Citibank Personal Loan Review



In a previous post, I mentioned my plans to have my unit renovated this year. As the second half of the year is about to begin, I suddenly felt the urge to start looking at my options and make this plan happen.

And because my savings is not enough to cover the expenses, I decided to apply for a personal loan. I looked at several banks and made comparisons through their online personal loan calculators.

I went for BPI first. They have one of the lowest interest rates, and because they approved my home loan application two years ago (but I eventually declined the offer), I was confident that my personal loan will also be approved.

Surprisingly, BPI denied my application. I never received a call, just a rejection text message.

I took this as a sign that I should not pursue my planned interior renovations yet. But I wanted to check on how weak or strong my credit history is (two years after I got cleared of my credit card debt with HSBC), so I submitted another personal loan application this time with Citibank. If I get declined again, that will confirm my fears.

Citibank approved my personal loan application. And it came with a credit card too!

So how was it like applying for a personal loan with Citibank?

It was very quick! The 24-hour approval is, of course, a myth, but everything happened so fast within three days. Here’s how the process went:

Day 1: I received a call a day after submitting my online application. The agent went over my personal details and she asked me to submit the required supporting documents.

Day 2: I got another call from the same agent. She confirmed that the documents have been received and were submitted for final assessment.

Day 3: I was informed via text and call that my loan has been approved. I was asked to prepare post-dated checks to be submitted upon delivery of the manager’s check.

All payments need to be done with a PDC. Which means you have to prepare several checks prior to the delivery of the manager’s check. In my case, the term was 24 months, so I signed 24 checks!

Day 9: I received the manager’s check. The courier also has to take the 24 PDCs that I prepared. He did double-check everything before handing me over my check. So I got the manager’s check after nine business days. I believe it would have been faster if I opted for a branch pickup. I wasn’t in a hurry so the slow courier is not an issue for me.

However, the delivery of the credit card took over a month. From what I’ve read from online forums, delayed card deliveries have been an issue with Citibank ever since; the posts that I saw were dated as far as 2009 and 2010.

I had to call Citibank a few times to confirm that I am actually getting a card. Apparently, their courier never attempted to deliver the card to my address so when I called again after nearly a month, the agent suggested that we request for a new card instead. The new card was delivered to me after four business days.

Nonetheless, it has been a good experience with Citibank overall. Their personal loan application process is seamless, and getting an actual feedback after three days is the icing on the cake!

So I used the money for a minor interior renovation. I will be sharing how I maximized my budget, with a goal to provide tips on how to save on renovation costs.

Why I am Not Recommending SMDC to my Friends

So far, three friends already asked me if I recommend SMDC. My answer was neither positive nor discouraging. But for some reason, I felt relieved when I found out that they ended up buying a property from another developer.

That made me realized that I don’t really want to recommend SMDC to my friends after all.

It’s been over a year since I moved into my unit at MPlace, South Triangle. I have been blogging about my experiences, which is overall I’d say, also neither satisfied or unsatisfied.

In this post, I am writing a review about being a unit owner of an SMDC property.

What I like about SMDC

I wanted to be very fair in my assessment, so let me start by highlighting the things that I do appreciate about SMDC, or at least with MPlace.

1. Location

MPlace is just two blocks away from an MRT station. ABS-CBN is our neighbor, and we are sandwiched by two major roads – Timog and Quezon Avenue. Needless to say, I couldn’t ask for anything more in terms of location.

This is true for most, if not all, SMDC condominiums around Metro Manila. This is their biggest asset which I think even outweighs the fact that Sarah, Kim, and Anne are/were their celebrity endorsers.

2. Security

I work in the afternoon until early morning, and I would often be greeted by a sleepy security guard who would ask for my name and my unit number as I enter the building. That would go on for a week, will stop for awhile, and will happen again when a new guard is assigned on the night shift.

I find this annoying so I sent an email to the building administrator and explained my case; I attached my photo for their “reference”. I was never asked the same questions again.

Delivery guys are only allowed at the lobby. Whether a tenant likes it or not, they will need to pick up all deliveries at the reception. And we are required to meet and fetch our guests in the lobby too.

I understand the tight security, so while it is an inconvenience sometimes, I’d rather be safe than sorry.

3. Rules on Pool Usage

Only owners and registered tenants are allowed to use the pool for free. Guests will need to pay Php150 if they want to go swimming.

I find this to be ridiculous initially until I realized that Pinoys are fond of inviting guests to their homes. And by guests, we are talking about an entire clan, if not the whole Barangay.

Imagine them all jumping into the pool if it’s free.

The strict rules about the use of swimming pools are just and fair as there are also owners who don’t invite in guests regularly.

Before moving to the things that I don’t like. There are several others that I am 50-50 with:

Cheap Finish – my previous exposure in building construction and design, despite being far from extensive, gave me a critical eye towards substandard building materials. I understand that SMDC is not a high-end condo developer so I take that into consideration. Besides, most of their units are unfurnished and they now put emphasis on “bare finish”. This is to give buyers the impression that they could freely replace everything during interior renovations, as they wish.

Small Windows – I prefer big windows for an open and airy feel. But I figured, I am mostly asleep during the day, so I guess small windows work for me at the moment.

What I don’t like about SMDC

I’ve read all these horror stories in online forums and other blogs, and I never thought I would also experience them myself. When I did, I realized that SMDC is consistent when comes to not meeting their client’s expectations.

1. Delayed Turnover Schedule

I thought I was prepared for this as I did not really expect them to follow the original turnover date that they set.

True enough, it was rescheduled twice. And before they would send me the next rescheduling notice, I gave them a deadline. They complied because I started talking about the leaks on their ceilings.

2. Water Leaks on Ceilings

Yes, this is for real. And upon Googling “SMDC leaks”, it looks like this is already an SMDC trademark.

They kept on moving my turnover date because it turns out that the unit below mine has a defect. There’s a leak on their bathroom (supposedly coming from my bathroom), and Engineering thought that they should fix mine. The unit owner won’t sign the turnover papers unless the problem gets fixed.

Engineers visited my unit only twice in the span of three months. In the fourth month, the Admin texted me and asked when they could start the renovation. I demanded that they get me a unit or a hotel room to stay while the renovation is going on. They never contacted me again.

A few months later, I found out that the owners already moved in. I feel bad for them.

3. Malfunctioning Elevators

All four elevators in our building were in good condition when I moved in. I understand that maintenance is needed from time to time, but when the service elevator stopped working and was never fixed, I thought that confirms the management’s inability to address issues quickly.

Everyone can use all elevator cars including the service elevator. Now that only three of them are serving 28 floors, tenants would encounter long waiting lines at the elevator lobby. And yes, all of them can now be used as service elevators too.

4. Poorly Laid Hallway Tiles

This alone is more than enough reason for them to let go of their “5-star living” tagline.

Hearing a cracking sound when I step on the floor tiles in our hallway is rather amusing. They eventually replaced the tiles surprisingly in two batches, over six months apart.

5. Very Poor Customer Service

I have a lot to say about this because I was once a customer service representative myself. I understand why some SMDC clients are fuming mad about how bad the customer service is.

The answer is, most (NOT ALL) of these agents don’t really care about your problems. They are just there to answer calls or emails, not to fix leaks on your ceilings or process the title of your property. They simply are passing on your complaints to different “concerned departments” which probably are understaffed with tons of work to do.

This explains why you need to repeat yourself every time you call. And the agent for sure have already heard thousands of similar issues from other customers before, so they are so done empathizing and apologizing.

In the end, the poor customer service is still accounted for the fact that different departments across SMDC are seemingly inefficient at addressing their client’s concerns.

Conclusion

So, why am I not recommending SMDC to my friends? Simple – I do not want them to go through the nightmares that many buyers, including me, have experienced. Nonetheless, this is not to say that other developers are not causing their clients headaches too. I’m sure, none-SMDC condo owners have some horror stories to share as well.

Our building is being managed by a third party. Again, this is comparable to a company whose customer service is being handled by a call center (which is a third party).

All the company’s customers will be dealt with at the call center. Their grievances and complaints will be falling on the deaf ears of the call center agent on the other line. It is the call center’s job to limit escalations that will reach the management of the company itself. In short, it is their responsibility to “block” customers from directly contacting the company.

Hence, I won’t be surprised if the SMDC guys are not even aware of the details of their client’s complaints. Everything is being held in the Project Management Office, and SMDC is probably just receiving their reports in the form of charts and PowerPoint presentations. As in any business, their concern is only on the highs and lows of Php figures on those sales reports.

My advice? Don’t get a condo if at all possible, invest in a house and lot instead.

What I Learned From Joining a Networking Company

Networking has become synonymous with the line “open-minded ka ba?” But people who once joined an MLM group have some positive things to say about the business that everyone loves to hate.

I vividly remember the day when my P.E. teacher asked if there’s anyone in our class who wanted a part-time job. Four students raised their hands, myself included. We were asked to stay after class.

An hour later, we found ourselves getting introduced to networking, right at the bleachers of our school’s basketball court. Out of the four, I was the only one who got convinced. 

I was barely sixteen.

I was excited, managed to afford to become a member, but I didn’t know what I was doing. I left when the semester ended.

Related post:
Sidelines: How Some Pinoys Earn Extra Income

About three years later, I was recruited again this time by a total stranger. After several days of attending orientations and getting introduced to a lot of “successful” people, I decided to give it another try.

It was fun, and I was learning a lot. But I was not really making any money just like the first time. 

I left after over a year and never returned.

Personally, networking may not have given me the wealth that I was hoping to attain, but I learned a lot of things that I still keep until now.

The Strategies.

There were marketing strategies that we were practicing in order to convince people to sign up. In fact, using the word “convince” is a big no-no as it implies being pushy. We did not want you to feel that we are forcing you to join.

We are not recruiting you either, we are”inviting” you. And we do not want you to sell products, you simply need to “share”.

By being mindful of the words we use, things become easier between us and a potential future member. I believe this to be true in any endeavor that one would venture into.

If you Dream, Dream Big!

This is probably the biggest thing that I learned from joining an MLM company. We were encouraged to create vision boards, to be very ambitious, and be a believer in endless possibilities.

We became dreamers who did not want to be limited by our current realities.

I took this learning with me until now. The only difference is that I have also learned to be more accepting and gracious of anything that the present moment is giving me. And with being grateful comes the continuous hard work towards achieving my goals based on what I have now and what I know now.

Prepare to be Hated.

Many experts say that you must be willing to be hated in order to be successful. Famous people are being bashed left and right, but because they long accepted this to be a part of the formula to greatness, no amount of hate could bring them down.

Successful people have the most haters because they achieved something that the haters could only dream of. Rejections are common for people who are into networking, but when you look at it, it happens to everyone, all the time.

Have you also been invited to be one these networking groups? How was your experience?

Sidelines: How Some Pinoys Earn Extra Income

Having a sideline is something that’s very common for Pinoy workers.

We all have that one co-worker who passes around brochures at the workplace – selling food, clothes, bags, and the like. Some of us just feel the need for an additional income, or perhaps just business-minded by nature.

That is probably something that I lack: a business mindset. Which is why I am surprised that looking back, I actually engaged into a few sidelines over the past few years.

I remember joining a networking company twice, which oddly enough, is the same company. I joined them when I was barely 16, then left, and joined again four years later. I failed in both instances, which I took as a sign that talking in front of people is not the right path for me to get somewhere.

Anyway, here are some of the most common sidelines that anyone can explore.

1. Photography Services

If you have an expensive DSLR camera, or if you can afford one, why not make money out of it if you have the talent and skill at photography? Most photographers started as a hobbyist, and slowly gained experiences from there.

How to start? Obtain the knowledge and skills to be a professional photographer. The money in this industry largely come from wedding photography, so it is important to enhance your skill at taking portraiture. Join photography groups as a freelancer, and while at it, learn the ins and outs of the business.

My team ran a wedding and events photography group for four years, and while the business was good, we parted ways and some of us went on to put up their own photography businesses.

Pros: Big pay! We started at a very competitive rate at the beginning and consistently increased the rate for every six months or so. The experience is definitely worth it.

Cons: The task is often too demanding. Weddings often require at least 2 photographers and 1 videographers. Depending on the package, a one man team can do the job, nonetheless.

2. Sell Food

I use to receive a weekly “non-work” email from someone at the office for meal orders. I asked her to exclude me from her mailing list as I am not a fan of Asian foods, which is what she’s selling.

But if burgers or sandwiches are on the menu, I would probably placing my order every week.

Pros: You won’t run out of people who are getting hungry.
Cons: When selling is not allowed at work.

3. Become a Financial Advisor

It was 2011 when I got interested about insurance and investment. Luckily, an advisor was kind enough to teach me the basics all via email. But I was too scared then to put my money at “risk”, so I never purchased a policy.

Five years later, I got introduced to this again when a co-worker became a SunLife advisor. As I still don’t fully understand insurance and VULs, I asked her to do all the paperworks for me and show me my options.

I trusted her because I see her at the office everyday, and I can ask her questions at anytime.

Yes, she’s able to do her regular office job and her sideline as a financial advisor at the same time.

Pros: Big commissions! Plus, it’s easier to sell insurance these days.
Cons: Needs your time and commitment. Consider this only if you see yourself doing it full time later on.

4. Try Blogging

Blogging, if done right, can be profitable. In order to make money with a blog, you need to drive a significant amount of traffic into it. That’s the first factor to look at when you want to start a blog with profit in mind: quality contents that people will consume.

In choosing a topic or niche, what people need is more important than your interest or passion. Your brilliant piece of writing wont really translate to cash if no one wants to read it. Ask yourself, are people searching for these topics on Google?

Your content should attract netizens because they find it interesting, educational, or helpful. Always aim to offer “value”, and people will notice. When they do, that’s when the monetization begins.

Pros: There are lots of free online resources about how to make money blogging.
Cons: It takes time and huge patience to build a large following in order to keep a steady flow of traffic.

5. Online Selling

Why not bring your products online? There are several apps that you could take advantage of such as OLX and Carousell.

The good thing is, you can sell almost everything online – from your “pre-loved” clothes and accessories, to used gadgets or appliances. Take this as a hint: my last online purchase was a pack of ground Arabica coffee!

The possibilities are endless. And with the current technology, you can do almost all of these at the comforts of your home.

What other sidelines do you have in mind?

4 Financial Mistakes to Avoid in your 20’s!



Your life decisions in your 20’s are crucial. Everything that you do in this third decade of your existence will determine how your future would be like. And while you still have a lot of years to correct them, you may be up to a surprise later on when everything feels like it’s too late.
How you handle money is very important as a twenty-something. I learned this the hard way, and that’s what I aim to share in this article. I am listing down a list of money mistakes that I made in my 20’s that I wish I avoided when I was your age.

Don’t fall into the same trap. I’m telling you, it is so difficult to get out!

Getting a Credit Card

Don’t get me wrong, credit cards are good if you know how to use them properly. There are many ways on how to make them work for you, and enjoy them without accumulating debts.

However, I got my credit card without having any knowledge on how it works. I knew nothing about the annual fees, interest rates, and the difference between outstanding balance and minimum required payment. Never get a credit card if you are that uninformed.

Related topics:
7 Things you Need to Know Before Getting your First Credit Card
What I Did to Save Money and Settle my Credit Card Debt

After your first year of being in the work force, you may find yourself receiving credit card offers from banks. That’s how easy it is for young people to get a credit card. This is because you are still starting fresh, no credit history, and practically an easy target.

Not Saving Now

I still remember a co-worker who shared her story about having been working for six years but still without savings. She wonders, in a regretful manner, how and where all her money went. I just signed my regularization papers at that time and I had no savings too, so hearing this from someone who’s been working way longer than I am was a relief. It means I am not alone.

Yes, I was not alone. But NO, feeling relieved about that is just bad. Not saving money shouldn’t be normal at all.

Related topics:
4 Budgeting Tips That First Time Workers Should Know
How to Save Money While Renting

Start saving money as early as you can. It doesn’t have to be big, in fact I am an advocate of starting small. If you do not have a saving mentality like me, saving small amounts every payday is the key. It’s like working out in a gym, you need to start from lifting lighter weights until your muscles get used to it. Then you can slowly add more weights as you go.

Related topic:
Have you Tried Saving your 50 Pesos?

You need to practice your brain to get used to saving money until it becomes a habit. A habit comes naturally, and always easy. Imagine how awesome it is like to be saving money so easily.

Getting Loans

Unless it’s for an emergency, never ever get loans. But again, that’s why you should be saving in the first place, to be always prepared for any urgent financial needs.

Salary loans are very enticing, but why not convince yourself to save an amount equivalent to a month of salary instead? Because then you won’t need to apply for a salary loan anymore.

Don’t apply for loans just because everyone is doing it. Loans are good only if you plan to use it to start a business.

Living the Social Media Life!

Shopping, traveling, and eating out just to make your social media feeds look luxurious. If you do this with a business plan in mind, that is great. A lot of social media influencers are making money because they have that business mindset. They know how to turn their social media following into cash.

But if you are spending money on luxury just to impress, you know for sure that this is a mistake that you just love doing.

Related topic:
7 Reasons Why Saving Money is Hard for Most Pinoys

What I learned now is to always look at how I could make money out of what I am spending for. If I buy clothes, can I sell them out online later? I am so jealous of young people who are making thousands from selling their used stuff online. Whatever it is that they are selling, provided it’s all legal, I sincerely admire them for that.
If you haven’t already, you should start saving while you are young. Start today!

Never ever think that you have a lot of time to do that later on. Yes, it’s never too late, but as a 30-something, I really do wish that I started saving when I was younger.

You know when they ask you about what you would like to change in your past, if given the chance? Saying nothing and declare that you are happy with everything you have become is politically correct, but my honest answer would be to go back and make myself a lot more smarter, financial wise!

Finding Treasures in your Balikbayan Boxes

Literally and Figuratively.

There’s no denying that a balikbayan box is a treasure.

If you have a family member who is an OFW, you may have received one of these packages before at least once or twice a year. Some OFWs even send their boxes every three months.

Let’s start by admiring and appreciating those Balikbayan boxes.

Have you noticed how carefully packed every items inside the box are? They are wrapped in plastic and packaging tapes, each labeled with a family member’s name. Imagine the long hours spent in arranging and packing them, not to mention the time and effort exerted in scouting for the best items that they think everyone would like. That’s how much our OFW family member or members love us.

As receivers of balikbayan boxes, we should recognize that everything in there is a treasure. Let’s admit it, as selfish as it sounds, sometimes we would prefer to receive cash. But we’d be surprised by how much money we are actually saving with the help of these Balikbayan box items, if only we know or learn how to recognize that.

Here are the many reasons why everything in the Balikbayan box is a treasure. If you are receiving these items, perhaps you should already cross them our from your next shopping list (if you haven’t yet).

1. Toys

While there are places to buy cheap toys in the Philippines, you may need not to buy them anymore if you are receiving some from abroad.

2. Kitchen Utensils

I was at home last month when I saw an unopened box of spoon and fork set. I knew that it came from the Balikbayan box, so I asked my mom if I could take it. They don’t need it back home, and it would be a good replacement to the kitchen utensils that I bought (at a very cheap price) when I moved in to my new place. That alone, already save me a couple of hundreds.

3. Toiletries

I rarely buy soap, and I can’t remember the last time I bought a bottle of shampoo. I have months of supply of soap and shampoo from the Balikbayan box. That’s a lot of savings considering that a bottle of shampoo in the Philippines is priced by over a hundred pesos.

4. Clothes

I am buying a shirt only once a year. If my sisters ask me what kind of shirt I want, I would ask for a polo or polo shirt so that I could wear them in the office. Everyone in the family, my parents, my nephew and niece, all wear clothes from Balikbayan boxes. Saves us a lot of money.

5. Shoes

The last time I bought myself a pair of shoes was two years ago; it is a leather shoes also for office use. My sneakers and rubber shoes all came from the Balikbayan box, and most of them are also over two years old. In addition, my parents rarely buy shoes anymore.

6. Bags

I personally haven’t received a bag yet, but my mom does. All her bags are also from the Balikbayan box, so she never had to buy one herself anymore. Big savings for her too!

7. Chocolates and Candies

Chocolates are the first things that kids look for in the box, and is the first thing that OFWs put in there. So if you have an OFW family member, you should not be buying chocolates at groceries anymore. Period.

I’m sure there are several other things I missed. What other items are you getting from your Balikbayan boxes?

Security Bank Fast Track Program or Secured Credit Card Review

It’s been a year since I got my Secured Credit Card from Security Bank. It was my first credit card since my HSBC card got defaulted in 2010. I initially applied for a regular credit card, but they offered me to get a secured credit card instead.

Related Articles:
How to Get a Bank Clearance for your Credit Card
Getting a Secured Credit Card from Security Bank

Here’s a short review of the Secured Credit Card from Security Bank after a year.

Let’s first highlight the fact that a secured credit card has exactly the same uses and benefits as a regular credit card. Everything that you can do with a regular credit card can be done with a secured credit card. What are the only differences? I could only think of two:

1. The approval is 100%.
2. Your credit limit is dependent not on your income, but on your holdout amount. What is an holdout amount? I’ve discussed this in this post: Getting a Secured Credit Card from Security Bank

So one year later, I’d say I’ve been using my card literally everyday.

I made it my default payment method for Grab and Uber (although I already stopped using Uber in December). I never missed any payment deadlines, and I tried my best to pay the total amount due in full the entire time.

I got my card in March 2017, and as early as ten months later, I already started receiving offers from agents offering me cash loans and credit cards:

I own the same postpaid number since 2014, and I never received any text messages like these until this year.

It looks like I can now apply for a regular credit card! I did not entertain these messages because I am not really interested in getting a regular credit card yet. I am planning to request Security Bank to convert my secured credit card into a regular one, and see if they’ll do that for me. If not, I’ll consider submitting an application to BPI or EastWest. I’ll update this post when that happens.

The holdout amount is still on hold; I haven’t contacted my bank to release it yet. I believe that releasing the money will result to the closure of the credit card, subject to the bank’s evaluation.

Because if you’re in good standing, the secured card will be converted to a regular credit card even if the holdout amount is released.

Overall, it’s been great having a credit card again after seven years. I’ve matured financially through those years, so I am now a responsible and wise credit card holder.

Having a secured credit card is a perfect way for people to gauge if they could own a regular credit card without falling into debt. This is the safest way to “try” owning a credit card for at least a year. So, if you are unsure if you could still manage your spending if you have a credit card, try getting a secured credit card first.

September 2018 Update:

Around 18 months after getting a secured credit card from Security Bank, I went to my branch and made a request to release my money on hold. They called SB cards and they let me spoke with the representative; the call lasted for about 15 minutes.

I learned that the processing will go through SB cards first. They will assess whether or not your card can be retained (unless you request to cut it already).

I received an email three days later asking me to submit a proof of income for my credit card to be converted into a regular one. I sent them a copy of my ITR (they also accept payslips and CoE).

The branch told me that the entire process will take a month. However, when I checked my account via their app two weeks later, the hold out amount has already been released! And my card is still active, which means, it is now a regular credit card. Awesome!

What I Did to Save Money and Settle my Credit Card Debt

In one of my older posts, I talked about how I settled my credit card debt with HSBC. The article How to Get a Bank Clearance for your Credit Card, is where I outlined the actions that I did in contacting HSBC and negotiated on paying my 6-year old debt. Yes, six (6) years! I stopped paying my credit card in 2010, and only had the courage to call my bank in 2016.

The truth is, I always had the intention to contact them but I didn’t know when and how. The fear in my mind is making up all these possibilities like the need to hire a lawyer and appearing in-front of a judge in court. All these kept me away from debt collectors, and I managed to evade them for years.

Thankfully, I made the right decision to not entertain the debt collectors! I never thought that I could resolve everything with just one call, and a trip to the HSBC office in Taguig later. It was absolutely hassle-free! No debt collector from whatever law firm they claim to be working for, is involved!

So, what did I do to save enough money and be confident enough to call my bank? This is where the difficult part of the story comes in.

After I stopped paying my credit card in 2010, I started thinking about being more responsible financially. However, I never really saved money prior to that so I didn’t know where or how to start. Moreover, I was partying the entire time in 2010 and 2011.

Needless to say, when I left my job in 2012, my bank account was empty and I shamelessly relied on the help of my siblings for three months until I got another job.

Two months into my new job, my boss in the US invited me over for a training and meet and greet. My company prepared all the paperworks and when it was time for me to appear in the US Embassy for the dreaded Visa interview, HR asked me to bring a copy of my bank account statement.

Imagine how embarrassing it was to tell them that I didn’t have a property, no car, and no bank account other than payroll.

That’s when my journey at saving money started. I promised to myself that I will start saving from that time on. And I kid you not, it was never easy then, and still not very easy now. In fact, it was not until a year later when I opened a bank account. Here’s a timeline of how I was saving money prior to calling HSBC in 2016:

2012

I landed a new job and decided to save money and settle my then two-year old debt. At around this time, I also started earning extra cash from my sideline as a wedding photographer. However, I was still recovering financially from being jobless for three months, so I actually barely saved anything that year.

2013

I opened a new savings account with BDO. I chose BDO because I was aiming to qualify for the BDO Reward’s card, a move that I did not regret doing later. This has inspired me to save even more.

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

My weekends are still devoted to my photography gigs. I was earning around P2,000-P3,000 per assignment (equivalent to roughly P10,000 a month). It pays the bills, literally.

2014

Both my day job and sideline are doing fine. My photography group raised our wedding packages pricing so I was now getting a share of P3,000-P4,000 for every shoot; our weekends are fully booked!

However, I was not seeing any improvement on my savings account. It is still stuck to its maintaining balance, and that prompted me to review how I am saving.

This is when I realized that the 50-30-20 rule doesn’t work for me. This rule basically wants us to put:

50% of our salary to paying our necessities such as housing, rent, and other bills,
30% go to our wants, this is basically the amount we can spend, and
20% to savings.

I was not wired to save and I am guilty of the many reasons why most of us Pinoys are having a hard time saving money. This is my subject in this article:
7 Reasons Why Saving Money is Hard for Most Pinoys

So, what was my solution? I modified the rule so it would fit my personal financial situation:

50% – rent and bills
40% – for spending
10% – saving

As mentioned above, I was not used to saving. I was raised with a “loan mentality” so saving money is not in my nature. But by saving only a small amount every payday, I was putting this “saving mentality” into my system at a very slow pace. A pacing that my financial spirit could absorb and handle.

The good news is, it is working!

Ironically, this was when the calls from debt collectors started coming in, again.

2015

I travelled to the US in March of this year. It was my first time outside the country so it got me really excited. Although everything was paid for by my company, personal spending was unavoidable.

In May of the same year, I bought a MacBook which I thought was a good investment for my photography needs. I paid 50% in cash, and the other half through a friend’s credit card for a six-month installment plan. For the next six months, I was paying her around P6,000. That was a new aha! moment for me.

I thought, if I am able to save 10% of my salary and pay my friend P6,000 every month, I should now be able to save that same amount moving forward! I could now do the 50-30-20 rule!

And so I did. I started saving more.

By the end of 2015, I paid the reservation fee for a condo unit. A move that almost lead me into depression the following year.

2016

One of the usual pitfalls for first-time money savers is: getting too excited of how much they’ve already saved.

After paying the reservation fee for a condo unit the previous year, my agent quickly prepared all the paperworks and before I knew it, I was already allotting a big chunk of my budget for the downpayment (at a 12-month installment). Unfortunately, I also decided to let go of my sideline that year. In short, I brought in a liability but removed an asset.

On the other hand, I was already starting to believe that acquiring a property that year is a huge mistake (and a financial advisor would tell me that for sure, if I consulted one). For months, I was getting rejection after rejection from banks who wouldn’t approve my home loan applications. At some point, I considered giving up on the over P200K downpayment that my siblings and I already paid. I thought, perhaps, the condo is not for me or not for us.

But as what they say, God works in mysterious ways. It turns out that it was both a blessing and a blessing in disguise. Because this made me finally decide to contact HSBC to pay my six-year old credit card debt and get a bank clearance. Luckily, I was able to negotiate and brought the amount down from P120K to P35K!

What was initially a harrowing experience turned out to be joyful in the end. 2016 was the most financially challenging point of my life. It has taught me so many lessons that in the middle of 2017, I finally decided to document everything through this blog, with hopes that what I am sharing will be helpful to someone who’s going through the same phase.

Yes, always remember that this is just a phase. If your credit card debt is giving you nightmares, you will get through it for as long as you have a genuine intention to settle it when you can.

For six years, I was hiding from credit card debt collectors. My LinkedIn and JobStreet profiles were set to private because I was afraid they could find me there. I would get anxious if I get a call from unknown numbers, and worse, when debt collectors found my new employer and reached my office extension number.

I did not ask for miracles that my debt will suddenly disappear, although I did pray for some divine intervention. And because paying my debt has always been in my intentions, the universe conspired to find ways to lead me and push me towards fulfilling that. It gave me the right opportunities (disguised as difficulties), and the right people (very patient agents, friends and siblings) to help me.

The paths were not inviting at all, they were scary, unclear and rough. I was extremely hesitant and fearful at first, but when I decided to follow and go through the many obstacles, I surprisingly emerged unscratched in the end.

So if you are reading this because you’ve been receiving threats from debt collectors, start saving up money and call your bank after. If you already have the money, I highly recommend that you settle your debt with your bank directly.

If you are having a hard time saving money, perhaps you could relate to my personal financial struggles as well. I’ve been working for over ten years now, but I only recently took saving money and being frugal seriously. The lessons that I learned along the way played a very important role in my story of finally settling my credit card debt.

I am documenting my progress in my personal finance articles where I also share my tips on how to adapt a “saving mentality” for us who are not wired to save. To learn more, you may browse my posts by clicking on this image:

I wish you all the best!

Direct Hiring OEC Process for Professional and Skilled Workers

Recently, I have been receiving questions about the OFW direct hiring process for Professionals and Skilled workers. These questions are posted as comments in these related articles:

How to Get an OEC for Direct Hires
Online: List of Direct Hires with DOLE Clearances or OEC

Per Section 124 of the Exemption from the Ban on Direct Hiring, Professional and Skilled workers are exempted from the ban:

“2. Professionals and skilled workers with duly executed/authenticated contracts
containing terms and conditions over and above the standards set by the
POEA. The number of professional and skilled Overseas Filipino Workers hired
for the first time by the employer shall not exceed five (5). For the purpose of
determining the number, workers hired as a group shall be counted as one;”

However, the OEC processing for Professional and Skilled workers seem to confuse some applicants as they were told by the POEA that they do not handle the paperworks for this specific category.

I browsed the POEA website to check for any new updates or advisories regarding this, but I couldn’t find any. The published REVISED POEA RULES AND REGULATIONS GOVERNING THE RECRUITMENT AND EMPLOYMENT OF LANDBASED OVERSEAS FILIPINO WORKERS OF 2016 has not been replaced or amended:

http://www.poea.gov.ph/laws&rules/files/Q%20&%20A%20on%20Revised%20POEA%20Rules%202016.pdf

Anyway, upon checking the Overseas Filipino Workers tab in the POEA website, it looks like the applicant’s documents need to be submitted to DOLE directly, based on this guideline:

This PDF document can be found here: http://www.poea.gov.ph/services/workers/NH_Professionals.pdf

If I got it right, this means that applicants who are qualified under this exemption will have to submit their requirements to DOLE instead of POEA.

UPDATE: It looks like Professionals and Skilled workers are no longer part of the exemption, at least based on the accounts of applicants who’s been to the POEA office lately: These comments are posted HERE.

Anyone who went through this process this year (2018)? Care to share your experiences?

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?