How not to max out your credit cards during home break


12:21 AM April 15th, 2012

By: Patricia Riingen, April 15th, 2012 12:21 AM

Many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) schedule their vacations to coincide with their kids’ summer break.  However, for most OFWs, coming home often means breaking the bank.

For example: Baby, who is working as a nurse in London to support her three children here in the Philippines, comes home once in two years so she has to make every visit extra special.

“During my first few years as an OFW I used to spend a lot of money every time I went home for a vacation. Apart from paying for my airline ticket, I also needed to have enough ‘pasalubong’ for both my immediate family as well as the wider entire clan,” said Baby.

“Prior to leaving London, I would courier boxes of goodies in advance,” she said.

Whenever she was home, relatives and friends would visit her and always expect to receive something “imported.”  It has also become a habit for her to host a fiesta-like celebration at pricey beachside resorts or expensive cabins, and she was expected to foot the bill, in addition to the trips to shopping malls.

“The warm welcome from friends and family is something I always look forward to.  But I don’t enjoy spending all my savings and maxing out my credit cards,” she said.

To Baby, every visit had turned into just another source of stress, instead of a time for family bonding and relaxation.

“I realized it was my fault for being extravagant beyond my means. I didn’t give anyone any idea that it was already difficult to make ends meet.  They simply expected that I continued what I started,” she said.

Today, Baby still sends home gifts for her relatives, but unlike before she has changed her gifting habits: as opposed to gifting a bottle of perfume, clothing, bags, or shoes, she sends each of her siblings’ family a small bag of groceries that she would horde whenever the supermarkets go on sale in the UK. When she has stocked enough groceries, she ships them home at the same time to save on courier costs. At times, she also just gifts cash.

For her upcoming vacation, she booked her immediate family for a week at a budget resort in Batangas. She made the booking eight months in advance, allowing her to take advantage on a special offer while saving a significant amount of money.

The learning I have from Baby is that we need to take it upon ourselves to manage our family’s expectations, especially when it comes to sharing the financial rewards that we get from working abroad.  We need to make them understand that, just because we are working abroad, it does not mean our wallet is bottomless. We need to learn how to share while sticking to a budget and not getting into debt.

Dream vacations need not be expensive, extravagant, or fancy.  It is always wise to keep a little something for later.  The important thing is for us to be able to get to spend a loving and fun time with our family and catch up with each other’s lives during the break.

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