Anne, a friend of my daughter, spent an weekend with us. While having breakfast, the discussion turned to money matters. She gushed over Lauren’s responsible spending habits despite her financial independence. But of course, I instilled money management early on in their lives. Mind you, my daughters are thrifty but know how to spend and party hard.
My family is no stranger to financial challenges. If there is one thing I often remind my children, it is “no matter the state of our financial situation, we need to implement some sort of money management or else all that money will be gone in an instant.” The worst financial challenge we faced was in 2004. Call it martial law, but hard times called for drastic measures.
Under my strong-woman rule, I imposed a few family rules that my loving husband adapted nicely too. He had no choice, right? Let me share a few of my rules that might be useful to you because I know each family sets their own rules. This is what we discussed.
1. First, let’s set up priorities: know our regular expenses.
Take critical look at our expenses and remove out those that don’t give real satisfaction. The number one priority is food, housing, education and clothing but then again there are limits to this. Junk food is definitely the least priority. Buying luxurious home decors is also a no-no. What about clothing? Let’s not buy branded items at all. When it came to education, the priority is the state university if possible. Oh yes, I forced Marielle to enroll at the University of the Philippines after she had difficulty choosing schools.
2. Limit use of Credit.
We canceled a total of 3 credit cards and kept one credit card each together with a local credit card (BPI credit card). Using a credit card is not all that bad. In fact, whenever we get a housing loan, these loan companies check our 6 month credit card statement to see how good we are in paying our credit on time. Even the US embassy takes a look at your credit card history (when you bring these documents over but they don’t keep it of course). So make sure your credit card history is solid. What we avoid is buying on impulse.
3. Put a plug on those spending leaks
Impulse buying–frittering away small amounts here and there on “little” things–can add up to a surprisingly big amount.
- Avoid shopping for groceries when your tummy is grumbling. You’ll buy more of those tempting treats that can run up your bill.
- Avoid “killing time” in the malls. (You’re sure to come away with something you hadn’t planned on buying.) Use a budget and keep within it. Once you can resist the temptation of spending “small” amounts, you’ll have more money for the things you really want.
- Avoid eating out for dinner and instead, let’s have home cooked meals.
4. Don’t be careless when shopping
There is always pressure to buy things. Our wants are greater than our needs. This leads to buying things we don’t really need and to buying without comparing values and prices. Identify your weakness and declare a moratorium in buying it. If your weakness is shoes, for instance, commit to stop buying a new pair in the next six months. My husband is a shoe collector freak which ended when I declared “war”. The kids did not get expensive toys. They were very happy just browsing at the bookstore not minding the toy store at all. Packed lunch for school helped save on meal expenses. The occasional money allowance was necessary to empower them on how to budget.
5. Save even just small amounts.
I told the kids that once they graduate, financial support for most of their personal needs will be cut. Sure they could live with us only to save for their future home. When Lauren started to work in 2007, she suddenly found herself spending her salary. To encourage her to save, I demanded rent from her. I told her that saving just a little will amount to big amounts in a few months. Lauren was only twenty-two years old when she invested on a condominium project. Marielle, my second daughter moved to Australia using her own money to apply and travel to Australia for a year at around the same age.
6. Establish cash reserve
Financial experts recommend that every family create a cash reserve of at least 50 percent of their annual income. My dad was very good at maintaining liquidity. I fail in establishing that 50% cash reserve because I placed some of our cash in investing on real estate. Though not as liquid as cash, real estate investment protects me from two-digit inflation.
I think I might have ingrained the saving thing too much when I told my girls that I planned on having my birthday dinner in a restaurant. I thought they’d be happy that for once, we will be eating out. I never expected their reaction.
Mom why make other people rich? Let’s just have dinner at home!
I was surprised, But we barely eat out for dinner! It’s a treat and it happens only once a year.
Their firm response: Mom, dinner at home is so much better! Let’s save.
There are many ways to live within our means without scrimping our lifestyle. How have you managed?