One of the big realizations during our recent vacation is the seemingly high prices of food and other commodities in the Philippines. What looked like a culture shock would be to see prices of your favorite fast food chains costing almost like fine dining prices, and even a few grocery items averaging few thousand pesos in total. What’s also surprising is that amidst all these… lots of people are still in the malls, restaurants are full, and high prices don’t seem like a problem at all.
With an easy access to the mall from our condo, my wife and I are contemplating while roaming around to see how people can afford the kind of lifestyle that they have (coffeeshops, Japanese and Korean restaurants every where, branded outlets, and more). We’ve been practically invaded by more Kpop idols becoming ambassadors of Filipino brand like Bench, Penshoppe or other household products like Dunkin Donuts, etc. And yes, cars with downpayment as low as Php 69,000 are also available! Now we ask how can we lessen traffic in Manila when it’s so easy to buy a brand new car but it’s very difficult to phase out old ones?
Both of us, while holding our hands tight, are firm in our resolve that we need to save more before saying yes to going home for good. An annual vacation is still a viable option for us.
Allow us to to share some areas that we are also considering in order to save for our next vacation (or to save for the future, in general). We’re not financial experts but these could somehow give insights as we also process and evaluate our personal options.
- CHECK YOUR MAJOR EXPENSES AND SEE HOW TO MINIMIZE IT. Most OFW’s main source of income is our salaries. And as contract employees we can’t do so much about it except if there’s an option to transfer to a high paying job (which must be reconsidered with utmost care for its pros and cons). Oftentimes, rental fees are one of our major expenses. In Qatar, a room could range from QR800-QR2000 depending on the size and location. For those with families here, an apartment or flat could range from QR4,000 (2BR) to QR10,000 (3-4BR), again depending on the size and location. One thing that we can consider is getting a less expensive accommodation or getting someone to share our rent. This has been a struggle for us since our initial plan was to get our son and mother for vacation regularly. But due to the pandemic and school schedules, we put a hold on this plan for more than 2 years now and we saw some rooms that’s not fully utilized. Thinking of ways to save, we are considering the latter option as the most applicable for us.
- CHECK ON THE UNNECESSARY EXPENSES AND CUT THEM. Some of our unnecessary expenses come in those seemingly unnoticeable decisions. Subscription fees, membership fees, and other similar fees that can rack up to thousands of riyals and we don’t realize it. Content creators like us oftentimes subscribe to editing apps that we may not use very often (editor, music, special effects, etc). Some may be paying membership fees to groups or companies that is somehow unused (club memberships, gym, or the likes). You will often see these when you check your emails and see automatic renewals being setup on your credit cards. Maybe one of the most practical way to address this is to check on your subscriptions and automatic payment setup with your cards. An example is when I realized that I’m paying US$5 every month to a Youtube Patreon Account for a music content that I used for our awarding ceremonies on January last year and it was “accidentally” set-up MONTHLY even though I used it only once… that’s US$5 each month for almost a year! Evaluate those that you need and cut those that you don’t. You will realize a hundred riyals savings a month will be a big amount of savings every year!
- WATCH YOUR SPENDING HABIT AND MAXIMIZE THE USE OF DISCOUNT APPS. It’s a common knowledge that our next biggest expenses are on groceries and food. Buying during promotions and using discount apps (like Urbanpoint that comes with your Ooredoo subscription, or MyBook or Entertainer that you can share with a colleague) will save you a lot.
- BE AWARE OF EXCHANGE RATES FOR YOUR REMITTANCE. Unknowingly, we also spend (or lose money) on exchange rates when we remit cash to our home country during weekends or end of the month. Try to check the exchange rates during weekdays and during 2nd or 3rd week – it’s usually lower. Law of supply and demand suggests that when ore people buy dollars the higher the price. Also, you can consider remitting online for lesser transaction fees ( we are using Ooredoo Money that only charge us QR15 every transaction).
- FIND A LEGITIMATE WAY TO EARN EXTRA MONEY. As creative as we are, people can always think of ways to earn extra money by selling products or by offering services. As the times become more and more advanced, extra money can also be earned by getting our hands at online activities like stocks, dropshipping, online selling, etc.
- KEEP YOU LIFESTYLE AT A MINIMUM regardless if you receive a salary increase or a bonus. Situations like this do not necessarily mean a splurge on expenses only because you have unexpected blessings. Even while on vacation, be frugal on your spending habit. “Save whatever you have for the rainy days” and consider it deposited on your account. Also, when you finish a financial obligation, continue saving the same amount on a separate savings account. Keep the mindset of having to pay something and enjoy the savings when you finally need it.
- SAVE BY PURCHASING EARLY AND BY PURCHASING IN BULK. This is an old hack that we usually do when preparing for major vacations or major expenses. We reserve our tickets way early especially during seat sale and get the lowest airfare that we can for our desired travel date (ANOTHER TIP: other travellers consider having flexible dates in exchange for lower priced tickets). Read more on social media and learn the various ways to purchase and book your activities using booking apps that allows you to enjoy more freebies and discounts. We use booking.com for our hotel bookings and as you book more, your level becomes higher making you more eligible for more discounts and even rebates. This year, we also discovered Klook.com through several influencers who were recommending it for activities like trains, entrance tickets that doesn’t only save you money but also save you time by falling in line (plus saving you from getting sold out on your preferred date and time). You can also get more saving tips when you follow several travel groups that will give you options and recommendations to get a roaming wifi versus a local sim (which ever you prefer), even options for places to do shopping at low prices! This year, it’s quite becoming a popular idea not to consider local convenience stores and ramen shops of the same quality at lower price instead of the famed DON QUIJOTE and ICHIRAN RAMEN.
- My last TIP is to always consider the prices of commodities in QATAR RIYALS (CONVERT TO RIYALS). Working in Doha for many years made us so used to the currency of the land and it also became our gauge to evaluating prices and value. When looking at prices of food in the Philippines and in Japan, I always convert it to QR for me to realize its actual worth in the money and currency that I’m most familiar now. You will find it easier to judge and decide when you know that every 1000 yen (usual cost of a meal) is only QR27, and that every Php1000 worth of grocery is only QR67.
Consider doing all these saving tips not only for our expenses and activities here in Qatar but also back home and you may find more avenues to save that you haven’t considered before.
I was told that it wasn’t about money being saved but the habit of being responsible and wise in spending that really matters. Let’s also not forget that money is just a means for us to enjoy life… but it’s not all that will make us truly happy. Consider being faithful, being kind, and being generous… and never lack anything in life. As in Proverbs 11:24 NIV: One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
SHAMELESS PLUG: As you know, we post regularly on our social media accounts – INSTAGRAM and FACEBOOK PAGE (Best Life Qatar). Your kind support by LIKING, SHARING, and ENGAGING thru comments will definitely help us. Appreciate if you can comment directly on the post instead of sending us PRIVATE MESSAGES. This will encourage conversation an discussion at the same time limiting us to reply similar questions sent us through DMs. Hoping for your kind understanding.