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The generous Pinoy

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Roxanne Sarthou
Roxanne Sarthou graduated from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. She is an Australian-qualified Financial Planner, Private Banker, Lending Manager and Property Investor. The information provided in this article is that of the author. Readers may get in touch with her via email on sarthou@honourbrothers.com.

Holidays always bring out the best qualities in every Filipino family. Our generosity and hospitality are legendary amongst our peers the world over.

An invitation to celebrate the Holidays in a Pinoy household always leaves a foreign guest in awe, and will certainly set the bar one notch up in terms of the abundance in food, gifts and the surprising take-home pack at the end of the celebration.

I am not much of a cook and a culinary expert in the kitchen, which makes me an oddity in this category. I also have a dog in the house so I am not one to open my home for house parties and much prefer to host guests at a restaurant. 

My cousin, on the other hand, is the reigning queen of family gatherings around the table. Just like the holidays past, we celebrated Christmas lunch with them and true to the usual tradition, the food was overflowing and gifts were plentiful. Of course, at the end of the celebration, we had the traditional takeaway. Plastic containers, aluminium foil, and cling wrap were carefully and inconspicuously set at the other end of the kitchen counter, ready to be filled with more food to be taken home.  

And what about the gifts you might ask?  I don’t know how it happened, but we seem to have brought even more gifts home than we had brought with us, even after we distributed all of our own gifts to the family. Needless to say, everyone was happy, and a couple of pounds heavier at the end. I am sure that most of you can relate to this scenario. Most Pinoy families celebrate this way.

December is the time of the year when some of us may go overboard with our generosity, to the point that our expenses tend to exceed our normal limits. Unfortunately, the excess spending gets carried over, as a strain on the budget (or the credit card) for the remainder of the year.

Truth be told, this used to happen to us as when we were just starting out, until we found a way to be smart and plan our spending.

The trick is simple: you start by tallying up everything you spent last Holiday Season, and figure out whether you’re likely to spend the same amount of money the following Christmas.

What have you got planned for next December? How much do you normally spend for gifts, for partying, for food and drink? Do you plan to go overseas (maybe back to the Philippines) to reconnect with family and friends? Are you expecting visitors to stay with you during the Holidays?

Once you figure this out, you should have a clear idea of what kind of budget you are going to need to meet your expenses next year. As soon as you can determine that figure, you can develop a monthly savings plan towards accumulating the money necessary to fund your projected expenses.

Let’s say you spent a total of $6,000 over the holidays, and you expect to spend the same amount next December. Logic dictates that you need to start putting aside $500 a month starting January, so that you have enough to spend by December 2020 (Remember, this is over and above your regular monthly bills like mortgage payments, car amortisations, council rates, utility bills, insurance, and grocery expenses.)

Ideally, this money should be stashed in a special savings account opened exclusively for the purpose. It helps to recognize that any sort of savings plan requires discipline — this means that you should resist any urge to raid this savings account when you want to buy “something special”, an urge that will probably hit you three or four times every year.

The reward? You’ll be able to enjoy the next Holiday Season without racking up credit card debt. You’ll save on the huge interest charges that credit card companies charge, and you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with operating within your family’s budget.

So what are you waiting for?  Start now and open that separate account (or better yet an offset account) and get on with saving for the next holidays. Look forward to celebrating every year generously — with abundance, stress free!

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