Author Archives: Joe

Valentine on a Budget

Am not much of a mall person but this Sunday I finally took a long trip to Cubao, Quezon City all the way from  from Alabang, Muntinlupa.  The obvious occasion was a Valentine lunch for the family at the newly opened Uncle Cheffy restaurant. I cant resist the invitation of good friends Larry  Cortez and Chef Mau Arjona on their opening week. What with a 50% discount on all food and non-alcoholic drinks.

Long way from home but truly worth the trip

Growing up near the Balete Drive area in Quezon City, Ali Mall is a special place for me.   Its a homecoming of sorts for I moved to the south side of the metropolis  after getting married. I  rarely come to Cubao.

During my days of youth,   I could stand on the roof of our house and see the Araneta Coliseum in the distance with nary a tall building to block one’s view.  Today, the place is teeming with people and new buildings. It makes one dizzy just standing in the corner while a great mass of humanity pass in front of you.

EDSA was still a two lane asphalt road and was called HIghway 54. Farmers Market along Edsa was already there, it was however still not considered a mall.

Ali Mall, truly was the first real Mall in the Philippines. Its opening coincided with the now famous “Thrilla in Manila”, the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight.

Time has been kind to Ali Mall. It still is as I remembered it. Gone are the old tenants and the typical stores in most malls now occupy most of the leased spaces.

My favorite companion in Ali Mall before was my  “Lolo Atong” Growing up in the company of my grandfather, he would regale me with stories of how much value “isang pera” (one centavo) was worth before. He inculcated in me a sense of thrift and the importance of saving money. I learned those lessons from him when my daily school allowance was only “diyes centimos” (ten centavos).

The ten cents could pay for jeepney fare to and from school and if I saved the change, I could buy a chocolate coated “pinipig crunch” by Friday.

Once a year, we would go shopping in Cubao for shoes. I don’t think shoemakers knew the meaning of comfort back then. My poor crooked toes are a testament to that. I only had one pair for the year and it was what I used for going to school, playing basketball and going to formal events. Midway through the year, the sole has become paper thin and i had to resort to putting cardboard cut-outs inside the shoe to protect my already suffering feet. I cant help but chuckle when I remember those times.

Life was simpler then. Or was it really simpler and cheaper then?

It dawned on me that it is wrong to say that those good times are long gone.

If you look closely at how things work, the more change comes, the more it stays the same.

We have been running in the treadmill of life, constantly chasing our tail until on our last days, we realized its all for naught.

Consider the merry-go-round of increasing food prices due to inflation. With the increasing cost of living, the workers ask for more wages. When granted, the increase in wages then make producing the food more expensive. Then the worker asks for more wages. The vicious cycle continues through the years until that “isang pera”  finally becomes worthless.

The essence of living a happy life therefore lies in carefully managing one’s financial resources and saving enough money for the many aspirations we have.

The lessons of  my Ilocano grandfather rings true until today. Going out with the family for dinner need not be an expensive affair. If you plan well ahead of time and set a reasonable budget, the bonding experience need not break the bank.

With those lessons on simplicity and adequacy, we went out for our family valentine lunch at Uncle Cheffy. All told, the average bill per person came out to only PP250.

On the drive back home, I cant help but smile for I know my Grandpop is up there in heaven smiling back at me, his Ilocano grandson. Happy Valentines day everyone!

Painless Money Management

The best way to control your spending habits

One of the most valuable business and personal finance lesson I learned is, “You cannot manage anything you cannot measure”. This is so true, even on a personal basis. Time and again, we wonder at the end of the month how our money just flowed through our hands. We scratch our heads, wondering why our bank accounts are in red ink all the time.

Does money just magically disappear or is it our lack of willingness to put controls into our cash management that prevent us from getting into financial holes?

What is personal cash management? To sum it up, it simply is 1. Planning what you will spend on in the coming month 2. Recording how you spend 3. Analyzing the results.

Planning for success

Conventional management techniques means sitting down and setting a year long expense budget. While this does have its merits, for the individual who is  sinking his teeth into cash management for the first time, this is not the best way to go. I always suggest to our clients to list down and  plan expense for the coming month,  on the last week of the prior month. The objective of this exercise is to plan to spend only 70% of your current income. Those who live from paycheck to paycheck may find this impossible at first. Don’t worry, changing your money situation is not a one month process. You can aim for spending 95% initially but eventually should work at bringing it down further to your target 70% or even less than that.

Another benefit to you is awareness. Your sitting down with pen and paper  makes you realize where the money is about to go and this process allows you to make changes in areas where there is  excessive spending.

Counting Beans

The second step is to buy a small pocket size notebook. I have preference for those with wire ring binders. I scrounge around the house for used pencils which are three  inches in length which I can conveniently push into the coiled ring binder of the notebook. While ballpoint pens can also be cut down to size, I do not recommend it.

After soiling my shirt and pants with leaking ink, I finally learned that the best writing instrument for this exercise is a pencil. From day 1, you begin by simply writing any expense, no matter how trivial in this notebook. If you miss a day, you have to quickly make up for it by taking the time to recall the expenses you missed. The proximity to the missed day is important, for if you take too long in writing these missed items down, the greater the tendency for it to be forgotten.

At the end of every day, simply total all the amounts and put the result at the end of the day.

Power Analysis

No one can make you change your habits. Only you can do that. We now come to the most important part of the exercise. This is where analysis of the results and a clear understanding of what needs to be done happens.

The first thing you are looking for is the average amount of money you spend everyday. This is important for it tells you how much of the precious cash is flowing out of your pocket.

Take the average and multiply it by 30. Hopefully, the total average amount is less than your average daily income.  Doing it on daily averages puts the expense and income right in your face. If you average P1,000 per day of wage, and you discover you are spending in the vicinity of P1,500, you immediately know that you are  in serious trouble. If you are not there yet, I am sure, you will get to  the red numbers pretty quick.  You can walk around with this average daily income and expense in your head all the time. Now you have what we call a “benchmark” or a “spending standard” which hopefully will help you slow down on the wallet-flip and pay syndrome.

Another pattern you may want to look for is where you spend your money. Create five  expense categories. The basic food, shelter, clothing, education, transportation categories can be a starting point. Don’t go beyond five for we want to keep things as simple as possible for now.

Get a clean sheet of paper, draw four vertical lines and put the categories as the column headings. As you go through your notebook, just write down the amount you spent in the category you want them to fall in.

Total the columns to get the total amount of expense for the month.  Now you know, where the money is flowing. The appropriateness of the amounts is up to you. Just keep in mind that this exercise has a very important objective of bringing down the expense level to 70% of what you earn.

If you continue doing this exercise for 12 months, you are on your way to financial heaven. From this notebook, you should graduate to more complex and accurate systems. For the newbies, this should be sufficient help for now.

The “Walking Eater”

Moneydoctors recently developed a personal finance notebook called “The Walking Eater” It sells for less than P100 and you can order it by simply sending us an email request. We are making arrangements for a PayPal facility for you to make ordering easy and painless. We normally send it to you via snail mail to keep the cost down. The notebook was developed as a result of an actual “walking eater” who spends too much money on street food and found financial redemption in his small pocket notebook he carries around. It is our hope, that you too will take the path of discovery so that you may live a more peaceful financial life and thus become another  “Walking Eater”  success story. Joe Ferreria

Budget Golf anyone?

Homeward bound! View from the 2nd floor of the clubhouse

Hole number 9 with its generous fairways lined by mature acacia trees. Framing it is the Sierra Madre mountains in the background. Truly a sight for sore eyes

I believe that playing golf is not an  expensive sport  if you know how to avoid the wallet bleeding blackholes of the game. When you finally  get started,  equipment can be lent  or even given to you  by golf junkie friends. Golfers buy equipment on an endless stream which leads to clutter in their homes.  Getting rid of a dusty set  after all, is a great relief to most of our golf widows. So when you get a freebie, say thank you and get out of your friend’s house before he changes his mind.

For the beginning duffer, a weekend golf excursion can set you back 5,000 bucks. A premier club can charge P3,500 for the green fee, P700 for the golf cart P500 for the caddy and probably if you are hungry throw another P500 for food.

With golf bag in hand and a swing that produces banana shots, we embark on our quest for a cheap place to play. The missus gave only P1,500 golfing allowance for the month so I have to really get a lot of mileage out of my meager resources.

Someone gave me a book which featured all the available golf courses in this country. If I remember right, its over 100 courses sprinkled all over the country. In that list,

I  remembered a club called Cattle Creek. It was the only course designed by the famous Ben Arda of 60’s and 70’s fame. The famous Bantam Ben comes to mind for I remember him giving me a swing tip in a driving range along Sucat road in Paranaque a long time ago. Never mind if the balls were going left, right or at worse rolling two feet from where I stood. Bantam Ben, with a trained eye told me to flatten my swing and with a Judo move tried to explain it me. The ball did go straight about 6 times but after he left I went back to my comfortable right, left, right left direction.

I tried looking for Cattle Creek Golf Club  using Google Earth.   Finally was able to locate it  in the San Jose, Bulacan area, but the directions to the place was hazy.

You drive up Commonwealth Avenue in QC all the way to SM Fairview. Turn right and drive all the way up to San Jose Del Monte. I made the mistake of turning left into a road that leads to Sta. Maria Bulacan.  Had to backtrack after several frustrating attempt at asking the locals about the the location of the course.

A brick clubhouse with a view! what more can we ask for?

After your game, the Veranda of the clubhouse beckons you to put your feet up and enjoy the cool, gentle and definitely clean mountain breeze. Am in golf heaven

Back to the main road, I drove straight up and finally located it when I found someone working in the club. The key is to ask people where the NAPOCOR area is. An access road beckons when you get there and the guard at the gate will allow you in if you say you are headed to Cattle Creek.

The clubhouse was a two floor, brick affair. Impressive on the outside but monobloc chairs in the rudimentary cafeteria for golfers. The green fee was P1,000 that weekend and the caddy will agree to walk around the course with you for P300.

The setting was fantastic, with mature acacia trees lining the generous fairways. Am in golf heaven indeed! A few hours later, with a smile on my face and a bit of change in my pocket, I finally completed one of the most economical golf excursions ever. Even if I can hit the fairways only once a month, am off to looking for even more reasonable golf courses in the metro area. Enjoy your game! Joe Ferreria

Gift-giving tips

By Augustus Ferreria
Director, MoneyDoctors, Inc.

Illustrated by Danvic Briones

Gift giving this Christmas may not necessarily be expensive if you plan what you will buy.

On a blank piece of paper draw one large circle. Inside this circle, draw four more circles each smaller than the other. You should have something similar to the target used by archers with a red bulls-eye in the middle.

The red circle in the middle or the bulls-eye is your family. The next circle can be labeled close friends. The next can be officemates, business clients, acquaintances, neighbors or what have you.

You can have as many circle of relationships you want to draw.
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