By Zipporah Antonio (Senior Content Writer)
Working as an overseas Filipino worker (OFW), but still feel like you’re not saving money?
Saving up for your retirement while working overseas is quite a challenge. An OFW might as well plaster the words “bank” on his or her forehead whenever there’s an emergency needing to spend money on, like Nanay’s medical maintenance, your sister’s husband’s sister’s lack of funding for a new business venture, or your kumpare needing to take out a loan for his kid’s tuition fees.
Gain financial freedom while saving your hard-earned money for your future with these tips:
1. Do away with the “balikbayan box” mentality.
My favorite aunt is a classic example of an OFW who loves sending balikbayan boxes back home. She would send us around three to four packages a year, but they would often contain the same products – coffee, soap, chocolates, and whatnot. Because we can’t really consume all the padala she sent, we tend to give it to other people.
No matter how small or big the package is (or how exciting it is to open boxes after boxes of imported goods), it still equates to spending money. And shelling out cash just doesn’t end there. When our kababayans get home, the first destination for some would be duty-free shops.
Smart alternative: If you really want to be generous, set a budget to spend pasalubong on your immediate family members only.
2. Politely refuse to become the next punong abala in your town’s next fiesta.
Most people (that’s your other relatives and neighbors) think that just because you’ve worked abroad, you have an endless supply of cash and thus eligible to sponsor extracurricular expenses. I have a friend who never let other people know he is in Manila for a vacation, so that they won’t bombard him with invitations for a drink or night out.
But some OFWs are swayed into shouldering the payment because their relatives and even friends egg them on until they concede.
Smart alternative: Consider a potluck party or dinner, instead of opting to treat everyone to a hip restaurant. Not only will it save you more money, but it will provide you the opportunity to eat your favorite Pinoydishes such as adobo, kare-kare, or sinigang without needing to pay for the catering.
3. Stop buying assets that quickly loses value over time or use.
Land (and sometimes properties for sale built on it) are among the few assets that appreciate, or earn value over time. Although expensive electronic gadgets like the latest smart phones, laptops, cameras, cars may be valuable to you, consider the money you would be burning if they are only being used personally.
Smart move: In the event that you do buy these items, make sure you will be using them productively or will help you earn extra income such as venturing in car or van rental services, e-load services, or freelancing.
4. Go for a staycation than the usual out-of-town trip.
As soon as you arrive at home, the next agenda after that welcome party is to go on a trip with the entire clan. This can cost a lot of money, including unexpected expenses like takeout food, water or souvenirs if you guys decide to do a stopover.
Smart alternative: Spend quality time with your loved ones right in the comfort of your home. You may also check out fun and affordable destinations right in your neighborhood such as public parks or local museums and galleries to spend time with your family.
5. Don’t take on too much unnecessary debt.
OFWs are often prey to loan advertisements that contain enticing promises such as easy, one-day processing or low interest rates. Because you are spending more than you can afford, the next step for you is to borrow money for unnecessary, and sometimes extravagant expenses that you initially thought you need or can afford.
Smart alternative:Step up your loan game by taking out a credit only if you really need it. Pay off your smaller debts and set aside the remaining money on an emergency fund to cover future amortization payments in your home. And remember, don’t get more than one credit card so that you are not tempted to do impulse buying.
6. Set financial goals with your family.
Money mismanagement is common for many OFW and their families. We’ve heard of stories of an OFW working hard only to come home without anything to show for it. Too often, parents focus on doing the managing themselves without teaching their children the value of saving, budgeting, and investing.
Smart move:It is important that everyone in the family understands the role they play in planning financial goals. Sit down with your family, stress the need to be responsible in their expenditures, and create a spending and saving plan before you leave.
7. Have your own savings.
Most OFW breadwinners working make the mistake of sending all their money to their families without setting aside their personal savings. The problem with this is that you are not leaving anything for yourself.
Smart move: People have different ways on how they save money. Create a savings system that would really encourage you to save. You can try an auto-debit using your bank account, an envelope system, and more. Better yet, do number eight so you can grow your savings.
8. Learn what investments should you really put money into.
Purchasing a real estate property is one of the most popular investment options for many Filipino overseas workers. But majority make the mistake of pouring everything on just one asset, which sometimes take a long time to pay off and get returns.
Smart alternative: Make sure you diversify your portfolio. Be it in stocks, mutual funds, or more tangible assets like a condominium or house and lot or for sale. And make sure you never fall prey for the next number.
9. Don’t be lured by get-rich-quick schemes.
Time and again, we hear of stories about OFWs scammed out of their hard-earned money – whether it’s investing in a product or buying a real estate property because of their desire to make easy money.
The importance of not buying into these schemes cannot be stressed enough. These will sound really tempting, but remember what they say about something being too good to be true? It usually is. If you want to take a risk, make sure you’re making a calculated one.
Smart move: Focus on earning extra income from legitimate activities such as investing in stocks or real estate properties.