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?

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!

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