Reality Check: Are You All Set to Live Independently? (WMN.ph)

(This “Reality Check” article was published in WMN.ph last May 2009)

In college, some people get a taste of living somewhat independently from their parents. Why somewhat? Because even though these people have their own apartments, their parents are still the ones who pay for the bills. But it’s a different ballgame after college. You don’t have excuses anymore to get financial support from your parents since you’re already earning your own money. Now if you want to live on your own, you have to consider if you can handle it-and it’s not all about the financial aspect, mind you. You have to be mentally and emotionally prepared for the perils of living alone, too.

So are you ready to move out and live on your own? Here’s a checklist to help you make your decision.

1. Are you earning at least P25,000 a month? That’s what you basically need to live comfortably in a studio apartment. Half of that will go to your monthly rental and utilities, and the rest is for your transportation and food allowance. For instance, if you rent out a studio unit in Cityland Shaw, you have to pay P9,000 monthly for the rent, which doesn’t include parking (condos located in the CBD are more expensive so you need to pay more to live there). Plus, you need to set aside around P2,500 for your utility bills-that’s just a conservative estimate. And once you have paid for everything, you’ll hardly have enough left for your savings.

2. Do you have a stable job? You need to have a regular flow of income in order to pay for all your expenses. It is also important that you learn how to manage your money well so you can properly budget everything.

3. Can you dish up something else besides fried eggs? Unless you want to eat out or order food to go all the time, you need to learn how to cook. You don’t have to be a master in the kitchen; just learn the basics like steaming rice and preparing simple meals. Aside from being able to control what goes to your food, you’ll also save more when you eat at home.

4. Do you know how to get around Metro Manila? Whether or not you have your own transportation, you need to know the ins and outs in your area. The most important route to know is the way from your place to your office.

5. Do you know first aid? Illness and injury may be far from your mind but you need to learn the basics of first aid just in case you get sick or have an accident. Remember, your mom is not there to take care of you anymore. You should put the local emergency hotline in your speed dial just in case something happens. In fact, why not make a list of all the important hotline numbers and post it on your ref?

6. Do you know how to entertain yourself? Imagine not having company most of the time: how would you deal with the solitude and depression? Get involved in activities or sports to keep yourself busy.

If you answered “yes” to one to three items, then you should accept that you’d be living with your parents for quite a while.

If you said “yes” to four to five items, then you’re almost ready to live on your own.

If you answered “yes” to all six, then better pack your bags, kiss your parents goodbye, and say hello to the real world!

(Image taken from this site.)

Investment Tips for Real Women (WMN.ph)

(This “Investment Tips” article was published in WMN.ph last May 2009)

You’ve been working hard for quite some time already. Now what? Well, you could save up and put your money in the bank. But that is not the most practical option since the interest rates in banks are so low nowadays. It would be better if you put your money to good use, say, some kind of investment so you can maximize your money’s worth.

A wise choice is to invest in a house and lot like what Tintin Velasquez, 40, AP Manager for Shell Shared Services, did. She believes that investing in a good home is very important when you have your own family. Just look for an ideal location where your family could settle down nicely. Also, real estate is always a good investment since its value almost always goes up in time. Although buying a house and lot is not that simple, you can do it as long as you set aside some of your monthly earnings and then supplement it by applying for a housing loan at the bank.

Another 40-something, Isabel Santos, a bank product manager, also thinks that real estate property is the best investment she ever made. She says purchasing property either for personal use or for investment purposes is more profitable than putting all your money in the bank. You could always get a housing loan from the bank, your office, or even your parents-whoever offers the lowest rate.

If real estate is not your thing, you can opt to use your money in a way that would help you with your craft. Claudette Cuares, 36, sous chef at Sentro 1771, went to study in Ecole Superieure de Cuisine Francais (a culinary school in Paris) where she served as an apprentice and then worked for a year. She used to save 10 to 15 percent of her salary before she left for Paris. She also attended short courses and seminars to feed her mind, soul, and even her stomach. She says that as long as you have a passion (cooking, in her case), you’ll do anything to achieve it and you won’t even notice that you’re working hard for it.

It was the same for Cor Sunglao, 28, fashion designer of Coeur Clothing. She really pursued her passion for fashion by taking up a design course, buying the necessary equipment and materials, and creating her own atelier. She worked hard for her dream by working in the corporate world first in order to save up for it. If you have set clear goals and are patient enough, you’ll be able to do it too.

Actually, any kind of education is a good investment. A Masters Degree in Business Administration at Asian Institute of Management is the biggest investment for Donna Tambanillo, 29, a corporate planning manager. The MBA degree was a big help for her to step up the corporate ladder. But even with all the savings she put aside, studying in AIM was pricey, so she had to look for ways to cut costs by availing of scholarships and grants. She asked financial help from her parents, too. So don’t be afraid to ask for help and make sure that you really want something before you put all your money and energy into it.

And if you happen to have cash to spare, you can invest it in something that you could use. For instance, Cris de Luna, 31, a unit head in corporate sales for Bayantel, decided to use the incentives and commissions she earned from her job to buy her own car. Even if she could have used that extra money for other things, she had her eyes set on a car, which she finds beneficial in her line of work and gratifying in the end, too.

(Image taken from this site.)

Top 10 Recession Tips (WMN.ph)

(This “Recession” article was published in WMN.ph last April 2009)

You might have noticed that you’re still feeling the economic crunch even with all the hard work that you do and all the savings you’ve set aside. But maybe that’s not enough. You probably need to take some extra measures so you can stay afloat these days. Recession-proof your life by trying the following tips on for size.

1. Most of you probably couldn’t get through the day without your caffeine fix. But you don’t have to get your cup of Joe in a fancy coffee shop; you can just bring 3-in-1 coffee sachets to the office. Or if you really, really need to get coffee from Starbucks, get a short order instead of a venti.

2. Having lunch out everyday can burn a hole in your pocket. Why don’t you prepare a packed lunch instead? Aside from being able to save, you’ll know what goes into your food as well. Now you won’t have any excuse for feeling sleepy from all the Chinese food you ate. Just treat yourself to a lunch out maybe once a week so you won’t feel deprived.

3. Bringing a car to work can get pretty expensive. You have to pay for your gas, parking fees, and sometimes even toll fees. Instead of driving to work everyday, try to hitch a ride with a neighbor-slash-coworker. Or maybe use your parents’ car from time to time.

4. If renting out your own place is becoming too costly for you, consider getting a roommate so you can share the expenses for the meantime. You’d get some girl bonding time on the side, too.

5. Following fashion trends could be somewhat pricey. But instead of buying all those branded items, you could rummage through vintage shops (a.k.a. ukay-ukay) and look for stylish bargains. Just don’t tell your officemates where you shop. It will be your little secret.

6. Newspapers and magazines do feed your mind but could add to your expenses as well. Instead of regularly buying these reading materials, just visit their websites and you’ll see the same content at no extra cost.

7. Be on the lookout for deals and steals. You could get more bang for your buck if you take advantage of promos in shops or restaurants. Keep your eyes open for such deals.

8. Turn your trash into cash. If you have old clothes and other things you want to dispose, you could organize a rummage sale and earn a little money on the side. For other disposables such as papers, bottles, plastics, and old appliances, you could bring these to the recycle fairs in SM and Ayala Malls. Being green wouldn’t only help the environment but also help you earn money as well.

9. Go for the natural look. Don’t waste your hard-earned cash to buy all that gunk you put on your face. You don’t need a lot of makeup to look good; less is more.

10. Work could get pretty stressful so sometimes you just need to unwind and relax. Invite your coworkers or your sweetie to go out while there’s a happy hour at the nearby bar or restaurant. You’ll have a great time at a fraction of the price!

(Image was taken from this site.)

Rethinking Your Spending Habits During Recession

Here’s an article I wrote on how you can cope with the current economic crisis.

You’ve probably been spending freely like me before the global economic crisis hit us. Compulsively shopping, frequently going out for dinner, regularly watching movies, getting hour-long massages at spas, drinking designer coffee…

I used to do these things a lot before the recession happened, and I bet I’m not the only one.

Since then, I have managed to tighten my belt just enough so that I could still indulge once in a while but not as much as I used to. There was a big change with my spending habits. Instead of going to the movie theater once a week, I would just wait for the film in DVD. Instead of eating at a fancy restaurant, I would just settle for some fast food. And instead of shopping every weekend, I would just wait for the occasional sale. Even if the recession brought a drastic change to my lifestyle, I believe it has taught me to become more practical and more prudent with my finances.

Here are some tips on how to rethink your spending habits during the recession:

Cut Back on Luxuries

First, list down all your daily expenses so you can figure out what to cut back on. Of course you have to spend for your basic needs like food, clothing and your living expenses. But do you really have to buy designer duds? Or do you really, really need to go to Starbucks everyday? You could live without these luxuries, you just need to do some adjusting.

Buy Used or Refurbished Items

You don’t always have to buy brand new. It’s perfectly fine to get a second hand items as long as you check that they’re it’s in good condition. For instance, if you’re in the market for a car, instead of getting brand new wheels, you could get a used sedan for a fraction of the price. Aside from spending less, you’d also contribute less carbon footprint (Mother Earth would thank you for it.) The same goes for refurbished gadgets like computers and mp3 players.

Ask for Promos or Discounts

Internet, cell phone and cable providers usually offer promotions from time to time. All you have to do is ask about it. Even restaurants and stores sometimes have ongoing promos or discounts. Again, just ask – you’ll have nothing to lose if you do. I actually tried asking for a discount at a sports store once and they gave me an additional 10% off at the counter. I was pleasantly surprised when they granted my request. It could happen to you too.

Pay in Cash

When you’re buying something, I suggest that you pay in cash rather than charge it to your credit card so that it would be easier to keep track of your finances. You’ll know exactly how much money you have left and not be in any risk of credit card debt. Even if these cards are convenient to have around, it’s also risky to have one especially if you have a tendency to go wild with your spending. At least when you’re using cash, you’ll know when to stop – when there’s nothing left in your wallet anymore.

Since the world is still experiencing financial crisis, you can’t do away with spending freely anymore. You can’t just sit back and relax. You need to adjust to the circumstances and welcome change in your life. You need to re-think your spending habits so you can stay afloat of the situation. After all, you don’t know when the recession would end. That’s why you should physically and mentally prepare yourself for whatever may happen. In the meantime, why don’t you try out my suggestions above so you’ll be equipped to face the financial challenges ahead?

(Published in www.PepperVirtualAssistant.com, October 19, 2009)