Sunday, June 30, 2013

My Cheat Meal

Hot Fudge Sundae and Large Fries

As mentioned in my post, Addicted to Saving Money, I grudgingly set a side a "cheat meal" once a month just so I won't feel like I am depriving myself with small wants. I was thinking "Ka OA mo naman, pa "grudgingly" pa ang drama mo eh 3 dollars lang 'yan. Ka OA mo!" Haha! It's true, I hate spending this 3 precious dollars, but I must do this or I'll end up a miser! Ha!

I usually eat these unhealthy monsters once a month and I did just that earlier. I spent $3.69 to be exact. I used to spend the bulk of my salary on eating out , but since I've become a frugal-borderline-cheap, I dropped my eating out to once a month.

A little story of my life: don't you know that I can count with my two hands how many times I ate at Jollibee? That's right, in my over two decades staying in the Philippines, I've only eaten Jollibee less than 10 times! That's how poor I was, but now, I can bravely say that I was poor and I haven't eaten Jollibee more than 10 times BUT I now owned JFC stocks, which is like 20 percent of my portfolio. How's that?  :D

Establishing Categories on Expenses

My End-of-the-Month Spending List and Categories
June 2013

One thing I look forward at the end of the month is  putting all my expenses that are listed in my Daily Money Log in its own categories.

Establishing Categories

Everybody has its own set of expenses and it's up to you what categories to put. These are my categories:

Remittance (Expenses) - Like most OFWs, I am also sending money to my mom every month for her expenses.  I just give her what she needs. 
Average: $200-300 a month

Remittance fee - Fee every time I send money. I'm using XOOM.Com and Transfast. 

Average: $4.99- 8.99 a month

Lot - Aside from my townhouse in Cebu which is fully paid, I got a 100 square meter lot in Consolacion, Cebu . I am paying for it in installment basis. I have only 30 months to go.

Average: PHP 6,700 a month

Amount Invested - Coz they say "Pay your self first" and "Income- Savings= Expenses", need I say more? :)

Food/snack/eat out - This is for my monthly grocery and eating out.

Average: $100 a month

Transpo: Bus
               Metro - My work is walking distance so I walk most of the time or ride a bus depending on the weather.

Average: $20 a month

Beauty : I might be frugal, but I am still a woman. This is for lotion, moisturizer, toothpaste, floss and any beauty related stuffs.

Average : $10 every 2-3 months 

Health Products - I regularly take Fish Oils and Vitamins. 

Average : $20 every 3 months

Clothes - I don't spend much on clothes ,but I just considered putting it. Last time I bought clothes was last year before I did this system.

Shoes - Again, I don't spend much on shoes. Last time I bought shoes was last Sept 2012 which I'm still using. I run every weekend and my last shoes fell apart, so I needed to buy one. 

Books - I love reading, but I have a nearby library that I am using and abusing 'coz walang ganito sa pinas. Haha. Most of the books I am buying are used.

Average: $1 a month

Gifts - If I buy a gift to someone who is celebrating a birthday and the likes, I listed it in here. I don't have much friends here so this occurs so rarely.

Average: $20 per gift

School supplies : I am collecting cheap school supplies here if its on sale, coz I am planning on going back to school.

Miscellaneous - Donation to charity, yearly tuition of my 2 nieces and brother and any other expenses that might come up each every month.

Average: $50- 100 a month

But wait? How about your utilities? Rent? Internet bills? Water and electric bills? 

Hah! My employer pays for everything except Internet.

 Then where's your Internet bill? Well,I talked to my neighbor if I can use their wi-fi and ill just pay for it. They told me I can use it without a fee! Lucky me, right? Besides, I only connect an average of 4 hours everyday. But as a payment, I collect their mails when they are out of town and/or surprise them with a newly mowed grass every week during spring! I say no to freeloading.  ;)

The Early Morning Mower

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Frugal Tip: Dare to Cut Your Hair?

One of the skills a frugalista should master is how to cut her/his own hair.

I've been to a professional hair saloon five times, which ranges from $30 to 60 dollars every visit not including tips. That's PHP 1,500- 2,400! I also tried going to a beauty schools that offers $14 a cut for their students to practice, but I don't have much luck.

As my quest to a cheaper alternatives, I realized that maybe, just maybe, I could try a DIY approach to cutting my hair. Is it possible? Hmmm...

I googled and voila, lots of information popped up. As I searched deeper, I realized that it's doable. Huzzah!

I am no expert with cutting my own hair, but I should say that its decent, plus it saves me tons!

Note: Items mentioned below were bought prior to minimalism and extreme frugal lifestyle.

So I bought myself a thinning scissor, coz my hair is so thick it could feed an entire civilization if my hair is a kind of food. I also bought a hair layering blade. Between the two, I use the thinning scissor more, but I could live without it as there are cheaper alternatives out there, like a regular razor. I am using a regular scissor which, they said, is not advisable coz it might damage your hair.  I say, so what?! :)

DIY Side-swept bangs perfected! Yahoo!

Since I am a visual learner, You Tube helped me a lot. But you should be careful watching beauty related stuffs in You Tube because beauty gurus tend to recommend stuffs to you, which they said are "must-haves", but aren't. They are just paid to do that. Been there, done that. A lot of unnecessary make-ups and stuffs that were accumulated by yours truly, which are cluttering my life.

This is one of my frugal tips as an OFW. You can't get a PHP 100 haircut here so might as well learn the tricks to cut your own hair.

Learning a skill takes time, practice and patience.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

How I Opened Investment Accounts While Abroad

In the fall of 2010, a mentor introduced the words "investing" and "stock market" , which were an alien words to me. I've become so interested that I studied and I dipped my toes first in mutual funds while trying to know how to deal with stocks.

I have been investing in Philippine Mutual Funds and  Philippine Stock Market for almost 3 years now. I opened all of the accounts while I'm out of the country. I can't tell you the precise details on how I did it coz it's been quite a while, but I'll do the best I can.

It took me few months, lots of research and tons of emails to be able to open investment accounts in the Philippines but it has been worth it.


I have 2 mutual funds in the Philippines, First Metro Asset Management INC. (FAMI) and  Philequity Management, Inc.(PEMI). I opened those two while I'm here by sending the documents to them.  Some mutual fund offices, like Sunlife, requires to see you personally before opening an  account, so you need to check if it's still possible to just send the application via mail courier.

I did not go through any agents upon opening. My  initial investment was PHP 5,000, then I added to it every month. Now, I am investing on individual stocks more than mutual funds. 


OFW should think of opening a bank account prior to going abroad. I'm one of the unlucky ones who did not think of it while I was still in the country. 

Upon deep researched, I found out that it's possible to open a bank account while out of the country because most of the big banks in the Philippines have branches abroad, but in my case, most of the branches are located in New York, which is 4 hours away from  where I am staying so I really need to take an off from work and plan it carefully.

March 2011: I rode a bus to New York and opened a Bank of the Philippine Island Saving Account. I brought my ID ( passport, birth certificate/SECPA, voter's registration ID) and downloaded application forms from BPI website. They told me to call them first before going back for a vacation in the Philippines so I can get my ATM while I am there, but to be able to set up a BPI Express Online, you need to have Joint Account Indicator (JAI), two numbers located in the ATM card.


I set my eyes on CITISECONLINE ( COL) for my online broker. I also send my documents to them. The costumer service were superb, so I really love them. My COL account was approved few weeks after they received the documents. I let my mom fund it through direct deposit, but I grew tired of that process. I felt like it was too much hassle in my mom's side, so I really need to find a way to get my ATM card without me  going home so I can set up my BPI Express Online as soon as possible.

It took me a few months before finally getting my ATM, but not without effort from me and my mom. I went to Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. to get a Special Power of Attorney stating that I gave my mom a power to claim the ATM . The SPA cost me $25 dollars and I immediately sent it to my mom. After my mom received it, she went to BPI-Mactan Lapu lapu , Cebu branch to get my ATM. It took 3 weeks and  a lot of stressful negotiations before they released my ATM, but I was so glad it was over coz it was a stressful ordeal.
All that ordeal was worth it coz it is so easy to fund my COL. I send money to my BPI bank account and when the money is available, I then transfer it to my COL.

Few weeks ago, I wanted to open a BPI Trade as my second online stock broker, but I am having a hard time with it coz they need me to go to their nearest branch. I talked to a BPI Trade representative and she said that it's possible that my mom can open the account as long as she have a GENERAL POWER OF ATTORNEY from me, but the BPI manager in Lapu Lapu, Cebu doesn't seem to know how to go about the process. He said that he doesn't need to sign it and I should send it as is in their Makati branch. The application  form clearly says that a bank officer needs to sign  before sending it to their main office. I did not have much luck this time but I'm persistent and  hopeful that I can be able to open a second online stock broker within this year but not with BPI Trade, as I have horrible experience with them. I'll try  First Metro Securities, which is a stock brokerage company of Metrobank.

It's possible to open an investment account while abroad. You just have to be patient , persistent and resourceful. 

Happy investing! 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Lure of the Old

I did not grow up rich, but I would surely trade my life now, with whatever I have, just to have my old life back.

I spent my childhood in a quiet and small town somewhere in Zamboanga del Sur, particularly in Kawit dist. Pagadian City.  (The town's name might be familiar to you, it is where the recent and the biggest investment scam  in the history of the Philippines happened, the Aman Futures Group.)

It was where I experienced  the simple life. I remember clearly our first nipa hut-and-bamboo house that my father designed and built. I still remember the creaks and sounds it made whenever my father and brothers played indoor basketball. I grew up thinking that its normal that houses shakes a little bit one way or the other.

For sure, money was tight at that time but we made do with what we had. I would often request my favorite food "ginisang ginamos" (sauteed salted anchovies)not knowing that that food meant that we were running out of money.

You might say growing up that way makes me resent my past, but no, I love my past and, as a matter of fact, one of my life goals  includes building, recreating and living in a house that looks exactly like our old house somewhere in the province, plus huge garden full of plants, crops and veggies!

Our Old House.  (L-R) My Papa (stooping down),  Lola, cousin, me, Mama (behind me) and Kuya.

(As my reader grows, picture of my father was erased for privacy sake)

Gosh, looking at the picture above made me teary-eyed! I miss my Papa so much that I'll give up my life just to have him back. If time machine would be invented, I'd work my butt off just to buy one!

 I miss you so much, Pa! It's been over 18 years and I still can't get over your death. I still shed tears for you. You are the only man I'd vowed to love forever. We would see each other again.

When I think about it, the more I am thankful because the memory of that little house in the province serves as my map as I find my route to happiness. It gives me  a warm feeling inside. It reminds me that my happiness is living simply with my family.

I treasure the memories I have back when my family was together despite not having a lot. This whole experience made me realize that I want a simple life, a life I once had with my father, a life of having more with less, a life with my family and a life I am trying to recapture.

Thus, the journey towards simple life has begun.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Calculating Your Real Hourly Wage

How much are you actually getting paid? How much is  your real hourly wage?

"Since Gary  works from Monday to Friday for 8 hours and his monthly salary is PHP 50,000, therefore, his hourly wage is PHP 312.50."

It's not that simple to calculate your real hourly wage. One must also factor the expenses that are directly associated with the current job such as:


     Factor the transportation cost when calculating for a real hour wage, whether you drive or take public transportation to work. Let's say you commute by car  to work, take in consideration the parking fees, tolls for bridges, gas, wear and tear of your car. Let's say that commuting by car to work cost you PHP 4,000 per month or PHP 1,000 per week.


     Do you need a special outfit for your job?
     This includes not just uniform but also shoes, pantyhose, suits, and neckties or any other attire that are normally worn in the office. Calculate the cost of cosmetics, haircut and grooming as well. Let's say you spend PHP 20,000 annually for all of these. That means you are spending PHP 384.62 per week.


     This include the coffee you get every morning at the store on the way to work, lunch cost , snacks and the likes. Let's say you spend PHP 1,000 per week for meals consumed while at work.


    Why factor this?

     Do you find yourself saying,"I need to reward myself after a long day at work"? Isn't that work-related? How about this, "It's been tiring at work this week,let's paint the town red tonight"? Isn't that work-related, too? Imagine yourself without a job that  has been pressuring you, you think you need to do all of these stuffs just to decompress? Factor the dining out with co-workers and the likes too.
    Let's say it costs you PHP 500 per week for an escape entertainment from a very tiring work.

Other Job-Related Expenses

     Examine your vacation spree. Is that because you need to decompress from work? It might be work-related so you might also consider that.

     How about  job-related illnesses?

     You also need to consider the educational programs, books, continuing education that are necessary to stay competitive in your job.

     Every job is unique so it's up to you to discover your own work-related expenses.

Now, the example above says that Gary is earning PHP 50,000 a month divide 4 (4 weeks in a month) is PHP 12,500 per week. Let's consider everything above excluding the Other Job-Related Expenses.

    12,500     - Weekly Salary
 -    1,000     - Weekly Commuting Expenses
 -    1,000     - Weekly Meal Expenses
 -       384.62- Weekly Costuming Expenses
=  10, 115. 38 - Real Weekly Salary
/                   5 - (divided by Days of the week spent in the office)
= 2,023.07   - Real pay per day
/               8  - ( divided by Hours spent in the office)
 = PHP 252.88 --  Gary's Real Hourly Wage 

     I think it is important to calculate and know your Real Hourly Wage. It helps you determine if your job-related expenses is in accordance with your Real Hourly Wage, and it also help you know how much hours you need to work to be able to buy a certain want. 

Example: "Thanks, but no thanks, I don't want to work another 80 hours to be able to buy that new phone." 


Monday, June 10, 2013

Daily Money Log

            "Keep track  of every cent that comes into or goes out of your life."

        -- Your Money or Your Life


        I have been doing this system since September 2012,and I'm loving it! It feels like I'm a natural tracker!

There is no right or wrong way to do this . There is no special notebook to buy or an app to download. You can use a pocket-sized memo book or any computer accounting programs. You can be creative and do things your own way just as long as you record every cent that enters, leaves and the reason for its entering or leaving everyday. Whatever works for you.

        Every cent??!! Every penny ??!! Every centavo ??!! Every peso ??!! No guestimation?! 

        As what I said earlier, I have been doing this for quiet a while now and I've been enjoying it. I like the feeling of control and satisfaction that I know how much I have and how much I am spending every day. I don't intend on doing this system forever but this definitely fills up my time as I anticipate the day that I will  be going home for good. It has become my second nature to carry around a piece of paper in my wallet wherever I go and list every time I spend or receive money and the reason for the exchange. At the end of the day, I transfer it in a notebook.

Daily Money Log Sample

          Above is how I've been doing the Daily Money Log.

  • I color coded it. 
  • I put the date along with the day
  • Wrote IN and OUT 
  • I am also detailed with what is the reason for the IN  and OUT. Example McDonald's (Fries and Burger)
  • I also count in the Coins Found  
  • Under the Grocery is a Breakout of all the things I bought there with its corresponding price (it doesn't need to be accurate) and the Total below OUT.
  • I chose not to write the days when I don't spend or receive any money. 

        It might look tedious and time-consuming but ,I think, it's the best way to become conscious on how money comes and goes in your life. It has been 10 months since I started this system and you might ask me if it's worth the trouble. I'd say YES, it's all worth it! Besides, according to the book The Millionaire Next Door, people who have high net worth relative to income knows how much they are spending on clothes, travel,housing, transportation etc., and those who don't achieve high net worth relative to income have no idea how much they spend.

      Get into the habit of tracking every cent that comes and goes in your life.


Addicted To Saving Money

           The thought of receiving your salary every 15th and 30th of the month makes you jump for joy. Instead of thinking how you are going to spend it, you think of adding it to your savings account. You walk almost everywhere to save on transportation cost. While you are walking, you look down most of the time to look for loose change and if you find one, you will pick it up with a smile on your face.

         The thought of going to the mall gives you headache. You don't understand why most people can spend all day in the mall. You do all kinds of tips and tricks to save a penny, and you even beat yourself up for spending a $5 dollar McDonald's meal. But then you stop and think, "Am I addicted to saving?"

          Boy, that sounds so me, or is that me?

         There is a big difference between being cheap and being frugal. Eating instant noodles each and every meal is being cheap, while eating vegetables and fruits that are in season and cooking in bulk is being frugal. Sometimes, we are too focus on one thing that we become extreme and we miss out on something important. We must seek balance in our life and that includes a balance between spending and saving. Overspending, to the point of bankruptcy, is as much as bad as saving money to the point of scrimping on things that are essential like nutritious food  and foregoing on activities that builds a  strong and healthy relationship with loved ones.

         I am in the process of bringing equilibrium into my spending vs. saving habit. I grudgingly set a once in a month "cheat meal" just so I wont feel that I am depriving myself on my small wants. I still drag myself to that "cheat meal",but I really have to do this or I might end up a miser or when I pass away, my relatives might end up fighting over my assets, the assets that I work so hard and did not spend while I was alive. Acceptance is the first step to healing, right?

         Have you heard about a 78-year-old Pinay in U.K. named Brigida Aro, who recently died from her own house in Tooting? And you know the reason why her house burned down? She was using a candle to save on electricity bills. The candles caused the fire which burned down a significant portion of her house. The penny-pinching cost her her life. What a sad story. I don't want to end up like that.

       Saving can be addictive and addiction of any kind is never good.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Your Money Or Your Life

Your Money Or Your Life
9 STEPS To Transforming Your Relationship With Money And Achieving Financial Independence
By Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez
" To have savings is to be free. Savings means freedom from debt. Money in the bank means freedom to leave your job if the boss is intolerable or the benefits have just been yanked. And if you lose your job, having savings is the freedom  to keep your house and car because you can cover payments---if you have any to make in the first place. Having savings means you can start a business or buy land, even if the bank won't lend to you because, ironically, your habit of savings means you don't have a debt trail or a credit record."

          This is probably one of the books that changed my view about money and taught me how to approach money in a practical way. It reinforces my frugal view in life and completely unhooked me in other's belief that you must consume your way through life and it also intensified my belief that there is life than "nine to five till your sixty five".

         I have become less materialistic and less status conscious and I'm trying to achieve a sustainable kind of living. This also led me to a path of voluntary simplicity and switched my thoughts that simple living is a choice and an opportunity and not to be viewed as deprivation or poverty.

          Thanks to this book, I found a way to effectively track my monthly expenses by establishing categories instead of merely writing everything.

May 2013 Daily Money Log and  Monthly Tabulation

          I have also been working on a chart to track if my investment income is equal to or greater than my expenses. 

Say hello to the orange bunny :)

        That's some serious writing, right? Some opt for spreadsheets, but I've always been a pen-and-paper type of person, and this works just fine for me.

         I'll post soon on detailed explanation about the monthly tabulation and charting.

         I'll leave you with some of my favorite quotes from the book :

  • Waste lies not in the number of possessions but in the failure to enjoy them.

  • Rich exists only in comparison to something or someone else.

  • Money is something we choose to trade our life energy for.

  • Frugality is enjoying the virtue of getting good value for every minute of your life energy and from everything you have the use of.