How can an OFW save money?


Philippines -> Singapore -> Australia

“Are you able to save?

If so, given that you are working abroad, how do you save money?”


Like any other OFW in Singapore, I am also tempted to buy a lot of gadgets, eat out at fancy restaurants and even acquire big stuffs such as a car or a condo.  With our fat paycheck which is more than double (or even more) compared with what we earn back home, who can resist the temptation right?


Admittedly, I also bought some goodies & gadgets for myself but not until I have saved enough cash that will enable me to still survive for a few months and to find an overseas work again, in case that I lost my current job abruptly.


Like my fellow kababayans here, I save money with a specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bounded goal in mind which I regularly review every month, and then set a prize for myself once I achieved that goal to keep me energised along the way. My strategy before, and even until now, was to live a frugal lifestyle here in Singapore, saving as much as 70% of my income which must be remitted the very day I received my salary, every single month (to avoid spending it). Living on the 30% left of my pay, though it looks impossible to some, is certainly attainable if you are really serious to your financial life and willing to take the sacrifices.


For me, that entails:

  • living in a shared room instead of choosing a solo-room near the city (saving me as much as S$400-$500 every month!);
  • Doing my exercise in the nearby park instead of signing-up for a S$150-per-month gym subscription;
  • Either cooking my own meals or buying a $3-$4 Kopitiam meals than eating-out in fancy restaurants and
  • Delaying the purchase of a new gadget until its price eventually goes down.


There are hundreds of ways to save dough if we are truly decided to reach our financial targets!


My personal financial goal back in July 2011 was to acquire P30,000 for my Emergency Fund and P 100,000 for my Long-Term Savings Fund by December 2011. That emergency fund will be used for any unforeseen event and the latter, if I lost my job in Singapore or for my stock/mutual funds investment. Every month, I track all of my expenses that had gone out of my pocket and review my progress to check if I am getting nearer to my target right on the schedule. And with God’s help, I managed to achieve that goal on time plus, I was able to remit substantial amount of money to my parents back home.


Just looking back, I’ve been working since 2007 and I’m capable of saving up those amounts earlier than December 2011, but similar to my fellow bread-winner Filipinos, I wasn’t able to save-up that much because I’m giving a substantial amount of my income to my parents which includes my 13th month bonus and VL/SL leave encashments (though admittedly, I can still save more if I just be more frugal back then).


You may think that these amounts (30k & 100k) are small, but you’ll be surprised that there are a lot of OFWs here that doesn’t even have that kind of funds due to their exorbitant lifestyle. Let these be your initial target amount for your Emergency Fund and Long Term Savings Fund then later on, add more into it until you reach your desired goal for you and for your family.


Fast forward 2014, I was able to transition here in Sydney, Australia using the funds I had saved from Singapore. Of course, the level of my Emergency and Long-Term savings from December 2011 had already increased as I continued to save up each and every payday. Sadly, I wasn’t able to reach my desired personal savings this year as I was still helping out my family back home and my food expenses had increased (because I ate a lot) , but nonetheless, my funds were still sufficient to pay off the hefty migration cost (IELTS, Skills Assessments, Visa Processing etc.) and my living expenses in Sydney while I am looking for a job here.


On that period,  I was unemployed for more than 2 months yet I was still able survive and even enjoy my career break with my family and friends in the Philippines. All of this were made possible because of our decision to embrace a frugal lifestyle and to prepare in advance years ago.



Practical Tip:

Here’s one important tip that will have a significant change in your financial outlook:

On your monthly financial review, always ask yourself this question:


“If I lost my job today and won’t be able to work again abroad, how much exactly are my…” 

  • Overall Debt:    P  _______   
  • Savings:             P  _______  
  • Investments:    P _______    


To help you with your computation, here are the items you have to consider to fill out the 3 blanks above:

1. For your Overall debt, sum-up your:

  • Mortgage
  • Car Loans
  • Personal Loans (utang)
  • Outstanding
  • Credit Card Debts
  • Others


2. For your Savings, add up:

  • Cash on Hand
  • Emergency Fund
  • Long-Term Savings
  • Time-Deposits
  • Receivables ( mula sa may utang sa iyo.)
  • Coins (which you automatically count using DBS Coin Deposit)
  • Others: CPF, Deposits etc…


3. Investments

  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Mutual Funds
  • Real Estate Properties
  • Gold/Silver
  • Others: ETF, REIT, CFD, Forex etc…


Simply fill out the blanks and it will clearly show your personal financial condition and will also help you see if you are moving closer to or farther from your goal. Some OFWs, albeit working abroad for more than 5 or 10 years, still doesn’t have an Investment of any kind. Repeat asking yourself the question above, no matter where country you are working, and be well-informed of your financial condition. It’s better to be ready than awfully sorry.


This financial review question works for me, along with my Save-70%-Of-My-Salary strategy. I hope it works for you as well.


All the best Kabayan! We can make it!

Anong say mo?

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