Back to (a different kind of) normal

My life is back to normal. At least, it’s an entirely different kind of normal from the normal I’ve been used to for the past few years.

I’ve somehow chosen a different kind of life to live now. I’ve given up the luxury of driving to and from work five days a week. Gone is the 1.5++ hour drive (one-way) to and from work, and the thousands of pesos spent monthly on gasoline charges and other car maintenance expenses. I am back on the daily commute. I’m back to working in my comfort zone, my timezone. It’s about two-thirds of the distance I used to travel every day. My new work is a short walk from the MRT station. I take the MRT everyday now, going to work in the morning and coming home in the evening. I then take a shuttle after MRT in the evening, and take a leisurely walk (under the stars) from the village gate on my way home.

I try to pack my lunch everyday too. I make myself a yummy sandwich, enough to fill me at lunch. When I don’t get to pack my lunch, I buy a sandwich at a nearby convenience store. It costs a lot less than what I used to eat for lunch, and has a lot less calories too.

Work is both something old and new. I’m starting to get into the groove again. The project I’m doing now is pretty interesting and challenging, enough to give me just the right push to give my best, as I always would like to do with whatever I do.

My personal life is also warming up too. No lovelife yet, though. I’m just loving the time I have on my hands to write blogs, do errands, read books, study/review on some topics and interests, pamper myself, relax and meditate, and opportunities to do many other things.

There’s just something that feels really nice about the new kind of normal. There are less expenses, less calories, more walks and physical activities, more time to just look around and observe the real world, and more time to be me again. I guess I really needed this change.

A better me everyday, that’s the goal. Sometimes it happens in small moments, in baby steps. Sometimes it happens with long strides, or with some jumps. This time, it was a leap for me again. I’ve landed, and am back on the ground, but this is an entirely different land already. Time to continue walking.

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Credit card hiatus

I have put my credit card under house arrest. I have taken it out from my wallet and have kept it in a special place in my room. It will not be used for the coming months until I’ve been able to clear up my credit card debt and re-learned how to live on cash alone.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with my credit card in the past five years. I love it when I am using it for purchases, but I hate it when the bill arrives. Are most of us like that? Perhaps I’ve developed a terrible credit card habit. I use it to purchase, and I purchase some more using my cash. Come billing time, I pay off my entire balance, but soon after I use my card again because I’ve ran out of cash after paying my credit card bill. The cycle goes on month after month. No matter how I try to get out of the cycle, it keeps pulling me back in.

Now I’ve really taken a drastic step. I’m separating myself from my card. Time to live again on nothing but cash. And time to get my financial freedom back.

Wish me luck.

A balancing act

I just came back from Singapore a week ago. It was an official trip for conference, but I extended my stay to meet up with friends and do a little shopping and sight-seeing. I stayed at my friends’ place before and after the conference, and went around Sg like I always do, like it’s my second home. And historically, I always end up spending SO MUCH while there, excluding the cost of airfare and accommodations.

I am still trying to settle all my liabilities, trying to zero out all my credit card debt. But of course, it’s much of a challenge whilst being in all the shopping glory of Singapore. I was not going to keep myself from shopping, but I didn’t intend to get into more debt during the trip. There were a lot of things I needed that I intended to buy in Sg. I just had to make sure that I spend just enough, and spend on the right things.

It was an absolute balancing act, letting myself go and shop for the things I need and enjoy the trip, while keeping myself from spending over the top. In a way, I set an “artificial goal” for myself, something tangible that equates to zeroing out my debt. At the start of the year, I resolved to buy myself a pet rabbit only when I get to clear out my debt. And thus, there was an image of the rabbit tattooed on my mind the entire time while I was shopping. I made a list of things I needed to buy. I stuck to the things in my list, and avoided purchasing things which were not on my list AT ALL COST. Every time there was a temptation to buy something else, I remind myself about the rabbit. I have to have that rabbit when I get back to Manila. It was such a big challenge.

So far so good. I just paid my credit card bill from the trip, and I think I have enough to live through to the next salary day. Hopefully I get to buy me the rabbit this May. It’s about time. 🙂

Putting my mouth where my money is

I just got my 13th month today. And it did not stay even 24 hours in my bank account, I already transferred it to a friend’s account whom I owed some money from. When I say “some money” I mean, five digits before the decimal point. That’s actually somewhat a lot.

Perhaps my finances is one of the worst aspects of my life right now, second to my lack of a decent lovelife. And to be honest, I have much more available money back in college than I have now. My friends know that I have always been good with my finances then. I was still getting allowance from my parents (but just enough, not a lot), and I had a lot of time to earn from my little “racket” here and there. And life in my university wasn’t expensive at all. Really cheap food, jeepney rides, and a lot of photocopying were all I was spending on then. I had enough money to spend for things I wanted

But now that I am earning my own dough, I don’t seem to get enough. I spend around P9,000 / month on gasoline alone. Then there are expenses for medicine, toiletries, among others. I also spend a lot on food, both for the daily lunch and the occasional eat-outs. Starbucks is also quite deadly to my pocket, since I have developed a certain fondness for it. I have also spent a lot on some out-of-town and out-of-the-country trips in the past three years. To top it off, I don’t get a big paycheck, since I’m on a “non-profit organization” payroll (but it’s all ok because I love my job).

It’s a real challenge to manage my own finances now that I am earning and spending for most of my own expenses. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and wrong decisions in my finances in the past three years, that brought me to my current dilemma. At one point these past few months, I owed two people a total amount almost equal to two months’ salary. There’s something terribly wrong there, especially I am so used to not owing anything.

One of my biggest mistake was the way I used my credit card. It must be noted that when my very first credit card was issued to me by my bank, it had a credit limit which was twice my monthly salary. That should have been a warning sign for me already. It was just so easy to take that card out of my wallet and swipe away when I see some things that I would like to purchase. Even abroad, I would use my credit card to go shopping. I accumulated a lot of payables because of this. On the brighter side, I always pay my monthly credit card bills in full, so that I won’t incur interest charges. But that always leave me with less cash than I need, and I will start charging things again. It’s an endless cycle.

I’m trying to correct my credit card attitude already. I’m forcing myself to only purchase with cash, unless utterly necessary. I’m pushing myself to charge as little as possible on my account. I still have to get used to using my credit card wisely.

In general, I need to reduce my spending and improve on my buying decisions. On top of that, I’m trying to rethink and re-plan how I manage my finances. I don’t ever want to find myself in such a financial dump again.