5 Easy Ways to Save (Without Feeling the Pinch)

I have always considered myself as a frugal person.  I attribute this to my parents who have taught us early on that money does not grow on trees and so, should be spent wisely.  At a young age, we were “trained” to distinguish which are needs and which are simply wants.  Case in point:  while shopping for school supplies and I asked for those cute Sanrio pencils, we were told that we only needed Mongol pencil #2.  The Sanrio pencils that costs twice as much were nice to have but we didn’t really need it at that time.  Growing up, we hardly had any extravagant material possessions but strangely enough, I never felt wanting.  Maybe it’s because we’ve always had enough of what we needed and extras were spent on experiential things like dining in fancy restaurants or family outings.

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Now, as a mom myself, I try to teach my kids to also be save and be practical with their choices.  When they receive money as gifts, we take a portion of it for saving while they can spend the rest as they please.  It can be challenging at times but I am happy that they are learning to value money and saving at a young age.

Personally, I also try to keep finding ways to save from our household expenses.  I chanced upon an old budget notebook that i had when N & I were just starting out and I am shocked at how things (and expenses) have increased over the years.  I’ve never noticed but the small changes in spending behavior and lifestyle actually had a big impact on our budget.

So, after reviewing our current expenditure pattern, let me share with you a few easy ways to save without feeling deprived afterwards:

1.  Plan meals ahead. —  Planning meals offer a lot of advantages for me. Firstly, my family is ensured of a variety of food on the table.  Last thing I want is a whole week of chicken dishes because there is nothing else left on the fridge to cook!  Second, planning ahead minimized the stress of thinking what’s for dinner and for baon every single day.  A menu plan also works for my helper, who would already know what to prepare early.

Ensuring there is enough stock in the fridge and pantry also limited our emergency food take-outs and trips to the grocery.  While there is always the trusty sari-sari store, we know that their prices are always more expensive than the grocery.  Planning eliminated unnecessary shopping as well as over/understocking.

Lastly, as I recently involved the kids in coming up with our weekly menus, the food served is welcomed with delight and kid-approved! No more unfinished baon or spoilage! ☺

2.  Be conscious of the little things. — We rarely notice but the small efforts that we do can make a big difference.  How mant times have we been often told to switch off the lights when not in use?  And it does work!  So…turn off and unpug appliances especially when turning in for the night.  Close the faucet whie brushing your teeth.  Let natural light and air come in.  These may be insignificant acts but when put together, can make a dent in your water and electricity bill.

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3.  Make use of rewards programs.  — I have a separate wallet with membership cards of various stores that we frequently visit.  Most big supermarket chains and department stores woud have a rewards program to encourage patronage.  One time, I was pleasantly surprised that I already accumulated Php1,000 from my grocery rewards card!  On a separate occasion, I was able to buy a blouse for myself using my rewards points too! ☺  I’ve used these points also to buy gifts or other items that were not originally part of my budget so it didn’t make me guilty for buying something not in my list. ☺

4.  Brew your own brew. — Coffee is something that I cannot live without.  I need my caffeine fix in the morning if you want me productive and functional.  There was a time when a trip to Starbucks or Tully’s became part of my daily routine…until I realized how expensive this habit was becoming.  I spend Php100-150 easily on a cup of coffee, which is approximately Php2,000 in a month’s time!  Good thing, I discovered this hazelnut-flavored coffee beans in the grocery.  500 grams costs about Php400 which is good for two weeks of coffee for me and the hubby!  That’s good savings right there without sacrificing on taste and flavor!

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5.  Pay bills on time.  — I am usually prompt in paying bills and for credit cards, I make sure to pay in full because of the very high interest rates.  However, there was a time when I was so busy with work that I forgot to pay one credit card on time.  The delay in payment resulted in about Php3,000 in interest charges!  It may seem small but that amout could’ve been put to better use, right?  As soon s I got the bill, I called the credit card company and pleaded to reverse the charges.  Maybe they saw my payment history and decided to allow this one-time slip.  From then on, I promised to ALWAYS, ALWAYS be mindful of due dates and pay on time.

These are just few of the many ways we can save without really feeling the pinch.  I am sure a lot of homemakers out there will also have some tips to share so feel free to do so in the comments section.  I’d love to hear from you and learn some more. ☺

5 Things to Never Say or Do to THIS Pregnant Woman

I am now on my 18th week with Baby#3 and as expected, my bump is already starting to show.  I am loving the preggy belly but I am not sure what is it with the bump that elicits some of the most irritating behavior and insensitive remarks from people!

So I decided to do this post and come up with a short list of what not to say or do to pregnant women…at least to this one. 😉

1.  “Can I touch your tummy?” —  This is at the top of my most infuriating list!  Even worse are those who do not ask at all and simply assume that it’s okay to grab and rub my tummy. Excuuuuse meeeee! My belly is MY BELLY!  It encroaches on my personal space when people just suddenly rub it and yes, this includes well-meaning friends and relatives.  The only people who have unrestricted belly-touching privileges are the hubby and kids.  It gets even more annoying when people add the “for good luck” comment while touching me, like I’m some sort of Buddha. Not cool, really!  So, enough with the belly rubbing please.  And I mean NOW.

2.  “You’re already on your fourth month?  You look so small.” —  I know this is intended to be a compliment but really, the translation running through my head is “Are you sure your baby is okay?” or “You look tired and stressed.”, which isn’t positive any which way I look at it.  Being pregnant leaves me with days feeling ugly and unattractive.  And certainly, there are those days when I am tired and stressed out.  In those kinds of days, it really doesn’t help hearing those comments so better if you keep these thoughts to yourself.

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3.  Incessantly asking “Do you know the gender of the baby?” or “What are you going to name it?” —  I understand that people get excited with pregnancy and babies.  I get that, really.  But please understand that being pregnant is also a personal thing that I undergo.  Sometimes, I just want to keep some of those details to mysef and my family first.

So stop hounding me with gender questions and baby name options.  If you’re important to us, we will tell you when we’re ready.  You just have to be a little patient. ☺

4.  Acting like the pregnant police.  —  You mean well, I know.  When you keep reminding me to stop with the caffeine or the sugar, or to eat more of this and less of that, I know that you have my best intentions at heart.  But you see, I know these too!  I’ve read enough books and been through two previous pregnancies to know which is okay and which may harm my baby.  So I hope that you can give me a little credit on that and cut me some slack when I sometimes feel like eating that small bag of potato chips.

5.  “Did you plan to have another baby?”  — This is when I grit my teeth, try to smile and walk away slowly.  This is really none of your business.  End of sharing.

My list is probably just the tip of the iceberg.   I am sure other expectant mothers have heard and dealt with so much more than this.  In most cases, I am sure that the comments and gestures are not meant to deliberately hurt or annoy us.  But sometimes, it just does.  So before saying another word, pause for a while and think through it again.  A little bit of understanding and sensitivity would go a loooooong way….especially to hormonal pregnant ladies like me.

And with that, I leave you all with a smile and a peace sign! ☺✌  Cheers!

Preggy Over the Summer

As part of our company’s HR policies, all employees are required to take 10 days of uninterrupted leave from work.  During this time, we are not allowed to do any work.  We are not permitted to answer emails, much less be seen in the office premises.  This rule is part of the company’s efforts to promote work-life balance and really encourage its employees to take a break from the daily office routine.  This policy is strictly enforced and leaves are to be scheduled early enough so that there will be no business interruption and to ensure that there will be no overlapping leaves between key personnel.

I usually schedule my core leave during thr summer to take advantage of the kids’ vacation time.  As a working mom, I sometimes feel that the time I spend with my children is too short.  Weekends never seem to be long enough, especially when you factor in chores and other appointments.  This time is my way of playing “catch-up”, so to speak, as I spend more bonding moments with them.

Days before my scheduled leave, I told F & S to make a list of things that they want to do together.  They came up with a diverse lot — from baking to artwork, to watching a movie and going on a picnic as well as opening bank accounts and cooking dinner for their dad.  I was glad to see that they also included a “no Ipad day” and “do exercise” on their list.

Enjoying their yummy baked creations.

Enjoying their yummy baked creations.

Every day, we carefully planned out our schedule so we can scratch off as many items from their list as possible.  We had a lot of doing these stuff together and felt accomplished whenever we complete a task.

Artsy fartsy! S doing some scrapbooking.

Artsy fartsy! S doing some scrapbooking.

Sadly, our bonding sessions were cut short as I experienced some bleeding a week into my core leave.  I was on my 15th week of pregnancy then and still within the first trimester, which is usually the most delicate time as well.  I had to be admitted in the hospital for the weekend and then was advised to have complete bed rest for two weeks 😟😳  I felt sad and disappointed because it coincided with our planned beach outing with my other siblings. But the baby’s safety is our foremost priority so N and the kids had to go without me.

The past two weeks were challenging to say the least!  It was difficult to just stay in bed for that long. It was also pretty disappointing for the kids who still had a few items on their list that we needed to do.  But they are such great kids and I couldn’t be prouder as a mom!  They took the bed rest order to heart and made sure that I had everything that I needed.  They took turns in bringing food and drinks to the bedroom; they stayed with me and made sure I was snug and comfortable.  F cooked our dinner during the days when we didn’t have a helper at home while S did her share of tidying up the house.

Breakfast made by kids especially for mom

Breakfast made by kids especially for mom

It was quite difficult to be on bed rest with no helper around but we managed…and pretty well, I might add, because of the kids pitching in. I feel truly blessed to have such responsible and caring children.

Before I went back to work, we tried to make the most of my remaining days at home.  I was allowed by my doctor to go on leisurely walks by the end of the second week so we squeezed in movie dates, tried out a new restaurant and went on a picnic.  For the last one through, we had to be content with an “indoor picnic” as I cannot really travel anywhere far as of yet.

And so, while our plans were slightly changed due to unforeseen circumstances, I still feel happy that we experienced these things together as a family.  I think that this experience actually brought us even closer together.