source: http://www.bsp.gov.ph/downloads/Publications/2014/CFS_2014.pdf

This data shows that a lot of Filipinos are actually paying for service charges since most banks have a minimum maintaining balance of P3,000! Consider yourself lucky if your bank account has an average daily balance of more then P5,001.

And can you believe that only 14% of Filipino households have deposit accounts?!

Data Source: http://www.bsp.gov.ph/downloads/Publications/2014/CFS_2014.pdf

So why is it so hard for an average Filipino to save money? I guess we cannot simply attribute this to poverty. A lot of it has something to do with our spending and budgeting behaviors.

Here are some of the reasons why we find it so difficult to save money. In all honesty, I was able to come up with this list because I was once guilty of all these “crimes”!

Loan Mentality

As a kid, I would hear my mom say“wala na aka sinasahod, nai-utang na lahat”. I was probably too young to understand these words back then, but it instilled in me the thought that being in debt is normal. My sister, who was also still in grade school at that time, would joke about things like “wala pa man yung sweldo ay nagastos na”.

In short, we were exposed to this loan mentality that we also ended up being in debt when it was our turn to make money. We know it was a problem, but we see it as a normal and common problem because everyone we know has this same problem. So we thought it’s fine.

Nope, it’s not fine.

It’s very hard to let go of the loan mentality that I could only wish I was raised with a “saving” mentality instead. All my adult life, I considered taking a loan as the only way to afford things that I wanted or needed. Before I knew it, I was already in huge debt and living from paycheck to paycheck.

How can you adapt a saving mentality?

I say, start small. For the past ten years, my attempts at saving were never successful because I always wanted to start big. I would follow the different money rules and the ideal ratio of spending versus saving. But because I was not wired to save, it never worked for me. Starting with a big amount then forcing myself to be frugal and stick within a budget until the next payday, is too much for someone who didn’t grow up doing it.

Treat it like you are getting rid of an addiction, start small and slow. You will need to condition your mind about saving first until it becomes a habit. It took me years to practice this. So start with an amount that you can forget and not end up withdrawing from your bank account later on. It doesn’t matter if you are only savings P100 at first, keep on doing it until it becomes normal. When that happens, you can then start adding more. Again, do not attempt an abrupt change by jumping from say P100 to P1000. Doing so might trigger your brain to remind you of your old bad habits. You do not want to go back there anymore.

Consumer Mentality

One time, when I was a kid, my father gave me some new five peso coins. He asked me to keep them, they are new, he said. I didn’t understand what he meant by “keeping” them. I went to our neighbor’s sari-sari store and spent those 5 peso coins. I saw his disappointment when a few days later, I told him that I already spent them all.
See? I didn’t know that he actually wanted me to save the coins. Because along with the loan mentality, I was also raised with a consumer mentality.

Malls are huge in the Philippines because people flock to them. It has become an extension of our living and dining rooms. Sunday is a family day, which translates to hearing mass then spend the rest of the weekend in a mall. Malls are where we spend our hard earned money. Why? Simple – for most of us, we work and earn money so we have something to spend. Consumer mentality.

 

It’s alright to spend. Because, why not? But along with spending, make sure that you are also saving. Another saving challenge: go ahead and buy that shoes. But remember to save the same amount that you spent on that shoes. Because if you can withdraw P4,000 for a pair of shoes, why not save P4,000 for your future?

We Love to Celebrate

Fiesta culture. We love festivities, we love to celebrate. And when we celebrate, we spend! There’s nothing wrong about celebrating. But when you have to borrow money just to spend for a celebration, maybe it’s time to reconsider?

We Splurge on Payday

Just today, my co-worker sent an email invite to everyone for a lunch out on the next payday. It’s a familiar scenario of how employees “enjoy” the fruits of their labor. We go to Starbucks, or we set aside at least a P500 budget for lunch or dinner with co-workers, and not to mention the drinking sessions over the weekend.

And we would intend to shop because it’s payday sale!

All these to make pancit-canton and 3-in-1 coffee our diet for a week before the next payout.
Again, no one is forbidden to spend, for as long as you pay yourself first – by saving first!


Facebook Culture

We love to share. We do not only love to share our “blessings”, but we share a lot about our lives too. We make sure that our neighbors will know of the new appliance that we just bought, new gadgets, new clothes. When social media took over our lives, we fill our timelines with beautiful life events for the whole world to see.

Sometimes, we feel obliged to post photos of all of our happy moments, because why not? But a lot of us are taking it too far – buying things they do not need just to keep their Facebook timeline looking impressive and expensive.

We Take Pride on our Resilience

We proudly declare to the world that Filipinos are very resilient. That we can survive every challenge that come our way. And that because we are used to dealing with life’s difficulties, we are expected to make it through the toughest of situations.

Unfortunately, this has affected the way we look at our future. We would postpone saving money because we believe that we can always find ways to handle things in times of financial crisis. Worse, we do not see the importance of saving at all because, well, we are resilient.

We Believe in Luck

I myself always thought that winning the lottery is my only way out of poverty. I would buy a lottery ticket and pray that I will win!

We believe in luck. We believe that someday, the Almighty will send us blessings in the form of miracles, like manna and moolah falling from the skies.

Oprah Winfrey has a very good definition of luck – “luck is preparation meeting opportunity”. I think this is very true. If you want to be blessed, you have to prepare yourself for that blessing. You have to be able to handle it, otherwise, you will end up failing. If you want a high-paying job, you have to prepare for that job by earning the necessary expertise and skills, so that when the opportunity comes, you are ready. That is true luck!

Despite all these, I think a new generation of Pinoy “savers” is starting to emerge. This is evident in the huge following that financial and business Facebook pages are getting. The Peso Sense Facebook page for example already has almost three million followers (as of this writing). You know these are not fake likers because of the very active page engagement – lots of discussions about money, paying off debts, and followers who are actually sharing their own experiences and tips on how to save.

Other finance and business-focused pages like MoneyMax.ph and Entrepreneur Philippines have large social media following too. All these are good signs of what to come, and again makes me feel that I am not alone! I am so glad that many of us have found financial enlightenment, let’s keep sharing and spreading the good news.

 

How do Bloggers Make Money?

When I discovered blogging in 2005, I never thought that bloggers could actually make money from their blog. All I knew then is that I just found a new hobby.

I’ve had a few blog monetization experience later on in 2007 and 2008 when paid posts were a thing. But paid posts started to decline during the 2008 economic crisis, and I eventually stopped doing that.

A fellow blogger introduced me to Adsense in 2010 but I never really took it seriously. I did earn a few hundred dollars for a span of two years, and that was it. While I was seeing others who were very successful at it (earning $500 a week!), I thought I didn’t have the right niche, and that all niches that could generate high traffic and income are taken. It is not until seven years later that I realized how wrong I was.

And so here I am, starting all over again. Cliché at it sounds, it is never too late to start. If you’d ask me when is the right time to start, my answer will always be – now.

Here are the most common ways to make money from blogging. If you have a blog or if you are planning to build a blog, these may inspire you to keep going. Be very excited!

By Joining a Blog Contest

This is as straightforward as it gets – look for blog competitions with subjects that you find interesting, determine if you are qualified to join, submit your entry, and if the organizers like it, you win a prize.

Related Post:
4 Reasons Why New Bloggers Should Join a Blog Contest

I’ve joined three blog contests so far, and I won a gift check on my second try. But more than the prizes that you get to receive, the experience itself makes it all worth it.

Apply for or Accept Sponsored Posts

With sponsored posts, you get paid for creating and posting an article in your blog about certain products or services. The sponsor could be an individual or a company. You get paid for the post itself, and not on the sales or page views that they get to generate through your post.

Unlike in a blog contest where traffic is often not a requirement, you will need to have a high number of monthly page views in order to attract offers for a sponsored post.

Display Advertising

This is similar to a sponsored post, but this time, you simply put a banner in a strategic location on your page and keep it there for a certain period. In short, your website becomes a digital billboard so your ad space value is dependent on your website’s traffic. A million page views a month will definitely entice advertisers to rent your digital space for an irresistible rental fee.

Affiliate Marketing

Most high-earner bloggers are making thousands of dollars because of their affiliate marketing strategies. Affiliate marketing is when you get a commission for every sale that you make by displaying affiliate links anywhere in your blog.

I am a newbie to affiliate marketing, and I honestly haven’t figured out how to make it work for me yet. Some bloggers who were able to “crack the code” say you do not necessarily need thousands or millions of page views in order to make money from being an affiliate. I am still learning, and I sure will share what I get to discover when I get there.

Related Post:
Affiliate Marketing for Newbies

There are lots of affiliate marketing programs available online, and based from what I’ve read so far, the most popular are Amazon, Bluehost, and Agoda. In Asia, Lazada tops the list. I am signed up with Amazon and Agoda and I can’t wait to find out how much my first payout will be.

Adsense and Other Advertising Programs

This is the most common and most popular amongst bloggers and other online content creators. There are several advertising programs available online, but Adsense is almost always the first option for many.

I can’t remember how I got my Adsense account, but I think it was easier to get one back then. It was around 2008 when I signed-up, and my application was approved. Today, Adsense now has certain rules that you or your blog should meet in order to get qualified.

Once you got in, you will be provided a dashboard where you could generate codes that you can insert in any part of your page. These codes will display ads which are relevant to your topic or niche. Say your article is about food, Adsense can detect that and will prompt it to display ads which are related to food such as restaurants, cooking or recipe sites, and the like.

You get paid every month when you earn at least $100.

Just like the other blog monetization programs mentioned above, traffic determines how much you can earn from Adsense. Adsense doesn’t disclose how earnings are computed, so there is no concrete way to know that. For one, it is dependent on so many factors. Not all ads generate the same monetary equivalent, and a page visitor from Northern America is more valuable to advertisers than a visitor from South East Asia. In short, advertisers pay more when the visitor is actually their targeted or preferred audience, which makes sense. Niches and page ranks could also be a factor.

Create and Sell a Product


This is probably every professional blogger’s ultimate goal, to be able to create a product one day and sell it his or her subscribers. This could either be a physical product like a book, or its digital version, an ebook. Others are offering online or email courses about topics that made them endearing to their followers.

Being able to sell your product without being too salesy is another thing. You have to earn your readers’ trust, and before you could do so, you must focus on giving them valuable content and information. If your followers see the value on the “free stuff” that you’ve been generously offering them, they wouldn’t think twice in paying to get more. It all boils down to the quality of your content, how engaging you are to your audience, and the manner and ways on how you respond in order to meet their needs. If you are able to achieve that, then you may have just opened your door towards becoming a full-pledged entrepreneur! And that is all because of having a blog.

Exciting, isn’t it? I look forward to exploring all these options, one step at a time. For now, I am slowly taking the first few steps and I shall continue documenting my progress.

Cheers!!!

How to Create a Free WordPress Blog

WordPress is probably the most popular blogging platform amongst bloggers. When I created my blog in 2017, I tried both WordPress and Blogger. Some say the look and feel of a WordPress blog is more professional, but as a newbie back then, I found Blogger much easier to navigate.

Related Post:
How to Create a Free Blogger or Blogspot blog?

Just like the confusion between Blogger and Blogspot, you may ask what the differences are between wordpress.org and wordpress.com.

WordPress.org is where you get free websites, while wordpress.com is for self-hosted sites.

Self-hosted sites are not free because you pay for the domain and hosting. If this website is not self-hosted, the URL would be phdocuments.wordpress.com. This is actually what I used to illustrate the instructions below.

So how do you create a FREE WordPress blog in 2018? Here are the steps:

1. Go to wordpress.org and download the free WordPress software. You can also use your phone by simply installing the WordPress app, also for free.2. Open the app, and sign up using an email address:3. Enter your desired blog title and URL. For this example I used:

     Title:
PHdocuments
Site Address:
phdocuments.wordpress.com

4. Upon clicking on the “Create Site” button, you will be directed to your Dashboard
.

Congratulations! You are now ready to organize your blog. There are no sequence of steps needed at this point, you can edit your blog layout, select a theme, or create an article right away. All these options are at the left side bar of your dashboard:
5. If you want to create a post, click on Blog Posts, and this window will appear. Click on the plus sign at the upper right to corner of the screen:
You are now ready to create a new article:
Click on the three buttons at the upper right corner beside “Update”. This will give you an option to Preview or Cancel the post:

6. Here’s what your blog will look like. For this example, I left everything at their default settings:

These are only the basic steps and you can finish them in less than 10 minutes! Work on your theme and layout as you proceed. You may want to try all free themes to see which one you would like, along with adding or removing gadgets. You can also upload and apply a theme from external sources; there are lots of free WordPress themes available for download online and most of them are easy to customize.

Take time in building and organizing your blog, don’t try to finish everything literally overnight. It will take hours and days of work until you get the layout and look that satisfies your taste and preferences. It’s a long process and that is fine, I guarantee that it will be a fun and exciting experience! I wish you all the best!

How to Take the Best Food Shots with Your Camera Phone

Ever wondered how food bloggers take those mouth-watering photos of their food? Have you tried copying their style, but you’ve never gotten that perfect shot yet?

I’m not a food photographer, but my background and experience in photography taught me how to make a subject look interesting and beautiful in pictures. These subjects include food, and just like flowers and other small objects, I love taking macro shots of them.

I have to be honest though, it’s a lot easier when you have a DSLR. And many food photographers are using DSLRs to capture those stunning pictures. To their credit however, one do not simply rely on the camera to do the trick. The end result, I have to say, has a lot to do with talent and skill. Which means, we do not necessarily need an expensive camera to take the best food shot. And the good news is, skills can be learned!

I do take pictures of my food sometimes, and I’m proud to say that the results are almost always attractive and Instagram-worthy. Here are my tips in getting that perfect food shot using only the camera on your phone. I decided to keep it simple and straightforward by summarizing them in to four categories, as follows:

1. Lighting

If there’s ample lighting, make the most out of it. Carefully focus on your preferred portion to avoid taking an over-exposed image. If it’s too bright, tap on the brightest part so that the exposure will correctly auto-adjust.

Fortunately, food shots don’t require a specific lighting condition so shadows are easier to manage. Unlike in portraits where you need to watch for dark spots forming under your model’s eyes, nose, and chin, there’s really nothing on food that you need to protect from shadows. Of course, you do not want the best part of the food to be dark, so shadow-wise, that’s the only thing that you need to check when taking the shot.

Some suggest that we use natural lighting. This is applicable when there’s a pre-planned set up for the shoot, where you can utilize the light coming in through a window, or bring the set outdoors. But if you are simply taking a photo of your food inside a restaurant, you will rely on the lighting available. The good thing is, most restaurants have cozy and warm lighting, and that’s exactly what we need to take beautiful food shots, more often than not.

I do not recommend using a flash! All photos in this post were taken without a flash. Use the brightness control of your camera phone to brighten the subject before capture. The capability of the camera to produce better images in low-light condition lies on its aperture. The aperture is the opening that allows light in while taking pictures. The lower the aperture number, the better.

The #OPPOF5 rear camera has an aperture of F1.8 which is high enough for a camera phone! This is sufficient for a camera to perform brilliantly for brighter and clearer shots in darker settings. As a comparison, a very powerful (and very expensive) SLR lens has an aperture that ranges from F1.0 to F2.4.

This was taken at a low-light condition, shot from above and it worked! At the same time, it gives a crowded table vibe without necessarily showing who’s eating which.

2. Perspective!

This is actually where your creative and artsy side comes in. You literally need to put “look at it from a different perspective” into practice. To find the best angle, think of the following:

Bird’s eye view
Normal view
Worm’s eye view

Yes, you can shoot from above, at normal level, and from below. Keep moving your phone to different levels, and take photos at different angles. Sometimes, an image becomes interesting when it’s taken from a very unusual angle. You can also use this technique to hide any distracting element in the background, or cut something that you do not want to appear in the frame.

Of course, there’s always an exemption. There are instances when you may want to add a background, like this example:

Say you don’t want to tag your location in your social media post, but want to give away a hint of where you’re at, show a little bit of a background in a very subtle way. But remember that this will make your food look smaller, like in the case of my yummy burger. Can you guess where this was taken?

3. Composition

Perspective and composition go hand and hand. As mentioned above, we do not need to include a background or foreground of food shots most of the time. Apply a macro or close up shot treatment in this case. While a wide shot can be corrected by cropping off unwanted parts of the picture later, it would still be best to frame it correctly before taking the photo. Below is an example, the Instagram post is a result of cropping:

Original photo vs Instagram photo. Cropped images won’t look so bad with a high resolution camera.

Note that cropping pixelizes a photo due to the zooming-in, and the process lessens the quality of the image. Your phone camera’s resolution will help in this scenario, and the higher the resolution, the better. The #OPPOF5 for example, has a 20MP front camera and 16MP rear camera which are capable of taking clear, crisp photographs. This will come handy when you need to crop your images later on.

While composing the image, try to add or remove other elements. You can either move your spoon and fork closer or put them away; try both and see which one would look better in pictures. You can include a phone, purse, glasses, or even the ketchup bottle on the side if that makes the composition look better. Give more life to a boring food, and make it look appetizing.
But at the end of the day, it will still depend on what you really want to show. If you want to play safe, aim for close up shots as suggested above. Here are some of my favorites food close-ups, again all taken without flash:


4. Make your food bokehlicious!

This is my favorite part! Bokeh, in laymans term, refers to that blurry background or foreground of an image. In a DSLR, this is a result of having a low F number as an aperture. The lower the F number, the more blurry the background or foreground will be. In your phone camera, however, the bokeh is artificial. Its aperture only functions when taking pictures in darker settings, and it has nothing to do with bokeh. Nonetheless, the images that they are capable of producing are still undeniably impressive.

Bokeh on phones may not work if you’re too close, and moving farther means including other objects in your shot. But that’s why you need bokeh in the first place, to blur out everything else other than your food.

What do you need the bokeh for? To keep the focus on the subject especially when an unavoidable background is too busy. Say you’re eating with your friends and their hands are getting in the way, use bokeh to blur them out instead of asking them to move. It works a lot of time, and this is actually my single, most favorite trick! It never fails to produce a clean, lovely image. Use the bokeh feature on your phone, tap on the part of your food that you want the focus on, and everything else will be blurred.

If you intend to use that “eating alone” caption on your social media post, then maybe show a proof? Of course, you want to still keep the focus on the food, and the right amount of bokeh is the answer!

The #OPPOF5 20MP front camera has a bokeh feature. This can produce awesome selfies as such effect yields a pleasant out-of-focus backdrop, you become the main object of admiration with vivid details and brighter tones. Go ahead and take a selfie with your food, and appreciate that bokeh effect!

So the next time you bring out your camera phone for a food shot, don’t be afraid to experiment on lighting, perspective, composition, and bokeh. There really is no single, sure shot formula because cliché at it sounds – practice makes perfect! Keep practicing until you’ll find what works for you depending on the result that you want to achieve. If all else fails, there’s always a next time so don’t forget to enjoy what’s on your plate! And perhaps, while at it, #CaptureTheRealYou and show everyone how much you’re loving the dining experience instead.

This is me professing my undying love for pizza to the world:

#OPPOF5 #CaptureTheRealYou

How to Create a Free Blogger or Blogspot Blog

So, you are thinking about putting up a blog this year. Should you buy a domain and hosting right away? It depends. If you are really serious about blogging and you have the budget for domain and hosting, that would be a good option for you. However, if you are having second thoughts and you just want to give blogging a try, or you simply do not want to spend money on domain and hosting yet, take advantage of a free website from Blogger or Blogspot.

Now, what is the difference between Blogger and Blogspot? Don’t be confused because they’re one and the same. Blogger is where you login, Blogspot is your domain extension. In short:

Login to www.blogger.com if you want to create a blog called phdocuments.blogspot.com.

I have two old and un-updated Blogger blogs – phototecture.blogspot.com and litratorama.blogspot.com. I created them both back in 2007; I can’t believe they’re still out there in the world wide web! That’s the good thing about having a free Blogger of Blogspot domain; it will be kept for as long as Blogger or Google wants it to be there, and without you having to pay anything.



Here’s a quick guide on how to create a blog on Blogger this 2018, in six simple and easy steps.

  1. Go to www.blogger.com and create an account. Blogger is owned by Google so you might want to use your Gmail if you have one, but any email address will do. Either way, Blogger will accept it.
  2. Upon signing up, you will be directed to your dashboard. This is where the posting and editing happens. There really is no required sequence at this point, you can immediately create a post or continue building the site layout first.
  3. You may want to start on your blog’s layout. Click on the “Layout” section on the left (first image), and the layout options will appear (second image). Always click on the “Save arrangement” button for any changes you make.
    The layout shows you the available side bar locations. They are arranged accordingly for you to get an idea of where they are located in your page.
  4. One of the first things that you need to add are Widgets, or Gadgets. Click on the “+ Add a Gadget button” from any of the given locations to view your options. You can move these gadgets to your preferred location later on.This pop-up window will appear. You can simply select the basics from amongst these selections. You can always add or remove a Gadget later. For this example, let’s select Archive.You will get this Archive settings. You can type in any title you want, and select how you would like the gadget to look like from the given options. Do not forget to click Save. Or you can Cancel if you decide not to use the gadget. You will be redirected back to your Dashboard.
  5. To add a post, either click on the “New Post” button on top, or the “Create a new post” link in the middle of your dashboard.
    You will then get this window where you could type in your blog post title, content, and labels. You can use any labels, and utilize them as categories later on. You can add an image by clicking on the “image” logo from the menu bar on top.I selected the last image that I have on my phone. Yes, I used my phone to create these instructions and screenshots. If you are on you laptop, you can select a photo from any locations in your computer.
    Make sure to click on “Save” before clicking on “Publish”.Again, you will be redirected back to your Dashboard. You will then see the new post that you created. Click on “View blog” at the upper left portion of the window to view your blog.This is a preview of your plain blog, how do change it’s layout? Proceed to step 6.
  6. Go back to your Dashboard and click on “Themes”. You will be given a selection of free themes from Blogger. Select and preview any theme that you want. For this example, I selected the first theme under “Contempo”:

This is the preview of the theme:

This is now your new blog using the theme we selected:

These are only the basic steps and you can finish them in less than 10 minutes! Work on your theme and layout as you proceed. You may want to try all free themes to see which one you would like, along with adding or removing gadgets. You can also upload and apply a theme from external sources; there are lots of free Blogspot themes available for download online and most of them are easy to customize.

Take time in building and organizing your blog, don’t try to finish everything literally overnight. It will take hours and days of work until you get the layout and look that satisfies your taste and preferences. It’s a long process and that is fine, I guarantee that it will be a fun and exciting experience! I wish you all the best.

Cheers!!!

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.

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?