The Christmas season is a fitting celebration overseas Filipinos can quickly look forward to. But it is also a season to make money mistakes. As the month progress, OFWs toil at hard work and slowly accommodate savings. As the end of the year draws near, it’s safe to bet that many of us working abroad have been mentally taking notes on plans for the Christmas season.
But even before the fourth quarter of the year, Filipinos can’t wait for the Christmas season to unfold. Christmas music begins in heavy rotation, lanterns and Christmas decorations start appearing on supermarket shelves, and businesses can only be happy to cash in with the Christmas vibe the public is riding on.
It is easy to make money mistakes during Christmas
The narrative during long-distance conversations between OFWs and families back home often shifts from the usual kumustahan to the enumeration of the Christmas gift-giving spirit. That long list of pasalubong and pabili is consistent even if you cannot go home in the upcoming Christmas season. And as a virtual Santa Claus, you try to accommodate their whims.
It then becomes hard to balance between being too generous and providing whatever loved ones ask for, and being prudent and shrewd but could end up getting labeled as selfish and stingy. Figuring out a fine line between the two can be a tricky one, and many of those who fail to do so commit the dreaded money mistakes that could get them in financial trouble for a significant period of the following year.
Here are some of the common money mistakes OFWs do, especially during the Christmas season.
You turn into an impulse buyer
Just as you recall preparing coins back home for the carolers in the neighborhood to make an unannounced melody, you also become more susceptible to the excuse: buy a Christmas gift because, well, you guessed it, it’s Christmas. It becomes easier to justify purchases because they were all taken from the “Christmas sale” shelf that offered huge discounts.
All that budget planning goes out the door and before you realize it.
You feel that it’s an obligation to give gifts to everyone
Or for that matter, it’s a standard operating procedure to give in to “pa burger ka naman diyan” requests or jokes, depending on who said it. Many OFWs possess this attitude that makes others carry that sense of entitlement. Like tourists who are expected to bring pasalubong to folks, friends, and colleagues, even if they did not ask for them, OFWs feel obligated to treat people back home because they are OFWs, earn dollars and earn more than anyone in the barangay.
Like the previous item, this habit easily breaks the budget and tends to paralyze the ability to salvage the meager savings you spent the whole year gathering.
You borrow money to finance the Christmas celebration
OFWs quickly turn to lend companies to lend money to finance their Christmas celebrations because they have a firm belief their jobs will secure regular payments. Borrowing money to fund Christmas parties, gifts, and treats for the whole family is a short-lived, short-sighted way to enjoy Christmas. For a moment, you take pride as the party sponsor and make everyone experience a grand Christmas celebration.
But once Christmas has concluded, you reflect while waiting for your flight at the departure gate, “I am back to reality.” Roughly translated, “I need to return to my job so I can repay my loans,” which means you have to wait for a while before you can resume saving up.
You defer payment of SSS premiums, credit card bills, and loans
As Christmas expense becomes a priority for you, and your job will be there to address your fiscal shortfall at the end of the year, you delay payment of your insurance premiums, SSS contributions, or regular payments of your outstanding loans.
The lack of discipline extends your time to finish loan obligations or ultimately sign off pension contributions for the year. OFWs often have fixed incomes, and such money handling habits disrupt an otherwise “living within your means” mindset, prompting some OFWs to borrow money with interest.
You overindulge in gifts for yourself
As a child, you wished for plenty of things, and being an OFW gave you the chance to finally get them: PS4 console and camera lens, kits and accessories, branded bags, and several pairs of shoes. As an OFW, you deserve occasional rewards for working hard.
But getting them all at once is too much, regardless of how much you deserve each of them. Saving for the future will benefit you anyway, so obtaining all of these “personal rewards” early could defeat your long-term goals. Mind you, delayed gratification by saving now to enjoy the fruits later is so much worth it.
You buy expensive gifts to avoid feeling inferior
Some OFWs feel they are penny-pinchers if they give gifts that are of lower regarded brands or items that look inferior to those they receive. So a simple but expensive solution to get something that evokes a “wow” reaction that naturally elicits appreciation to the lines of “bongga mo talaga” or “sosyal.”
Giving gifts is part of the Christmas celebration, but some OFWs also want to leave the impression that “I did not work abroad and sacrifice a lot to give you a cheap souvenir from a night market.” In a commercialized world where it’s more about the style rather than the substance, many are willing to sacrifice what’s more valuable in favor of something merely superficial.
You fail to compare prices
In a typical Christmas rush, when OFWs buy things, they tend to go for where it’s convenient and do not spend enough time preparing and comparing prices for, say, gift items or pasalubongs. This often means getting the same value for more pay.
Just because an item has a high markdown price means it’s the cheapest. You might have been conditioned to think it has the lowest price label, and that sense of urgency (“last day sale”) made you rush toward the cashier.
You fall for bulk upsells and store cards in the name of discounts
Having not finalized the list of your gift recipients, you decide that buying in bulk will save you more money. You must have fallen for the tactics employed in retail psychology. If Christmas cards, chocolate bars, or key chains can be bought cheaper, you’d readily pick them instead of individual items because mathematics justifies so.
But once Christmas Kris Kringle and the gift-giving period have concluded, you discover extra items remain. While you can still gift them in the next year, it’s money being spent on something you don’t need immediately.
How to avoid such bad habits
There are things you want but don’t actually need. So kick the habit of buying excessively. Also, don’t spend recklessly just to impress your friends and family. Think more about the future: there will be more Christmases you will celebrate with family and friends so you don’t have to splurge your money all at once.
Instead, be strategic and allocate a portion of your money towards long-term investment vehicles such as the stock market or pay insurance premiums. Over time, your savings will grow and you also get income protection with your chosen insurance policy.
It may be the end of the year, but this doesn’t mean you should empty your wallet. Whether OFW or not, and whether it’s Christmas, you might be making these poor money habits. Make a note of these common mistakes and be honest with yourself if you’ve been doing them for years and make some resolutions.