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“Sa Paskong darating, Santa Claus ako rin.” That’s the feeling that most Overseas Filipino Workers, not only in the UAE but across the world, dread to experience. Isn’t it? Since the yuletide season is just seven weeks away, many of us abroad are for sure utterly excited to go home and enjoy the extraordinary and extra magical way of how Filipinos celebrate Christmas. Now, you ask: How do I budget my money to make my money last till the last day of my stay in the Philippines?

We all know how things can get gradually too ripped off and sometimes go over budget. The little expenses and aguinaldo that you splurge our money on can add up, without you knowing that you’re already broke. Let’s make it simple. It’s time to put the meaning back into Christmas without burning a hole in our pocket.

1. Learn to say ‘no’
Randell Tiongson, one of the Philippines’ respected personal finance coach, who strongly advocates financial education for OFWs, brings it all in proper perspective: “They need to learn to say no,” he said.

Tiongson said OFWs should not allow themselves to be egged on (“kantsaw” in Filipino) by relatives and friends into spending for this and that; nor, he said, should OFWs splurge like they hate money and just want to keep spending it on what typically would be the“ubos-biyaya” (impulsive spending) attitude.

It makes a lot of sense especially considering that tons of articles have been published regarding the matter, the most recent of which was a viral post on The Filipino Times online edition about an OFW who realized that the P50,000 budget he had set aside for a three-week vacation was not enough due to the financial demands of his relatives.

“Plan, budget and stick to it. Prioritize and don’t be pressured,” said Tiongson.

2. Set a specific budget and stick to it
Arman Vengco Felipe, financial advisor with the advocacy group, Truly Rich Club, echoed Tiongson’s advice, saying “OFWs are not ATM machines.”

“Set a specific and planned budget that you will spend while in the Philippines. OFW’s are not ATM machines that always have available cash for disposal,” Felipe said.

“Remember the big ‘why,’” he stressed. “The reason why you are looking forward to go home is to primarily spend time with your loved ones, not money.”
Felipe, a financial planner and senior consultant at an insurance company, said OFWs can also check out hotel and travel discounts as well as packages that would suit their budget without sacrificing enjoyment when travelling.

3. Avoid using the plastic card
Setting a specific budget apparently is just the first step, according to Francis Errol Medina, another financial literacy advocate, who also is head of market reach and business improvement for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa of a big asset management software company.

Medina said OFWs should stir clear of using credit cards or signing cash advances with their employers.

“Since you chose to go for vacation during the holidays, you need to plan and save ahead of time as definitely expenses are higher at this time of the year. Once budget is set, stick to it and avoid salary advances and credit card usage,” he said.

4. Allot something for “unavoidable” expenses
Still on the budget, Franie Maquinay, an OFW-turned-entrepreneur who runs an online gift shop, said a certain percentage of the monetary appropriation should be saved for miscellaneous expenses.

“Yung miscellaneous expenses ko na 20 percent, I make sure na gagastusin lang sya sa ‘unavoidables,’” he explained. (I set aside 20 percent of my budget strictly for unavoidable expenses.)

5. Note that it’s about ‘needs’ over ‘wants’
Christmas shopping with your loved ones can be tricky, said Medina, thus the need for everyone to have a certain degree of discipline.

“Go back to your priority list and check for ‘wants’ which can wait and ‘needs’ that require urgent attention,” Medina said.

6. Buy gifts early to avoid on-the-spot shopping
Vince Lubrin, international property specialist at a Philippine real estate company, whose job keeps him in constant contact with OFWs to help them plan on their fixed asset investments, said buying gifts before you fly goes a long way.

“Line up your activities and buy gifts before you go, so that you would not have to do much shopping when you arrive in the Philippines,” Lubrin said.

He explained that shopping during your holiday can cause impulsive buying which could wreck the budget.

“Kung minsan ‘yun ang sanhi ng impulsive shopping; yung mapapasabay ka sa mga nagsa-shopping dahil nagmamadali ka na at may dala kang pera,” (Sometimes you tend to end up joining the rush and spend impulsively because you have the money.)

7. Don’t be a braggart show-off
Another attitude working to an OFW’s disadvantage is being a show-off, picking the tab with all smiles to save face while worrying at the back of his mind about the budget.

“We tend na magpasikat kaya napapadami ang gastos,” said Lubrin. (We tend to show off which brings expenses up.)

8. Don’t try to please everyone
Franz Ramirez, registered financial planner with Money Talks UAE, another advocacy group, for her part said OFWs should try to understand beforehand that they cannot please everyone during their stay.

“Don’t try to make everyone happy kasi that will not happen,” Ramirez, who works at a multinational energy company, said.

OFWs should instead do it in batches, treating other friends and relatives the next time they come back, other financial literacy advocates said.

9. Set an itinerary
Equally important as setting a budget is a finalized itinerary, Ramirez said, as this would be an OFW’s guide as a blueprint is to an engineer. She said it will work best for an OFW to have a daily schedule of activities running hand in hand with a budget to keep track of expenses like a dipstick.

10. Remember, it’s the thought that counts.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to this: it’s the thought that counts.

“Be creative, presents may not be expensive. Anyway it’s the thought that counts,” she said. “Spend more time (it is invaluable) with loved ones while on vacation rather than on things,” she said.

Added Lubrin: “Simpleng pagdiriwang… ang mahalaga ay sama-sama kayong buong pamilya at naisasabuhay ang tunay na kahulugan ng Pasko.” (Simple celebration… the family is together and that’s all that counts, the real Christmas spirit.)

(By Jojo Dass and Mark Nituma)

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