Lessons Learned by an OFW’s Wife

Posted by Fitz Villafuerte under Reader Mail on June 29, 2013

I’m sharing with you today an email which I received from one of our readers, which we shall call Mrs. A.

She is 29 years old and wife to a husband working somewhere in the South Pacific since 2011.

Below, she shares her story. How her life changed when her husband went abroad for work, how she cope with suddenly having a lot of money, and how she got into deep credit card debts.

But also, she shares how she was able to get back on her feet financially, and finally gives us an inspiring list of financial lessons she learned – all from being an OFW’s wife.

It is her hope that others may learn from her story as well.

OFW lane Lessons Learned by an OFWs Wife

Mrs. A writes…

Before my husband worked abroad, we were living a very simple life with our now 2 year old daughter. We were both working in the corporate world and rented a 7,000/month apartment in Makati. We budget our combined income and saved up for the birth of our baby.

That was in 2010. Early 2011, he got a call from the recruitment agency with a job offer abroad giving him more or less 1.2 million gross annual income. That is a lot!

So he grabbed the opportunity and flew off somewhere down under. I also quit my job to take care of my baby because we can now afford a one-income household.

The monthly remittances I received every month amounts to almost 100,000/month. We paid off his outstanding debts in 6 months, that is around 80,000 and still gives financial support to his family at 15,000 per month.

We also had a 100,000 OFW loan to be paid for a year. The remaining amount is still too much for me and my baby’s expenses every month. Expenses being just food and communication bills (internet and mobile phone) as we live with my father in the province. My baby also doesn’t have a lot of expenses because we are breastfeeding, which means free milk and more savings and we use cloth diapers.

At first, I was so overwhelmed with the amount on my bank account that I started upgrading my lifestyle. I bought a latest model smart phone, eating out and malling became very frequent. I’m not into branded stuff and I opt to buy on mall sales but buying became too frequent and mostly on stuff me and my baby doesn’t really need. I also became hooked on online shopping.

In short, my mindless spending went up. But I was still able to save a portion of that to another savings account but when he went home on his 7th month because he terribly wants to be home, we spent all of those savings and maxed out my credit card. I was still able to start saving after his short vacation but that amount was spent on our daughter’s first birthday.

OFW story Lessons Learned by an OFWs Wife

So came January 2012, we still have no saving or emergency fund and a big credit card debt but all of his other debts were already paid. After his January remittance, I was able to pay the CC debt and start our savings again.

Then, we decided to pursue our long-postponed church wedding with just 3 months to prep are. He asked his brother, who is a seaman, if we could borrow 100,000 to add to our wedding budget and he gave it to us with no interest for 6 months.

We spent around 200,000 for that wedding alone when he came home. Wala pa yung ibang expenses like eating out and the likes. So his first year as OFW, we saved nothing.

Before he went back abroad in May 2012, (we went with him this year), we decided to purchase a house in one well-known developer in our province. Now, we are almost finished with our downpayment na 56,000 per month for 9 months.

But we still don’t have any savings up to now because the cost of living here is quite high. After we send money to his parents and for our downpayment, what’s left for us is just enough for our monthly expenses although the house, gas, internet and other utilities are covered by the company.

It’s almost the end of the 2nd year of his contract and it’s just now that I became aware of investing.

OFW lessons Lessons Learned by an OFWs Wife

What have I learned in the last 2 years?

Do not upgarde your lifestyle if your income increases, save instead. I have regrets. I should have started establishing our emergency fund a long time ago, even I don’t know UITF yet. I should have started an “untouchable” savings account for our future.

Be mindful of my credit card spending even if I can afford to pay it full and on-time.

Frugality, I now have a 2-year worth of financial regrets. To make up for those regrets, my goal this year would be to SAVE and INVEST for my daughter’s college education and my husband’s retirement while we still have access to a lot of income.

I will also put up a starting business like the mom-preneurs in one of the forums I am a member of to make use of my time.

Well, I’m doing my first steps now by reading your blog (and other blogs and sites) to be more financial literate.

Thank you for letting me share my story.

Regards,
Mrs. A

Her story proves that it’s never too late to make positive changes in our life. I applaud her for being able to realize how bad lifestyle creep is when it comes to ruining our finances.

My advise for her is to let go of her regret and focus more on her family’s future. She has a very good plan and she should stick to it. I believe that she will achieve her financial goals, and I’d like to congratulate her now.

Lastly, I’d like to thank her for having the courage to share her story. I received this email several months back and it’s only recently that I’ve noticed it, patiently “waiting” inside my inbox.

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9 Responses to “Lessons Learned by an OFW’s Wife”


  1. Mrs. A says:

    Good morning! Thank you for publishing my story. :)

    As of now, I already have an account at COL, opened last March, 3 months worth of Philippine monthly expenses and some savings while paying for our house. Thank you so much for the enligtenment. Our finances are now on a more steady boat.

    More power to your blog

  2. i relate to this :( good thing she realized it in a year’s time :)

  3. neo says:

    enlightening.

  4. Carlos says:

    Wow!

    Thankfully Mrs. A got wise to their situation before anything really bad happened. And pretty quickly too. I mean, in just a couple of years, she now has a good financial plan without having suffered a big loss to prompt the change.

    Alas, not all OFW families are so lucky. But hopefully, her story will inspire them to make the change too.

  5. Faith and Peso says:

    This is such an encouraging story and I’m sure a lot of OFWs around the world can somehow relate to this. I am also an OFW working in the M.E. for almost 7 years and like Mrs. A hardly saved anything duirng my 1st year not because of over spending though but simply because of a growing financial needs of my family – tuition fees, etc.. On the 2nd year however I have disciplined myself to saved regularly and stick to a very strict budget. I did not change my lifestyle here in abroad and my family knows that our goal is to save money and not to spend too much on unnecessary stuffs. I am thankful that even though I did not know yet about emergency fund, mutual funds, COL etc.. I have already the habit of saving money and am not so much a fan of signature or branded items. The last 2 years of working abroad, I have learned a lot about financial literacy and i would like to thank God for coming across Fitz’ blog – this is where I first learned about mutual funds, COL and UITF. I opened up my FAMI Account 2 years ago and I have also opened a COL account in December last year. I maintain an emergency fund for my family and by God’s grace, in 2 years time we were able to complete the full payment for a 60 sqm house and lot. My next goal is to open a UITF in BDO this year and perhaps, sign up in the SSS Flexi fund (apart from the usual contribution) for OFW as part of my retirement fund. I am still in the learning process and my desire is for every OFW to do the same while there is still time and opportunity.

  6. You’re so brave in telling us this story Mrs. A. At least you realized these things now. It’s not too late. What if you get used to that kind of lifestyle for so long? It will eat so much resources in the future. I hope more OFWs are able to read your story, so that they’ll realize these things.

  7. puwing_ako says:

    Mrs. A – you may want to read these very powerful books about becoming financially independent:
    $100startup by Chris Guillebeau
    Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim
    E-Myth by Michael E. Gerber
    Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki

    I can send an e-book just email me.

  8. Yolanda says:

    It is good to know that some OFW families are sharing things like this because it really make me feel sad seeing OFW family members who are left behind changing their lifestyles once their loved ones start working overseas.
    My husband is also an OFW and it is really hard that you are apart for quite sometime. So my dream is that I could start a business that will enable us to live the life we wanted without my husband going overseas again.

  9. frugalexpat says:

    Inspiring story.. Glad that she had her realizations after 2 years. Others have their realizations only when they are about to go home for good.

    Indeed it is tempting to spend if you have such source of income.

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