Celebrating my birth month


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August is my birth month. My birthday this year falls on a weekday and a busy week also. 

I guess when we age, I mean when we mature, birthday celebrations are no longer that very important. 

For my case, I had to even remind myself when I woke up in the morning that it was my birthday. 

I gave thanks the man up there for giving me another year of good health, happiness and abundant blessings. 

We decided to celebrate my birthday in the weekend. Nothing grand. 

We holed up ourselves in a hotel in Dubai, enjoy the pool with my kiddo and dinner with my good friends and love ones.

My sister works in a hotel so we managed to get a special rate for family. I got also a 50% off in our dinner in one of our fave restaurant.

I guess the only thing that I splurged was traveling with a hired driver. lol!

I was feeling tired really to drive to Dubai after an exhausting week. I calculated the cost of renting a car plus the petrol and parking fees, I realized that I was saving only AED100.

So on Thursday evening, we sat relaxed in a car as the driver drove us to the hotel.

It was fun and thanks to  my best friend and her hubby who traveled all the way from Ras Al Khaimah to surprise me. BIG hug BFF (best friends forever)!



Posted in Family, Finances | Tagged | Leave a comment

Proud Policy Holder of Philam Health Invest


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When I went for my annual leave last June, one important task that I needed to tick off from my long ‘to-do-list‘ was to finalize and sign my Philam Health Invest. 

Before heading to our ‘side’ trip to Hanoi (which I still have to write later  **smile**), we stayed for couple of hours in one of the budget hotels in Manila to rest because we arrived in the morning from Abu Dhabi. Our flight to Hanoi was later only in the evening.  

I took this opportunity to meet the Philam agent, Mr. Genesis Alvaro, whom I met online only. I highly recommend him. So far, we made two transactions already –  Philam Health Invest for me and my brother – and I have no complaints. He is very cooperative. Drop me a note if you need his contact details. 

There’s a story behind this actually. When searching for insurance, I already found Genesis in some websites. Sorry, I cannot remember exactly where. I sent him an inquiry which he  replied promptly and sent the quotation.

Then few days later I was contacted by my high school classmate and she advised that her brother was also a Philam agent who is based in Davao. Genesis was a stranger whom I met online only. So I was convinced to deal with my high school classmate’s brother which I actually regretted later.

I finalized with him (my high school classmate’s brother) the Philam Health Invest for my husband but his service was not good. You know this kind of insurance agents who are only after for commissions and after that they disappear. Well, he didn’t literally disappear but he was not very helpful anymore. 

My parents used to be insurance agents too when we were growing up. It was their additional source of income. So I understood the monetary rewards after closing an insurance deal. 

So I contacted Genesis again for the Philam Health Invest for me and my brother, and I am very happy that he is my insurance agent. In fact, I recommend him always to my OFW friends. 

Anyway, back to our original topic. Months prior, Genesis and I had been communicating already through Facebook. So our meeting was kind of wrapping up everything only including the signing up of the application form. 

As per the insurance commission in Philippines, you have to be physically present in the Philippines when signing the insurance application. 

I am sharing here the factors why I chose the insurance with critical illness benefits. Note that I am neither an insurance agent nor a personal financial expert. 

First and foremost – My stand on Buy Term (Insurance), Invest the Difference (BTID) Strategy.

Term insurance is a basic type of life insurance. If the policy holder dies during the time period which is outlined in the policy, then the beneficiaries  will receive the benefits. 

The premium for term insurance is very reasonable compared to insurance products that are bundled with investments instruments (also known as VUL or Variable Universal Life Insurance).

Some financial experts recommend on buying a term insurance and investing the difference (from the VUL premium). 

This is a good strategy and I am in favor of it. Why not?

However for my case, I opted for VUL because of the what if’s scenario. In the first place, that is why insurance is called insurance because it gives protection and benefits for any eventualities that may happen,  right?

God forbids but if I am diagnosed with critical illness, my basic health insurance will not be enough. Chances are I will encash all my paper assets to cover my medical expenses. What if during this time, the market is down. 

I know.. I know.. I need to diversify my investments but at the bottom of my heart, I really do not want to encash any of my investments for medical purpose unless if I am left with that choice only.

That’s why I opted for VUL. At least, it has the investment part of the insurance. I am covered and I have the health fund in addition to my standard CIB (critical illness benefits) coverage. 

You will never  know when you will need it. I hope that I will never ever need it in my lifetime. 

Why Philam Health Invest?

I have been shopping for an insurance that will cover me in case of critical illness diagnoses. 

I inquired before with Sunlife but unfortunately they don’t offer this for OFWs. I can avail the product but not with the critical illness.

Then I found out about this Philam Health Invest. I inquired also from Axa Philippines because they have one. 

I  did my comparisons and finally I opted for Philam.

I considered many factors but these the primary reasons why I chose Philam. 

Cost. I almost signed up for Axa because it was way cheaper than Philam. With Axa, I would be paying only a fraction compared to my Philam’s premium. 

I asked myself many times. What’s my main purpose of this insurance?  It is to cover the medical cost in case (God forbids) I am diagnosed with critical illness. 

By then, I am no longer an OFW and we all know that hospitalization cost in Philippines is expensive. In fact this is one of my concern when we will go back home for good.

The product from Axa and Philam would be suitable for my purpose. 

The payment period vs the total premium cost. Personally I am not fond of long term financial commitments. These due dates are like a ghost who is haunting me all the time until I pay it off. 

AXA is 20 years payments. I really didn’t ask if I can have a shorter payment period.

With Philam, you have options and I opted for 7 years payment. 

When I crunched the numbers, I realized that the difference in the total premium for both (20 years payment and 7 years payment) is not big.

For my age, the total premium in AXA is Php 635,000 payable 20 years of payment while it is Php 686,413 for Philam payable for 7 years.

It is painful to think that you are paying a big chunk of monthly premium. But I guess like any other financial facilities like loans, the longer the payment term, the cheaper the monthly due is. 

The added value. The quotations I received from AXA and Philam have both 1 million coverage or face amount. This is the amount that I will be paid in case of critical illness is diagnosed.

But what is the value of 1 million after 10-15 years from now considering the inflation factor? 

One option to address this concern is increase my coverage. Maybe like 5 million or more but it means that my premium will also go up. 

With Philam Health Invest, it is bundled with mutual fund investment. This can also address my concern about the future value of 1 million. 

I thought also that if we really run out of funds for my son’s college education, I can also utilize this to finance his tuition fees. Anyhow, he is just 3 years old. 

For me, this is an important added value. 

The investment return in Axa Health Max is lower also compared to Philam Health Invest. 

Verdict. Obviously I am in favor of Philam Health Invest because that’s what I have chosen. The monthly premium is not a joke. It is costly. Period.

But I considered this thing with utmost priority in my financial house. It gives me peace of mind. Actually, I had been thinking of this for almost two years already but I kept on delaying it.

Then earlier this month, one of my colleague (a Filipina also in her early thirties) was diagnosed with breast cancer. When she wanted to take a similar kind of insurance, she was refused because she has been diagnosed already with CI. 

This prompted me and somehow pacified the pain of paying a pricey premium. 

If you have other financial commitments but wanted the insurance coverage with critical illness benefits, then I recommend AXA Health Max because it is really affordable.

By the way, I got an Axa Health Max for my son because Philam doesn’t offer this product to minors. 

Now, my family (husband, brother and I) are proud policy holder of Philam Health Invest.


Posted in Family, Finances, Insurance, Investments | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Guest Post: 8 Tips to Plan a Family Vacation on a Budget


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I don’t know if there’s anyone who doesn’t like to go on vacations because everyone does! However, vacations always come with a price tag that, if you’re not careful, might burn a hole in your wallet. Spending money is inevitable but what you have control of is how you’re going to spend that money for a family vacation. Now, the question is: can you penny pinch money without penny-pinching fun? The answer is YES! Here’s how:

1. Plan early.

If possible, plan family vacations as early as 12 months to 6 months before the designated date. Planning several months in advance will give you enough time to save up and prepare for the vacation. In addition to this, a lot of board and lodging providers offer a lower rate in advanced booking, so does airline ticket sellers.

2. Search for vouchers, coupons, and deals online.

Aside from planning early, doing a lot of research goes a long way. Some tour or travel agencies offer deals for a limited time only, so get a hold of them fast. Subscribe to their newsletters or follow a certain hotel in the place you’re going to visit on social media, and be on the lookout for their offers or contest that might save you big bucks.

3. Consider travelling on off-peak seasons.

One of the oldest tricks in the vacation-on-a-budgeting book is to travel during off-peak season. Prices usually go down by as much as 100% during the off-peak season compared to the peak season. Or you can always choose the most frugal vacation: staycations.

4. Be wise in deciding where to stay.

While most hotels and inns offer the same kind of service, try to choose those who offer more for the same price. You can also make a personalized deal with them based on the budget you have, if you manage to get a hold of their contact details. Try to stay in a place that has a kitchen and fridge, or offers a free breakfast. You’ll get a lot of savings.

5. Stick to your budget and don’t go overboard.

Once you’re vacationing, be strict and limit spending according to what’s planned. Emotional purchases are very common when on vacation because we’re having so much fun. Have a souvenir strategy to resist impulse buys. Save change in a jar before the trip and discuss getting souvenirs that can only be found at your destination.

6. Bring packed food.

If you’re not going to spend a day or a few days away from home, try bringing packed lunch or dinner with you. Pull over on an open space and set-up a little picnic party. When you’re in a theme park, see if they allow visitors to bring in food. The price of food in theme parks is usually more expensive.

7. Bring jugs or water tumblers.

When you’re on vacation in another place, most of the travelling you’ll do is by foot.  And walking can make you really thirsty. So instead of buying water bottle after bottle, or soda can after can, bring a jug or tumbler. That way, you can easily refill your water supply wherever you go. Usually, you can just ask for water in your hotel/inn’s pantry.

8. Don’t bring the whole bank with you.

It pays to bring just a little bit of extra money with you whenever you’re vacationing so you won’t be tempted to spend too much. But for emergency situations, always bring a debit or credit card with you. But only use it on emergency situations.

Not every vacation is made the same, but the bottom line is—it must be fun for everyone. Remember that excellent planning goes a long way, and always have fun!

About the Author:

Joanna is an entrepreneur mum blessed with 3 lovely children. She lives in Dubai with her family, and loves to travel and cook healthy meals for her children. Joanna regularly shares her parenting tips and experiences with Afterschool.ae, an online platform listing all UAE children’s activities accessible by parents thru web and mobile.


Posted in Frugal Tips, Guest Post, Travel | 1 Comment

UAE National Bonds: My First Win

National Bonds

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As you have read in my earlier post, my emergency fund is safely stashed in UAE National Bonds. It is my way of guarding hard my EF from any temptations of spending it. 

So I oftentimes received newsletter from them and earlier this week I received another email. While it was downloading, I was thinking that maybe it’s just another newsletter. 

Anyhow, I waited until it was downloaded. To my surprise, it was a different email this time. 


Dear ——-

Congratulations you have won in our every minute draw (on AED 50)! 


I was very happy. It is not really the grand prize but hey, it is still AED 50. As they say, a thousand Dirhams is not a thousand Dirhams without 50 Dirhams. 

 Hopefully this is just the beginning of more winnings and may the next win be the grand prize of 1 million Dirhams. :-D

Posted in Events, Finances, Life in Abu Dhabi | 4 Comments

The Rising Cost of Water & Electricity Bills

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You know when it is affecting most of the population because oftentimes it is the subject matter of the discussion.

Like lately, our lunch topic is the shocking water and electricity bills. I read the  notice earlier about the increase in the charges but I haven’t really paid attention to it until I started receiving the new water and electricity bills. 

It’s really a big chunk of money (well at least for me) that goes to this utility bills. 

I took a snapshot of last year versus this year’s bill. There’s no changes in the number of persons who are staying in our flat. It is still the same as last year but see the difference. 

June bill


July Bills

At first I thought that there’s something wrong in our meter system. But when my colleagues also told me about their recent bills, then I know that it is across the board. 

If you are not paying your bills, then you are lucky. But for ordinary employees like me, it is disheartening to pay such big chunk of bills. 


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COL Financial: Why I automated my EIP?

COL Financial Automated

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I have been investing in COL financial since 2011 but I really didn’t take it seriously. It is more of investing only the leftover funds from my monthly paycheck. 

So when I finally decided to take this investment seriously late last year, I checked my total investment cost. I was disappointed. It has never been my priority hence the result was also obvious. 

Disappointing figures. 

However in January this year, I started to become aggressive, so aggressive that I set a certain goal by end of the year. The goal is on the high side so it is a challenge and requires sacrifice. 

I follow a cost averaging strategy for my stock investment in COL Financial. I found here an infographic that will help you understand easily Peso Cost Averaging. 

One of my fave blogger also, Fitz Villafuerte in Ready to be Rich, explained it well and in details in his post here

This strategy is called EIP (Easy Investment Program) in COL Financial. There’s an option to set this up into manual or automatic. 

I used to have this in manual setting but I faced some problems. 

First, there were times that I was occupied and I forgot to check my COL account. Hence, my purchases became inconsistent. There were times I bought my stocks in beginning of the month. If I forgot, then it would be somewhere in end of the month. 

Second, I had difficulty in staying within my budget :-). For instance, I allocated 5,000 pesos for certain stock like JFC. When I see that the price is low, I tend to buy more. 

I became a monster, greedy to buy more stocks. So oftentimes I fell off from my budget, the amount I allocated monthly for my chosen stocks. 

It forfeits the basic idea of peso cost averaging which is buying regularly which equates (in my case) to monthly purchase of selected blue chips stocks on the same period (mine is every 10th of the month) at the same amount. 

So three months ago, I automated all my EIP stocks. I set it up every 10th of the month. Now I don’t have anything else to think except to ensure that there’s enough fund in my COL account so all the automatic purchases are successful. 

What about you? What’s your stock investment strategy?

Posted in Finances, Investments, OFWs | Tagged | 4 Comments