Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Taking the Uber Frugal Month Challenge


One of my favorite personal finance bloggers is sponsoring a frugal month challenge. Alison of the Frugalwoods will guide and handhold her readers towards a month of conscious frugality, helping us get our spending to align with our goals.

The challenge begins January 1 on the dot and Alison wrote a nifty guide to steer her readers towards uber frugality. Step One of the guide asks the participants to list down their goals to set the overarching reason or purpose for your frugality.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Have Yourself a Frugal Christmas!

Ok, so I'm not really feeling maximum Christmas vibes yet. But ever so slowly, Christmas is making its way felt. In the same way that negativity is infectious, Christmas spirit is also catching. Yin to the yang.

I refused to let Christmas get to me this year because it seemed like there was nothing to celebrate. With the burning down of Aleppo, rampant EJKs, idiot government officials, etc. etc. and so forth, it felt wrong to don my merrymaking hat. Also, I didn't qualify for most of the year-end bonuses because I didn't meet the basic tenure guidelines, and when I did qualify, it was still pro-rated at a sad 30%. Crazy world + no money = scroogey grumpy Jill.

But, as I said, Christmas is an annoying little beast that refuses to be ignored. And with a three year old who joyfully dances to Christmas songs and gets excited over Christmas gift, how could I not give in to Christmas?

While the marketing machinery tells you to spend your way to happiness during the Christmas season, it is very possible to not blow your entire Christmas bonus and still feel happy. Christmas is about the feels (and baby Jesus) y'all, and you can get the feels even without buying out the entire mall. Here are some ways I get my Christmas on without making my wallet cry bloody murder:

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Hasta La Vista 2016!

So who else is excited to see 2016 leave the room?

It has really been such a trying year on all fronts.

The war in Syria and the mass of refugees has been heartbreaking and the Trump win, why America, why?!?! But why even go abroad when our own local news is already enough fodder for heartbreak and frustration.

On the personal front, my husband was hospitalized twice and my parents pushed forward with their grand project even if their funding source was iffy, leaving my bank account bleeding on both occasions.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

It's a Crazy Planets*


Allowing Ferdinand E. Marcos' burial under the pretense of the President's policy of promotion of national healing and forgiveness lowers the victims' dignity and takes away from them their right to heal in their own time. Allowing the Marcos burial on the premise of national healing and forgiveness is a compulsion from the State for the victims and the Filipino People to forgive their transgressor without requiring anything to be done by the transgressor or his successors, and without even allowing the victims to be provided first the reparations granted to them by law. (Dissent of J. Leonen on Ocampo v. Enriquez )

Whoa. The last few weeks have been crazy! I was thankful that the week following the Supreme Court's denial** of the petitions against the Marcos burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani and Trump's election as US president was humdrum and low-key, giving us time to decompress after that week's circus. But no. The craziness reared its ugly head again with the whirlwind burial of the one we lovingly call The Dictator.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Fast Facts on Filipino Money Habits

I received this very interesting infographic on Filipino money and spending habits from Pawn Hero a few weeks ago. I took the bits that caught my interest but you can see the full infographic here. The sources are the World Bank, Master Intelligence and Nielsen and they are written in tiny print at the bottom of the infographic. As with anything you read on the internet, please take the facts presented with a grain of salt.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Halloween 2016

Halloween is my most favorite holiday, with New Year being a close second and Christmas a distant third. Every year, I look forward to what I can dress my son in and the idea is to DIY a costume because: (1) I want to flex my creative muscle and (2) I'm too cheap to buy a ready made costume. However, the costume has to be easy enough to do because my sewing skills are sadly limited to the backstitch and the glue gun.

This year's costume was inspired by the bow and arrow set I bought the last time we were in Subic, and so before you could say merry men, I had put together a basic, but very adorable, Robin Hood costume for my son.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Cost of Back Surgery

In the past two months, my husband was hospitalized twice, with the second visit for his back surgery where titanium screws were inserted in one of the vertebrae of his spine (read his take on the procedure here). His doctor, an orthopedic surgeon, declared the operation a success and signed the discharge sheet last Monday, four days after the back surgery.

It's been eight days since he had his surgery and my husband can now walk around our condo with a cane, an improvement from the walker he used when he was discharged from the hospital. I'm ecstatic at how quickly my husband is recuperating but I can't get over what the doctor said during one of our check-ups. He said that the surgery to correct what my husband had (impinged nerve) is a fairly routine procedure, and that he has done literally dozens of them, but 9 out of 10 of those who suffer from it opt not to push through with the surgery because of the costs.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Online Shopping Hits and Misses


Online shopping is my poison of choice. I love the convenience of buying and paying for goods with a few clicks. I can usually control my spending when it comes to brick and mortar shops since just the idea of going to the mall tires me out. But not so much with online shops.

Here are a few of my favorite online shops and one nightmare of a shop that I'd like to warn everybody about.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Cookie Jar Funds


So a funny thing happened last Tuesday. My husband has been having persistent back pains these past two weeks, so I planned to take a leave from work on Wednesday to bring him to the doctor for a much-delayed check-up. However, around Tuesday afternoon, my husband called to say that the pain level had risen from an annoying 2 out of 10 to a 10 out of 10 (a.k.a. I'm having a baby without anesthesia type of pain).

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Kasagana Ka Development Center, Inc.


Today I'm turning over the spotlight to Kasagana Ka Development Center, a social development nongovernment organization that services urban poor communities.

I first learned about Kasagana Ka last March when I was invited to give a talk on personal finance for the Women's Month program of a government agency, and the other speaker, Ms. Evangeline Pe, was from Kasagana Ka. I remember thinking that she was God-sent because I had been looking for a personal finance speaker for my then-office's own Women's Month event in Taguig and I knew that if I didn't find a speaker, I would have to do it myself (Gulp!).

But my prayers were answered because there was Ms. Eva right in front of me, brimming with down-to-earth wisdom on personal finance and anecdotes on her experiences with working with the urban poor. And she said yes to my proposal/begging because she said that Kasagana Ka had really been looking into infiltrating the Taguig market. It was a win-win situation! Woohoo!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Inspired Savings


Have you heard about the habal habal (modified motorcycle) driver from Cebu who bought a brand new motorcycle in cash, or rather, in coins?

Jeffrey Catayas saved P5 and P10 coins in bamboo slats for 8 months before bringing his savings to a Honda Center in Cebu. The Honda employees helped count his coins and Catayas was able to buy a brand new motorcycle in cash.

Wow. Just wow.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Landbank iAccess


I finally submitted all my employment requirements two weeks ago and was told early last week that I can already open a Land Bank payroll account. This means that I should receive my initial pay in about a month. Hooray!

This isn't the first time I've had a Land Bank payroll account though, but this is the first time I've enrolled in its iAccess online facility.

My first impression of iAccess is that it looks very dated. It had a very 70-ish vibe going on but I don't think it was being cheeky or intentionally trying to be retro. But what it lacked in trendiness or wow factor design-wise, it made up for with its many useful and practical features.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Five Surprising Ways to Save Money

When it comes to saving money, the internet is replete with common sense advice such as spend less than what you earn, stop eating out all the time, take public transportation etc. etc. and so forth. If you read enough of those lists/ articles, you'll notice that there are several recurring principles behind those pieces of advice. Principles that at first glance might appear as if they have nothing to do with money, but scratch the surface a little and you'll find the little pesos, happily going about their merry way. Of course I'm not going to keep you guessing about what these principles might be, so without further ado, here's my list of the 5 "who would have thought it?!" ways you can save money.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Bank with a Heart

Have you seen the Philippine Veterans Bank (PVB) TV commercial with Heart Evangelista? If you haven't, feel free to watch the video first. I'll wait for you.

Are you done? Ok.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Why Hello There!


I've always wondered my blog's hits seem to spike dramatically at certain times of the month and I finally figured out why. RCBC has been featuring my sponsored post on their All-In Rewards program in their marketing email.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

PERA, at last!


Who else is happy that the Personal Equity Retirement Account (PERA) law will finally be implemented?!

In a nutshell, the PERA is a voluntary retirement system where contributions are made by both employees and employers, kind of like the 401k in the United States. You get a tax credit of 5% of your PERA contributions and it is tax-exempt if you make withdrawals at the age of 55 and up. Here's a nice primer for the PERA: http://business.inquirer.net/198300/all-about-pera

Sunday, July 17, 2016

2016 2Q Net Worth Report

ChartGo-2Q 2016

I reached a milestone last quarter when my net worth passed a certain threshold amount. I also had a 9.16% increase in net worth from 1st quarter this year, which incidentally is the biggest increase I've ever had since I started tracking my net worth and is also so close to my dream of a double digit net worth increase. Yay!

This big increase in net worth was brought about by my conscious efforts at stashing away money because of the dreaded salary delay in government service when starting in a new position. It doesn't seem very impressive in the chart since the increase from the last quarter is only 1%-2% for savings and investments, but the raw numbers made me do a happy dance.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Change is Coming

Sorry if the title is misleading, but I'm actually not going to talk about the upcoming administration, rather, this will be a more personal and self-indulgent post on my most favorite topic, me.

So I've already written about my current boss' end of term and how that will affect us (i.e. I will lose my job). Of course I have been preparing for it by sending out resumes, tapping my network and setting aside cash, but it's so frustrating how the job search isn't going as fast as I want it to. I have had several promising interviews, however, as it turns out, my top picks have ridiculously long application processes (between 4 months to 1 year). The only thing I can do now is wait and pray, things that I'm not really good at to begin with.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Thoughts on Earning a Living

I started working about a month after I took the bar. Give or take a few months, I have been earning a paycheck for about a decade and in those ten years, I have had my share of whining, company gossip and politics, tongue-lashing and a massive sense of entitlement. Looking back now, I really want to take my younger self aside for a serious talk and tell her (me) that contrary to what she believes, she isn't actually entitled to anything and that she should quit whining and should just buckle down and work. Whether or not younger me will actually listen to future me is another thing altogether though.

Monday, May 30, 2016

On Shady Marketing Practices: Manila Bankers Life Insurance

I received a call from an unknown number on my cellphone last Friday and this was how our conversation played out:

Manila Bankers Life Insurance (MBLI): Good afternoon ma'am Clemens, this is _____ from Manila Bankers Life Insurance and I'm calling you today to inform you that in celebration of MBLI's anniversary, you won an educational scholarship and health and wellness GCs.

Me: How did you get my number?

MBLI: You were recommended by one of our partner banks: BPI, BDO, Metrobank, RCBC, Security Bank, EastWest Bank, PNB, LandBank etc.

Me: What's this about?

MBLI: As I said, you won an educational scholarship and health and wellness GCs which you must claim today or tomorrow from our office in Makati.

Me: All I need to do is claim it? There will be no product presentations, no seminars etc?

MBLI: Yes mam, you just need to pick them up at our office today or tomorrow and bring 2 valid IDs and a bank ID with you.

Me: Sorry but I can't make it.

MBLI: Are you sure ma'am? Sayang naman ang scholarship and health and wellness GCs.

Me: I'm sure. Thanks for calling!

I made a quick search of Manila Bankers Life Insurance and was surprised to see the numerous incendiary comments and allegations of fraud:

Saturday, May 21, 2016

ICON 2016

If you are a long-time reader of my blog, then you already know how much premium I place on financial education. So much so that I shelled out good money to take a certification course even if it had no direct correlation to my present career (It's the learning, stupid!). But I had fun and it fed my personal finance geek side, so I therefore conclude that it was money well spent.

However, if you are similarly interested in expanding your knowledge on personal finance, investments, entrepreneurship and all things money related, there's no need to spend a pretty penny because there are other ways to get your geek on, such as attending one day seminars like Randell Tiongson's ICON 2016.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Rethinking My Education Bias

My son celebrated his third birthday today, and when I think about how much it will cost to send him to a good high school and college, I kind of die a little inside when I look at the figures. Heck, I don't even have to look that far ahead into the future because just a quick survey reveals that the private schools near us have tuition fees ranging from Php80,000 to Php150,000 per year for pre-school, elementary and high school. Double ulp.

However, I've been representing my boss in various state universities and colleges (SUCs) board of regents meetings this past year and doing so has opened my mind to the fact that we actually have a lot of good PUBLIC schools in the country. Prior to joining the Senate, I was under the impression that there were only a handful of schools that mattered, namely: UP, Ateneo, La Salle, UST, FEU and San Beda. All the other schools were mere blips and produced unremarkable graduates who could not be counted to contribute anything substantial to our society. Yeah, I was a full-blown, ignorant snob.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Forward and Onward

I've been working on a post for the past few days, but it seems silly to talk about education and tuition fees when the whole country is abuzz with election fever. I have consciously avoided making any political statements because I didn't want to play partisan politics, specially since my position makes it super easy to do so. But the votes have been cast and there's no choice now but to wait for the official results.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Running and Personal Finance

I've always had a difficult relationship with running. On paper it would seem as if we'd get along well because I'm an introvert who shies away from team sports. I even participated in track and field competitions during highschool intramurals, and was a member of the track and field team for a few months. A friend who trains for triathlons even pushed me to take up running more seriously because she said I have a runner's body. But despite all that, there was simply no spark between me and running.

However, something clicked in the past few months and instead of my usual once- a- month- if- I'm- feeling- up- to- it- run, I found myself going for weekly, then twice weekly runs, and before I knew it, I was actually running 3x a week and was even looking forward to it. Believe me, no one was more surprised at this than I was.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Frugaling Your Way to Smooth and Healthy Skin


Skin care and the quest for clear skin are two things I've devoted significant energy to, specially in my old beauty blog. With my oily and acne-prone skin, I experimented with countless products just to get clear, smooth and artista-like skin. Ten million years later, I'm still nowhere near an Anne Curtis complexion but you know what, it really doesn't bother me anymore because I have long learned to accept what I've been dealt with in the genetic lottery pool and work with it, instead of vainly trying to change it into something it's not and will never be.

But to be perfectly candid, part of my acceptance stems from the fact that I am no longer as pimple prone as I used to be. Sure my skin is still oily and my large pores still dominate my face, but since I can't do anything to reverse that part of my genetic make-up, I have learned to live with them and blot as needed. However, the same cannot be said about acne and pimples. Those motherf*ckers can be eradicated and this is how I was able to wallop them into submission without spending truck-loads of money:

Sunday, April 10, 2016

2016 1Q Net Worth Report + A Confession

I'm going to make quick work of last quarter's net worth report by saying that nothing much changed because whatever gains I might have made by paying down my debt to my parents, were offset by the depreciation of my car. My investments also didn't post any significant change, which in a way is comforting since it could be a sign that the downward spiral has finally stopped and, if the stock index is any indication, stock prices are inching their way up again. As my husband always says, I'm forever the optimist :)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Sayonara Kyoto!

I've been looking forward to our July trip to Osaka & Kyoto for months now. In fact, I've talked about Japan so much that my friends and family are probably sick of hearing about it. But lately I've been feeling uneasy over the trip because of the possibility that we may not be able to afford it after all because: (1) I might be moving jobs after June, which means 2-3 months of no income; and (2) I'll be dipping into our emergency funds for our spending money during the 11 days we'll be in Japan.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

RCBC Bankard All in Rewards Online

I've talked about credit card rewards points several times in my blog and I have made no secret about my dismay at how sad our rewards system is, specially when compared with the US. Seriously, they get hundreds and thousands of airline miles just for signing up with a credit card and I get about Php2,000 as cash back credit after I spend about Php200,000? Baduy lang ha.

I've had my RCBC Bankard credit card for almost 10 years now and I've always been impressed with how pro-active and helpful RCBC's customer service is. I remember when I arrived from the US after a vacation, I received a call from RCBC informing me that they had locked my credit card since a charge was made in the US and they were concerned that it was fraudulent (it wasn't, I confirmed that purchase was mine). And how can I forget that time I caught 2 fraudulent charges on my credit card because of RCBC's text alert? Yup, I'm a very happy RCBC credit card customer.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

On Advocacies and Randell Tiongson

This March, in celebration of Women's Month, the city government of Taguig and our office, organized a series of talks to empower, educate and entertain the women of Taguig. We included financial literacy/education for this year's lecture series and the first person on my list to deliver the talk was Randell Tiongson.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

How to Open a BPI Save Up Account

One of the easiest way to save money, be it for your emergency funds, future travel, dream bag etc, is to automate it. The idea is to whisk money straight from your account into a separate account that's intended for a special purpose, this way, there will be less temptation to get your grubby hands on your cash because it's already gone (of course, it's not really gone, it's merely in a separate account from your regular/payroll account).

When it comes to automated savings, I cannot recommend BPI Save Up enough because not only does it make it easy to save, it also bundles life insurance with your ATM savings account. Aside from BPI, the only other bank I know that offers automated savings is Land Bank,* but the latter does not offer life insurance, making BPI the more attractive alternative.

Friday, February 12, 2016

How to Defeat Debt For Good

I was in Quezon City for a meeting yesterday and my husband went with me since he also had some business to attend to in the area. My meeting ended at about 3pm, but with the almost 3 hour travel time that we endured just to get to Quezon City from Paranaque, I thought twice about going back to my office in Pasay, because what would most probably happen is that I would arrive with an hour to spare before the office closed. I knew that there was nothing important pending in the office that couldn't wait until next week, but we were scheduled to receive our salary and a bonus yesterday and I have to pay a credit card bill tomorrow. However, when I checked my active account, I realized that I had just about enough to pay off my credit card bill and even if I didn't, I could tap into my emergency funds and then simply replenish those accounts next week when I receive my money. And so we didn't go back to Pasay, instead we spent quality time at the grocery (parents can relate to this I'm sure) and went home early to our son.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Expense Tracking

It feels so good to be writing again! The past few weeks have been super hectic and stressful, to the point that I was already suffering from an upset stomach and experiencing mild anxiety attacks. But I survived and I've learned that no matter how I try to avoid stress and stressful situations, they are part and parcel of life so I must find a way to effectively manage and deal with them. Another thing I discovered was that I do not succumb to stress eating, in fact I do just the opposite and have to force myself to eat in stressful situations. All the more reason to manage my stress, otherwise I'll end up starving myself to death.

But at least it's over and while I can't scream freedom just yet because something equally challenging is looming ahead, I know that the worst is behind me and that I survived the trenches. Whew.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Sun Life Prosperity Card

A few months back, I received a message that one of the entries I entered for Sun Life's Sinag Financial Literacy Awards made it as a finalist. Of course I was very, very thrilled! Sun Life is a game changer in the life insurance landscape and probably the biggest supporter of financial literacy in the country. It was such a big honor to become a finalist.

Sun Life prosperity card

Unfortunately, I didn't win any of the prizes (sniff!) but I did come home with Sun Life's Prosperity Card worth Php5,000.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

2015 4Q Net Worth Report

The last quarter of 2015 has been rough on my equity investments, while the next few months show no sign of easing up as well. Forget Pantone's colors of the year, it looks as if screaming red is going to be this year's hue. Despite the lackluster and pathetic performance of my stocks and mutual funds, my net worth still managed to post a 3% increase from the third quarter. I'm still way below my goal of a double digit increase though, so there's a serious need to work it.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

2015 Recap and Looking Forward to 2016

Last year was all about changes on almost all fronts of my life. I moved jobs, leaving the judiciary after almost 5 years to try my hand in the legislative department. With the job change came the requisite 2 month wait, although in my case it became 3 months, for my first salary. The moment I started receiving my pay and backpay, we pushed forward with condo constructions, in effect doubling our home space from 30sqm to a more palatial 60sqm. Two nieces were born a few months apart from each other, giving my parents a total of 10 grandkids to spoil and fuss over.

For the financial side, I was disappointed to see that my networth increase wasn't substantial and I attribute this to condo constructions, my cavalier attitude about money and helping out some family members deal with debt. I always thought that I was careful with money, but ever since I began tracking my spending for the past few months, I was shocked to discover where our money was going. It was humbling to see that I was the reason why we could never complete our target emergency funds, or why our credit card bills always make me do a double-take every month. For someone who writes about personal finance and dishes advice like she knows what she's doing, I sure didn't know sh*t.