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10 Frugal Living Hacks in Metro Manila

Tired of living paycheck to paycheck?
If you are employed in any companies in Metro Manila, you may already know the struggle of sticking to your budget. No matter how much salary increase you get, it is always difficult to save up.
Worst, you dried up your salary a few days before the next payday. So you thrive with canned goods and instant noodles. The bad feeling comes from the inability to save even though you have a regular job.
In my first job, I was earning double than what my peers were taking home. However, I was unable to save a single cent! But now I am earning less, doing the job I love, and I can proudly say that I am saving up bit by bit.
It is still a long way to financial freedom, but I have discovered the best ways to getting there.

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1. Know Where Your Money Goes

I was not frugal in my early 20s. In fact, getting past the habit of overspending was a frequent struggle. Thinking about my financial instability also made me depressed.
I would always ask myself where my money was going.
Of course, the only person who can answer the very question is also me.
After a couple of years, I am finally able to muster the courage to face the truth. I listed all my expenses from as petty as Mentos to as big as treating my friends to the movies. As I check my expenses, I realize that my lifestyle is my main burden.
Jacob Davidson of Time cited that Millennials may be frugal, but they still lack financial literacy. You might think that you are saving up, but if you do not keep track of your expenses you will tend to overlook some of it.
Remember to include everything on the list–even the coins you give to that kid with an envelope. Write down your jeepney fares, recently bought clothes, shoes, coffee, cigarettes, candies, load, and that Php 5 pocket tissue from the vending machine. No matter how small, they will all add up.
Doing so will give an insight of where your money goes. In fact, the truth will hit you right smack in your face. Your financial stability always depends on your spending habits.

2. Do What You Love

Every payday, we love rewarding ourselves after working hard for days. If you are paid higher, then your job could have been very demanding as well.
BPO agents usually get stressed with the shifting hours, irate calls, and other job-related demands. If you spend P500 every payday to reward yourself or relieve your stress, then that is P1,000 a month. In a year, you could have saved P12,000, which you can keep as an emergency fund or use for an investment.
There is nothing wrong with rewarding yourself. You can do it at least once a month. But if you find yourself shopping just to destress more than twice a month then it is outright overspending.
If you are stressed at work, find things that you love to do but does not require you to spend that much. Learn hobbies that can make you earn on the side such as cooking, crochet, and other handicrafts.
I make hair clips for young girls. It keeps me sane and lets me earn extra income.

3. Pay Your Loans to Build Credit Score

Personal loans are handy. You can use it whenever you have a sudden need for extra cash. And the money you borrow could be used for Jun-Jun’s tuition or Berta’s field trips. Basically, we borrow money when the budget is too short to last till the next payday.
I used loans for my micro-business to keep up with the seasonal surge in client demand. Additionally, getting a loan from a legal moneylender is an opportunity to build a financial relationship.
Loans help us survive, and they are useful when building creditworthiness too.
For frugal people, a well-paid loan is the best way to get a positive credit score. What’s best is that you can use your loan in case of emergency or if you want to start a small business venture.
Moreover, a good credit score allows you to easily get a higher loan amount such as in housing loans from banks.

4. Bring Packed Lunch to Work

This is a very sensible tip that is difficult to do, simply because:

  • You have no time to prepare your lunch,
  • You don’t want to be called “kuripot” or stingy
  • You are shy to show off your cooking skills; or
  • You are just lazy to prepare your “baon”.

If you are a call center agent, your coworkers are probably fond of eating out. You do not want to be left behind, so you would rather spend P100 in a meal.
Buying lunch makes you miss out on the easiest way to save money. A P100 meal can be as much as two cooked meals. Buy a can of flaked tuna-in-can if you do not consider yourself a cook. It is definitely more affordable; plus it is tasty and healthy!

5. Use Available Resources in the Office

Call center offices usually have free coffee. If you love coffee but not into the costly Starbucks drinks, then have it in your office.
BPOs have available computers for employees to use during their free time. You can use it to check your Facebook account for a bit.
If you think you need to save up for a fare, ask if your company offers shuttle service at your place. If not, ask coworkers to carpool with you in a Grab or Uber ride. Use your LRT Beep card for offers and fare discounts not available in single journey ticket.
RELATED: 5 Amazing Things You Can Do Using Your Beep Card

6. Be Open to Budget Adjustments

I was the type of person who hates change when it comes to budgeting. I easily get disheartened if I am unable to follow my spending plan.
However, it is clear that my problem was my attitude. It took some time before I was able to push myself to accept that I need to make some adjustments.
So let’s say you needed to add P200 to your Meralco bill. What you can do is check your budget and find an item where you can deduct P200. Are you setting aside P500 for yourself as a reward allowance? You can get the P200 from there so you can pay your electricity bill in full. This way you won’t come short.
When your budget gets ripped off, sulk if you must, but you have to get over it. Adjust your budget and learn from your past mistakes.

7. Avoid Piso Fares and Online Travel Deals

These kinds of promos are created to give you the sense of urgency. And with most call center agents who have credit cards, they buy plane tickets way in advance even if they are not unsure if they will use it.
I have a friend who had maxed out his credit card limit because he booked tickets to Hong Kong for him and some of his teammates during the Piso Fare. However, not everyone paid him and some did not even join the actual trip. His credit card debt ballooned uncontrollably.
To make it clear, Piso Fares and Seat Sale promos do not really mean that you just pay one peso for a plane ride. You still have to spend for the taxes and other fees. These promos do not offer return tickets with the same discounts.

8. Escape from the Social Trap

Working in a call center, you will meet co-workers who love to party, drink after shift, and eat out in fancy restaurants. This is especially true with those around Makati area.
Journalist Daniel Barna shared that Millennials spend a large portion of their income on pleasure, and they especially love restaurants.
Call center agents usually spend around half of their salary for eating out. Not because they are lazy to cook, but mostly because they are pressured to eat out with their peers.
To avoid peer pressure, choose the group of friends who have the same financial goals as you. Remember: Being with three wise men can make you the fourth wise man.

9. Practice Living Below Your Means

Prudential Financial found out that the rate of millennials saving for the future is declining. Out of 2,000 surveyed adults, 57% of millennials admitted that they haven’t started saving even for their retirement.
When saving up, set aside a part of your salary regularly. You can even start with a small amount, but make sure that you can sustain it. It can be P50 a day or P500 every payday.
Saving takes a lot of self-control and focus to keep up. Most financial experts advise that spending must come after saving. It is like rewarding your future self with a better financial status for the hard work you are doing now.

10. Save on Bulk Buying

Let go of the “tingi-tingi” mentality. You are just paying for the packaging and consumer’s tax multiple times.
When doing your groceries, consider buying in bulk rather than by piece in convenient stores such as 7-11 and MiniStop. Convenient stores charge grocery and food items 10% to 20% higher than in PureGold, San Roque, or Super8.
Set a day in a week when you will go to the grocery. Always bring a grocery list. Compare prices of items in smaller packages from bigger ones, and you will be surprised at how much you can save.
Don’t limit yourself to one grocery store too. In my “journey” to finding the cheapest price for my daughter’s milk, I found out that I can save as much as P200 every week in Landmark grocery compared to buying the same item at SaveMore.
Living in Metro Manila can compel you to find ways to save up. If you are employed in BGC, Eastwood, or other nightlife hotspots, you will need more self-control. After all, nobody said saving is easy. But it is possible with determination.
Living paycheck to paycheck is very stressful, but escaping it can start now. Take time to scrutinize your spending habit. Accept that there are changes to be made and only YOU CAN MAKE IT HAPPEN.

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