Sagada: Expectation vs Reality

Rockstar!

I think people should avoid Sagada during weekends and holidays. If these photos won’t convince you, then you may be one of the few who enjoy crowded tourist destinations.

Sea of clouds vs Sea of people
Overexplored.

Visit Sagada during off-peak season, or weekdays if you can. This way, you get to appreciate the place more while continuing to help local businesses at the same time. Did you know that Sagada doesn’t allow outsiders to put up a business in their town? Which means every shop, café, and restaurant are locally owned (except for one diner which the locals are currently protesting against). This is the reason why I encourage everyone to never skimp on food while in Sagada. Besides, their food is really good!

I love Sagada, it reminds me of my hometown, sleepy and full of culture. However, I did not enjoy my last trip as much as I did six years ago. The town is just too crowded now, every vacant lot has turned into a parking lot, and seeing a “pay parking” sign makes me really sad. But I guess, that’s what progress is all about? I just hope that the local government will do something before it’s too late.

Learn more about Sagada before visiting, it’s not so hard to do research these days. Do not limit your knowledge about this town to what you saw in the movie. It is much more than the breathtaking sunrise or sea of clouds. And when you get there, don’t just admire but actually respect the culture, respect the raw beauty of nature and be an instrument in keeping it that way.

If I get to visit Sagada again, it would most probably on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Anyone who have experienced a less crowded Sagada lately?


Money Saving Challenge Report: Week 2

I am back in Manila from a three-day tour in Sagada (plus two days in Baguio). Sagada is a whole different topic deserving of its own dedicated blog post, but if I summarize the experience in one sentence – Sagada is so much better pre-That Thing Called Tadhana era. I have been there in 2011 so I could enumerate several before and after differences. I will talk about the new Sagada in my next post.


Moving on, something dawned to me during the trip – I couldn’t stop thinking about how I could save when travelling. This has never happened to me before, and it feels strange.

See? When I travel, I don’t wanna skimp on anything. I actually booked our tour three weeks prior and barely over a week before I started planning my weekly money saving tips (for myself). So during the trip, I was mentally computing how much I would have saved if I didn’t resort to my comfort-over-everything philosophy. I spent a whopping Php20k for this trip (for three), while a friend is having a 6-day tour in Japan (yes, Japaannn) for only Php21k all in!

I was drafting this post while sitting on a couch in a small mall café in Baguio, and at that moment, I regretted ordering the hot mocha in front of me. Not only that it is ordinary and pricey, but really, what was I thinking? I am now starting to question my poor life choices involving money. And whenever I catch myself unaware of what I am spending for, I will make sure it is documented. This series is gonna be long.

On to my money saving plans, I didn’t get to put everything into practice as I was away for the most of the week. Nonetheless, I am proud to say that I managed to avoid Grab and Uber for two days in a row when I got back. I didn’t get rid of the coffee though, but I still am eating breakfast and dinner at home which is good. Overall, I think I am improving. I shall be back on track next week.

Cheers!


Money Saving Challenge Report: Week 1

So last week, I started challenging myself about saving money. My plan was drafted in such a way that it would not be very difficult and forced. I will not pretend that I could start saving big because I did that for so many times in the past and I failed.

To recap, my plan included:

– Avoiding Grab or Uber at least once.
– Skip getting coffee from McDonald’s or Country Style.
– No food deliveries, less fast food.

Doing so would save me Php665 a week or Php2,600 a month.


So how did my first week go???

– I didn’t book Grab and Uber to work last Monday. I managed to take that one tricycle and jeepney ride instead! Which means I was able to save Php75.

– My co-worker treated me to Starbucks on Wednesday so I didn’t buy coffee for one day! I saved Php50. Now I will need to discipline myself to not buy coffee for at least a day next week, or pray that someone will treat me again. LOL.

– For the first time in many weeks, I did not order food online. I also started cooking (although all fried), so my breakfast and dinner were not the usual takeouts. Which means, I only spent food money on lunch. This is the tricky part because I figured I needed to factor in the money I spent for groceries. But I am confident that I was able to save more than my 500 peso target.

This means, I was able to save Php665 as planned! Now if I do this weekly, I will be saving Php2,600 every month. And if I will be able to put all my money saving tips and plans into regular practice, I’m sure I’d be able to save more! This is exciting!

Wish me luck in this journey. What money saving tips could you share?


Things to Give Up in Order to Save Money in 2018

So last week, I started listing down different things on how I plan to save money, one week at a time. Because I am that guy who finds it very hard to save money, I decided to make it a weekly plan instead of a daily plan, at least as a start. I am hoping that it will become a regular habit in the future, and blogging about it keeps me motivated. In a way, it pushes me to discipline myself knowing that I would end up deleting all these money-saving-tips posts if I won’t do them.

Now, before I list down the things that I plan to give up in order to save money in 2018, here are the ones that I already gave up in the past years which have helped me save money:

1. Television – It’s been four years since I gave up television! Prior to that, I couldn’t seem to live without it.
2. Cable subscription – I have had cable TV since college. I am so happy that I was able to make cable TV a thing of my past.
3. Fast food – I still eat fast food everyday, but managed to turn it from three times a day to just 5-6 times a week. That’s an improvement, but I am aware that it is still an issue health-wise.
4. Movies – I went from 2-3 times a month to once every 2-3 months.


I didn’t even realize these four helped me save money in a way, it would have been nice if I was able to track my before and after expenses with them.

Moving on, I now turn to the hard part of consciously identifying the things that I could give up in order to save money. I say “could” instead of “should” because just like my weekly plan, I do not want this to be a forced activity. So in 2018, I believe I could give up the following:

1. Uber and Grab – I took a trycicle and a jeepney ride to work for the first time yesterday, and I was very happy with my accomplishment. I initially planned to do it on a Friday, but I did it on a busy Monday! In 2018, I plan to do this more often. For my safety, I will still be booking Grab or Uber to get home.

2. McDonald’s Coffee – I am not a fan of Starbucks but I drink a large coffee from McDonald’s at work everyday. That is still 42 pesos times five. As an alternative, I am getting a coffee maker for myself this Christmas. I’ll brew my own coffee and bring it to work!

Take the last bite!

3. Eating out – This is my ultimate weakness because I don’t cook, and I am too lazy to cook. My philosophy is – I’d rather save my time and energy preparing my food in to doing something else. And by preparing food, that includes going to the market or grocery up to the time you need to wash the dishes. That’s exhausting! Why do I have to endure all that when I can just go somewhere else to eat and leave when I’m finished?

But because I am on the mission to save money, I will start limiting this habit. I think the weekly plan that I just started works for me. I know it will be difficult but I’m up for this challenge.

So these are the three things that I think I could give up or limit this coming 2018. They are not something that I could promise to let go totally, but who knows? That’s the good thing about not forcing myself to make abrupt changes, it becomes easier when I do one small step a a time. Starting big never worked for me as I have been conditioned this way for so long.

I am hopeful that I would be able to add more to this list before 2017 ends. I have over a month left to prepare so wish me luck!

What are the things that you have given up, or plan to give up to save money?

How Many Bank Accounts do you Need?

Do you need more than one bank account?

I started with a savings account when I was in college. It was easier to get one back then because all you need to present is your school ID card. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to do banking at that time and had my account closed after less than a year.

Upon employment, most people would start with their payroll account and later on would feel the need to have a separate savings account. I think that is perfectly fine, but according to an article from the Daily Worth, three is the ideal number:

  1. Curveball fund. Automatically transfer at least 5% of every paycheck, to cover random expenses (a lapse of reason at a yard sale, a broken toaster).
  2. Emergency fund. Ditto, but only tap this in a true do-or-die crisis. When they say, “Save three to six months’ worth of living expenses,” this is where it goes.
  3. YouNameIt fund(s). Set up at least one other account for a looming goal or project: a cushy reading chair for the bedroom, a holiday party (or getaway from the parties), adopting a child.

How about you, how many savings account do you have?

For me, I currently have six:

⁃ my BPI payroll and savings account
⁃ a BDO savings and checking account
⁃ savings account with Security Bank
⁃ the GetGo debit card from UnionBank (which also qualifies as a savings account)

I didn’t start needing all these accounts. Two of them I had to open when I purchased a condominium, and one for my secured credit card. Some of you could probably relate if I say that 5 of these 6 bank accounts only have maintaining balances! My goal now is to turn the remaining one into an Emergency Fund. And I will have to assign a Curveball Fund and a YouNameItFund to 2 of those 5 barely surviving accounts.


How I Plan to Save Money Starting This Week

Yes, not today but this week! I know how hard it is to save money even if we actually have an idea on how to do it. Have you been saving and ended up spending it shortly after? I am exactly that. So I’ll go easy on myself and not pretend that I could do it right now. 

When I started this blog, I knew I will be needing to divulge information which I don’t normally share. I made the decision to carry on and talk about stuff that often involves little details about my personal finances. And since I am now on this topic of financial struggles, I thought I should blog about my plans to recover and free myself from the burdens of living from paycheck to paycheck.

Save now, coffee later!

I mentioned this to my friend while we were in a café yesterday. We laughed at the irony of talking about saving money while drinking expensive coffee. We both know that we are not savers and we are aware why; it’s right before our eyes. And so I said I should go take that painful steps in saving money, and document it in my blog. This is my introduction, and here are my plans.

1. Lessen my Uber and Grab trips.

“I am willing to pay for comfort”, that is my motto. But since I could barely afford that now, I thought I should start going back to the basics in terms of my commute to work. One trycicle ride, plus one jeepney ride.
Uber/Grab: Php100
Trycicle and Jeepney: Php17+8 = Php25
Savings: Php75

2. Brew my own coffee.

I’m not a Starbucks fan but I do drink coffee everyday. I buy them from either McDonald’s or Country Style which are both way cheaper compared to Starbucks. We have free coffee at the office but I don’t like it. I also just stopped drinking 3-in-1 coffees as they’re too sugary. Last month, my former boss gave me a bag of coffee all the way from Costa Rica, I am taking that as a sign that I should brew my own. I will need to buy a coffeemaker though.
McDonald’s Coffee: Php42
Country Style: Php50
My own brew: Free for now
Savings: I’ll put this at Php50

3. No Food Deliveries.

I love the convenience of having my food delivered to my place. There are three McDonald’s branches near me, each about 5-10 minute walk away. But I still prefer having my order delivered instead of going to any of these stores!

Savings on delivery fee: Php40

4. Speaking of food,

I spend a good Php2500-3000 a week on food! Worst, it is almost 100% fastfood. This will be very difficult but I think it’s time to learn my way around the kitchen.
Savings: I’ll aim for Php500 a week.

It is not gonna be easy so I am giving myself a chance to do this at least ONCE a week. My total savings for one week would be Php665. That is Php2,600 a month. Not bad! Successful or not, I will be posting an update next week. I wish myself the best of luck!

Cheers!!!

Resolved: Plugin & Theme Status is Unavailable Due to Site Customizations

GoDaddy: Plugin and Theme Status is Unavailable Due to Site Customizations

This error came up after I updated a plugin or theme. I couldn’t tell which one because I simply clicked on the “Update All” link when I saw it in my dashboard. My site went offline for over 24hours and I didn’t do anything about it as I thought it is just an issue with GoDaddy or WordPress (which often gets resolved quickly). I could not access my WP dashboard or CPanel. My site is just blank when viewed on mobile, and is displaying an Error 500 when accessed via web but the error is not specific. I looked up for solutions online but all the suggestions directed me to disable plugins which I couldn’t do because my dashboard is inaccessible.

I called GoDaddy but the waiting time was too long. Thankfully, I was able to find the link to their chat support and got someone from the other end after 8 minutes.

The agent checked my account and confimed that a certain plugin is causing the error. I asked him to go ahead and delete it but it turns out they’re not authorized to do that. He instead offered to walk me through the process. Here are the steps:

IMPORTANT: Make sure to backup your files; or contact GoDaddy directly for assistance in performing these steps.

1. Login to your GoDaddy account, go to WordPress > Settings. Look for “phpMyAdmin“, and click on View.

2. Click on “phpMyAdmin URL” and login using the given Username and Password.

3. On the left, look for and click on the very small plus (+) sign beside your username (ex: phdo412345678) to expand the selection, and click on “wp_mbsmpvk2n3_options“.

4. A table will be displayed, go to the Browse tab and look for “Active_plugins“. Go to page 2 if this is not on Page 1. Click on the edit option (pencil icon) beside “Active_plugins“.
5. Clear or delete all the texts inside the box. Make sure that the Save option is selected before clicking on “Go” to save. Clearing this box will NOT delete the plugins, it will only DISABLE them.
6. Try logging in to your account again, or check your webpage if the issue is resolved. (NOTE: Your site may look different because of a disabled plugin.)

7. Enable your plugins again one at a time. Doing so will help you determine which one has caused the problem, while bringing your site’s appearance back to normal (if it changed).

If this does not resolve the issue, contact GoDaddy for assistance. From my experience so far, their technical support agents are helpful, and knowledgeable. You may just need to be patient at their often long waiting time.

Anyway, have you experienced similar error before and got it resolved? Which plugin was causing it? This actually made me hesitant to update my plugins since. 

My Most Rewarding Experience with Sodexo Gift Certificates

A few years ago, a friend from a real estate company invited me to cover the ground breaking ceremony of one of their projects. It was my first time to go to such event so I didn’t really know what to expect. I had a scheduled engagement photoshoot with a client that day so I told my friend I might need to leave early, to which he said it is okay. Because I had it handy, I was able to put my camera to good use. I took several photos which I later on posted on social media including a blog post which I published a few days after.

I get to witness the ceremony, enjoyed listening to the speeches of the company’s top leaders, and dined with other guests. They gave us a token, a pretty hourglass with the company logo on it. We were also handed an envelope containing a DVD where soft copies of their press releases are saved, and a few other documents, which I didn’t check until I got home that day.
To my surprise, the envelope also contained Sodexo GC’s as a giveaway! I couldn’t remember how much the monetary value was but it was enough to buy me four pairs of pants! It was very timely because at that time, I needed to shop for new clothes for my upcoming overseas trip. I was attending a meeting with my colleagues in the United States, and because I didn’t think I will have time to do laundry in the hotel, I thought I should bring a two-week worth of clothes!

And so, while I was aware that Sodexo GC’s have always been and forever will be valid (and the revalidation and replacement of Sodexo GC’s are free of charge once the validity date is reached), I headed to a department store right the next weekend, and shopped using my Sodexo Gift Certificates. I was really glad I said yes to that invitation! It gave me a pretty hectic day but it was all worth it. I remember, the next payday is still over a week away so the Sodexo GC’s which I unexpectedly received, really helped!

Speaking of gift certificates, it is a very convenient gift giving option for the Holidays (which is very fast approaching!). Call me lazy but for someone who dreads long lines and crowded malls, a GC is a practical and perfect alternative! Bet you agree!?

10 Years of Blogging Mistakes to Avoid

Experience is the best teacher, they say. My ten years as a blogger taught me a lot but I failed to recognize that until recently. I wasn’t paying attention. I knew I have to keep learning but I was too lazy, and a lot of things were holding me back. So after a decade, I still haven’t made an impact in the blogging community. With the right mindset and strategy, some were able to find success from blogging within a year or two, and here I am just starting, again.

Shirt by: www.milastolemyheart.com

I made this list to hopefully help other bloggers who are going through the same phase, or for aspiring bloggers who want to avoid the same mistakes that I made. Here are my 10 mistakes to avoid when blogging, all of which have happened to me in the past 10 years:

1. Blogging for Monetary Reasons

While this may have enticed you to start, don’t fall into the trap of building a blog and expecting to earn money right away. Yes, you can earn money from blogging, but not after a lot of hard work, dedication and focus. For some, the monetary gains start to happen after six months to a year, or years. And this is not to disappoint you, but it may not even come at all.

The truth is, if you want to monetize your blog, you have to offer something extra to your readers. You receive what you give, so be mindful of what you are giving. Focus on the value of what you are offering, people acknowledge that when they see it. You may have at some point shared some articles, videos or links on social media about things that you find relevant. You may have liked and followed pages on Facebook which are not celebrity-owned. You did that because you saw something that it is of value to you, got inspired, amused, or touched.

So if you are not receiving enough from your blog, you may not be giving enough.

2. No Clear Purpose

I started this blog after establishing its purpose, the purpose why I am blogging, and why this niche. I aim to share, with hopes that what I am sharing would be of use to others. It is important that there is a reason behind the blog, not just the blogging.

Ask yourself, what is my blog’s purpose? What are my intentions? I have talked about this briefly in a previous post:

How to Be a Part-Time Blogger

3. Not Having a Niche

If you know the purpose, it becomes easier to pick a niche (although finding a niche could still be daunting). A niche determines the overall content of your blog. Unless your blog is your online journal and is exclusive to your selected readers, you will end up writing about anything and everything when without a niche. I have also discussed this in a separate post which you may find helpful:

How to Find a Niche for Your Blog

Keep in mind that your purpose and intentions could help you determine a niche. What are your intentions?

4. Not Understanding SEO and Other Related Tools

I intentionally used the phrase “layman’s terms” in this blog’s tagline for obvious reasons. I hate technical terms, and “SEO” and “Google Analytics” are one of the many jargons that I avoided for years. I failed simply because I chose to not understand things which I find complicated. Wrong.

Make sure to learn these as you start creating your blog. There are lots of free online references available, use them. You don’t have to be an expert on this subject, again unless you intend to be one. While I still am unable to articulate SEO or Google Analytics in a way that I could make them a topic for a blog post, I now get the idea. Gaining knowledge about these tools helps, don’t be afraid to explore them, and use them!

5. Not Having a Domain

My fellow bloggers have been convincing me to to get my own domain since 2008. I did not listen to them. At that time, I didn’t have any plans to monetize my blog so I thought purchasing a domain and getting it hosted are money wasted. The thing is, you do not really need your own domain in order to monetize your blog. A .blogspot.com blog would do.


Why do you need a domain then? It simply is more appealing, it looks and sounds more professional. And if you have been blogging before, getting your own domain is a milestone. It is taking your blogging to the next level. Bluehost is one of the best web hosting out there where you could also purchase a domain along with the hosting.

If this is your first time to blog, number six is for you.

6. Having a Domain Too Soon

If you are new to the world of blogging, buying a domain may not be a very good idea yet. You may need to explore and experience things that goes around the Blogosphere first; I highly recommend a .blogspot.com blog. Not only that it is easier to manage, but Google loves it!

Back in 2015, I closed my old domain and started a new one. I had a plan I was very excited about so I purchased a domain right away. Only three articles later, the excitement started to fade away. I stopped posting after five months, and just like that, I threw away a year of domain and hosting subscriptions! This is the reason why it took me two years to decide to start again. I’ve learned my lesson, and that is one of my inspirations to come up with this list.

7. Not Networking Enough

Yes, you do really need to be “open-minded” about this. A blog is still a social media, and just like Facebook, you need to have friends in order to have an active timeline. I had over fifty solid connections in the Blogosphere eight years ago, and I regret the fact that the connection was not sustained and I stopped making more.



Network by visiting other people’s blogs. Leave comments, and ensure that these are genuine comments because a seasoned blogger is good at spotting spam and pushy comments. Be professional, you will need to establish a good reputation in order to gain other blogger’s trust. This takes time so be patient, which leads us to number eight:

8. Being Impatient

Indeed, patience is a virtue. It’s good to let go of all the expectations first. Instead, keep building your blog with quality posts as the priority. Your posts are your foundation. Build your foundation in the first three to six months, make it deep. So deep that it will be strong enough to handle success!

I am impatient myself, I use to want to publish three to five times a week that I ended up posting random articles in my old blogs. I sacrificed the quality, I had no clear intentions other than to post something, just anything. Well, I know now that that is not how it works. Always prioritize quality over quantity.

9. Not Being Unique

When I learned about “niche”, I started looking at other people’s blogs with the intention to copy what they are doing and expect to be as successful. Another mistake. In order to stand out, you have to be different. Be inspired and learn from someone you look up to but don’t be a copycat.

Do not overthink! While it’s true that all topics are (maybe) taken, there will always be something you can offer that others can’t. You can write about a similar topic and add your personal “touches” to it. We may have related experiences, but no two experiences are exactly the same. This is one way of taking advantage of your individuality.

And lastly,

10. Thinking That Blogging is Dead

Never. Blogging is still at its peak. Blogging in the Philippines is still very active. Vlogs will not kill blogs. I’d say blogs are here to stay and will continue to dominate search engines. Visit the website of any company you know, and there will always be a link for “blog” or “news” in their main page. That is how they survive online, more than just selling their products or services.

For us bloggers, our blog in itself is our product. Keep on writing and sharing. It’s true that there are lots of negative impressions about blogging and bloggers. Do not focus on those. Instead, aspire to be one of the bloggers who spread positive impressions (and earn those page impressions)!

I wish you the best of luck on your blogging. Be an inspiration!

Cheers!!!

Blogging in the Philippines

Is blogging still a thing in the Philippines?

It used to be just an online journal for many. My first encounter of a blog was through Friendster when it introduced blogging as one of its features back in its heyday. It was around 2003 or 2004, and I didn’t even know what a blog was. All I know is that it needs me to write, and I find that exciting.

I got introduced to WordPress and Blogger in 2007, and I chose the latter as it was simpler and was a popular choice for beginners. I believe that blogging in the Philippines reached its peaked around these years. There was this sense of community amongst Bloggers and everyone was actually connecting with everybody. We were each other’s audience, visiting each other’s blog and leaving comments along with our “x-links” requests.



Before we knew it, blog monetization has become a thing. Everyone started signing up for Adsense, and were publishing paid posts. If PPP, PayU2Blog, and Blogsvertise sound familiar to you, it means you have been in the Blogosphere for at least a decade!

But all these paid posts started disappearing during the 2008 economic crisis. And in 2009, almost everyone has migrated to Twitter and Facebook, and coined the term microblogging.

The simple hobbyist had a choice to either leave or adapt to the changes. One could bring their articles to Facebook or maintain their blog and earn from it. For most new bloggers, and still surviving old bloggers, their reason to stay is monetary. Needless to say, the new generation of Bloggers gave this online platform a new name.

So, is blogging still a thing in the Philippines? The answer is a resounding YES! Regardless of your view about it, blogs will continue to dominate your search engines. In fact, the Philippine Blogosphere is enjoying its millions of potential audiences, most of which are very active and more importantly, scattered all over the globe. There’s no denying that the Filipino online presence is very strong that not only local bloggers are taking advantage of it, foreign bloggers (who are mostly vloggers) have started to take notice too!

If you are interested to build a blog, today is the best day to start! You may find the below posts helpful:

How to be a Part-Time Blogger?
How to Find a Niche for Your Blog?

Cheers!