Updated: August 12, 2023
The Philippine Bureau of Labor and Employment mandates that the minimum wage for those in the National Capital Region is Php 466 per day.
This translates to an income of roughly Php 10,000 per month. And this number is just in NCR, where the minimum wage is already the highest.
If you’re raising a family, that Php 10,000 would surely fall short, especially if you have two or more children. Fortunately, most Filipino households have more than one income earner.
If it’s not the spouse, then it’s the children, or a close relative, who pitches in for the household’s expenses. But for others that only have one breadwinner, making ends meet every month is a daunting and stressful experience.
Here are nine steps on how your family can live comfortably on one income.
1. Know your cashflow.
The first step to planning your budget is to know the current state of your finances – particularly your cash flow. Sit down with your spouse, take out your payslips, and calculate how much money you actually take home each month.
A lot of people spend more than their income simply because they’re not aware of how much exactly they are taking home.
By knowing that exact figure and perhaps realizing how it’s less than what you thought it was because of taxes and other deductions, you will start to have a better view of your finances.
2. List your expenses.
Recall your spending from the past couple of months and list them down. Moreover, separate them into two groups – necessary and unnecessary expenses.
Try to be as detailed as possible, especially in your grocery spending, because those are usually a mix of both. Soap and toothpaste are necessary items, but certainly not chocolate and chips.
Ultimately, it is up to you how you want to classify your usual expenses, but try to be as objective as possible.
3. Decide on what’s necessary.
Now that you know how you are spending your income, go over it again and check if they’re correctly grouped. Ask questions such as, “Was this something I needed, or just something I wanted?” and reclassify accordingly.
It helps to discuss each item with your spouse and other members of the household. This exercise makes them more aware of the financial situation of the family and, hopefully, encourages them to be more conscious of their own spending.
4. Cut back to pay your debts.
If you have short-term debts, such as credit card bills, then it’s a must that you cut back on your spending. The first step is to decide which expenses you can forego, so you’ll have that important surplus in your cash flow.
Go through your grocery spending, cancel gym memberships and other subscriptions, and lessen your discretionary expenses. Understand that you’d need to make some sacrifices today if you want to succeed financially in the future.
Every bit of unnecessary cost that you can eliminate will help and go a long way in making sure that you have enough money to pay your utilities, make your rent, go to work, and buy food for the family.
5. Save at the start.
A lot of families have asked me what is the best way to save today, and I always tell them to simply pay themselves first – that is, set aside a portion of their income as soon as they receive it.
This is called “paying yourself first,” and it has been proven by many to be an effective way to really save money.
Start with a small percentage, perhaps 5% of your income, and then increase the rate every month or so. This means that if your take-home pay is Php 20,000 per month, then immediately take out Php 1,000 (5% of Php 20,000) when you receive your salary and put that in a savings account.
Ideally, you should be saving around 30% of your income. It’s a high number, but it is surprisingly achievable if you are disciplined enough to persist through this challenge.
6. Try a fixed daily budget.
When creating a monthly budget seems like a difficult task, especially if it’s your first time doing one, then try taking a baby step and just create a simple daily budget.
From your monthly income, subtract your savings (from Step 5), debt payments, and utility expenses to get your spending allowance.
Next, identify the daily amount that everyone in the household needs and portion off that spending allowance accordingly to determine each one’s daily budget.
While this is not a perfect strategy, it is still better than just blindly spending your money.
7. Record every peso.
You and your spouse will really need to take note of all your spending. Use the notes app on your phone or a small notebook to jot down your expenses as soon as they occur to avoid forgetting about them.
This will be tedious at first, but it will eventually become a habit and will feel less tasking as months go by.
Every month, you can use your expense records to see which items you buy often and perhaps find a way to save some money by purchasing those in bulk. It will also be easier to discover non-essential costs that could be affecting your budget.
8. Further reduce your spending.
Reduce the frequency at which you eat out and simply cook and eat at home. Turn off the lights and unplug electrical appliances when they are not being used. Walk short distances instead of taking a jeep; it is a good exercise on top of the money you save.
There are many ways to reduce your spending, and most of them are quite easy enough to do.
Again, it’s good to remember that even a small amount in savings can eventually make a huge difference in the end.
9. Simplify your lifestyle and focus on your goals.
Don’t be swayed by what other people have. If your neighbor has a big TV, it doesn’t automatically mean they are better off than you.
Hankering over things you cannot afford will only make you feel dissatisfied and unhappy. Find comfort in living a simple life, and prioritize your relationships instead of having material stuff.
Moreover, having clear and specific goals in mind will help you go through financial obstacles and spending temptations along the way.
When you’re focused and saving up for your family’s dream home, not having the latest iPhone model will surely become a trivial matter.
This article also appeared in MoneySense Magazine.