This month I celebrated my third anniversary as an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW). I love the whole idea of working abroad and being exposed to different cultures. I am thankful for the opportunity to be here, living my dream to travel the world while saving and investing for my future.
Three years. That’s more than a thousand challenging days of work to achieve my KPI’s! There were moments when I rode the wrong bus and got lost, fainted in the middle of the road because of hypoglycemia, cried in front of my former boss when I was overwhelmed with too much pressure, underwent a total of three major surgeries from a fall accident, and so much more!
Three years. I met new friends and let go of some. I also learned to appreciate my hard-earned money more – keeping track of where it goes and prioritizing my emergency fund and life insurance. I stopped shopping for useless things (in fact, I have not purchased a new purse this 2017 but more on this later). I am embracing the minimalist lifestyle and doing better at keeping to it.
My first three years have been wonderful. As an OFW in the Middle East who loves to eat out (especially buffets and steaks) and travel, allow me to share some tips on how I managed to sustain the lifestyle that I want without having to overspend.
Borrow Clothes and Accessories
Yes, I borrow clothes and accessories – not all of travel OOTD posts on Facebook are from my closet!
For example, last 2015 for my trip to Prague, I needed winter clothes. I thought a leather jacket would cost me AED 200 at least so I asked my friend if she would lend me hers. She told me she only uses it a few times in a year anyway so why not, and even offered to lend me her boots because we have the same shoe size. I saved myself a lot of money by borrowing. When doing this, make sure to take extra care of the items and return them in good condition. Buy a little something as a token of appreciation, such as a fridge magnet or any knick-knack.
My roommates and I would swap formal dresses as well. This doubles as a nice way for the girls to bond. More often than not, we would let the other keep the dress as we have gone tired wearing it anyway. My girlfriends still regularly message each other asking if they can borrow a sundress or LBD or even a denim jacket, and I look forward to meeting them for a “closet raid.”
Prepare Work Lunch at Home
While weekend brunches and international buffets make me happy, it is not something I can afford to spend on on a daily or weekly basis.
I like to prepare my work lunch at home as I like to make sure to use fresh ingredients. I do not use any flavour enhancer because that gives me a headache. I prefer having brown rice for lunch as it reduces the risk of diabetes. On a regular day I would have brown bread for breakfast, a lunch of Filipino menu and a fruit (banana, apple or pears) for afternoon snack (we will be posting Meal Prep ideas on the blog soon).
This helps me resist the temptation of ordering food for delivery which would cost me a fortune if I did it every day. It also makes me control the quantity of the food I eat. Having fruits readily available on my desk helps me avoid my craving for crisps and chocolate.
Avail the loyalty programs of major supermarkets in Dubai. After spending a certain amount, they give out cash vouchers or freebies. They also have a “market day” once a week where they sell items at a lower price.
Use your friend’s Entertainer Voucher
This is a tricky one. Why on Earth would anyone want to share his Entertainer password? My colleague lets me use her vouchers for several reasons.
First of all, she is not as adventurous as I am when it comes to food and is very particular with her food choices. I am more of a go-with-the-flow, always wanting to try something new. Second, she barely uses her vouchers and does not want to waste what she has paid a full year’s subscription. Third, we live in different areas in Dubai so she does not go where I go. It makes more sense for her that I use the app to maximise its advantages.
Am I lucky? Yes, very! She lets me have my ramen, steak and chicken wings for half the original price!
Pick out Work Clothes in Generic Colors
I have only three pairs of work trousers. They come in generic colors – black, blue and khaki. I own several work tops in black (my favourite color), blue, red and white – everything in generic color and print. As Mark Zuckerberg would put it, this allows me to focus energy on more important decisions instead of wasting time deciding what to wear in the morning. When in doubt, wear black. Feeling bloated, wear black. Going to a meeting, wear a black trouser. Feeling cold, grab that black jacket. Easy.
I used to feel the need to upgrade my wardrobe but that has changed since I started investing. So far I am happy to be maintaining a few pieces of good quality, while adding more money to my investments and seeing it grow.
Automate Savings and Investments
On payday I make sure to have my savings and investments set aside first; whatever is left is for my expenses.
Aside from having an Excel Sheet to monitor and plan my budget, I have automated my bills payment via online banking. Automating payments gives me more time and energy to focus on other things. A few years back I wanted to jump-start a budgeting technique by saving AED 100 for emergency fund, another AED 100 for stocks, another AED 100 for mutual funds, and so on. Over time I developed a habit of saving and now I have added more to that, depending on how much I can set aside.
Whatever extra I make, like bonuses or commissions, I use it freely but responsibly. I usually send some of it back home, take Rod out for a buffet dinner, add to my investments, or go shopping for something nice.
The idea of saving may seem difficult but you have to start somewhere. Take time to list down what you can sacrifice to achieve your financial goals. At least start with an emergency fund and a life insurance. It will get easier with time.
Trust me,you will enjoy logging in to your bank account and seeing you have saved a lot.