When in a long-term relationship, it’s natural to arrive at a point where you discuss your future together. Do we want to get married? Are we on the same page about starting a family? And in terms of aligning your futures, you will inevitably touch on the topic of money—in particular, for large expenses like your first home, car, or out-of-the-country trip.
Patricia Onte, 28, and Donn Tolentino, 25, have been a couple since 2016. Some couples take time before realizing they want to spend the rest of their lives together, but for these two, they were 100 percent sure from the get-go. That’s why as early as their 20s, they were laser-focused on kick-starting their future—making the mutual decision to buy a house together a natural next step. “Four years and five months na kami, pero more than five years na rin magkakilala,” said Donn. “Nagkakilala kami dahil sa pagba-bike. Siya dapat yung training partner ko,” Pat continued.
“On our first date, we didn’t really talk much. I, for one, didn’t think we’d meet again—sablay ang timing, at wala eh, wala pa talagang synergy. Walang spark! But here we are nearly five years later, and homeowners to boot.”
At what point in the relationship did you guys decide you were ready to buy a house?
- Donn: “Ever since naman na naging kami, 'yun na yung isa sa goals namin: magkaroon ng sariling bahay.”
- Pat: “Yeah, kahit nung second year pa lang, kasama na yan sa pinaguusapan namin. Minsan tumitingin din kami online kapag napapadaan sa mga magagandang ads.”
Both Donn and Pat are extremely family-oriented, so they felt that asking permission from their parents before beginning their tentative house search was an important first step.
“After we officially made it known to my parents that we had the intention of buying a house, we searched for pre-selling communities muna. It’s pretty easy to get information on pre-selling properties nowadays, because you can just type in keywords of your location and preferred property type on Facebook, and the corresponding pages will appear. Usually, these pages are managed by agents, brokers, or by the developers themselves. So you can ask all the questions you can think about before even visiting a site. That’s what we did. Then, we put all our talk into motion around our third year.”
How did you guys manage your finances to be able to save money for the down payment?
- D: “Nag-open kami ng joint savings account sa Security Bank.”
- P: “January 10, 2020 kami nag-open ng joint account. Pero in preparation pa lang ‘to. 'Di pa kami kukuha ng bahay at this point. Nag-decide lang kami mag-open ng savings account in advance, para may dedicated na account talaga for the future house.”
So I guess that’s one money management tip. Open a dedicated savings account, and deposit all of your intended house funds there.
Donn and Pat initially contributed P50,000 each from their respective savings accounts. They achieved this by putting away a set amount of money every cut-off. They considered this their “first 100K together.” From then on, they added P4,000 every payday, meaning they added a total of P16,000 to the account per month. This amount, of course, varies per couple. “Kami lang nag-set ng amount na 'yan. Alam naman namin yung mga obligations namin on a monthly basis, so dun namin bi-nase yung hulog namin,” Pat explained.
They also managed to use this growing savings account as a buffer source of funds for emergencies (read: the pandemic), to start their small business Dorian’s Sushi-yaki, and for other investments. “Yung ipon na ‘yun has had a lot of uses for us na. Hanggang ngayon, napapakinabangan pa rin namin yung joint account na ‘yun,” Donn said. “Moral of the story: Open a joint savings account (ideally for a very specific goal), and deposit a realistic amount religiously,” Pat added.
Did you change your lifestyle and the way you spent time together?
- D: “Nag-tipid sa gala. ‘Di masyadong gumastos.”
- P: “May mga dates pa rin kami sa labas, but majority of our dates during 2020 were at home. Wala rin naman kaming choice masyado kasi by mid-March, nag-lockdown na. We went from dates outside to dates at home, movies at the cinema to Netflix on the laptop, and ordering take-out to cooking our own meals.”
For Donn and Pat, the little expenses add up. “When you actually stop spending on them you’ll be surprised how much money you get to save,” she continued. “Iwas gastos, dagdag ipon. Tapos nag-invest din kami,” explained Donn.
What else did you do aside from putting money away every payday?
- P: “Early on in our relationship—not even two years in, I think—we invested some money together via COL Financial. Super newbies kami sa stock market. Pero sige lang, aral, ipon, invest. Yung ipon namin na 'yun from back in 2017? 2018? Nakatulong ng malaki 'yun during the height of the pandemic. Recently, we’ve diversified our investments, and we now also have personal stocks.”
- D: “Nagsubok din tayo sa business.”
- P: “Oo nga. We have a mini food business, and we also buy and sell pre-packed food. Donn also has a prepaid load wallet. So, these small but diversified streams of income.”
When it comes to buying a house, everybody knows about the down payment, but there are other hidden costs. “'Di namin alam na iba pa pala yung reservation fee sa down payment or equity. So 'di pa man kumpleto yung requirements mo for the house at baka magbago pa isip mo, kailangan pa rin pala maglabas ng pera,” Donn said. Also, as prospective co-owners of a major asset, they had to prepare a notarized Intent to Marry. “Dapat pala may ganun pag bibili kayo ng house as a couple,” Pat said. “'Di pa kayo kasal sa simbahan, wala pa ngang proposal (ehem ehem!), kinakasal na kayo ng land developer niyo. It officially certifies that the couple presenting themselves as co-buyers and co-borrowers (for home loan purposes) are actually going to marry at a later date.”
Because of their intense focus and dedication, Pat and Donn were able to officially sign documents for the new house only six months later, in July 2020. They chose a property in their hometown of Laguna, where their parents also live. They like that it’s showing plenty of possibility for development, but is still a quiet and green area by heart. “Hindi pa masyadong polluted dito, malapit sa city at ibang provinces,” Donn mentioned. “Maraming opportunities and developments that are bound to take place in Laguna. Tapos, ayun nga, sariwa pa hangin dito,” quipped Pat.
What advice do you have for other couples who want to take the next step and buy a house together?
- D: “'Wag muna mag-anak.”
- P: “'Wag muna mag-anak kung ‘di naman talaga kaya ng financial powers niyo as a couple. Maging praktikal.”
- D: “Simulan ng maaga ang pag-iipon. 'Wag umasa sa magulang para sa mga kakailanganin ninyong mag-asawa.”
- P: “And, dapat may common goal kayo. May common goal na realistic at grounded sa kung ano yung financial capabilities niyo. Dapat may tiwala rin sa isa't isa pagdating sa pera. Ask for help and others’ opinions, but make the decision on your own and accept full responsibility for it. Most important, I think, yung dapat maging open kayong dalawa sa pagdi-discuss ng finances. You can’t properly plan for your future together and execute financial decisions if you don’t know the ins and outs of one another’s individual funds. Honesty is super important. I’m thankful that Donn and I were never shy to talk about money matters like salaries, debt, expenses, and more.”
Their joint advice? Don’t be shy to discuss money, even the not-so-fun parts. “The more you talk about money, the more comfortable you become. Then, honesty about money becomes second nature. Nawawala ang issue ng pride, at nadi-discourage din ang pagsi-sikreto ng problema sa funds, kung meron man. Total, kaya nga kayo bibili ng bahay kasi gusto niyo magsama nang matagal, ‘di ba? Ito ang foundation ng bahay at future niyo, yung tiwala at pagiging tapat sa isa’t isa—not just in money matters, but also in everything that comes with being a couple.”
Buying a home is a major decision, and you certainly shouldn’t go into it halfheartedly. Like Donn and Pat, it’s important to ensure your minds and hearts are aligned—both to one another and to your financial goals—and that your level of dedication to making it happen is equal. That entails communication, honesty, discipline, and just a little bit of sacrifice. But in the end, all this will be worth it when you can finally say “I’m a homeowner,” right next to the love of your life.
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