On my blog, I am vocal about my debts, but I never mentioned the ballpark. A lot of people assumed that it’s not that much debt and thought that I must have been making tons of money abroad.
What you didn’t know was in 2018, I had a debt that went up to more than PHP 500,000 (approximately $10,000) within a year.
2018 was the year when I moved to Sweden. As soon as I arrived in Sweden, I had no idea that I had accumulated that much debt already. I only found out after.
How my debt went up to more than half a million pesos
Here’s the backstory or timeline of my debt journey.
In September 2017, I quit my job and planned on taking a one month break. The money that I have that time lets me have a comfortable life for a month. However, while I’m rendering my notice period, I got the opportunity in Sweden.
At the end of October, I needed to apply for a visa to Sweden and I had to pay for the visa application. The company sponsored my trip, I only had to pay for my food and transportation throughout my stay in Stockholm.
Fast forward to January 2018, Christmas and New Year’s celebration have passed, I was supposed to start working in Sweden on January 8.
My relocation assistant found out late that I needed to process my residence permit card in Bangkok, she even asked if I could get the information. Haha. Anyway, I needed to go to Bangkok for my photo and fingerprint at the Swedish Embassy. It was a last-minute trip so my airfare costs more than PHP 20,000. In total, I spent around PHP 40,000 on this.
Then my nightmare happened.
Since I am living in the Philippines, the immigration has this policy that people working abroad needs to secure an exit clearance from POEA, a Philippine government agency that monitors and supervises recruitment agencies in the Philippines.
They said it is ‘to protect Filipinos working abroad’. And, of course, they are so proud that I will get a PHP 500 refund at the airport.
Unfortunately, that was also the time when they implemented a direct-hire ban.
Long story short, I processed my exit clearance from January to April. By this time, I don’t have an income for 7 months already.
My financial dilemmas so far:
- An unexpected trip to Stockholm, Sweden
- An unexpected trip to Bangkok, Thailand
- Been living with no income from October to April
- I have an existing loan of over PHP 100,000 from 2017 that I will have to pay until 2020
- I need to pay PHP 50,000 for my sister’s tuition fee
After the long process in POEA, I left for Sweden on April 26.
Remember that I was supposed to start working in January in Sweden? As someone who wants everything planned, I wanted to have everything settled by the time I arrived in Sweden.
I had an instant debt of almost PHP 300,000.
One stupid mistake that made my debt this much was I signed a contract in an apartment in Stockholm for 12.000 SEK per month (that time the exchange rate was around 1 SEK = PHP 6 so 12.000 SEK per month is PHP 72,000). Obviously, I needed to pay one month deposit and one month advance for the apartment.
My employer was my guarantor at that time so they paid for it and it will be deducted from my salary.
But because I couldn’t leave the Philippines because of POEA, I forgot about the apartment in Stockholm. My relocation assistant sent me an email that I needed to pay the rent for next month. After that, I didn’t get or hear anything back, so I assumed that the contract was voided since I haven’t moved in yet. What a stupid assumption.
My mind was filled with POEA and I totally forgot about the apartment in Stockholm.
Heck, I even got excited when I asked before my flight if the apartment that I chose before is still available and they said it is available.
What I didn’t know was that the rent has been accumulating since January. I only found out that I had so much debt when I had my first payslip and it says I had 48.000 SEK debt that will be deducted from my salary.
It was supposed to be 72.000 SEK but my employer paid 2 months and didn’t deduct it from my salary.
My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe how much debt I had to pay.
That’s PHP 288,000.
It was like, “Welcome to Sweden! By the way, you have this much debt.”
For the rest of the months that I have been working in Sweden in 2018, I’ve been paying off my debts to my employer. I paid it off in 7 months, but, obviously, the interest rate in my other credit card debts accumulated. But, that’s my next problem.
I looked at the bright side and thought that I should be happy that I am living and working in Sweden and that the debts were the collateral damage.
My parents‘ reaction to my debts
My parents had no idea that I had an existing loan and that I’ve been struggling financially during the months when I had no income. I didn’t want them to worry, and I know that it’s my fault why my debt went up that much.
They know that I needed to depend on my credit cards during those months. I also informed them about the 48.000 SEK to my employer because I wouldn’t be able to send money for the first few months.
My current debt situation
I still have debts that I need to pay. My loan from 2017 will be done by June 2020 so I’m not thinking much about it.
I paid off my 2 credits cards last year. I have a few that need to be paid off, but I’m not stressing about it anymore.
Fortunately, my finances are now more manageable and I have a few extra to save and spend. There are emergencies when it comes to finances, especially back home, but I’m glad that I’m able to handle it.
My main source of financial stress before was the thought of not being able to support my family back home especially my sister is now in college.
I know I’m supposed to prioritize my debts, but my first priority is my family. As long as I send money and I pay my debts monthly, I use whatever money is left for myself.
I also wrote a blog post about my life abroad and how I budget while sending money to the Philippines.
What would you have done differently if you were me?
I used to feel annoyed thinking about how my debt went up in 2018, and that’s why my ears flare up whenever I hear about POEA. But, I’m done blaming.
I just have to make sure I don’t sign anything until I am 100% sure. Also, don’t rely too much on anyone. I am also thinking that it is expensive to migrate and settle to the country for the first few years.