So, How Do You Spend and How Much Can You Save?

By , on February 1, 2014

Pangarap: So, Our Journey Begins

Saving up is a universal virtue.  You will need lots of savings when you go, as they will be all you can spend while you are still looking for a job.

Leaving or not leaving, saving up is a must.  It is universal, timeless virtue. People do it. And those who can’t do it for now, always have it at the back of their minds.

People complain of not earning enough to be able to set aside money for savings. The money coming in will be just enough to meet monthly expenses. Thus, no matter how earnestly you want or decide to save, you cannot.

Not even the firmest decision can make one decide to save up if he does not have a plan, a wish, a desire, an ambition.  You save for something you look forward to, for something you want to happen. My old aunt was right when she admonished me, “When you save, do not do it because you want emergency money for hospital bills or funeral expenses. Do it for a positive reason.” If the reason is good, then saving up becomes heart-warming and a source of hope.

Migration, as we said, is a big step. But it does not happen overnight. It is as if one is given ample time to prepare well, psychologically and financially.

In the financial services sector, we always remind our clients that saving money does not mean just depositing cold cash in the bank on a regular basis. Insurance, pension plans, real estate, stocks, jewellery all count as savings.  Anything that appreciates in value and you can monetize when you need it. A small townhouse that I bought easily amounted to the needed show money when we had to land. Even the cars that we had owned translated to money that we could bring to help us tide over.

Although some of your accumulations will actually depreciate in value, as long as they can be monetized easily, they should help raise money.  I remember having held at least three garage sales in the period of time we were waiting for an approval.

Whatever amount of cash you have been able to raise, through savings and selling here and there, keep in mind to try to service some, if not all of your loans, starting, as I said, with the ones with the highest interest rates.

In Canada, I was amazed to realize how almost accurate the amount of show money they computed and required was in lasting until I found a job. I figure you should have enough for six months to a year, depending how big is the family and how tightly you hold on to your wallet.

Once you get to your new country, it is all spend, spend, spend…until you get that first job. So while you are not there yet, save, save, save. You are going to need every penny you can save, keep, or bring with you later.

While you will probably have some friends and relatives around you in your new country, you will not want to be borrowing and creating a reputation as a borrower early on. You will also not want to go back to the old debt-ridden life, I am sure.

You should have a computation of the exact figure of how much money you bring with you.   For your peace of mind, why not try to save up just that exact amount as soon as you start working or at least when you start recovering from the initial expenses? It should be fun and, well, reassuring.

You will need to save up or raise money when you leave. Save up while you can or sell out accumulations which you cannot bring or will not want to bring with you. Once you start working, it might be good to start recovering saved-up money spent by saving up again.

Can You Stick to the Right Expenses?

You may need to go back to the basics when you are living on the savings you brought with you until the first job comes around.

When you have a full, well-provided life, it could happen that your lifestyle no longer distinguishes between the basics and the excesses. This is simply because those little excesses have almost become like basics, things you cannot do without.

Speaking of basics, you will certainly go back to the basics when you start living on your savings. Whether it is by force of that circumstance or by choice, there is no escaping the fact that there will be expenses you will encounter for the first time, although they will be classified as basics.

For example, prospective immigrants from tropical countries are so afraid of the cold season. You will realize the only important thing is to be able to bundle up properly.  Thus, what it takes or how much it will cost you to bundle up is one of those expenses that suddenly becomes necessary.

If you were not used to paying your own medical insurance, then that becomes another necessary expense. This can be temporary until you qualify for a 100% waiver, in which case that means you are either in the low-income bracket or have no income at all. Different provinces have their own health care programs, some are free from the first day you arrive.  Unfortunately, it is not absolutely free in some.

A friend of mine advised that I get good accommodations, especially if I am bringing grown-up minors. The big kids have already formed opinions on some things, and for them to have a good first impression of your moving it is common sense to give them a decent, comfortable home.  It is bad enough they are being uprooted; it is worse to have them live in a rundown dwelling when you can afford a better one.

However, your moving might also be a good chance for the kids to learn how to start life from scratch or live life all over again. Perhaps they never saw how you struggled to raise them when they were growing up. Now they will see how all of you will need to take baby steps once again, supporting one another to go through the next phase of your lives.

This is the same case for singles migrating, who never knew how to start life from scratch when they were growing up because everything had been provided by their parents or guardians.

Expense-wise, it is good to know that eating good food or the right kind of food is not that burdensome. Even so, aiming for the ingredients and spices you knew back home can be very expensive. You will need to be practical and find substitutes, or switch to new recipes.  That favourite food back home can be reserved for special occasions only.

Determine expenses necessary to keep afloat without humiliating yourself. After all, you cannot stay positive if you lose your self-esteem. While scrimping may be temporary until you get a job, wise spending should be a permanent disposition and state of mind.

Is Money Gone Too Soon?

Without that job, erosion of your savings may be inevitable.  But this does not have to eat you up and leave you without self-esteem and dignity.

Even if you keep your eyes wide, wide open, you will wake up one day to find out that the money you have brought with you will be gone.

This is scary. Really scary.

As I mentioned earlier, “Our deepest fear is our potential for inadequacies.” This means our greatest fear is realizing that we cannot pay the rent and utilities, cannot service our loans or debts, or cannot afford to eat well.

The hope is really to not reach a point that you are down to zero. Have faith. Stay positive. But be sure to move quickly.

A friend, who had stayed many years in Canada as immigrant, put it simply, “You need to be proactive.”  The job will not fall on your lap or enter your inbox.

I know of someone who had a job just one week after she arrived. She walked around downtown, entered every shop that she thought she’d like to work in, and was able to get an interview after walking in. It was not necessarily the job to match her previous job, but it was enough to have something to tide her over and keep her bank withdrawals to a minimum.

A classmate in a workshop recalled her husband doing the same but was almost rejected because he was thought to be overqualified for the job in question. But he stated his case quite convincingly, specifically the fact that he had to feed his children, and he got the job.

A prospective employer confessed to me that out of hundreds of resumes emailed to him, only one person actually wrote a personalized cover letter and mentioned having visited his website. He then called that applicant and discussed that the job could very well be hers.

Since I have concluded that most skilled professionals coming as immigrants are well educated, have money and are highly motivated, I am pretty sure they can also be able to figure out by themselves when it is time to drop the gloves and roll with the punches.

With that, it might not have to come to a point when the money will be totally eroded before you are able to get that first job. Because if that happens, then taking on what they call a “survival job” becomes so literal you might not have much self-respect left in you. You will not like that, of course.

No matter what you do, the money you bring with you will be gone if you do not get a job. The key is to be able to act fast and prevent total monetary erosion. Be careful when taking on a survival job. Keep your self-esteem intact so that you can stay positive.

Nobody ever said that our journey, will be easy. But as I write and as you read, we share our strengths and we can hold to the promise that “Where two or three are gathered in My name, there I am in the midst of them,” Matthew 18:20.

Bolet is a marketing communications practitioner and dabbles in writing as a personal passion. She is author-publisher of the book:  The Most Practical Immigrating and Job Hunting Survival Guide, proven simple steps to success without the fears and the doubts. The book is available in, Barnes & Noble, Chapters/Indigo, the Reading Room and other online bookshops worldwide, and in National Book Store and Power Books in the Philippines. Please check out