Even if I am an immigrant and not technically an ofw, I still consider myself as one because I know that one day I will go back to the Philippines and live there for good.
So here are my proven tips on how to really save.
1. Income and Expenditure
I have an hourly work contract so it means that my income varies from one month to the next. My expenses however, are thankfully fixed (food, transport, insurance, house bills, portion of taxes, portion of holiday bills). Every month I calculate how much I want to set aside based on my projected income for the month. I am able to calculate this because I know how much exactly my expenses are. Which brings me to tip number 2.
2. Monthly list of expenses is a Must.
I have an excel file where I put all the expenses that I have for the day. I just download Google sheets app so it is easy to write down every expense. I have been doing this deligently for the last 5 years so I am also able to make a budget not just monthly but also yearly. Another benefit of having jotted down a list is that I am able to review the things I bought and can later decide where to cut down on unnecessary expenses.
3. On sending remittances
During the first years when I started to work and earn more here, I had this feeling that I have a lot here in Switzerland while my family (parents to be exact) in the Philippines have dire needs and that I should ‘save’ them. So what happened was that everytime I was able to have a considerable amount in my bank account, guilt consumes me and I then send big amounts home. There were many years when I had literally no savings because I sent all, either to pay debts, some emergency, or favors that I felt I should give. I have financial responsibilities also here in Switzerland. I do not let my husband pay for our life here because it is unfair for him. So between my life here in Switzerland and the life I left in the Philippines, I had almost zero savings.
However, after noticing that my help did not really have an impact as they were again in debts, I decided to cut down and not play the saviour anymore. I still help but I make sure that it is only a percentage of my income and not more. I also do not offer to solve a financial problem they might have anymore and let them solve it on their own. Thankfully my parents were hardworking people who just made some bad / desperate decisions but they do not really force me to help. Plus my brothers were taking also responsibility for the family so really I am not a saviour but I just ‘felt’ that I had to.
From my experience, my advice is to know the expenses of your family back home and make a budget. Never send all your income because one day, the employment will end and also the income so what then.
4. Do not impress other people especially in social media.
Do not buy a gadget, brand name accessories like watches, bags, etc, go to the restaurants just so you could post something in Facebook and feel good about yourself. It is meaningless and is absolutely not worth it at the end of the day. So what if your friends in Facebook do not see you are well off or ‘rich’ even if you are living abroad? Do not place you worth or happiness on those likes and comments.
Loneliness and boredom are reasons why a lot of ofws spend a lot of time in social media like Facebook because we are so far away from the life we knew and we would like to still somehow feel connected to the people who matter to us. But social media can be toxic because it actually make us feel more alone and so we try to compensate or fight these feelings by posting how good and beautiful our lives are. With these usually comes the expenses like going out, buying this and that all to make people back home believe that we have an enviable life abroad. It is not worth it because at the end of the day, you do not need to impress those who really care about you. All others just want gossip and some might look for ways/reasons to put you down.
The first thing I did as soon as I had the money was to invest in Philippine Stock Market. (HERE is an article I wrote about my experience.) I also participated in crowdfunding sites like farmon, and recently I joined Ksk COOP which is an ofw cooperative based in the Philippines. (This February 2020 marks my 1st year so I will be writing a review about this coop soon.)
Philippine economy is still growing so it is really good that ofws are able to tap into this and grow with our economy. There are a lot of ways to invest like buying a house/lot/condo, stock trading in Philippine stock market, buying mutual funds and different types of insurance, joining cooperatives, putting up a business, even dabbling in online selling. There are a lot of information online or you can also learn a lot from watching financial tips in YouTube.
6. Have a doable exit plan.
There is an end of employment abroad so you should have a clear path on what you will do after. After all the years of working abroad, do you think you have enough to be able to return back home well. Will you have enough capital to start a new life? Will you have secure investments in place for your new life back home? If you have an exit plan, you will know more or less how your life will be after your years of working abroad. If you have an exit plan, you will know what steps to take and have the goals in place.
I know 3 former ofws who worked years but returned back to the Philippines and started from scratch again. One friend will be going home with almost nothing saved/invested . The past 3 years all she did was post either her daily selfies, new clothes, new jewelry or her family back home eating out/enjoying the time after every remittance in Facebook. She goes home and she has to start with almost nothing.
However, I notice also that a lot of ofws are becoming interested in financial education these days. There are even a lot of popular Facebook sites like Pesos and Sense which advocates saving and financial education to Filipinos.
I think being an ofw is a big opportunity for a normal Filipino to be able to earn a lot. I just hope that we would be able to make the most of our earning potential and time given so we can go back home in a better situation that when we first left.