Let’s face it, not everyone is blessed to have six digits in their bank accounts. Some are living-paycheck to-paycheck. Some live off their savings. That’s me.
I resigned from my day job last August 2016 for personal reasons. It got difficult balancing the long hours with living alone. I think that’s why people get roommates, so they can take turns with responsibilities such as chores, cooking, and paying the bills. I lived off my savings for a few months. And when the digits got lesser and lesser, I started to panic. For the first time, I was legitimately broke.
I am broke but I’m going to make it.
With limited funds and miles away from my family, I tried to find ways to cut back on my expenses and stretch the little that I had. I’ve listed a few tips based on what I’ve learned as a broke girl living in the city.
- Learn to cook
Buying lunch and ordering take-out is extremely convenient but is expensive if you look at it in the long run. If you have a working kitchen, use it to your advantage and learn to make your own meals. It will be a lot cheaper and a little bit healthier (because you know what you’re putting into your food). You’ll be surprised how many meals you can create with just P200. Vegetables are generally cheap so when you’re in a pinch, sticking to vegetarian meals might be a good experiment. If you need protein, you can try tofu and (my personal favorite) eggs.
- Learn to [hardcore] commute
No, booking a Grab or Uber is not considered here. When I say “hardcore commute,” I mean taking mass transit, be it the train or the bus. I learned to take the train back in 2006, it being the most convenient way to go from one city to the other. I also learned how to take the bus last year and I found it surprisingly easy. The only problem with commuting, really, is the waiting and possible shoving to get in. Although, it’s not something I’m willing to do daily during rush hour, hardcore commuting is the most practical way to travel and I’ve learned to appreciate it on weekends.
- Cut back on unnecessary expenses
If you keep your receipts and bills (like I do), take the time to review them and see what you can cut back on. Cut back on your electricity by switching of the lights and unplugging devices when they aren’t in use. Reassess your cable and internet subscription and ask yourself if you really need all 100 channels you’re currently subscribed to, or if you need a cable subscription at all. If your internet connection is stable enough, you can stream movies, TV shows, even the news online.
If the building you live in has a gym or pool, you can cancel that gym membership you don’t maximize. Maybe you’d want to take up running and check out a park near you. If you’re too lazy to go out, try home workout videos like Insanity Max 30.
- You don’t have to give up your social life
You may be cutting back on your expenses but you don’t have to cut your friends out. Socializing doesn’t always have to be expensive. Call your friends and have a night in. They can bring the food and drinks while you take care of the venue and entertainment. Even just watching movies on a weekend afternoon with friends can be fun. I personally find nights in with friends more appealing than going to noisy bars with overpriced menu items. You don’t have to sacrifice your relationships, you just have to get creative.
- Keep a coin bank
It’s an ancient but effective way of saving. I personally have a coin bank filled with only P10 and P5 coins. When I get change from my purchases, I separate the P10 and P5 coins and keep the other coins for commuting or when cashiers ask for P1 or 25 centavos. I’ve managed to fill a coin bank with more than P1000 worth of P10 and P5 coins. You’ll be surprised how little things like that would add up.
- Have a budget
This is extremely important: have a budget and learn how to stick to it. You can use apps like Monefy to better track your expenses. Use Budget Mode and religiously input your expenses. Its simple interface shows you what percentage of your money gets spent on which. This will help you make better financial choices in the future and make you think twice before purchasing something that’s more of a want than a need. You can also make a spreadsheet on Excel or Google Sheets to track your expenses, whichever you find more effective.
- Apply for practical rewards cards
A lot of establishments offer rewards and discount cards, you just have to get those that you know will give you the best bang for your buck. I personally own a CBTL Swirl Card, SM Advantage Card, and a Starbucks Card. I rarely use the third since I brew my own coffee at home (tipit hits!). Back in college, I spent afternoons working in CBTL. What I like about the Swirl Card is you get P5 credited to your card for every P100 purchase. Your credited points can be used as payment for future transactions, perfect for days when you’re craving a blueberry cheesecake or tea latte but are low on cash.
- Find other ways to generate income
While you’re in between jobs, find ways to keep your bank account from reaching zero. Thanks to sites like Upwork, Freelancer, and Kalibrr, finding a part-time job has never been easier. Many employers offer freelance and work-from-home jobs. I personally went back to being a temporary staff member for a corporate office. It was an ordinary 9 to 6 job that was not related to my college degree, but it kept me afloat and paid the bills while I searched for a job in my field.
Living broke taught me this: there is nothing wrong with being a cheapskate. I think I’ll be generally stingy from now on (for my long-term goals). You can still enjoy life without overspending. As the Fung brothers have proven, you can live like a “baller on a budget.”
Do you have broke tips of your own? I would love to hear all about them. Please leave a comment below!