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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Savings That Goes a Long Way....Upromise

In how many ways can we save? I can go list the many ways we can save money, but instead, let me take this time to share with you one of the values that my parents had strongly planted in my heart and in my mind.

My father was an above average white collared employee, and my mother was a full time housewife. There were 6 of us kids, who are 2 to 3 years apart. Considering that education in the Philippines was more than a privilege than a right, with how my and my brothers' ages were so close to each other, it was very hard for others to imagine, even those who had bigger income than my father, how my parents were able to fund all our college education.

I still very much remember a few days before my 7th birthday when my mother told me we are going to a bank to open a savings account in my name. The words of my mother echoed strongly up to this date: " 'day, we are not rich and we can not spend carelessly. My priority, and your tatay's, and hopefully, yours one day, is to save for your college education. If ever we did not give you grand birthday party before, because we thought you were still young to remember the memories and make choices for yourself. Now, that you will be turning seven years old a few days from now, I would like you to know that the money we could have spent for your birthday parties were all saved. It is about time we transfer your "birthday parties" money to your account, in your name. Where slowly, you will make guided decisions in your life, because we want you to grow up knowing the importance and value of savings. Now that you'll be able to remember more memories and probably know more which you could appreciate, you have the option to choose whether to have a real birthday party, or add the birthday party money to the savings account we will open for you which were saved from all your unspent birthday parties."

 I asked my mother before making the decision if I would still get a new dress, a new pair of shoes and if she would still make me sweet rice porridge in coconut milk (ginatan), cassava fritters with shrimp (okoy), and noodles (pancit).
Ginatan, photo by Zen a.ka. "kulasa"

My mother replied to my inquiry saying something like this, "yes, of course, it's your special day, so after attending mass in church, we will have a simple birthday get together like how it has always been, and that won't be deducted from the "7th birthday party money" which we will add to your bank account. About the new dress, new pair of shoes, you know it has always been presenting our best when we go to church. Although, you should also know that our loving Father does not judge us by the way we dress. Only that, if we present ourselves nicely at school and in many other places, why could we not present ourselves nicely to HIM in the church, where all of these come from HIM? You can still look your best with your older clothes if you wanted to. If you wanted to skip new dress and new shoes this time, I can add the money to what you will save in the bank. Or, I can give you a certain amount for a new dress and new pair of shoes, and it's up to you to choose. If you choose something that would cost less than the money saved for that, then, you can add it again to your bank. If you choose more than the money saved for new dress and shoes, then, you can take money from your bank. Anything more you wanted to add?"

And I replied, "maybe, I can add 2 friends? How much money would it take away from my bank?"

My mother smiled and told me that the addition of 2 friends will not cost a lot more to take some money away from my bank as long as I ask for the same foods. So, I chose "no real birthday party" because my memories of my last birthday was already very happy for me. I did not know how it could be happier. Besides, I would have my 2 best friends, and family with me, and the same foods I always had wanted. They were more than enough for my birthday. I could not remember if I skipped the shoes and the dress, but what I could very well remember, was the joy of looking at my very first savings account passbook.

The night after I had my very first savings account passbook, I asked my mother to explain to me how the money can grow in the bank. Listening to her about deposits vs withdrawals and interest compounded over time, I realized Math is so much fun to play with. I took very good care of my savings account passbook. I started harvesting our red guavas and brought them to school. I promoted them to be "special guavas where the red color means richer in nutrition". I sold the guavas very well, and always was so happy in collecting the money so I could ask my mother to go to the bank to deposit some money. Our trips to the bank was some of my happiest memories then. I could very well remember the smiling face of the teller each time we made a deposit, asking me if what I was depositing was already my money. I remember proudly telling her, "YES!! I earned them from selling guavas and winning Quiz Bees!" She would always give me that warmest smile, and would tell me, "I am so very proud of you! Keep it up!" For a child, that affirmation inspired me further to keep the savings up! :) I must admit those smiles and words made me addicted at that time to putting more money in my bank. Aside from selling "red guavas" in school, I would join every contest anywhere that would have prize money. :) Thankfully, during those days, there were as much "Spelling Quiz Bee" and "Math Quiz Bee" as much as singing contests. :) Because I didn't have a voice to join singing contests, I would join all "Quiz Bees" instead. As early as that age, I knew the challenge in defeat and the humility in victory.

The value my parents taught me about saving for education, and how education can be the best savings is the same reason why Upromise was launched nearly a decade ago. How Upromise works is simple: members direct their spending to Upromise partners which include more than 800 online stores, 8,000+ restaurants, thousands of grocery and drugstore, and earn money for college. Anyone can earn hundreds or even thousands of dollars for college with their everyday spending with the help of some online deals and ecoupons. The money saved or earned from everyday spending can be used to contribute toward college tuition and expenses.

Saving for the rainy days and financial freedom for peace of mind was planted into my heart and mind since I was seven years old. It was nourished continuously since then, and grew in high interest as well. Spending something that we cannot afford to pay in cash was something that my parents had advised us not doing at all. My father told us there was only one reason for him to borrow money from the bank, that was to get a house loan for all of us.

Tatay and nanay did not choose a big house. Instead, they chose a house where the monthly payments would still allow them to save for our college education, save for our rainy days, and where they could pay off our house in ten years. They wanted to be financially free as early as they could. My father, though very much could afford a car that time, simply rode jeepney from our home to his work because his priorities were: 1. saving for our college education 2. paying off our house the earliest he could. 3. buy more lots from subdivisions first for all of us, his kids. His reason? He won't always be healthy, and regardless what happens to him, he would have the peace of mind that the future of his kids, would be taken care well of by the funds he set aside. Only when he secured those priorities that he bought his very first car, a used one, because he wanted to pay it in cash. A sacrifice I could clearly see now, where he puts his kids first before himself.
Taken from Outside My Parents' House in the Philippines, year 2011

I never heard my father nor my mother getting stressed about paying bills since they never get anything that they cannot pay in cash. What they modeled to us was joy and happiness on simple living. Unlike most houses in our neighborhood, we did not have a TV, we did not have a refrigerator, we did not have a gas stove ( we cooked using charcoal), and most of all, we did not grow up with a housemaid. Our parents taught us responsibility in household chores aside from saving money as early as possible. But no one could tell us we lived a less happy life than the household with more appliances. For me, I had a very happy, peaceful and joyful childhood life, enjoying the gifts of nature and outdoors. Our neighbors accepted us and highly regarded my parents despite we may appear to have the LEAST materially. We would go to the river or to the ocean to fish and to catch shrimp. We grew up eating mostly rice, fruits from the backyard, homegrown vegetables and root crops. Bread, like "pandesal" was luxury, for we did not have a gas range to make our own, and buying it was not as cheap as rice. However, we had a great time eating "puto" or rice cake, " alope or cassava suman sa dahon nang saging" (grated cassava steamed in banana leaves), and many more root crop delicacies that nanay could make at home.

We played a lot outdoors, there was just no time for us to sulk and to wish we had TV because we were so joyful outdoors, whether it be playing tennis ( father's fascination was we all grow to be professional tennis players, haha, but nope, we all did not become very good at it ), playing baseball, running in the field playing "tagu-an", or "catch me if you can". During the night when we were all home, if we all were done with homework and studies, we were all happy playing scrabble, or boogle, or chess, or domino, or working on puzzles. No one from us kids asked for TV because we simply were happy the way we were. Our parents though they may be able to afford it, but chose to be on the conservative side when spending to have peace of mind for our future. They may have not showered us with the best material things, but for us, THEY GAVE US THE BEST IN LIFE.

When I was in college, my father's concern happened. The company he worked for in years had a reduction in branches. The company he worked for was shut down in our city. He lost his job. A year after he lost his job, he underwent major surgical procedure and stayed for a very long time in CCU and ICU. It costed a lot of money. Without the shelter anymore of company's health insurance, we could lose our house, and we would all stop college. Thankfully, their savings for the rainy days made them move past that challenge without anyone of us stopping college, and without us losing a home, and without nanay asking anyone for help financially. Though they lost some of the subdivision lots that they bought for us, their kids.

These days, I felt like I have so much compared to what my parents had. That's why, in my heart and in my mind, there is really nothing that I want anymore. I am not saying I am rich and have everything in life, far from that. However, I am fully content with my life.
I simply am as happy as I can be with what I have and what I do not have.

Sometimes though, I wish my mom is still alive to enjoy what we all are enjoying as well. I am so happy that I was able to treat her to dining out, to my own baked cakes (something we may be able to afford then but my parents skipped them for our college savings), and many more luxuries I could already afford to shower my parents after graduating from college. I am also happy to know and hear some of my mom's last words before she passed away: "I am ready to go "inday", I am so happy and content with my life, there's really no more I could ask. We only prepared for your college education, but most of you pursued advanced degrees in your own. I do not worry if anyone of you would be able to afford living a decent life for you all are living more than what we imagined. I have no worries, no sadness, no complains to bring on to God when I meet Him above. I only have thanksgiving and happiness for all that He gave to me." During my mom's last few days, she would always ask me to sing to her and with her, "I offer My Life". The song, became one of my most favorite songs, which I almost sing everyday up to now in prayers, which always bring tears, not tears of sadness, but tears of joy and gratefulness, for I had such A WONDERFUL MOM, who showed me the way to see HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD.

I miss my mom, I miss her terribly. Sometimes, I still cry whenever I miss her. But each time I hear the echo of her last words, and some of her words in my early life, I smile. Both nanay (my late mom) and tatay taught me and my brothers to live the "Joys of Simple Life". Where happiness is not built on material things, but on the free things that God gifted us, allowing us to be FINANCIALLY FREE  as early as we could.


  1. the joys of being frugal, i remember telling kyla the same thing when we opened her own bank account.

  2. Hi there Betchai, I have to say this is one of the best posts I have ever read...your simplicity and humility echoes throughout the page...I too was often told by my mom that there is nothing she and dad could pass on to me save for a good education and I am so blessed like you to have had been given such a gift...I wish we could have been neighbors back then because I had so much time playing under the sun and even the moon and yah I so loved "ginataan" I still do so much! Teary eyed as I read the part where you miss your mom so much and super proud to be your friend as I read the lines "These thoughts make me so happy, so content, and I have no worries, no sadness, no complains to bring on to God when I meet him above, I only have thanksgiving and happiness for all that He gave to me." I wish that one sweet day I could be with you and all our other friends on one birthday of yours feasting on the simple sweetness of natural food...love yah wonderwoman...

  3. At the end of the day, informed decisions are better decisions. Make sure to analyze the additional services a bank provides, as well as monthly fees associated with the specific account.

  4. Sounds very familiar to me, same values instilled by my parents. Get your education done, one thing that can never be stolen from you. Another one is saving for rainy days.

    Great values we learn in life and must be pass on to our kids.

    On the ginataan --- yum yum yum !!!! I can almost taste it !!!


  5. thanks for this information..it does helps me realized the reality

  6. It's very hard to do but determination plays an important role in living. I liked your article!

  7. Your Mom reminds me of my Mom. Frugal and knows priorities for the family. However, my Dad was the opposite. He loved throwing lavish parties. He did so, on his very last birthday on earth. He joined his Creator doing what he loved the most as he passed away a day after his birthday. I share the sentiments of missing your Mom. I miss both my parents too.

    Isn't it great to have good parents who imparted values that are forever etched in our hearts? We are lucky :-)

  8. It is very interesting to learn things from you sis, it is like you are welcoming us to learn what you've learned during your childhood days that up to now you always planted it in your mind, the ways in order to survive and the wise decisions we did because our parents were always there for us to help us not financially but with the words of wisdom... like you we aren't rich too and so fortunate that both my mother and father did and proudly sent us all to college and now we are so proud of the life we have because of them.

  9. Your post brought me to another time and place and revealed so much of you than any CV can ever do. You are very fortunate to have had such good parents whose lessons in life continue to teach you until this day. If my own children can write something like this about me, then I would be the happiest parent in the world.

  10. I am an active member of UPromise and I say that I save quite a bit already for my kids education through them.

  11. I am having goosebumps, Ms. Betchai! I can very much relate to the lessons etched in your heart and mind by your parents and the "joys of simple living" is what I also practice. I grew up without the luxuries in life and I was fine. It's the same lifestyle I teach my kids now. It is a challenge because the modern times surround them with the access to many things unnecessary and it doesn't help that we live in America where even young kids are already taught the freedom to do things as they want even if it could defy their parents. Every day, it is a lesson I bring up in our home to enjoy the simple joys in life. I will definitely let Triz read this post. I am sure she'll hear an echo of what she's been hearing from her mom and dad. :)

  12. teary eyed after reading your post, Beth. then i realized i already commented here before (was probably on a rush when i did). my parents never struggled with paying unnecessary bills too although they were stressed out for sending 4 children in college, 2 in highschool and 1 in elementary as they never earn enough for all of us as teachers. they survived on loans from DepEd. our life then is in its simplest. i even remember my mom borrowing a white dress from her co-teacher so that i have something to wear on my graduation in primary school. we only get to buy new clothes every Christmas when my parents get their bonuses. our simple lifestyle then made me appreciate the joys of a simple life. i wish i could raise my kids the same way, so that they will also learn the value of education and money. the most i could do now is not to give in to K's caprices right away, i let her patiently wait and work (study) hard for what she wants.

    like you, i don't have everything in life too but i am very contented with my life now. still on our way to financial freedom (still owe my mom money, hehehe), slowly getting there. :D

    I offer my Life... i sing that when my heart is bursting in gratefulness or when my heart seems getting heavy. it never fails to make me cry too.

    missing you too and Zen. wish we could go back to Hospicio year after year and have a grand time bonding!

  13. Frugality to the max. But some of your parents views I also put into practice. I always tell me children that always seek for something that you NEED and not what you WANT. That way, you will learn how to be content.

  14. Life is too short Sis and that we will enjoy it to the fullest. I always like to save even little amount. I need to have something if my Mom needs help in the Philippines :-) I feel humble that I can help my Mom by not asking from my husband. You look sexy in your old picture and but look beautiful now :-)

  15. Seriously, I was in tears reading this, Te Betchai. I can feel how you miss your Mom and how you so wanted to give her more - had she been alive today.

    We basically live the same life, Te Betchai. We considered education my parents' greatest legacy because they do not have any material things to pass on over to us.

    Your parents raised you so well- all values intact. This is a very inspiring post. The invaluable virtues that they have passed on to you will certainly be forever embedded in your heart.

    I am so glad I've known you virtually. You are such an inspiration to me.

    Love and hugs!

  16. Wow, I really read it all, which is why even though small amount I would make sure that at least I can deposit some money in my bank so I can use it whenever I would get short of funds.

  17. I commend your parents for instilling in you the value of savings and hard work so you will grow up appreciating their importance. I am teaching my daughter the same thing, to save for the rainy days and to set aside a savings for her future and for her regular expenses. Everything has been set already and I hope that when we finally give the rein to her in controlling her finances, she will be twice as smart and enterprising.

  18. I have yet to teach my 7-yr old boy about the value of money although he is not very keen on it, he doesn't even know the bills and notes here... hehehe, but when he asks something, we would tell him that we only buy the things that are necessary and when we have extra, we can buy what you want... but that usually never happens.. lol! He understands the fact that we don't live the life we used to have back in the Philippines and that everything here has to be worked hard for... oh well!

  19. I have heard about UPromise but I didn't actually know anything about it until I read your post. It sounds like they provide peace of mind and security. I agree that saving for the future (college fund) is an important step a parent can do while their kids are young. Your family made a good choice. I hope I can start a passbook (I want passbook, not ATM. LOL.) account for my kid soon. :)

  20. You're such an inspiration for those who can't afford to study but by means of saving they can get what they are dreaming of.

  21. You look so nice in your pics, and your mother taught you some valuable lessons while still showering you with love.


THANK YOU SO MUCH!! You have just brightened my day with your visit and comment!!
Betchai of
The Joys of Simple Life and
Breathe In...Breathe Out
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