Preparing your wallet for a longer GCQ

Aneth Ng-Lim

Posted at Mar 01 2021 10:58 AM

The quarantine is here to stay for another month, and in 10 areas around the country including Metro Manila, the stricter general community quarantine (GCQ) remains in effect. Even with the rest of the Philippines under modified GCQ, or the most relaxed form of community quarantine, it looks like we will all be facing a longer and lonelier lockdown.

Before the pandemic forced us all to live behind masks and closed doors, March was the time of year when we planned family vacations, signed up for summer classes to learn new hobbies and meet new friends, hosted community fiestas and many more social activities. But until we have rolled out the vaccine program here at home and can safely say we have herd immunity, those plans can only stay as plans.

As if the COVID-19 crisis is not enough, and natural disasters thrown in here and there, unemployment and underemployment are also a growing concern, and now we have to watch for inflation too.

Inflation, or the trend of price increases while the purchasing value of money decreases, is expected to reach a 12-month high in February, peaking to 5 percent if not more. This is a double-edged sword for consumers having a hard time stretching their budget. Not only will your money be worth less in the market, expect the costs of your necessities and wants to also be more expensive.

Until life and inflation can return to normal, or as close to pre-pandemic, keep a tight watch on your expenses. Here are 3 things that I personally follow, and they are advice I picked up from personal finance experts I met and read about through the years. Note some of them at one time in their lives went bankrupt or were drowning in debt, and managed to turn their fortunes around. You can do it too. 

#1 Just because I can pay for it does not mean I can afford it.

If your officemate got himself a new car, or your neighbor just bought a new TV, or your friend has a nice bag you also want, do not be tempted to also make a purchase. Maybe you can pay for it, by getting a loan from your company, or using the installment plan in your credit card. But just because you can pay for it does not mean you can afford it. 

Consider the total amount of loan you will incur plus interest and how long you will have to pay for it. Let’s take the car for example. This can mean a 5-year loan, and in those 5 years, your income will be reduced not only by the loan amount and interest but also the cost of gasoline and car maintenance. 

You also need to pay for car registration and insurance. So think hard if you can afford it, or your old but reliable car will do for now. CNBC.com reported that Facebook founder and billionaire Mark Zuckerberg owns a Volkswagen, and prefers cars that are “safe, comfortable and not ostentatious.” That’s sound advice if you ask me, and definitely not fake news.

#2 Just because I can afford it does not mean I have to buy it.

You may argue that you can buy the car, or TV or the bag without getting a loan. Your frugal ways of the past have given you the opportunity to grow your savings and you have a nice emergency fund that lets you sleep at night.

Okay you can afford them, but must you buy them now? How many times can you use the bag while GCQ is in force? On the occasional days you have to leave the house or the two times a week you are required to physically report to the office? 

Businesses have yet to fully recover and there are some that decided to close their doors permanently as Jollibee did for 339 branches, or temporarily like Makati Shangrila. A study released by the Asian Development Bank in September 2020 study showed over 70 percent of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the country were forced to temporarily close due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Many had cash flow problems, forcing owners to borrow from friends and family just to keep their business afloat. The Philippines had it worst compared to its Asian neighbors also surveyed, such as Laos, Indonesia and Thailand.

Against this backdrop, can you really say your job is secure? Best to keep your savings as savings until things take a real turn for the better.

#3 Just because I bought it does not mean I have to keep it.

This advice has made many of those personal finance experts go from broke to rich. They have learned the secret of buying assets whose value appreciate over time, and that’s not a designer bag or the latest TV model or a shiny new car. They set aside cash for emergencies and use their savings to invest in equities, bonds, art, real estate and more.

For each of these investments, they have a target of how much return they want and when to sell, and do not hold on to them longer than they have to. Did you see that news about a sacrifice sale in a condo building near your office? If it feels right and the math computes, you can consider buying it now and selling it later for a gain. Then use your proceeds to reinvest until you have a positive snowball building towards your comfortable retirement. When you’re 65, you can reward yourself with the biggest TV and put your feet up for a well-deserved break.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.