Frugal Honey

Psychology of Money

Running and Personal Finance

I’ve always had a difficult relationship with running. On paper it would seem as if we’d get along well because I’m an introvert who shies away from team sports. I even participated in track and field competitions during highschool intramurals, and was a member of the track and field team for a few months. A friend who trains for triathlons even pushed me to take up running more seriously because she said I have a runner’s body. But despite all that, there was simply no spark between me and running.

However, something clicked in the past few months and instead of my usual once- a- month- if- I’m- feeling- up- to- it- run, I found myself going for weekly, then twice weekly runs, and before I knew it, I was actually running 3x a week and was even looking forward to it. Believe me, no one was more surprised at this than I was.

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Why Throwing Money at a Problem Hardly Ever Works

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A funny thing happened at work a few weeks ago during budget deliberation. After my boss made an impassioned plea about the government actually doing something to help the education sector, specifically higher education, instead of merely declaring it a priority with no concomitant action, a senator offered to increase the budget of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). Not wanting to be outdone, another senator went further and proposed to provide free tuition fee for all students in state universities and colleges (SUCs).

And the CHED commissioner declined their offer.

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The Beauty of Enough

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I first read about the Fulfillment Curve a few months back and promptly tucked it away for further research, eventually forgetting about it. It was only recently while reading the cult classic “Your Money or Your Life” that I was once again introduced to this concept.

In a nutshell, studies have repeatedly shown that happiness eventually peaks at a certain level, afterwards, happiness or satisfaction tends to dip slowly, regardless of how much effort we expend on it. That peak is known as Enough and it’s the proverbial sweet spot that lets you maximize your pleasure for any single thing or experience.

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When She Brings Home the Bacon

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Growing up, I used to hear anecdotes about my Lola, a public school teacher, giving my Lolo, a public prosecutor, a monthly allowance to spend on his tabako and haircut, while the rest of his salary went to her. She micromanaged their family’s budget to the peso, which is why all five of their daughters were able to finish college, with the two youngest daughters even going on to become doctors. My mother mused that she used to resent my Lola for her tightfisted ways, but as she grew older, she realized that if my Lola had not done what she did or if she had left the management of household finances to my Lolo, then they would have been mired in debt and would have had trouble finishing school.

In my own family, my mother outearned my father until I was in law school, and this was mostly because she went into semi-retirement from her medical practice.

Suffice to say that having a financially dominant female figure has always been the norm in my life and I didn’t think it odd that the mother provided the monetary support and/or handled the family’s finances. I only began to realize that this was an “aberration” when my schoolbooks talked about daddies going off to work while mommies stayed home and kept house.

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On Salary Delays and Shopping Triggers

I’m entering my fourth week in the Senate this week and I still can’t believe that we’re doing fine financially. To recap, it’s SOP in government service to have a delay of about two months before a new employee can receive her salary. I actually have no idea why it takes that long because when I was in the private sector, I received my salary without delay. Maybe there’s a lot more paperwork to accomplish in the government? I really don’t know.

Anyway, this is exactly one of those times when having an emergency fund makes perfect sense and I’m so thankful that I managed to set aside about 2 months worth of expenses in savings and another 2 months worth in my VUL account (although I really hope I won’t need to draw on that account). I also applied to monetize my leave credits from my last employer and am supposed to receive that within the next few weeks (crossing fingers). With the monetization of those leaves, I can even afford to replenish what I took out from my emergency funds and use the remainder of my leaves to tide us over until my paycheck comes in. 
There’s a big probability that I’ll be going through the same thing this time next year since my boss is serving her last term as a Senator and will be stepping down by 2016, and if I don’t transfer to a new Senator I’ll be a new employee again in another government agency and will be subjected to the two month salary delay again. Hence the need to build up our emergency funds again.
These past few weeks have been such an eye opener for me because the limited supply of funds has forced me to confront my spending triggers and bad habits, those being emotional and aspirational spending.
I tend to spend more when I’m happy, and I’m happiest when I’m spending for my loved ones. A quick review of my credit card bill showed that I tend to spend the most in Toy Kingdom more than any store. The usual story is that I would go to Toy Kingdom to buy a gift for an upcoming birthday party we’re invited to, and I see something cute that I know my son or nephews will like and include that in my cart. The situation becomes worse when I have my son with me and he takes a liking to a toy and it’s not really that expensive, so what’s 200-300p more right?
It’s also the same with eating out with friends and family. I get so happy spending time with them that I don’t think twice about footing the bill, that is until my credit card statement comes it. Ulp.
As for aspirational spending, this is where the stack of books I have yet to read comes in. I buy books and picture myself in a coffee shop, leisurely going through my new book or leafing through the pages of a cookbook, diligently planning the following week’s menu. But the truth is, I only get to read a few pages each week while I’m scarfing down my breakfast right before I get ready for work. And forget about having a weekly menu. At most, my husband or the yaya comes up with 3-4 viands that we eat and reheat throughout the week. I’m sadly just a domestic goddess wannabe.
Faced with my triggers, I now make an effort to think through my purchases and not let my emotions get the better of me. For example, I’m attending a wedding soon and since I know my wardrobe inside and out, I know that I really don’t have anything appropriate to wear. But instead of picking up the first dress that looked good on me (price: Php2,000), I shopped around some more and came upon a rose printed sheath dress on sale for Php850.
It was a little loose along the sides but I knew that my trusty modista could easily bring in the excess fabric to make it fit. And paired with a blazer or cardigan, I could even wear it to work. Smart shopper alert!
It’s honestly a constant struggle having to deal with my spending demons. Most of the time I can rein in my spending, but there are those days when I am plagued with shopper’s remorse and find myself with another pair of cheap sandals or yet another striped top. But now instead of cursing myself, I treat each slip-up as a learning experience and move on, while taking the time to celebrate my own successes as well.
I wish I could end this post with some sort of fantastic anecdote but I don’t have any. Like an addict, everyday I have to deal with my spending issues and sometimes the best way is to avoid my triggers altogether so that means minimizing mall trips, unsubscribing from shopping sites and creating goals that will divert my attention from accumulating more things. Whatever works.

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