Sunday, January 29, 2017

Only in the Philippines: The Skylab

               You would probably think the Skylab is a laboratory built high up in the air - the sky.

               But it isn't.

               I do not even know how it earned its name on this side of the Philippines, particularly in Mindanao.  In the Visayas, it is more known as the habal-habal.

               It is actually motorcycle with appendages in the form of wood, added or attached to its sides, for the purpose of accomodating more passengers. The Skylab or the habal-habal, could accomodate as much as 10-12 persons, sometimes even 15, including the driver. That is a very far cry from the average of three persons that the motorcycle is designed to accomodate. Overloading would be such a poor term to describe it, but we all have to face the truth that the skylab is a product of the Filipino's ingenuity. That's the part I love most.

               The skylab has been such a useful means of transportation for quite a long time now - in my rough estimate, in the past 10-15 years - for most Filipinos specially those who are living in the outskirts of major business areas. To put it simply, it is the most accessible and affordable means of transportation for those who are living in the remote areas, especially in the mountains, where no buses dare brave to go, because of the indescribably rough roads and the distance. Where the buses can't go, the skylab takes you there.

               Friends, meet the skylab.

Side view.

Front view. Notice the kicker, the invitation to ride -- "Dali na! Sakay na! (Come on over, ride on!")

And finally....

Yes, that is me on the sklylab, with Manong, the ultimate photobomber. 

                Thank you for dropping by! 'til next time.


Monday, January 23, 2017

Last and Final Serving: The Road to Financial Freedom - Simple Ways to Save Money (Last of 3 Parts)

It took quite a while before I was able to serve you this last helping.  Finally, here it is, your last serving of tips that will lead to the road to financial freedom. 

11. Walk when you can. It's good for your heart and your pocket, too. 

12. Make the most out of freebies. Sometimes,  there is such a thing as free lunch. Make the most of it but take caution not to become a freeloader. 

13. Set up automatic transfers. These day, banks offer automatic transfer services that facilitate transfer of money from and between your accounts. Some banks offer this service wherein they automatically deduct, say Php. 500.00 from your payroll account,  so that you have already saved even before you got hold of your salary. Sometimes, or maybe I should say, most of the time, it takes a lot of effort and emotions for us to set aside a small amount of our earnings for our savings. If you automate your transfers, you are spared of this effort and unnecessary stress and at the same time you have saved already for rainy days. 

14. Be faithful in sending your car to the shop for maintenance and oil change. A long life for your car would mean a lot of savings for you since you would not be pressured to buy a new one if your car is still in good running condition. 

15. Sleep on it. I practice whenever I feel like I want to buy something expensive. Before I make the big purchase, I test myself and sleep on it.  After one or more nights have passed and I still have the same desire for that expensive item, that's the time I go ahead and buy the item.

16. Learn to cook. I call this surival cooking. When someone asks me if I know how to cook, I would answer,  "Yes, survival cooking!" Fried dishes would be on top of the list. Aside from that, you can surf on YouTube for other dishes that you might want to cook. Once you have mastered cooking a dish, try cooking for more than one mealtime so you can pack some for your meal at the office.

17.  Eat out less and when you eat out bring home the leftovers. The least amount you could shell off when you eat out would be around Php. 400. You can already buy a lot of stuff from the grocery with that amount. Strive to eat out less. Reserve eating out for dates with your loved one, or for special occasions. You may also decide to eat out only once or twice a month like every pay day, but still alloting a certain amount or budget for that. Don't be ashamed to bring home the left overs. Food left untouched are disposed by restaurants straight to the trash. 

18. Examine your bill at the restaurant first before you get your cash or card to pay for it. I don't know why but I was ashamed to do this before. Eventually I have learned to overcome that embarrassment specially when I knew that examining your bill once the waiter hands it to you actually saves you some bucks. Try it. 

19. Compare plane fares from different airlines before finally booking your ticket and book early too. These are the times when being an early bird have its rewards. Being diligent in comparing plane fares also gives you a lot of savings too.  

20. Unplug your appliances. I am out of my apartment most of the time. When I started to unplug my appliances when I am not in my place, I noticed a considerable decrease in my monthly electric bill. Unplugging my appliances is part of my checklist of things to do before going out of my apartment. This rule however does not apply to the refrigerator. 

21. Floss. Don't just do this because it's part of personal hygiene but also because you love your teeth so much that you can't afford to lose them to caries. You would be shocked to find that dentures actually cost a fortune. So go ahead and make your day,  floss it, like you mean it! 

22. Visit your dentist every six months. Recent studies have proven that poor oral hygiene leads to heart disease. Imagine having dentures and having to maintain taking daily medications when you get old. Isn't it such a repulsive or disappointing scenario? A scenario that you could actually stop from coming true by showing up at your dentist's clinic every six months for dental cleaning or prophylaxis. Of course, emphasizing the importance of brushing your teeth is an understatement. 

23. Prepare your grocery list before going to the grocer's. Making your list before you go to the grocery would save you a lot of time trying to remember what else you need to buy. Since we are all about saving money, try your best to stick to the items on your list, but still be kind to yourself. Maybe you can treat yourself to one bar of yoir favorite chocolate - just one item of indulgence, like maybe one pint od ice cream. If you are the strict type to stick on your budget, then maybe you can just bring just the exact amount of money you have alloted for your grocery items. 

24. Don't do the grocery when you are hungry. You would tend to pick up a lot of items that are not on your list. 

25. Sleep with the lights off. Doing this will take a big chunk off your monthly electricity bill. Aside from that, it helps you give back to the environment. 

             Now that we are still far from our twilight years, we all have this tendency to think that we deserve to enjoy life using our hard earned money. YOLO - You Only Live Once - that is, according to the millenials. There's also this thing called FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out. 

            I don't also mean that you have to deprive yourself of the good things in life just so you could save. I suggest that we all strive to strike a balance between saving and spending. 

               One of the mantras I live by in saving money stems out from a statement said by a very good friend more than a decade ago.  I admire the skills this friend of mine has when it comes to managing her money. 

             We were just starting to earn money as doctors then. We used to receive our salaries in cold cash. One pay day she asked me if I count the bills that the cashier gives me during payroll time. She said she does that every time - count her money, that is - before going out of the business office. 

          I told her I don't do that. I just claim my envelope and I don't bother to count my money because I am embarassed to do that. However, she emphasized to me that I should take time to check if the salary written in my payslip matches the number of bills inside the envelope which bears my name. She assured me that the cashier would definitely understand and would not mind at all. Besides, she said in our dialect, "Wala bya ni nato gikatulgan atong kwarta." (We worked hard for the money and we did not earn it by just sleeping.)

          I consider that as one of the turning points in my financial life. She could not be more right. 

          We worked hard to earn what we are earning today. Saving money is a way of valuing all the sleepless nights we spent in college (and in medical school), and all the physical and mental and emotional exhaustion we had to go through to finally arrive to where we are today. That goes for everyone, not only for doctors - because whatever you are doing now for a living, I know you started somewhere down below. We all did. 

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