Money management tips for 20-something OFWs

Ria Brillante
A common mistake by breadwinners working overseas is that they send all their money home and fail to leave something for themselves

LONDON, United Kingdom – I have been living in London for a couple of months, and for me to survive in the city with the second highest cost of living in the world, I had to live by the value of thriftiness. A lot of my fellow nurses back in the Philippines have been asking me if it’s worth-it to work in the United Kingdom considering the prices of the commodities.

My reply was that it always depends on the lifestyle of the person. Fund management, like any weight loss program, can only be effective if you make it your lifestyle. This way of life becomes more essential when you start to be an OFW. Let me share to you some tips to be able to thrive as a 20-something OFW:

1. Have a realistic mindset

The mind is the most powerful controller of your lifestyle. You need to use your head in directing your finances or you might end up a penniless OFW. One point of realization is that the way you spend in the Philippines will not be the same in the developed countries. Your buying power is basically less due to currency differences. I had to adjust my mindset to my real economic status in London. If I belonged to the middle class in Manila who can afford a Starbucks Frappuccino every day, in London I’m a person of a lower class who needed to bring my packed lunch to work.

2. Have a deadline for your OFW life

I don’t think that your ideal life would be to die as an OFW. Even before you apply as a nurse in other countries, you already have to decipher how long you plan to be an OFW. You need to have this kind of perspective regardless if you want to settle in a developed country or not. Having this goal gives you a sense of urgency to mind your expenses and start investing until that deadline arrives. Do you want to marry and settle down after your contract? (READ: Tips on job-hunting and working abroad)

How much money do you want to have after a year or two? What kind of life do you want to live by the time you’re 27 or 30? A lot of OFWs fail to consider these thoughts because majority believe that they will be settling in the UK as immigrants. This becomes their most used excuse for splurging on different purchased pleasures. What if you wake up one day with a call to go back to the Philippines? Where will you end up? (READ: Lessons from a corporate life)

3. Study before you invest

Investing does not mean knocking on the doors of the stock market immediately or getting a bank loan for a property in an instant. Even if your financial means gives you the capacity to do this, you need to educate yourself first on these income streams. Don’t jump into something you do not know as this can let you end up in debts. Not because your friend bought stocks from Ayala Corporation, you have to do the same thing. You have to do your own research and know the repercussions of your investment decisions.

4. Do a self-awareness activity

During my first months in London I wrote down every pound I spent each day in a diary. I advise you to do the same because it will give you a realistic view on how you really stand on your spending. For example, I thought that majority of my expenses came from my groceries and I was surprised when I realized that a lot of them were actually due to my clothing expenses. I also found out that I spent more when I go to unplanned trips because I tended to be an impulsive buyer. These findings allowed me to know where I really fall short on my money discipline.

5. Breadwinners can also save

Filipino nurses who work here in the UK come from different walks of life and also hold diverse profiles. A few needed to shed blood and tears to provide for their families as breadwinners. Nevertheless, I believe that being a breadwinner does not make you powerless in saving up for your future. A common mistake by breadwinners is that they send all their money home and fail to leave something for themselves. I remember reading the blog of an OFW in Singapore who badly wanted to go home but didn’t have any money to do so because she sent everything to her parents. Having a budget for the money you give your family doesn’t make you less of a dependable son or daughter. You need to allocate only a portion of your salary for your family and do not spoil them. Leave some money in your own hands.

I’ve heard countless stories of OFWs who long to be back in the country but cannot do so because of financial constraints. It’s either they spent too much, buried themselves in debts, or their families spent all they had.

Again, fund management is about a lifestyle of wise money decisions and you can only be wise if you know much. Working in the non-business sector does not stop you from reading about investments and businesses. After all, who wants to go home poor after years of being away from home? –

Ria Brillante used to work as a pediatric oncology nurse at Philippine Children’s Medical Center. She moved to London in August 2013 to work with the kids at The Children’s Trust.

Image of map from Shutterstock

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