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 meet and greet, and training. 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).

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 chuck 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 (disguising 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 is 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 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 for 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 pay day. 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!

Lazada Philippines

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 challenges 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!

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Despite all these, I think a new generation of Pinoy “savers” is starting to emerge. This is evident on 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.

 

When Should you Upgrade your Computer?

At the office, our IT department has decided that our laptops can only be mandatorily replaced after six years. While this can be disputed whenever there’s a valid reason or justification, we were surprised at their confidence towards the lifespan and performance of laptops these days. I guess they are being reasonable in a way – I realized that I only owned two laptops in the past nine years, and both are still working fine.

My MacBook Pro is turning three this summer; it feels like I just got it last year. It is still performing like it did when I first used it. I was reading an online forum today where the “Average Life Span of a MacBook Pro” is a topic and someone candidly replied “As long as you want it to!“. Amusing.

My 2008 Dell laptop, and 2015 Macbook Pro.

It’s true, I think a MacBook can survive for many years, and that makes me a very satisfied customer. While there are moments when all those Apple restrictions give me headaches, a MacBook’s longevity is undeniably one of its best selling point.

Not to be left out, however, I have to mention that my nine-year old Windows computer is still alive too! It’s a Dell Inspiron 1420. It did crash after over a year where I unfortunately lost all my files, and the battery stopped working after less than three years. For a span of five years, I had to reinstall its OS twice, using two different installers until I decided to eventually go back to its original OS. It has been running fine since the last OS reload. I still use it for minimal computing needs as it starts humming after an hour of continuous use.

I think, laptops can be upgraded anytime within 3-6 years. It really depends on the usage though. If it is being heavily used, the chances of it getting slower over time is definitely higher.

After purchasing my MacBook in 2015, I am happy that I never had to upgrade, nor do I need a new one yet. In fact, I’ve never checked on new laptops ever since, not until now that my nephew needs one for school. I was asked to look for a good laptop, and I honestly am not sure which one to get for a limited budget. Looks like online is the way to go? What would you recommend?

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A Coffee Addict’s Way to Save Money on Coffee!

Aside from finding ways to saving on food and transportation, another thing that I needed to address is my coffee addiction.

While I am not really a Starbucks fan, I use to get coffee from them at least once a week. When I moved to my new place, there’s a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf beside our lobby, and a fancy Starbucks branch across the street. I would spend my Saturday and Sunday afternoons in any of these coffee shops for about five months. I am so glad I made a decision to take saving money seriously before things get out of hand.My love affair with cafés is another thing. There’s something about these cozy places that I find irresistible, and I use to not mind spending money just to be there. Well, it has everything that attracts my soul – the warm ambiance, unique and artsy interiors, nice looking people, and of course the smell of freshly brewed coffee. But again, it comes with a price.

Back home in the province, this is where I sip my coffee every morning. If only I have a similar view of my own here in Manila:
How do you save money on coffee if you are a coffee addict? I’ve tried my best in the past three months, and I am making a slow but consistent progress.

I don’t buy coffee for more than P50.

Yes, fifty pesos is the highest I would go when buying coffee outside. So far, I have two sources:

McDonald’s – P45 for a large cup, with FREE one-time refill.
Country Style – P50 for a small cup (they don’t have size variants), also with FREE one-time refill

I’ve been a drinking coffee from McDonald’s since 2013. I tried Country Style’s coffee three years ago, and I’ve been their loyal customer since then. Not only that their coffee is cheap, they don’t cater to the usual young, loud customers, and I love that.

I am now brewing my own coffee at home.

Putting these mugs that my sister gave me four years ago to good use.

I had to start by buying a coffee maker which is actually not that expensive. You can get one for just P600 here in the Philippines; I bought mine for P799. As much as possible, I bring my coffee at work (that would be my second cup for the day). Buying the fifty-peso coffee that I mentioned above is just an alternative. I think, brewing your own is the best and most effective way to save money on coffee.

When comes to coffee beans, I buy local.

I never really paid attentions to coffee beans before as I thought I could just pick one from coffee shops or grocery stores. But when I was in Sagada last November, I fell in love with their coffee that I had to ask the server where they’re getting it. I learned that it’s an Arabica coffee from Atok, Benguet. I wasn’t able to get one from Baguio, so I searched for stores that sell them here in Manila. They’re a lot cheaper, and I say local farmer friendly. Here’s a sample price list that a Quezon City-based seller sent me:

No to 3-in-1 coffee.

Not only that they are too sugary, but what’s with all those powder? They fill up almost 1/4 of my cup! I have to be honest though, we use to love them especially in the province. I see them a lot at the office too. It’s cheap and instant which we all like, but I also decided to stop buying and drinking them. It is more of a health issue for me, but actually, you won’t really need them if you are brewing.




Creating my own coffee corner at home!

I am planning to have my condo unit renovated this year, and I want a café interior as a theme! I’d like to find out if that would further keep me away from cafés, I hope it will. I have lots of ideas on my mind and I can’t wait to make them happen. With this, I can imagine my social life going from zero to negative zero.

Don’t drink coffee at all?

I don’t think I could do this, ever. There were others who were able to do it, but I do not think this is an option for me at the moment. That would be too much of a challenge. Could you actually get rid of coffee?

I don’t know where my coffee addiction came from exactly, but drinking coffee is nothing but normal in our household for as long as I could remember. When I moved to the city for high school, learning that kids there don’t drink coffee came as a culture shock to me. I was amused that I was the only one in our class who drinks coffee.

I eventually stopped drinking coffee during my mid-teenage years until I graduated from college. Years later after landing my current job, it suddenly became a daily routine for me to go to a coffee shop. The addiction came with the feeling of no guilt at all for spending P100 or so for coffee everyday. Not until I created this blog, went through a financial crisis, and made saving money a priority that I realized P100 a day actually totals to P36,500 a year! That’s enough to keep me motivated and continue with what I’ve started.

Are you addicted to coffee too?

Is it Cheaper to Replace or Repair a Broken Appliance?

Lazada PhilippinesI bought an American Home coffee maker as a pasalubong for my parents last Christmas. Yes, it was more of a pasalubong than a Christmas gift. I wanted us to use it right away so I also brought home with me the ground coffee that my former boss sent me all the way from Costa Rica.

We used the coffee maker for a good five days, and it was working fine. I got back here in Manila before new year, and I was surprised to receive a text from my mom telling me that the coffee maker has suddenly stopped working. I called them and made sure that they are operating it correctly. My background in tech support was put to good use while asking them questions.

tightly plugged in to the wall outlet? – yes
power light on? – yes
does it make any boiling sound? – no
is it getting warm? – no
coffee dripping on the glass carafe? – no
is there water on the water tank? – yes
are you sure the power light is on? – yes
any damages on the unit? – none

Well, it looks like the coffee maker is not really working. By the end of January, I was back home and checked it myself. It is indeed broken and I was ready to bring it to the American Home Appliance repair center here in Manila.

I understand the rules about warranty, and I am confident that the one-year warranty for my purchase will be honored. There is no physical damage on the item, but in case they won’t honor the warranty, I made the decision of not paying anything for repair.

When is it cheaper to simply buy a new one instead of spending for repairs?

First, most electronics are always better when they’re brand new. Any repairs done to to the product often lead to more repairs. Before you know it, the total cost of getting it fixed is already almost the same as its original price when you bought it.

Second, this coffee maker is only P799. If it gets repaired for anything more than one peso, I’d rather buy a new one from a competing brand which I’m sure will last longer. I bought an Imarflex coffee maker for personal use this January, and I’m not seeing any sign that it will also malfunction anytime soon.

So when making a decision to whether or not get your broken appliance repaired, evaluate the costs. If it gets fixed, is there an assurance that it will take long before it starts malfunctioning again? Compare the repair cost versus the price of a new one, is there a huge difference?

The major rule is: if the repair will cost more than 50% of the price of replacing the appliance, you should get a new one.

How to Save Money on Your Phone Plan Subscription

Can you save money on your phone bill without totally cutting your plan subscription? I was asking my self the same question while reviewing my payment history with Globe. I can’t believe I’ve been paying P3,000-P4,000 for my phone plan in the past eleven months:

A quick throwback to almost a year ago when I decided to extend my 30-month phone plan subscription with Globe. I was originally subscribed to Plan999, and I upgraded to Plan1799 with an iPhone7 Plus handset (for P800 a month). That turns my total monthly bill to P2,599 for 24 months. Where does the additional P1,500 coming from? Excess usage!

What is the Excess Usage for?

Basically, the Plan1799 includes unlimited call to Globe and TM numbers, unlimited text to all networks, and a 10GB worth of data. I only call Globe and TM numbers, so I know right away that these charges are from my excessive data usage. We are all aware about the data capping that Globe and Smart are imposing. Well, because I do not allow myself to be limited by this data cap, I made the decision to pay the price. How much? P1,500 it is.

So if your plan offers a 10GB data for a month, every KB of data in excess to that is automatically worth P1,500. You’ll be paying for the excess charge anyway, so why not go unli with it? Here’s how my recent data excess charge was computed:

P1,339.29+%VAT equals P1,500 excess usage.

I understand that data is expensive so I feel that the excess charge is reasonable for a 55.6GB volume. This is the reason why I do not want to get cable as I could watch everything online. I am still hesitant to make that move to DSL or Fibr as I am more mobile as I thought; I can’t be without data when I step out of the house.

Now, how can we save on our phone plans???

Ask first if you really need the plan. Maybe consider cutting it after the contract expires, and go for prepaid. Nonetheless, if you feel that you are better off with a plan, decide on which plan is the best for you. Globe and Smart are quite flexible with their offerings, so determine which inclusions you would really want to spend on:

Data

If you have DSL at home, you definitely won’t need a high volume of data. Unless you travel all the time or you cannot live without streaming videos wherever you are, maybe it’s time to get a lower data plan. I would say 3GB is recommended for a month of regular mobile surfing:

Call and Text

Are you actually calling and texting all the time? If yes, the unli-text and call is perfect for you. Otherwise, get rid of it and look for a plan that includes a consumable option. Make sure to stick within that limit to avoid extra charges.

Other Inclusions!

Do you actually want all those inclusions? Perhaps your data allowance is already enough to cover everything, so check your bill for any unused inclusions. Ask your service provider to remove them if there are any.

Free Subscription that Auto-renews

Your plan may include free subscriptions to Spotify, Netflix, etc. They are free for a certain period, normally around 3-6 months and will auto-renew after that. If you do not want to keep the paid subscription for the succeeding months, contact your network and unsubscribe before it starts appearing on your bill.

Paper Bills

Do you really need the paper bill? Banks and other networks accept soft copies and print outs of your bill as a proof of billing. I don’t know which other purpose would you be needing the paper bill for. With Globe, that is P50 a month and they actually encourage their users to go paperless. Subscribe to paperless billing and save that 50 pesos (P600 per year)!

Source: Globe FAQs

Lastly, get a cheaper handset.

I want to keep my number so I am extending my plan with this as the major reason. I realized, I may not be wanting an iPhone again in the near future. I will also be going back to my old Plan999 after my current subscription expires, and will downgrade to a cheaper phone, most probably an Android. The expensive, new phones this year will surely get cheaper next year!

I get a lot of calls from Globe offering me additional lines, and I am always firm at declining them. Which reminds me – do not get an additional line! Unless you need them for business purposes, you do not want to pay for more than one phone bill a month.

How are you saving on your phone bills? Have you experienced switching from postpaid back to prepaid?

Money Saving Challenge Report: Month 1




I am happy that I started this challenge for myself. It feels great to have gotten that drive to do it, and having a blog to document my progress makes it even more exciting. I admit that I am not a saver, so being able to come up with ideas on how to save, and having the discipline to follow them is in itself already an achievement.

My first month of trying to religiously follow my own rules has not been very easy, I admit to cheating a few times. Here’s a summary of how my first month of saving money went.

1. Not booking Grab or Uber when going to work.

I’m just glad to have been able to make a jeepney ride for my commute to work a daily routine. Indeed, anything that you regularly do for 21 days straight can become a habit. Well, I’ve been taking a jeepney for almost two months now so my plan actually worked. I am saving not less than Php100 a day, and that’s great.

On a side note, I am totally boycotting Uber until they fix their system. My bad experience with them happened when I started considering cheaper alternatives for my commute. Ironically, it was very timely because now, Uber is no longer an option.

For my safety, I still book a ride from Grab when going home after work, often between 1 and 3 in the morning.

2. Less and less fast-food.

Fast-food is my weakness. It was my main source of “nourishment” for the past 15 years or so, and that makes it very difficult to remove from my system. Needless to say, cutting down my fast-food intake from 2-3 times a day to 2-3 times a week was a great improvement.

Which means, I have to learn to prepare my own food. I can’t cook, so cheap canned goods are my savior. Thankfully, I am not your typical Filipino who can’t survive a day without eating rice. I can live with burgers and fries for a week, but I am substituting that with bread and healthier sandwiches that I buy from a bakery near my place. Soon, I plan to prepare my own sandwich and bring it to work along with my coffee. Speaking of which:

3. I am now brewing my own coffee!

I just bought a coffee maker, and ordered an Atok Arabica ground coffee with that. Moreover, the coffeemaker was purchased using a P1000 Sodexo gift certificate that I got from joining a blog contest in November. Wonderful!

I am a supporter of local produce so I am going for the Arabica coffee from Benguet. I learned about it when I was in Sagada last November. Coincidentally, I saw some Instagram posts about the Beguet coffee, and the hard works that local farmers put into harvesting and processing the beans. That inspired me to patronize their product even more.

Now, along with these money saving habits, I just started saving my 50 peso bills again. Let’s see how much I would save at the end of the year. I’m also thinking about doing my groceries by bulk. I mean because I am your typical lazy guy, I don’t go from aisle to aisle inside the grocery. I buy what I need one at a time, and I don’t mind if that means a daily trip to the grocery store downstairs where I live. How are you saving on groceries?

I realized, I might be able to save if I buy a one week worth of groceries at a time. This is also to make sure that I won’t end up ordering food online when I run out of food supplies. I work until 1 or 2 in the morning so other than the 7/11 in our building, my only option when I’m hungry are 24-hour fast-food deliveries! I would want to avoid that as much as I could.

Lastly, I am taking advantage of the cold January weather and decided to unplug my AC. The electric fan is more than enough. This started in December and my electric bill went from approximately P1600 to P350! Awesome!

What are the Advantages of a Prepaid Credit Card?

Prepaid cards are good alternatives to credit cards.

I use to work as a customer service representative, and we would sometimes advise a customer to use a prepaid credit card for payments, in lieu of a credit card. I didn’t really know what a prepaid credit card is back then as Philippine banks are not yet offering them.


A few years later, I found myself lining up in BPI to apply for a prepaid credit card. It was useful and I had it for six years. I did not renew it this year because I got another one from UnionBank, plus a secured credit card from Security Bank.

What are the advantages of a prepaid credit card?

– If you are into online shopping, but do not want to use a credit card, a prepaid credit card could be of help.

– Your credit limit is dependent on how much you want to “load” into the card so you have full control of your spending. Say you want to book a hotel at Php2500, you may only reload that amount, process your booking, and you’re done.

– No monthly bills. Since this is prepaid, you will not receive bills at the end of the month!

– No maintaining balance required. And for some banks like UnionBank, your prepaid account can also function as a savings account.

– Reloading is easy. Most banks allow you to reload via online transfer or thru an ATM.

Are there any disadvantages? Personally, the annual fee which cannot be waived is quite a turn off. Other credit card perks, such as installments, are of course not possible with a prepaid card. Also, you cannot withdraw your money (or your load) via ATM.

What are the differences of a prepaid credit card and a debit card? I could only think of one – unlike a prepaid credit card or regular credit card, you cannot use a debit card for online payments (not counting bills payment).

Making online payments are unavoidable these days, and if you do not have a credit card or if you want to play it safe, prepaid cards are the way to go. I think most banks offer them now, but I noticed that only BPI and UnionBank are actively promoting their prepaid cards.

Are you a prepaid credit card user too?