You’re past does not dictate your future

I recently visited my family. I don’t live far, so there’s really no excuse for me to not see them. Recently though, I find myself getting more and more distant. For some reason, every time I called, there’s always family issue, most of them financially. The problem just seems to pour in and I can only do so much.

Thoughts cloud my mind during my drive back. Questions like how I got out and got so lucky to be financially stable rushed in. Is it really just luck or is this something that everyone can achieve? Is it normal to be in debt and my position which seems normal to me is so unconventional?

You’re past does not dictate your future, unless you let it.

Determination is a big factor that comes to mind when I think about my ways of getting out of poverty. I didn’t grew up in a rich community and I attended the worst public school in the city, so odds are really not on my side. But I was determined. In high school, I took all AP classes (2 of them), and took some classes in the community college. I didn’t listen to teachers or counselors who told me to enroll in a community college before applying to university. Not that there’s anything wrong with the community college – they are actually more realistic with their advice, but I chose to dream big.

I seek help, knowledge and advice – and I (try) listen to it. When I was in college, I look for every help that I can get, be it financial aid, tutoring and business school application assistance. I realize that I’m not as smart as I thought and whatever I learned in high school did not prepare me for college, so I look for help. I studied until I am at par with my classmates.

I studied abroad and realized that other first world countries are living on small houses, biking to school and making their own food… and they are happy! It took me back to my roots, growing up in a third world country, I dreamed of bigger house, cars, clothes and shoes because I thought that it is how people should live. I was wrong and I learned that by living abroad.

My first employer out of college created a program for first generation college grad with intensive leadership training and I participated on it. This lead to promotions and more career opportunities in the future which then lead to higher earnings.

I have a loving family who instills the importance of education and hard work. I don’t think I can be where I am right now without their support. Granted, my views changed, in college and now, but my parents never once told me that I can’t achieve my dreams — regardless of it being unrealistic (at the time), or impractical. I grew up with my parents telling me that I can be whatever I want to be.

I tell my siblings that if I can do it, so can they. In fact, anyone can… learn from your past and used that experience to guide your shape the future that you want.

My thoughts on lending money to family or friends

My recent conversation with a very good friend made me realize that I have a very different view on lending money to family or friends. I don’t believe in it.

I’ve been on a couple of situations where a family member asked for a loan. The first one was from an uncle that I haven’t seen for years. I was really surprised when that happened. My grandma approached me and asked if I can  loan my uncle some money. I flat out said no. I didn’t put thoughts to it. I was even annoyed since I haven’t seen my uncle for years. I’m not closed to him. I was a recent graduate, saving to buy a place. I’m not comfortable parting from my hard earned money. To this day, I am really glad that I stick to that decision. It also set the tone to my family.

The second time was a bit more difficult. I am pretty comfortable financially. My brother needed a car and my father is helping him find one. They found one and I got a phone call from my father asking if I can put a downpayment. Hmmm… this is different. This is for my brother. I want to help out, but I don’t necessarily want to give a loan. So I ask for more information about the purchase. He wants to buy a sports car. I know he needed a car, but heck he doesn’t need that kind of car! I told my father no, I can’t lend the money. I didn’t give any reason. I can tell that he was surprised. That evening I searched craigslist for a reliable car and I send him the details.. well he decided that he doesn’t want my “taste”. Eventually, my father co-sign a car loan with no downpayment.

Looking back, I know I made the right decision. My sister lend my brother some money and I can tell that it’s so awkward when he brag about his business, making some dough… and he can’t even re-pay my sister. More so, when he needed some money, he will “borrow” from my sister. My sister then eventually stopped. Lessons were learned the hard way.

I try to think that I’m generous when it comes to my family. I’ve been very lucky with my situation and I owe them that. Instead of lending money, I actually just give it. I can tell if my parents are on a difficult situation — they don’t need to ask for my help, it’s always there. But I also don’t like to enable a purchase decision that I know is not good in the long run financially.

I will probably assess every situation differently, but I know that I’ll be more comfortable not loaning the money than asking for it back.


Monthly Spending – June 2016

June, June, June.. I will never forget you. This is the month I got married and went to Dublin and Greece with the man. I was basically out for most of the month traveling after the wedding. Before that my in-laws were in town to helped us prepare for the big day. I was surprised to see that my spending was actually lower even with the travel expenses.

Most people will be surprised that I don’t have a budget. I never did. I just don’t spend on things that will not make me happy to begin with. I make sure to maximize the utility of every dollar and for it to serve me well. I’m not against budgeting. In fact I even told my parents that they should try it out since they can’t seem to control their spending. My method started out of necessity, when I don’t even have any money to begin with and I have very little to spend. It just rubbed on for years, and now it is just second nature to me.

What I do is track my spending. In the last few years, when I looked at my annual expenses, I looked at the top 5 and asked myself if it’s worth it. This year, I’m tracking every line item through mint as it goes and monthly through here. My hope is to keep on finding ways to optimize my spending.

Wedding Expenses1779.2Mostly honeymoon expenses, hair and makeup and flowers
Mortgage1600High, but worth it.
Shopping-83.16I canceled my prime membership. I think it is worth it
Student Loan200My parents took some student loan for me and I offered to pay it for them. I could pay this right up front, if I want to.
Utilities 196.30WSG. Next project is to figure out how to decrease this.
Internet + landline66.05This is the cheapest I can get from Comcast
Restaurants57.95Take out when we had visitors
Mobile Phone33.88Monthly phone. I have unlimited data and text and 100 minutes from T-mobile
Groceries7.11Unusually low. Since we know that we will be out, we ate what we had here, and in-laws took care most of it.
Incidentals2.73Unnecessary expense. I forgot my contacts container and have to buy one from the airport (brain fart!)
without wedding expense2080.86This is extremely low and I don't expect it next month


My DIY Wedding Favors for less than $1

Wedding favors, though not mandatory are great way to thank your guests. According to wedding stats, the average cost of a wedding favor is $251. For 100 guests, that is an additional $2.50 per guest.

Weddings are expensive and these little things add up. That said, I remembered the favors from the previous weddings and I remembered liking if it is something edible. I also know that this is an easy DIY project, so I decided to do it.

I want something edible, something sweet and something that I really liked with minimal cost. After looking through some options, I decided to give out some chocolate covered raisins and personalized it in a small container. I bought 5 3lbs chocolate covered raisins from Costco for  $9.99 each and a simple container from Amazon for $26.99. My mom helped us and added a logo on top that was printed by my sister. A couple of days before the wedding, we put the raisins in the container. Total cost for me is $76.94.

I heard from my guests that they loved it! It’s simple but I’m glad that I didn’t forego it.