Setting Financial Goals

At 31, suddenly found myself alone in having to support my child. Not to mention the credit card debt and other financial commitments I had. My bank account is not ready. We lived pay check through pay check. I was afraid and unsure if I would be able to fulfill my financial needs with just a single income. Budget was cut into half. I needed to reassess how I handle my finances but did not know where to start. How?

Sometimes, when you ask enough, the universe answers you. I got an invite to attend the RI5E Towards Money for Life workshop with Aya Laraya of Pesos and Sense. It is a series of six monthly workshops that discuss proper money management for all life stages. The first topic last month was goal setting. Exactly where I'm at on my new financial journey. I got to ask myself again, where do I start?

In a 2012 Reader's Digest Article by Ryan Ong titled Wealth Wisdom of The Ages, he said "How you spend, save or invest your money should change with your needs." So what do I need? If you asked me last year, I'd say I need to save up for down payment for my own house, cut off my credit card, continue saving up for an emergency fund, my daughter's educational fund, and my retirement fund. This somehow fits the financial goals of my age bracket to grow my money, as stated on the article. But can I achieve them now?

Coach Aya left us with a couple of tasks - track your expenses religiously for at least a week, hopefully for a month; and write your short and long term goals. It took me a month to answer that hard question: what are my new financial goals?

Tracking my finances was easy. I used to have an excel file where at the start of the month, I will write my fixed expenses and tick them off as I pay them. But I never took note of the P8 jeepney fare, or the P20 I handed out to the kid knocking on my Uber ride. As pointed out during the workshop, those small change can accumulate to hundreds, or thousands even. After the workshop, I started tracking every cent I spend using a mobile App. I'm using Wally+ which is a free Android App. It helps me easily see an overview of my expenses, where I spend my money, and control my budget. At the end of the month, I was surprised by how much I spend on "wants" and upgrades (yes, that biggie meal from Wendy's) and other variable expenses. It got to as much as 20% of my income. Most of it was spent eating out and buying lunch at work.

When I looked at the expense summary, even before the month ended I could see that I had more cash flow than I feel I have. It got me thinking if last year's goals were really as farfetched as I thought they were. So I continued doing my workshop homework. Here's what I wrote:

Short term goals: Get my own car, help fund renovation for the family house, and pay off the credit card debt.

Long term goals: Save for educational/retirement fund, buy my own house, and get enough capital for our own cafe/bakery.

I'll discuss the details of how I came up with these goals in the next posts. But notice how similar they are with last year's goal? With less money coming in, where will I get the money for all these? Simple - from the savings I'm starting now. And yes, I did the math and it's doable, even with less cash inflow. The key word there is NOW. 

Because I am already tracking my expenses, I realized that I spend way less than before and I can even get those expenses lower. I am not sharing payments for house and utilities anymore. No more car payments and I go out less. Finally, I'm not overspending on my daughter's clothes either. My sisters make sure of that. My salary that I could barely stretch until the next payday now seems more.

In addition, I have decided to keep my brownie business and make it grow. I read somewhere that there are times when cutting down on your expenses will never be enough. Often, the best approach is to look for ways to increase that budget. Who would have thought I could earn as much as P2000 per week baking Brownies. I even had to opt out of some orders because I just don't have the energy and time to bake them with love anymore.

So what am I saying here? Most of the time, we get overwhelmed by changes and trials that we have and we end up giving up on our goals. But if we take time and look into where we really are, there will always be a way to keep those goals, achieve them, and even grow you money for more. There will always be money to spend, save, and invest. Track your expenses and compare it with what you earn. I bet you there will be more than enough for you to start achieving your goals. 
Start now. Start small. Start with a peso. Just start. 

As I go through this financial journey, I will share what I learn from the workshop and how I apply it to achieving my goals. Wish me great success please!

Achievement Unlocked: Potty Trained

Who would have known I'd get this excited about pooping? Mila reached another milestone and I can't stop gushing about it. Others may say we're a little late for the party, but at almost 3, Mila finally knows how to properly use the toilet. I'm still amazed with how painless it is to get Mila potty trained. I wish I could give tips for other mommas too but I don't have a magic formula. It just happened and I can't be happier about it. Let me just share our journey and maybe others can pick up something from this too.

More than a year ago, I started training Mila to tell mommy and ask to go to the toilet when she needs to pee pee or poo poo. She's curious enough when I use the toilet myself so I thought she was ready. We were in a single floor apartment and the rest room was easily accessible to her so we skipped the potty seat. We were great for a week. While visiting a cousin, she asked to go #2. I was eating so I asked her dad who just finished his meal to help her instead. Mila was told to just do the deed on her diapers so I can clean her up when I'm done eating. Biggest mistake! From then on, Mila would only tell me after the fact. I tried a few more weeks being diaper-free until we got tired cleaning up the floor and replacing bed sheets. She was not ready after all. Since she knew her dad will back her up, she kept her diaper-soiling days.

When we moved back to my mom's place, we stayed on the second floor room. We only had one toilet and bath which was on the ground floor. It was a hard for my mom to run downstairs everytime Mila had to use the toilet so we settled on using diapers. It's just more convenient.

As an impulse buy, I bought Mila a new potty seat. I had Mila pick her own potty seat so that I'd know she would love it. For a month or two, she used it as a chair or step stool. She would poop in it but just for pretend. 

We let her. No more forcing for Mila to use the potty when she does not want to. We constantly remind her that grown ups do not wear diapers and we use the toilet when we need to. But no forcing her. Until one day, my mom said she will help me save up on some money because she knows I'm saving up for a car. She bought 2 dozens of new panties. We will cut off on diaper expenses, she said. 

The thing with Mila is, she hates being messy. I used that to my advantage. The first day we removed the diapers, she wet herself and she cried "Mommy kadiri. Basa ako!" So I sat her down and explained why she needs to start using the potty. "Honey, when you need to pee, you have to use the potty now so your legs do not get wet and dirty." I demoed it to her once. Since then, she would run to the potty everytime she needs to pee. She knows how to take her panties off, wipe herself, and put the potty cover down. When she needs to poop, she would insist on going to the toilet. She even started learning how to use the bidet and wash herself. I just need to stay there though to make sure it's really clean and that she does not fall. She is still my baby after all.

It's been a few weeks now and no accidents yet. Because Mila had been such a good girl, she deserves a treat. After our doctor's appointment, I asked her where she'd want to eat. I was expecting McDonald's. She said Pancake House. Buti nalang may budget. She ordered her favorite Chocolate Pancake. My mom and I got the Pan Grilled Pork Belly and Special Salisbury steak respectively from the Choose Any Two for P370 promo. Food was awesome and price is on point. Seeing Mila's smile - priceless!


Picnic With Mila At Mott's Apple Juice Summer Fun Day

Everyday, Mila would "cook" for me her specialty, broccoli and rice and we will eat it will cake and apple juice. It's one of her favorite bonding with mommy. After so many afternoons of pretend picnic, Mila and I finally had our first ever sort-of-real outdoors picnic and it will not be the last.

It's been a while since I last attended a blogging event and I was happy when I got an invite to join the Mott's 100% Apple Juice Summer Fun Family Day held at BGC High street. To be honest, we went in there not knowing what to expect. It was more of an excuse for me to spend more time with Mila outdoors.

Mila fell sleep during the ride to the venue so she was a little cranky when I had to wake her up. But there's no bad mood that ice cream and face painting could not fix. The heat of the sun was bearable. Thanks to the unlimited supply of Mott's Apple Juice and treats made from it too to refresh us.
I wanted us to seat at the bloggers' table with other blogger friends but Mila had another plan. She had a a mini tantrum because she wanted to stay on the picnic blankets, even if we get toasted under the sun. Mila hates direct sunlight but it didn't matter, she was having a blast.
Of course, there's lots of selfies from the two of us. We got tired of eating pretend food after a while so we went back to the bloggers' tent to fill up on Mott's Apple snacks. We were right in time because it was time for games. As usual, Mila cried when she say the mascot so we stayed away from the stage and were not able to join some games. She just played with ate Rylee (hi Lally!). Still, us competitive mommies did not leave without winning a game or two.
The event was open for the public. There were lots of games and challenges the whole family could join in. Mila stayed at the ball pit most of the time. She got her hands to some paint too, then she was back again at the ball pit, making noise with her maracas as she sings on her own.
It was such a tiring, happy, fulfilling day. Thanks to Mott's Apple Juice, my daughter and I had a chance to go on an outdoor picnic together. Planning on the next one soon!

Working Mom's Musings

The little girl making pacute because she is wearing a pretty "dress".
It's just my scarf wrapped around her waist. #toddlerimagination
Tonight, I woke up to prepare to go to work and found myself alone with Mila. Got me thinking a few things.

She was just there hugging me, waiting for me to wake up. She looks like she just woke up herself. As soon as she saw my eyes open, her own eyes beamed with joy. "Finally!", her smile told me.

My family takes care of Mila while I'm at work. Tonight, my parents went on a date and my sister is staying out late on a Friday night. I started prepping up, hoping my mom and dad will be home soon. As I dress up, Mila and I had a conversation:

Mila: Mom, you're going to work?
Mom: Yes honey.
Mila: Why?
Mom: So I can earn money.
Mila: Why?
Mom: So I can provide for your needs.
Mila: But why?
Mom: Because we need to buy your food, milk, clothes, and toys.
Mila: Oh OK.

This exchange is on repeat five days a week. After a few minutes...

Mila: Mom, are you going now?
Mom: Yes honey.
Mila: But how about me?
Mom: Mama Carmen will be home soon.
Mila: Awwww. I'm sad.
Mom: Why
Mila: Because you're not here. I'm alone.


The other day, I read a post from the Facebook group: Glam-O-Mamas. Another member laments how she feels so guilty wanting to work to have "more". She want not just the financial freedom of working but she feels like she wants more for herself than just being a mother. She wants a career.

I can very much relate. We used to explore the idea of me being a stay-at-home mom so I can give more time to Mila. But I know deep in my hearts that I will not be completely happy. Not that I have the most glamorous job or the most fulfilling, world-changing work. I just know that I will always have that what if if I drop my career like a hot potato, knowing I can do more. Now, aside from the fact that I need a job to provide for Mila, I also love to keep my job because I am happy here! 

I have moments of doubts. Like when Mila is sick and I had to leave her side to report for work. Or when I was so tired I could not keep my eyes open to see Mila's new dance. I wanted to quit when I thought work was taking too much from our family. But I held on. I am a mother but I am also a person of my own.

Mila will always be my priority, there's no question with that. But my life is a pie. Mila takes the biggest slice. Sometimes though, I need to put that slice down to take a bite at the smaller slice. I may miss bringing Mila to play dates sometimes. I may have to skip a dance practice or reschedule a doctor's appointment. I may need to spend a lot of time at work. But time with Mila will always be magical. I try my best to give my full attention to her when we are together. Each song merits a round of applause. Each word is heard and understood, no matter how hard it is to decipher. Each boo boo receives a kiss, even if they're just made up. We can spend just 30 minutes together in a day, and that's spent making lasting memories. That gives me strength to go forward. 

Now, who can say no to a girl who just wants to spend a few more minutes with her mom? I can definitely stay and be late for work for an hour or two, if that means I can keep her safe and happy. It paid off well too. While she eats her cereal for dinner (yes, she can eat breakfast food if she wants to), she suddenly blurted out something I was surprised to hear. I had to have her repeat what she said and I was not mistaken. Check out the video I posted in Instagram. It was wonderful to hear her give words to her dreams! My articulate little girl. Another lasting memory made in a few minutes! Priceless!

Now I'm able to go to work with a Happy Heart! :)