Friday, September 26, 2014

Reader's Question Answered: Thoughts about Gifts and Vacations

I received an awesome e-mail asking me about my thoughts on gift-giving and vacations. It's a timely question given that it's September, the start of the "ber" months, which means it's Christmas already in the Philippines! Ang saya and, at the same time, nakakalungkot especially for us OFWs.

Her email is copy pasted below:


Hi Maria :)

 I have a reader question that I would like to hear your thoughts on a blog post entry perhaps. What do you think about gifts in relation to goals of saving / investing and being frugal? Christmas gifts - especially that the season is nearing. Birthday gifts, Valentine's gifts, etc.

Also, would you have considered coming home to attend a special occasion (not death related) while on your OFW contract? We all know how expensive "vacations" considering ticket costs, pocket money (of course, one does not just go home without spending money on transportation, communication, food, etc)

I would just want to know if you have stories related to these situations.

Still reading your blog.

Hope you are having a great weekend.

Ms. D.M.


Ahhhh, vacations...

I have been abroad almost half a decade and I never been back home ever since. Sounds like a crime punishable by banishment, but first, do hear me out.

For me, working abroad is just a temporary venture- I set that in stone and blurted it out before being officially labelled an OFW. I'll figure that I'll just suck it for a while, that means no vacations back to the Philippines whatsoever. I am single with no children, so I figured that it was kayang-kaya!

Growing up, my cousin, who works and still works in Saudi Arabia, would go home for a vacation constantly. I would overhear him ask money to my aunt coz he didn't have money left to come back to Saudi Arabia. Now that I am an OFW myself, that scene plays on my mind once in a while, and I promised myself that it wouldn't happen to me, that I won't end up asking for money to anybody.

My original plan was just 3 years of "sucking it up" abroad then go home after. ( It didn't happen, though by now, you already know or might have already figured the reason why. HINT: too many responsibilities).

The first year away from home was a torture. I was homesick like crazy. I got depressed and would often cry. I missed my niece ( my cousin's daughter, who I literally saw from birth, right when she was about to pop out from her mother's you know. When you see that miracle happen right before your very eyes, it will change you ! I used to say that I won't have kids forever and ever, but when she came out, she changed me. Parang ako lang ang nanganak,no? I often babysat her coz her mom was a teenage mother. Long story cut short, I became involved with the baby, pitched in the second name and fell in love with her). I also missed my grandmother who constantly tell me that I should come visit before she'll die. Filipinos are emotional, I know, and I am one of them.

I was ready to go on a vacation no matter how much it was, but take this, I changed my mind at the end because of this: informal survey.

Armed with a pen and paper, I talked to my Filipino co-workers and my Filipino barkadas who regularly comes home for a vacay. I asked them how much they usually spend and how much should I expect to be spending. The results shocked me!

I asked 23 OFWs.
Expenses ranges from $ 8,000-$15,000 ( more or less PHP 350k - 600k ). One even once spent close to a million pesos! Whaaaat?!

I asked them what the heck they were spending it on, answers were (as far as I can remember):

  • Shopping coz cheap daw doon ( Hello, we have Goodwill here where we can find legit,branded and, most of the time, unused clothes)
  • Eating out basically every meal, including snacks.
  • Sa mall daw naka standby kasi maiinit! (What did they expect? It's the Philippines!)
  • Pasalubongs
  • Magpapa inum ( Fiesta everyday ang drama?)
  • Magpapa Belo
  • Nose job and other beauty related stuffs

At that time, I was still dumb with finance and I wasn't expert in the art of saying no. I thought there was no way around it, that you can't help but spend when you come home for vacations. I figured that since I was purely going home for a visit, with no intentions of going shopping or doing Belo stuffs, I would be spending $5,000 max ( more or less Php 200k; $2,000 back and forth ticket fare, $3,000 spending money). I was determined to save $5,000, but in the middle of all of that, I was introduced to the whole personal finance thing. I abandoned the idea of going home for a vacation and carried on with my original plan. And at the same time, I mastered the art of saying NO to all their money requests coz, by then, I realized that I wasn't helping them by giving them money all the time. (See post here)

Thoughts on gift-giving:

Ahhh, balikbayan boxes!

I used to assemble balikbayan box/es, put it by the door and just throw in stuffs that I got on sale, then rearrange it so I can send it to the Philippines when it gets full. Pinoy na pinoy 'yan! When that whole personal finance awakening smacked me right on my face, I changed my strategy on gift giving. I seldom send packages anymore  (though I sent packages that contains my stuffs for my for good moment, with an instruction not to open them until I get home). I just give them money (Php 1,000 each) when it's Christmas time ( or birthday,etc.), plus a little extra for noche buena and stuffs. It saves me a great deal of money and saves me time,too, considering the time I spent looking for sales to be put in the package/s all the way to sending it to them). They were okay with it coz I told them that sending my brother to college and sending my two nieces to school are also gifts, plus the monthly remittance I send to them are also gifts!

Yah, I have been accused of being too kuripot.

 Telling them your plans and telling them why you are tightening your belts would surely give them the reason to understand you. We aren't going to be OFWs forever, and there surely is no place like home. 


  1. I knew it, nag go-Goodwill ka din! hehe.

    1. Yah, a Goodwill fan here! It is also a dangerous place for me,too coz I tend to overspend when I am in there. Not good for my minimalism goal kasi clothes are too cheap there that I tend to also stockpile. So I only go to Goodwill if I really need clothes.

  2. wow grabe lang ang laki pala nung ginagastos ng pinsan ko, now I understand him na. Thanks to these infos sis.


    1. Hey Anne,

      Yah, ang laki kaya noh? Now that I've become and OFW, I concluded that it's not a joke when an OFW go home for a vacay. They are spending a serious amount of money. But I guess, it really depends upon the OFW. Some knows how to control their cash, some can't. It also helps to say NO and it also helps when an OFW explains to their friends and family na life abroad is not easy.

    2. Can't imagine myself spending that amount just for a vacation not a good investment, too much money na yun at ang sakit nun sa bulsa literal. No wonder maraming OFW and kawawa at hindi yan alam ng marami sa kapwa natin Pinoys.

      Minsan din kasi binebaby ng OFW ang ibang relatives or can we say nagyayabang? Kaya yung iba they end up being poor at maraming utang tsk tsk

      - Anne

  3. And that 8-15K, that's only for one person noh? What if you come home with your family / children pa?

    1. Hey Didi,

      Single was $8k below, according to my inquiries.

      But for me, now that I mastered the art of saying "NO" and now that I have been constantly telling my family that life here is hard, I think I can get away with spending less than $3k. It really depends how "enlighten" an OFW is. Sometimes kasi, when an OFW goes home for a vacation, it seems like they get embarrassed if walang some kind of pasalubongs or some kind of fiesta. Ako, I can swallow that! I am used to all their "kuripot" label they are throwing at me! Hehe

  4. When I was riding an FX I overheard a conversation between two men who I gathered were seamen. One asked the other why he didn't ask the agency to pick him up from the airport because libreng sundo naman daw. He answered:

    "Libreng sundo nga, pero ang daming sumasabay, isang van halos. Tapos hihirit na magpakain kaya biglang gastos ka ng Php7,000 to Php8,000 kasi sa Max dadalhin tapos oorder ng oorder"

    The culture of seeing OFWs as meal tickets has to stop.

    1. Hey Ate Jill,

      Nag eFX ka pala?

      Yah, so sad. That's why now that I've become an OFW, I totally understand them na. It's not easy. Sometimes kasi, OFW gives their family an impression na it's raining money abroad so panay gastus din when they get home.

      So OFWs shouldn't give impression na life here is all rosy and all coz it's not. We should learn how to say NO no matter how embarrassing it is.

    2. Yup. When I can't use the car because it's coding, or when my husband needs to use it, I take an FX to and from work.

      I can take a taxi too, but 3 taxi rides is already equal to a month's FX budget! So di bale na lang. FX na lang, na may kasamang walking exercise pa :)

  5. Wow, 600k to 1m for a vacation? Malaking perang pang-invest na yun ah. Hehe. In a way, I can relate with your current style in giving gifts to family members. May budget ako for each of them. Sinasabihan din ako minsan na kuripot, pero I'm sure gusto lang nila humirit ng mas malaki kasi generous naman ako basta gifts. Pero yun nga, gusto ko may budget kasi ayokong nagugulat sa babayaran ko. :)

    1. We shouldn't get into debt so we can give to others.

      It's human nature to "pa impress". Learning how to say NO is a good thing. People would just get use to our kuripot attitude in the long run


I'd love to hear from you. I read and appreciate all comments. :)