How to Setup a Home Office in your Bedroom

Even if the world will go back to normal, or to the new normal, working from home will still continue for most of us. We might still need our improvised home office setups that we built in an instant so why not make it permanent (or semi-permanent)?

We are lucky to have been given this opportunity during these times, so let’s make our desks work for us. Here’s how I built my home office setup near my bed.

1. Start with the most important element – the desk. Two years ago, I already had this Ikea Micke desk at home. It was small and fits perfectly next to my bed and in this corner where it used to be:


It is quite heavy but I was able to move it around. Last year, I moved it to my living area:

There are a lot of desks being sold online already. Make sure to measure your space first, and always ask for the dimension of the table – its height, width, and length. You don’t want to get a table that is either too big or too small.

Also consider the quality of the table, at the very least it shouldn’t be shaky.

2. Next is the chair. Get one that is very comfortable. You will be sitting on that chair all day so comfort comes first before aesthetic. From March to April, I’ve moved my table around my unit because my chair wasn’t made for long hours of sitting.

When deliveries became available in mid-April, I ordered this gaming chair from Facebook. The reviews say it is already cheap for a gaming chair but Php5000 for a chair is already expensive for me. Nonetheless, I am after the high back because I have back problems. The regular, high back office chairs are being sold at around the same price so this one works just fine.

Yes, it is alright to spend on a comfortable chair. That is your work place so it is more of a necessity than a mere “want” at this point. I would say a chair with a sturdy back support is the minimum requirement. You can use pillows and even blanket for comfort.

3. The space. Where in your house are you going to work? If you live alone, you have the freedom to move your desk setup wherever you want. But if there are other people in your house, you need eight solid hours of privacy. Most of us do not have a dedicated room for an office setup so our bedrooms is it!

How do you setup a work space near your bed (to make sure you won’t end up sleeping at work)?!

They say, one shouldn’t bring their work in the bedroom but if that is our best option, there are ways to define the sleeping and working spaces separately.

4. Use a rug. Either your bed and your desk gets a rug, or both. The rug will create that visual effect that tells your brain: this is where you work and that is where you sleep.

I chose this low-pile rug from AllHome. I have a rolling chair so I didn’t want to ruin my floor, and these chairs best rolls on a low-pile rug. Thankfully they are cheaper and I found just the right size for the entire area of my workspace for Php1300.

5. Layout. Now that you have everything you need, it’s time to lay them out! This is the most fun part. When setting up, consider the following:

Electrical outlet: there should be outlets under your table, and avoid using extensions unless it’s a surge protector. Also you don’t want your chair or your feet getting tangled with any cable.

Door and windows: if possible, position your table and chair so that you have a full view of your door when seated. Your back against any door is not recommended. If you need to be on video calls, consider a background that doesn’t look messy. Choose a plain wall if you have no time or means to create a nice background.

You can position your desk to face the window if you have a nice view. You want to be looking at something nice or inspiring when working, and a distracting view will not help.

6. Partition. I never thought I would be doing this layout in my bedroom until I realized I could use plants as “partition”. I didn’t want to use a real divider to obscure the view of my bed from where I’m seated. I experimented by placing my plants between my table and my bed. I was surprised that it actually works. I never had that my-bed-is-inviting-me feeling because my plants are giving me all the right energy.

7. Final touches. As mentioned above, you want to be as inspired as possible while working at your home office. Put the things that remind you of happy times on display – pictures, trophies, medals, travel memorabilia. Of course we don’t want clutter, so make this as minimal as possible.

Once you found the right place and setup, try it for at least a week. Observe if you are getting the right mood out of it then apply small changes as you go. You can repaint the walls if you want, like what I did to the huge post behind me. My unit is all white so this black background literally separates this area from the rest of the space.

For more topics like this, follow me on Instagram and see how my home office setup (and all the spaces in my condo) have evolved and will continue to evolve.

How to Renew your GSIS Pension Online – APIR

UPDATE: As of August 19, 2020, GSIS has suspended APIR online or otherwise. Here’s the advisory as posted in the GSIS website:

This means that pensioners are no longer required to submit their documents this 2020 and shall continue receiving their pension. Meanwhile, please follow the above suggestion about creating an online videoconferencing account to be used when the online APIR process will resume in 2021.
***

With the COVID pandemic going on and seniors being the most vulnerable, GSIS created a way for pensioners to renew their GSIS accounts online in order to continue receiving their monthly pension. This is in line with the guidelines of their Annual Pensioners’ Information Revalidation (APIR).

If you are a pensioner or a representative, you can submit your documents online. Here’s how:

A. Prepare the following:

1. Picture of the pensioner holding today’s newspaper. If a newspaper is not available, the pensioner can take a photo sitting or standing beside a television where the date is being displayed on the channel.

Whether with a newspaper or a TV, the date should be very visible on the photo.

2. Photo of the pensioner’s UMID ID, front and back. It should clearly show the pensioner’s image and signature on the ID. You can use the eCard Plus card or temporary card if the UMID ID is not available.

3. Letter of request for reactivation. Take a photo of this letter. Keep it as short as possible, and must contain the following:
Date of Request
– Complete Name of the Pensioner
Complete
Address of the Pensioner
– Age of the
Pensioner
– Contact number of the
Pensioner (or spouse or child if the pensioner doesn’t use a cellphone)
– Signature of the
Pensioner

B. Now that you have the above documents, send them as email attachments to the applicable GSIS office in your location, please see below.

Important:
– Make sure that the total size of your attachments is not more than 2MB, resize the images if they are too large.
– Make sure that the email address is correct, please refer to the below image.
– Based from the comments that I read online, Gmail works better than Yahoo, so I recommend using a Gmail email address to send the documents.

Here’s a sample email. I covered the details for privacy reasons.

Depending on the GSIS office where you sent it to, you may receive an acknowledgment email within 1-2 weeks. They will email or call you if they need to verify further.

If there are no issues with your documents, you will receive your pension after 1-2 weeks from the date that you received the acknowledgment email. Here’s the email that I received from GSIS Laoag two weeks after I sent them my parent’s documents:

Avoid sending them multiple emails as that will only add to the bulk of emails that they need to open and answer everyday. If you will not receive an email response after two weeks, you may contact them at:

For Calls within Metro Manila: (02) 8-847-4747

For International Calls: (632) 8-847-4747

For Provincial Calls: 1-800-8-847-4747 (for Globe subscribers)
or 1-800-10-8474747 (for Smart subscribers)

Home Improvement on a Budget for an SMDC Condo Unit

I figured I will turn this into a series of posts and this is Part I. Since I started several topics on real estate and budgeting, I decided to also share how my home improvement journey whilst saving money and paying off my loans.

After a year of living in my bare, unfurnished condo unit, I still didn’t save up enough money to start the renovation that I planned when I moved-in. I resorted to applying for a personal loan, and I got Citibank‘s approval within three days.

I got a bit too excited so I went ahead and I started with a budget of Php100K. From reading different blogs and inquiring from several contractors on Facebook, I already had an idea on what I could get with this amount. I first started by listing down what I wanted.

I knew I had to be realistic, so I ended up crossing out some “wants” from my list. When I asked for a quote from a contractor, I was disappointed (but not surprised) when he confirmed that my budget can only cover the following:

Overhead cabinet – Php16,800
Counter cabinet – Php15,000
Display cabinet – Php8,400
Closet – Php28,000
Partition wall – Php14,000
Repaint – Php14,000

TOTAL – Php96,200

This is a 2018 quotation so add around 5%-10% if you are reading this in 2020.

I originally planned to dismantle a portion of my kitchen countertop, but because I did not want to pay for the construction bond, I ditched the idea. That means we had to install cabinets on that part which have added more to the costs.

Related post:
Where to Find IKEA Furniture in the Philippines

And because everything was prefabricated and the scope of work was only described as “installation”, we also had to get rid of the repainting job.

I shelled out Php100,000 in total.

If you are planning to have your condo unit renovated, always include the construction bond in your budget. The bond normally ranges from Php20,000 to Php50,000 depending on the scope of work. This was not part of my budget so we had to make sure that everything is done in a day; the building Engineer did not approve more than that unless I pay the construction bond.

Here are some tips when looking for a contractor to renovate your condo with a very tight budget:

1. Check for contractors who have already done construction works preferably in other units in your complex. Their familiarity with how the process works in your building would be a big help. They would often post photos of their projects on Facebook and you could find them there when searching for the name of your building or residence.

2. Ask for a quote. Majority would ask for your budget so be upfront about that. Contractors would want to “adjust” to your budget. Note that lower costs would not only mean smaller work scope but cheaper materials as well.

3. Look for sample works, it’s very easy to find them on social media these days. Check for customer feedback or comments. If you cannot find them on Facebook, they are either just starting up which is not bad, or they are so hide-end that you can only speak to them by appointment.

4. Prioritize. Write down everything that you want and need along with their approximate costs. Then slowly remove the ones that you could let go for now until what is left meets your budget. In my case, I removed the drop ceiling and pin lights from my list.

Moving on, here are some before and after photos of my unit after the minor renovation:No full bedroom photo yet until I get a new bed. 🙂

Hiding half of the exposed beam with a customized cabinet was my first requirement. I might turn the other half in to a TV stand slash accent wall.
I originally wanted to get rid of the protruding end of the kitchen countertop, but I did not want to pay any fee to the building admin so we kept it. Thankfully, I like the finished product.
Almost a full view of my unit. I’m having my dining set customized and won’t be delivered until the end of next month, I’m using my old table for now. Lots of work to be done in my living room too.

So, I have all white walls and ceilings. I see them as a blank canvass which I’ll be working on for the next few months. This will put to test whatever is left of what I learned from my Architecture days. I started with basic furnishing, and I went all Scandinavian with my choices.

If you find this topic interesting, you can follow me on Instagram for more:

How a Secured Credit Card Helped me Improve my Credit Standing

While the Philippines has no established credit scoring system yet, banks have a way of checking if you have a a good credit standing or not. They can see if you have unpaid credit card debts or loans which will greatly affect their decision when you apply for a bank loan of any kind.

So, what to do if you have an unpaid credit card debt? Call your bank and come to an agreement on how to settle your debt. I have shared my experience in a previous post.

Related:
How to Get a Clearance for your Credit Card

Getting a secured credit card is a good option.

But it will take awhile for your name to get cleared from the “black list”, a term coined to refer to a shared database where records of unpaid credit card debts and loans are being kept.

With a secured credit card on hand, you will have to prove to the banks that you are already capable of managing your finances. You will need to of course use it but with extreme caution so that you won’t end up accumulating debt again as you did in the past.

It will take about a year or two before other banks will notice you. Within this time, you may start receiving emails or text messages from agents offering you loans or even credit cards. This is one of the signs that you are now slowly gaining back their confidence.

Be very careful about these offers though. I personally never entertained them at first. I did not need another credit card nor I have a huge reason to apply for a bank loan yet.

After almost two years, I eventually tried applying for a personal loan.

Citibank approved my application and not only did I received the money that I needed, it came with a credit card too!

It’s safe to say that I was able to re-gain our local banks’ trust after many years of having a bad credit standing.

Related post:
Security Bank Secured Credit Card or Fast Track Program









Surge Fitness Philippines Rate



If you have an irregular work schedule or if you work the night shift and you want to workout after your working hours, a 24-hour fitness gym could be the right place for you. While these “convenient gyms” are obviously more expensive than the others, it could be perfect for people whose schedules are a factor in choosing a gym.

Surge Fitness is one of the newest 24-hour gyms in the Philippines. So far, they only have two branches around Metro Manila, one along Shaw Boulevard in Pasig and the soon-to-open branch in MPlace at South Triangle in Quezon City.

What’s the membership fee of Surge Fitness? I got to talk to the staff manning their booth at MPlace and here’s a breakdown of their regular rate:

Start-up Fee: Php2,500 upon signing-up
Monthly Membership Fee: Php2,200 with a 12-month lock-in period

Their current promo which runs until their opening day (MPlace branch) is a free start-up fee, and a monthly membership fee of Php2,100 (also for a 12-month lock-in period).

Surge Fitness MPlace branch will open this August 2019.



Where to Buy IKEA Furniture in the Philippines?

Where can we find IKEA furniture in the Philippines?



IKEA has yet to reach the Philippine shores but many of us are already a fan of IKEA pieces. And since we may have to wait for two more years until the first IKEA store will open supposedly beside the Mall of Asia, we have to settle with whatever we could find online.

Yes, if you want to buy IKEA furniture in the Philippines, online is the way to go! For the past seven months, my virtual life was spent almost entirely on Instagram, Shopee, and Lazada.

And that’s how I found these stores that sell IKEA products in the Philippines.

Conner Furniture House (connerfurniturehouse.com)
– They are turning one this 2019! You may also look them up on Facebook and Instagram. I am planning to purchase a Lerberg shelving unit from them and will be updating this post to share my experience. So far, they reply to Instagram DMs.



Furniture Source Philippines (furnituresourcephils.com)
– They’ve been around for over five years now so they have quite a large following already. They take pride in having loyal celebrity customers which is why they’re not very nice to new, small-time buyers. You can feel that from the way they respond to you via their Viber account. They don’t entertain Instagram DMs.

Qoncept (Shopee/Lazada)
You know how this works. While there are a lot of IKEA re-sellers in Shopee and Lazada, Qoncept offers quite a wide-range of Ikea products to choose from. However, they also sell non-IKEA products.

Belowsrp (Shopee)
– Good customer service, from what I’ve experienced. They’re also not exclusively offering IKEA products so you’ll have to confirm that with them before purchasing an item.

There are other individual re-sellers online and I find the following the most legit ones. I haven’t purchased from them yet, but based on their social media following and the fact that they’ve been active for over a year, I think they are one of the few whom buyers could trust:

– Mobelph (Facebook/Instagram)
– Styleyourhome_ph (Instagram)

Aren’t we all excited for the opening of IKEA Manila (or IKEA Philippines?) next year?



New Authentication Process: Red Ribbon versus Apostille



Effective May 14, 2019, the DFA will be replacing the “red ribbon” process of authenticating a document with “apostille”. What is an apostille and when do you need it? Below is an excerpt from the DFA website:

“An Apostille is a certificate that authenticates the origin of a public document. It is issued by a country that is party to the Apostille Convention to be used in another country which is also a party to the Convention.

On 14 May 2019, the Philippines will officially become a party to the Apostille Convention. Authentication is still required for all Philippine documents to be used abroad, but this time with an Apostille instead of an Authentication Certificate (“red ribbon”) as proof of authentication.

After authentication (Apostillization) by the Department of Foreign Affairs – Office of Consular Affairs (DFA-OCA), as Competent Authority, there is no more need for authentication (legalization) by the Foreign Embassies or Consulates except for countries that have not acceded to the Convention and countries that objected to the Philippine accession.”

Here are some of the many questions that are expected to come out of the implementation of this new process which the DFA has already prepared an answer for. All succeeding graphics are from the DFA.

For more questions or inquiries, contact the DFA hotline at 556-0000, 651-9400 and 234-3488.



DFA Online Payment System: Where to Pay?




As of May 2019, the payment system of the DFA Passport Appointment process is actually not an “online” transaction. So much for an appointment that is created through the internet. Upon submitting your application, you will receive an email that contains an instruction on how and where to pay. There will also be a reference number that you will use to process the payment:

Related post: I did not receive an email for the appointment code of my DFA online passport application

So, while we wait for the DFA to actually upgrade their system to include credit card payment or at least via mobile banking apps, we’ll have to settle to what is available:

To pay in cash via Bayad Center outlets (USSC, 7-11, ECPay, SM, Robinsons, Pera Hub, True Money, Cebuana, etc.) or download Bayad Center Mobile App for both iOS and Android Devices.

I went around Quezon City looking for an actual Bayad Center branch not knowing that I can just tap on that machine inside a 7-Eleven branch! Yes, that’s what I did and it worked.

Once paid, you will receive the confirmation email in less than three (3) minutes. I made my payment on a holiday so the email is obviously auto-generated. It also includes an attachment which you will need to print prior to making an appearance to your selected DFA branch to complete your passport application.


DFA Online Passport Application: Blank Payment Facility Page




I’ve been trying to book a new passport appointment via the DFA website in the past two weeks. I tried three times using three different email addresses (Yahoo and Gmail), but everytime I click on the “Proceed to Payment” option, the page gives me this “Invalid Transaction Request” error: The above error is showing up in Chrome. The error did not appear when I used Internet Explorer but the page remained blank despite refreshing it multiple times:

If you encountered this problem while processing your DFA passport application online, you may try doing any of the following as suggested by their Consular Information Center:

  • It may not work on your mobile phone or tablet so use a laptop or a desktop.
  • Copy the payment facility URL and paste it in a new tab or a different browser and try to open it from there.
  • Clear your browser’s cache and cookies and try again. You can use the same email address but you can only do so after two (2) hours. The system still recognizes an active application for the same email address if you attempt to re-book within the two-hour time frame. Nonetheless, a different email address can be used.
  • Make sure that you are not accessing their website from your workplace. Your internet connection in the office may be blocking their system which is the reason why the page is not loading correctly. This is what happened to me and it finally worked when I tried at home. If you are in an internet café, you may seek help from an attendant or move to another one.
  • From my experience, the payment facility was blank in Internet Explorer. I copied the URL and pasted it in Chrome and it worked!

Per the staff whom I spoke with when I called, you will NOT get an email notification from the DFA if you were not able to reach the payment facility page. They can only assist you in obtaining an appointment code if you made it through the payment page but did not receive the two emails mentioned below:

“Applicants should receive two (2) emails:

1. Reference number for payment 2. Appointment reference number If your appointment booking was successful and you were able to pay for your reserved appointment, the appointment code will be sent through your email. Appointment details may also be filtered in the spam/junk folder. If you did not receive your appointment details, you may contact the following number for more information: 556-0000.”

Paying my AMILYAR in Quezon City



Just the thought of paying my real property tax for the first time sounds stressful already – spending hours inside a dreadful government building coming face to face with their often disgruntled, lazy employees.

I intended to visit the Quezon City hall on a Valentine’s day. I was hopeful that no one would attempt to run such a very sad errand on any given February 14th, and the line leading to those ugly windows may be shorter.

But thankfully, I learned the day before that payments are accepted in satellite Quezon City treasure’s offices. After a quick Google search, I decided to go to their SM North EDSA-Annex branch.

I was there at around 2:45PM, and believe it or not, I was done in less than 5 minutes! That was the quickest transaction I made in a Government office so far, so you could imagine how delighted I was with the experience.

So, if you are wondering how is it like to pay for your AMILYAR or real property tax, it would be perfect if you do it in the most inconspicuous days and way before the deadline.

In Quezon City, the 20% discount is applicable from January to March. After that, you will be paying for a penalty already instead of a discount. I recommend making your payment in a branch instead of the city hall. Make sure to bring any of the following:

1. The receipt of your last payment, or
2. A copy of your property tax declaration.

And if you get lucky, you might be done in less than 5 minutes just like me. Good luck!