Life Abroad: Budgeting and Sending Money to the Philippines

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Life abroad isn’t as glamorous as you’re probably thinking.

Majority of the Filipinos working abroad have families to support financially back home in the Philippines. Be it their parents, sister, brother or their own family.

This has been part of the Filipino culture already, and because life back home is difficult especially when it comes to money, some people don’t have a choice but to work abroad.

Luckily, for me, it has always been my choice to work abroad.

The timing is perfect because, during the holidays, I spent my free time listening to the audiobook Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. I thought I’m managing my finances correctly. But, after finishing the book, I had to redo all of my budget and expenses, and my priorities too.

Life Abroad: Budgeting

I’m not going to lie or sugarcoat anything, but it is easier to manage the finances and follow the advice of rich people if you have the money all by yourself. But, in my case—or some people who support their family, it’s different.

I divide my net income into three when budgeting:

  1. Rent (30% – 40%)
  2. Remittance (35% – 40%)
  3. Personal (25% – 35%)—aka whatever money is left

Rent in Stockholm

There is a housing shortage in Stockholm, that’s why rent is usually expensive. I recently moved to the outer city of Stockholm so my rent is cheaper now. I’m renting a furnished apartment which is 35 – 40 minutes commute time.

It’s still quite expensive given that it is outside the city, but the apartment that I’m renting now was built in 2017. It has its own washing machine and dryer too, and I’m more comfortable here—it’s the price that I am willing to pay.

I cannot wait for Miguel to move here permanently so we can share the rent!

Remittance to the Philippines

I have a bigger allocation on my remittances. But, because of the fluctuating exchange rate, I have to readjust the money for myself since I need to make up for the money that I send. It’s frustrating most of the time because I need to less 1000 SEK or more from my personal budget especially when the exchange rate from SEK to PHP went down to 5.3.

I send a fixed amount for my sister’s tuition fee in UST, her monthly payment to her dorm, and also her allowance. Same with the expenses at home and my personal bills and debts.

  1. My sister’s college tuition fee
  2. My sister’s allowance & dorm
  3. Expenses at home / my dad’s medical bills
  4. My personal bills and debts

Personal expenses in Stockholm

Thankfully, I am no longer shopping impulsively and buying things I will never use again. Planning and thinking about the things that I want to buy helped, but my main problem now is controlling myself from eating out.

This is embarrassing, but in 2019, I saw that I only reached my budget for food for only 8% of the time! It was above 60% last year! I don’t have a good relationship with cooking so I often buy lunch or eat out because I didn’t prepare my food.

  1. Transportation of 930 SEK for 30 days
  2. Food
  3. Savings/Emergency Fund
  4. Insurances/Investments/Bills
  5. Non-essentials (personal spending, entertainment, miscellaneous)

Life abroad is different. People often have mistaken that once you earn dollars or euros, it means you’re well-off. Of course, you have to think about the cost of living and you should never ever convert to PHP.

How I budget every month

Here’s an overview of my budget which I manually input in an Excel sheet. I’ve divided it into 5 sections: income overview, expenses overview, amount of money sent in PHP & SEK, list of my insurances and investments in Sweden, and expenses in the Philippines.

I check the current exchange rate from TransferWise and add it to the sheet. Then it will automatically convert how much money (in SEK) I need to send to the Philippines.

It’s not detailed because my day-to-day expenses are automatically reflected in the app Tink—a personal finance app. It helps that Sweden is cashless, so every transaction is recorded to the bank, and the Tink app is smart enough to automatically categorize everything.

Tink also has a feature where you can set a budget and it will notify you once you are about to overspend.

The 50/30/20 rule or 80/20 rule doesn’t work for me so I needed to make my own rules when it comes to money. I’m basing it on Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps (I will only list the first three):

  1. Starter emergency fund of $1,000 (or 10.000 SEK)
  2. Pay off debts using the debt snowball
  3. 3-6 months fully-funded emergency fund

Life Abroad: Sending Money to the Philippines

I send money to my bank account from the Philippines once a month. As much as possible, I want to avoid additional transfer fees so I often try to transfer extra money in case of an emergency back home.

Because I still have some bills to pay in the Philippines, I depend on GCash. I also use GCash whenever I need to send money to another bank without paying any fees.

If you are planning to send money overseas, do not send directly through your bank. Bank charges a lot and it takes forever to transfer the money.

Depending on the exchange rate and transfer rate, I only refer to two online remittance services:

  1. TransferWise
  2. Azimo

I prefer TransferWise more than Azimo because the exchange rate is much higher. Although the transfer rate is lower in Azimo, the total money in PHP is still higher in TransferWise.

The money is sent within 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on the payment method you selected. I always choose Trustly.

I enjoy working abroad and the fact that I am working and living in Stockholm. If I still work in the Philippines, then I have to take 2 or 3 more jobs just so I can support my family and my lifestyle ?.

I am still dealing with my financial mistakes during my early 20s. If I will be 100% strict and focused on my budget, then I will definitely pay off my debts immediately.

I’m planning to start a Living Abroad series on my blog because there are too many stories that I want to share with you!

What topics do you want to see?

How do you budget your finances? Share some tips below in the comment!

  1. I couldn’t agree more! Living and working abroad may mean higher income but hey we also have higher expenses plus the money we regularly send to our families in the PH. ?

    1. I recommend Total Money Makeover! It was such an eye-opening book, and I wish I’ve finished that early (or before I start earning my own money). My financial status will probably be a lot different.

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