Name: Marie, 26
Industry: Publishing and Advertising
I live in a condo unit with three other girls, where I'm basically the head of household. I'm responsible for managing the budget, paying the rent and the bills, and coordinating with the landlady. On weekends, I come home to my family in Bulacan, where I live with my parents and two brothers who are both in college.
Financial Support: I get paid through my full-time job as an editor as well as through several writing rakets. If I get lucky, I get hosting, singing, or speaking gigs every once in a while that pay in small amounts or in kind (a.k.a GCs or free food). I have been financially independent from my parents since 2012, and I do my best not to ask for money anymore because they still have two kids in college who are graduating (hopefully) within the next two years. Sometimes, when he knows I badly need it, my boyfriend would pitch in to my weekly allowance or lend me some cash when the going gets rough. I pay for the Internet bill at home (P1,299 per month), and my own rent and condo dues (roughly amounting to P5,000 per month). I'm also paying some personal loans made last year in installments (that's another P5,000 per month).
Day 1 (Monday)
The one thing you should know right off the bat is that I live from paycheck to paycheck. I won't deny it and I'm not proud of it, but at least it means I've learned to budget effectively because I could only afford to live within my means. The first day of my expense tracking was no exception. I only had P100 in my wallet and if I didn't get my paycheck, I would have freaked out. I ordered a cob of corn from our favorite merienda lady at the office for P30. I've read that mais is equivalent to three cups of rice so I split it in half and ate it slowly throughout the day. Yes, I was ~*that*~ broke. I felt full though, so I guess the article I read about corn being enough to curb your appetite was right.
When news about our paychecks broke out (we have established a round of explosive applause in our department whenever someone announces that their ATMs have been replenished), I knew I was in for a good night. I clocked out early and met up with my boyfriend to go to SM Megamall, which isn't very far away from both our offices. He shouldered the taxi fare and basically dragged me to an optical store because I've been complaining about recurring headaches. Apparently, my eyesight worsened from 125/300 to 175/300 so I had to get new glasses. My new frames and lenses amounted to P4,780, which made me flinch a little—okay, a lot—but the discounted Calvin Klein frames were worth every penny because the weight and make of the frame itself guarantees long time use. I gave myself a pat in the back.
We ate at Zark's for dinner and since it's payday, I decided to pay the bill (P345). No date night is complete without coffee so we dropped by Starbucks on our way home, and I spent P500 on card load so I can rack up all my points for free coffee.
Daily Total: P5,655
Day 2 (Tuesday)
Tuesdays are pretty low-key days at work so I skipped breakfast and decided to come in by lunch time, and by then, my officemates are antsy to eat. We visited our favorite restaurant across the street and I ordered chicken parmigiana and iced tea for P293. That looks like a huge amount for lunch but trust me, the size and taste of their chicken is enough to fill two tummies. Because I felt super full and sluggish after lunch, I had to pay a visit to our nearby Starbucks for coffee. I still have load from the previous night so I only added P50 to my total bill.
Later that afternoon I bought puto with cheese from our resident merienda lady for P20 to sate me through a late dinner. After about a hundred emails, I went to a nearby Korean restaurant with a friend and we had Bibimbap for only P99 and a Melona popsicle for dessert (P30).
Daily Total: P492
Day 3 (Wednesday)
It's the first day of the month and I got a free pass at work for working on a weekend. This is perfect because I have a scheduled lunch out with my college friends who all work around Quezon City. Before heading to SM North EDSA (our designated meeting place for our quarterly meet-ups—yes, that's how busy we are), I went to the bank to deposit half of my monthly rent (P2,500) and my savings from my last paycheck (P3,000). I still have load on my Beep card so I ride the MRT using that, and sat down with my friends over lunch, life updates, and K-Drama/K-Pop chika. I spent P495 on lunch and we extended that to afternoon coffee, which means I get to load my Starbucks card again for P300.
I also paid my best friend P5,000 as part of my installment loan. Last year, I've managed to rack up a huge amount of credit card debt after mindlessly buying piso seat sales and traveling across Asia. Was it worth it? Yes. Did I almost starve myself because of the overwhelming debt? Definitely yes. As the debt and the monthly interest mounted, I found myself in an emotional and financial crisis so my best friend offered to loan me the amount I needed to pay off my debt completely so that I won't end up with a lawsuit. Now, I'm paying off that loan little by little and, for the record, I have put off getting a new credit card until I know for sure that I can handle it responsibly. We left Starbucks at around 9 p.m. (because good conversations happen over coffee, guys) and I loaded up my Beep card with P50 as I head home.
Daily Total: P10,850
Day 4 (Thursday)
Because I spent loads of money the previous day, I resolved to keep my expenses to a minimum in as much as I can. I bought lunch from the office pantry for P70 and drank 3-in-1 coffee instead of buying a cup of fresh brew like I usually do. Luckily, my team mates have a bag of coffee sachets from advertisers and they're free for everyone. They know how much I ~*need*~ coffee in my life, so they make sure I have that bag near me at all times in case the office coffee cart doesn't come my way. (P.S. I get grumpy and sad without coffee. That's how addicted I am to this stuff.) For dinner, I drop by Subway and order a sandwich meal for P110, which I ate before working out.
Daily Total: P180
Day 5 (Friday)
I felt like I did such a good job at managing my expenses yesterday that I just had to get Starbucks after lunch as a reward (I know, it's so millennial, but their new Tahitian Macchiatto is good so I have no regrets). So after spending P70 on pantry lunch, my work BFF and I went to our favorite coffee joint where I spent P120. My friend pitched in P200 so we can load up my card for points. I know, my friends are so nice. That afternoon, I got a text from the optical shop telling me that my new glasses are ready for pick-up so I clocked out early and went to the mall to get my new specs. I rode a tricycle to Shaw for P20 and walked from there to Megamall. You may think it's far, but it's a good form of exercise after long hours of sitting. The relief of finally being able to read the signs in front of me washed away all the sad feelings of knowing my bad eyesight required enough money to buy a new dress at H&M. I ate sushi (P169) and milk tea (P95) for dinner then took a cab home.
Daily Total: P474
Day 6 (Saturday)
My Saturdays are mostly reserved for chores, errands, and choir practice, so I woke up early to catch the train (used my Beep card load for this) and the UV Express going to Bulacan (P45). My ever reliable boyfriend picked me up, and we ate lunch at their house before finally getting off our lazy asses to do my laundry. I know how to do my own laundry, FYI, because I grew up handwashing my family's clothes. But I was way too tired after a week's worth of work and the skies were threateningly dark that day, so we went to a DIY laundromat armed with a huge bottle of liquid detergent and fabric conditioner.
I spent P150 on my laundry and while my clothes are drying, we decided to get a long-overdue manicure and pedicure. While we're at it, I got an eyebrow threading, too, and the bill (including my boyfriend's mani-pedi because I'm galante that way LOL) amounted to P490. I bought pancit palabok (P220) as pasalubong for my family and went home, but before I can even lie down or change clothes, I remembered that I had to photocopy music sheets for choir practice later that night and pay the Internet bill (P1,299). I spent P200 for the photocopies but I'm the choir's treasurer anyway so I got reimbursement for that the same day. My nice boyfriend drove and waited for me throughout all my errands, so in a way I got to save up on transportation fees, YAY!
Before the night ends, my friends and I decided to cap off the night with a can of beer each. I contributed P100 for the booze and pulutan and we all went home by 12:00 a.m., a little buzzed and puyat, but definitely happy.
Daily Total: P2,304
Day 7 (Sunday)
Sunday is church day and family day so I basically just cooped up at home and enjoyed my mother's cooking. My mom's impressive fried chicken trumped all the other chicken dishes I've had that week, and the comfort of my bed provided a safe haven for my weary mind and body. I played my guitar again, watched K-Pop videos, and slept for most of the day. I woke up at 6:00 p.m. to my boyfriend's call telling me he's on his way to pick me up. We usually leave for Mandaluyong on Sundays and stay in our own condos because we can't bear the horrendous Monday morning traffic. This means we commute together, and the journey from Bulacan to Mandaluyong includes two tricycle rides (P40), one UV Express ride (P50), and one MRT ride. I topped up my Beep card again with P100 just so I have enough for next week's ride home.
Daily Total: P190
Weekly Total: P20,145
Whew! The amount of money I spent in a week could actually take me on a tipid weekend trip to Bangkok and back. My brothers would also be able to pay for a whole semester in college (they study at the same state university I graduated in) with that amount. My weekly total is also even bigger than my last paycheck, but my leave conversions and raket money came in just in time to help me survive the past week.
I learned that tracking my expenses wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I'm glad I started bullet journaling a long time ago, because it made tracking easy and fun to do. I'm still doing it actually, just because it helps me see where my money is going and what I'm actually eating in a day.
That being said, I also realized that my biggest expense is food. The hard part about living independently is that you don't have your mom to cook for you all the time. Because my job in advertising is pretty demanding, I don't have the time or energy to shop for groceries and cook my own meals. This leaves me with fast food, restaurant, and convenience store meals that come with a pretty hefty price tag. In fact, based on my week-long track, I spent at least P1,600 on take-out and restaurant meals alone. That still doesn't include my trips to Starbucks. As a kid, I have associated fast food to special occasions and rewards because our family income could not accommodate weekly splurges at the mall. So yeah, that amount did make me really guilty.
I also learned that my disastrous splurges last year made it more difficult for me to save and spend this year. The good thing about accumulating and partially paying off debt in 2016 is that I have managed to look at my salary from a different perspective. My salary may be slightly higher than my peers, but I still don't make enough to sustain myself because I needed to rebuild my savings account from scratch. Through it all, I could say that I'm proud of myself for holding up. Managing your own household, feeding yourself, and prioritizing your needs while paying off debt is something that not all people my age could do, but I am doing it in a slow and steady fashion.