Being a self-supporting student back in college and having the experience of a young urban professional for the past couple of years, I have learned a great deal about handling finances.
Back in my college days, I had to budget my tuition, daily allowance, and leisure money from a meager freelance income. It was a great challenge but I really had to be thankful that I was in UP where tuition rates are (nearing “were” given impending tuition fee increase) less than a third of what the next best universities charge.
Now that I am earning my keep as a full-time employee, I’d have to say that budgeting is still a challenge. Sure, my income is much more stable and a bit higher than what I used to get as a freelancer but my expenses have broadened.
First of all, I am now responsible for all our household bills (I still live in my childhood home with my mother and sister) and shoulder a percent of food and upkeep. Collectively, bills can go as high as Php 5000 for a house with 3-4 inhabitants. We don’t have air-conditioning so we still save a bit from not having that. Food to feed 4 people can be another large chunk though.
It is actually a good thing that I have a place to stay here in the Metro. Most salary rates offered for yuppies like me can cover a bedspace/dorm arrangement for single people. But staying in our house saves me a good Php 2500 to Php 7000 if I choose to rent my own space.
Still, there is a difference between single independent people and single people with dependents. Unfortunately, for my case, my mom has been suffering from renal problems and diabetes, and being a housewife ever since ever, she does not have her own nest egg to live alone in comfort. Ergo, I have to contribute for all our living expenses. It’s also a good thing that my sister works freelance at home so she can take care of her.
In addition, there are the occasional leisure expenses for movie breaks and mall missions. Nothing comes cheap any more. Movies cost approximately Php 100. Food on average costs Php 150 for one person in a decent enough restaurant fastfood chains excluded.
Personal economics is just one part of the story. Definitely, there is the ever-fluctuating Philippine economy to worry about. I remember back in my college days when I used to drive our car, Php 500 can get a a full tank of gas which I lasts me for a week. We sold our trusty Corolla a few months ago since gas (triple the value from my college days) and maintenance costs cost about a a sixth of the car’s net worth. Given the rate of depreciation, maintaining a 14 year-old car doesn’t seem to that good an investment. I’ve observed that a good number of acquaintances have sold their cars too for these reasons too.
Food expenses from four years ago doubled. For some reason, it has prompted our family to go veg since veggies cost much lower than pork or beef or chicken. Good for our health but but still, generally, the economy is not good for everyone’s pockets.
Even with extreme frugality, my yuppie salary only gets me to save a thousand pesos a month which is enough savings to pay for my graduate courses for my masters degree. Another drawback of such high expenses and meager salary is that I don’t get to splurge. Unlike colleagues and contemporaries who all get to spend their salaries for themselves, I can’t spend anything for mobile phones or PC upgrades or start my own “first million” fund. Those I consider long-term projects that entail adjustments in budgeting and, definitely, career moves.
Perhaps one good thing that helped me save a few bucks is strict and moderated spending. I exercise these self-imposed rules:
1. I keep a separate bank account for savings which I don’t tap. Once I get my salary, I immediately transfer my designated savings amount from my payroll account to my savings account. This assures me savings for the month.
2. If I can’t buy something in cash, I seldom defer to my credit card. The shirt looks nice, but if the amount is not covered by my budget I’d wait for it to go a bit out of style. I’m no fashion whore either so what classifies as decent and wearable goes for me. No fafa shirts and designer stuff for me.
3. Buy only when things are on sale. One example of how stingy I am: Fila shoes are perpetually on sale. Still, I wait for a mall-wide sale to get discounts on top of the original discount.
4. I compartmentalize my wallet. Bills are marked/folded/arranged differently for allocations so I know for which purpose I will spend a particular bill.
5. Keep a money jar/piggy bank. All those loose change will amount to something eventually.
And with these, I get by.