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Being Broke in an Expat Destination

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I am an optimist by nature.

I tend to look at the good side, or the positive side of life.

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Even if I know that I am in a bad situation, I try to find the positive part of it if at all possible.  I have had one time during my expat life in the Philippines when I was in serious financial trouble.  I faced up to it and found a way out.  That was less than 2 years after I moved to the Philippines.  I had blown through a large amount of month in the 2 year period and I was in serious trouble.  I started to go negative in my thinking, but my wife pushed me to remain positive and suggested some possible solutions.

Through listening to my wife, I was able to refine some ideas that she suggested and came up with some really great methods of making money.  Since that time, I have had a few times when I had cash flow problems due to spending on business ventures while the income was not coming in yet, but overall, my life has been financially sound.

In general, most of the places where Expats like to live are not good places to be in financial need.  My experience is in the Philippines, so that is what I will talk about.

Being broke in the Philippines

In most Western Countries, the places where most expats come from, if you are seriously broke there are financial safety nets in place to protect you and keep you from sinking.  I have personally never made use of such safety nets, and I feel that many countries have gone way overboard with such safety nets (including my homeland, the USA).  However, for those who are truly in need, such programs can be a lifesaver.  Generally, though, such programs are not available in countries like the Philippines or other developing countries.  If you are poor in a developing country, well, you are on your own.

There is a British expat who used to live in the Philippines.  I am not sure if he is still in the Philippines or not, as I have not heard from him in some time.  I had sort of forgotten about him until I ran across a video of his on YouTube, when I realized that I was not sure if he was even in the Philippines any longer.

Anyway, I watched Matt’s video, and while I tend to be an optimist, as I mentioned, in this video, Matt seems very pessimistic about life in the Philippines.  As I considered the things he was saying, I could not disagree, I just try to look at these things in a more positive way than he did in this video.

Have a look and see what you think by Matt’s appraisal of the situation:

Like I said, I have to admit that nothing Matt said is false.  Nothing is misleading.  He is being honest.  Now, for me, I would, were I in a discussion with the Matt in this video, argue that I am the type of person who can figure a way to overcome the negative things that he mentioned.  Matt even mentioned that he, himself, is a person who can easily make money and has always been like that.  In that way, Matt is much like me.  I tend to be able to come up with ideas and plans on how to turn just about anything into a money maker.  But, I also admit that there are plenty of people who are not like that.  In fact, I would expect that the majority of people are not able to create money and income easily.

So, what are you going to do?  If you have a regular reliable pension perhaps you are not scared or worried about money.  But, as Matt pointed out, your pension money could be stolen if you are not careful.  If you lost the whole wad of money at the beginning of the month, it could leave you in serious trouble until the next month, and then it would take you a while to get back on your feet again.  If you have no pension at all, like me, you have to make plans and have reserve funds to keep you going should tough times hit.

I moved to the Philippines at a relatively young age, 38 years old.  That means that I don’t have the pension or other funds that an older expat has.  I need to work and produce income in order to support my family.  Thankfully, to date that has not been a problem for me, except for that one time not long after moving here which I mentioned at the beginning of this article.  But, tough times could strike.  In 2008 when the worldwide economy took a real skid, I was hit, but not to the extend that it put me in trouble.  Times were tight, but we made it.  If things got significantly worse than that, though, it could cause problems for me, particularly if the tough patch was prolonged.

What about you?  Are you the type who finds it easy to create income?  Do you have a plan to keep you afloat in whatever country you decided to live in?

Posted in ,

Bob Martin

Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur. Bob is an American who lived in Mindanao from 2000 until 2019. Bob has now relocated back to the USA.

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Byron Watts
6 years ago

Took a moment and did a little dig.

From Matt’s Channel

Back in 2007 Matt moved to Cebu, Philippines and married April and although currently now in Spain after 7 years in the Philippines. They still maintain life in the Philippines but now with the added travel into Europe.

MindanaoBob
6 years ago
Reply to  Byron Watts

Hi Byron – I don’t “know” Matt, but we both know of each other. Yeah, Matt comes and goes now from the country. He does a lot of online stuff like I do… blogging and such.

Malcolm Mac
6 years ago

Yes, it needs a lot of thought and planning before you make the final move.

Bob Martin
6 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Mac

Yes, indeed, Malcolm. And, after making the move, you always have to stay on top of your situation to make sure you stay in good shape financially.

Jim
Jim
6 years ago
Reply to  Bob Martin

You also have to stay in good health as well.

MindanaoBob
6 years ago
Reply to  Jim

Yes, of course! 🙂

Malcolm Mac
6 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Mac

Hi Bob…I guess if you are the kind of person who can handle your finances , you will handle them wherever you are …and vice versa .

Bob Martin
6 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Mac

Hey, Malcolm, the key is to handle your money instead of having somebody else handle it without your invitation1 🙂

Bob Martin
6 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Mac

Bob Hess I don’t know, Bob, getting married is the best thing I ever did in my life. I’ve been married once, so far it has lasted 25 years, and I believe it will last for the rest of my life. I’d be very broke if not for my wife, I believe.

Ed
Ed
6 years ago
Reply to  Bob Martin

Bob, and Bob, and everyone. Marrying essentially forfeits ability to solely and properly manage your earnings and finances to the wife, most especially so in Philippine custom, culture, and practicality. While the “wife” was the “girlfriend” she had vested interest in using some modicum of common sense and respect for the source of all the money. Once married, all that evaporates and is in reality totally reversed, no respect no care no common sense – because now married and the husband will auto-cover anything and all stupid that the wife proceeds to do without consultation or even vague notice. None… Read more »

Bob
Bob
5 years ago
Reply to  Ed

I’ve heard similar stories many times here, a 6 million peso house pawned for 50,000 pesos, etc. by the filipina wife.

Bob Martin
6 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Mac

Yes, I understand. I was just sharing my thoughts.. should not be a problem. 🙂

PalawanBob
PalawanBob
6 years ago

Being broke is something that we’ll all experience pretty soon, except that this time it will be a life or death situation.
Only in a few months from now.
Of course, nobody believes that, how could that be, the USA is invincible…
That is if you live in a cave and you have no clue what’s going on back there.
Unfortunately, many expats here on this forum are totally unaware of this situation and thus will be in serious trouble most likely even before the end of this year.

MindanaoBob
6 years ago
Reply to  PalawanBob

Only one way we can know for sure.. if we wait and see what happens.

Ed
Ed
6 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Bob and Bob, if I may suggest, best way is to cleanly, legally, and gradually move one’s assets to one’s new country, prudently invest here and be excruciatingly careful to maintain 100% control starting by *NOT* giving the wife any clues or ability to squander ones’ life earnings.

That’s how I *should* have done things. Never trust anyone and especially don’t trust the wifes’ lack of acumen, or learn the hard way, in which case those ignoring my experiences won’t have ability to post anymore..

Ron
Ron
6 years ago
Reply to  PalawanBob

Bob

I am interested in your comment. Can you explain deeper either here or by email.

Thanks

Ron

queeniebee5
queeniebee5
6 years ago

Hi Bob, Well, I can agree with this man that having adequate funds to live monthly is important. Having a “buffer fund” is very important in case of emergencies. In just everyday living here, it seems that unforeseen expenses come up for us quite often, so a monthly budget that can cover is important. Not sure though, whether a couple eating out at hotel restaurants often for over four thousand pesos a pop, is doable or wise for any expat budget. I haven’t met that many expats so far here, but sadly, the ones that I have met were either… Read more »

MindanaoBob
6 years ago
Reply to  queeniebee5

Hi Queenie – I fully agree with you about the eating out thing. We used to eat out at nice restaurants often, although never P4,000 for a meal, but now we rarely do that for multiple reasons. The cost, of course has to be considered, but also I try to take good care of my diabetes, and eating out is difficult when trying to do that. It’s best all around for us to eat at home, and we like it too. You are right about expats… there are many who are down on their luck, and a lot of different/strange… Read more »

Rusty Bowers
Rusty Bowers
6 years ago
Reply to  queeniebee5

Queenie,

4,000 a pop? Where are they eating? In Las Vegas? We spend on average about 500 at a restaurant every other day. That’s my limit.

If I spent 4,000 it might be once a year and would include all of my wife’s family. No, I’d never spend 4,000. I have the budget but why waste the money.

I could spend a lot less and have a party at home for my wife’s relatives. Either that or we have a get together at our relatives farm. Pot luck style.

Rusty

queeniebee5
queeniebee5
6 years ago
Reply to  Rusty Bowers

Hi Rusty, I agree that’s a pretty steep amount, but I know that here in Cebu there are many fancy hotels and resort restaurants that are quite pricey. There is an expat club in Cebu, that allows discounts at many of these places, but I’m not a member. I think he said that he ate at Waterfront Hotel and others quite regularly. I prefer to buy ingredients and cook special meals myself most of the time. When eating out sometimes, it would be an amount much less than he was spending. Fancy restaurants could eat up a monthly budget very… Read more »

PalawanBob
PalawanBob
6 years ago

I am already broke at this time. I live from month to month on pension money and I consider myself a very lucky person to live like this.
Why is that being lucky?
Because I enjoyed every penny of it.
I’ll let you guess what will happen to your money once the SHTF.

Rusty Bowers
Rusty Bowers
6 years ago
Reply to  PalawanBob

Palawan Bob,

It must be terrible being so pessimistic. Being scared all the time can’t be enjoyable.

Rusty

Ed
Ed
6 years ago
Reply to  Rusty Bowers

I see that PalawanBob is being REAListic, not PESImistic, which is a huge order of difference, and is what permits him to still be here with us instead of dead-and-gone. Hat’s off to PalawanBob and hope you have many more years of good life even if on a shoestring. Actually he’s lucky, he apparently _has_ a pension, even if modest, not everyone has such. Some readers may recall the old addage: “When life only serves you up lemons, make lemonade” (the drink, and maybe you won’t even have any sugar in it). It’s not always easy but even at worst… Read more »

Steve Baker
Steve Baker
6 years ago

Great post Bob, and gives us all something to think about. I am naturally pessemistic, but life has taught me the value of being an optimist as much as possible. In the last 10 years I’ve travelled to the Philippines at least a dozen times, and I’ve never had any issues or have been robbed. Of course, I seldom venture off on my own, but when I do I am very careful. I always travel with only the amount of money I need and never carry all of my bank cards. I have duplicate IDs and duplicate bank cards as… Read more »

MindanaoBob
6 years ago
Reply to  Steve Baker

Hi Steve, glad that you enjoyed the post! I am kind of the opposite of you, I tend to be an optimist by nature… sometimes I am overly optimistic, but it is the way I see things. I have had things stolen from me a couple of times in the 16 years that I have lived here, but I don’t get upset by it, they were minor incidents and nothing dangerous not like a holdup or anything, so there is nothing to do but just blow it off. You are sure right when you say “life is what you make… Read more »

PalawanBob
PalawanBob
6 years ago
Reply to  Steve Baker

Steve, I used to work as high level stock trader for my own account.
I am also an engineer by profession.
I came here to enjoy my end years and spend every single penny of what I have earned throughout my entire life.
This was a calculated move where all the money had to be spent by middle of this year 2015. Now that this is over, I can sit and enjoy a few more months on government freebies.
Did I know something?
Yes, I did.

Diane & james
Diane & james
6 years ago
Reply to  PalawanBob

Palawan bob
You have made some pretty interesting comments
I would like to know more about upcoming days
I am fully awake unlike some of my friends who need a wake up call…
Diane

PalawanBob
PalawanBob
6 years ago
Reply to  Diane & james

People have no idea how close we are to financial armageddon.
To tell you the truth, I am one of the very few here in the entire Philippines who didn’t come here because of cheap living or some other reason.
I came here to the jungle because I see what is about to happen in this world.
I saw this coming already five years ago, we now have only a few months to go. Actually, I am pretty sure that the end of this year will be anything but festive.
It will be a RUDE AWAKENING!

Rusty Bowers
Rusty Bowers
6 years ago
Reply to  PalawanBob

Palawan Bob,

Don’t spend all you have. Soon we’ll watch the ball drop in Times Square, right? Then Trump or Hillary will be elected.

Didn’t you say the US had two weeks before something horrible would happen? That was a week ago, right? So, what will happen in a week?

Have you been watching too many Jesse Ventura conspiracy shows? you know that how Ventura makes money, right?

Rusty

PalawanBob
PalawanBob
6 years ago
Reply to  Rusty Bowers

Rusty, you should visit this website
RevolutionRadio.org
Please take a little time to read a few articles and you will realize how little you know about what’s going on in USA.

Richard
Richard
6 years ago

Idk.. I must have different expectations from this guy Matt. If I spend over 2000p for a good meal out my lady and I she gives me “the look”.. and we certainly do not do it 2 or 3 times a week. Granted, it is not in the “best” or at a “tourist” type of restaurant. But it is not at Jollibee’s either. (altho she sure does like her Chicken Joy every so often) Having a contingency fund however I do think is mandatory. You never know what will happen. I do think that if you live a modest lifestyle… Read more »

MindanaoBob
6 years ago
Reply to  Richard

Hi Richard – Based on what you say, I believe you and I are on the same wavelength. A P2k meal is a lot more reasonable than a P4k meal. I don’t remember ever spending P4k for a meal for 2 in the Philippines, and I have gone to some pretty nice restaurants.

Rusty Bowers
Rusty Bowers
6 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Bob,

I can’t believe it. Spending 2,000 for 2 people is way too much for me. Why spend so much?

A really good meal, at a nice restaurant in Tagbilaran, is around 250. Lets stretch is to 350 a piece. That’s 700 for two right? Add a tip and your not close to 2,000.

Even at the Hennan Resort one would spend 500 a piece.

Rusty

MindanaoBob
6 years ago
Reply to  Rusty Bowers

Hi Rusty,

It varies by city. In Davao you cannot eat at a decent restaurant for P250 per person, that is just impossible. At a very nice place P750 to 1,000 is quite common for a good meal.

Rusty Bowers
Rusty Bowers
6 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Bob,

Here I’d heard how affordable Davao is. Rents are supposed to be cheaper, Food, etc. But not according to you and you live there. So you’d know.

Once I paid 350 for the cheapest thing on the menu. I vowed never to eat there again. A tourist trap hotel/restaurant.

Anyway, a good meal in Tagbilaran (without drinks) is between 160 and a max of 220. The 160 is for stir fried vegetables, or chicken, and the 220 is for steak or some types of seafood.

Rusty

MindanaoBob
6 years ago
Reply to  Rusty Bowers

hi Rusty. Many things are inexpensive in Davao For example, fresh food is very cheap… but not eating out at quality restaurants. I am talking things like French restaurant, not native Filipino type restaurants.

Bill Savoie
Bill Savoie
5 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Do any of you guys eat at calendarias (sp?). Cheap and plentiful, in my opinion

Gerry
Gerry
6 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Not good for Diabetics like us Bob, but have you eaten at Vikings ? Less than 1000 peso

MindanaoBob
6 years ago
Reply to  Gerry

No, I have not eaten at Vikings. It is about an hour from my house, and I just try not to travel that far away. I have gotten where I really prefer eating at home anyway!

James Ogle
James Ogle
6 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

It appears that it wouldn’t be hard to Hit P2000 at HEAT in Mandaluyong at the EDSA in MM. Not that that would be a place I would frequent not with an P888 Buffet.

https://www.zomato.com/manila/heat-edsa-shangri-la-ortigas-mandaluyong-city/menu#tabtop

Rusty
Rusty
6 years ago
Reply to  James Ogle

Those who like eating at places that charge 1000+ for one meal are on a different level than I am. There’s no way I’d pay that much.

Rusty

MindanaoBob
6 years ago
Reply to  Rusty

I certainly don’t think it is a sin to spend $25 on a meal. I dont do it often, but why is it such a big deal?

Ed
Ed
6 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Bob, with all due respect, it’s very much an issue of the situation-of-the-moment and one’s personal perspective and situation, and that is often radically different each day. First, please, fine and good that people give _you_ USD, but that’s not the case for every Xpat living in the Philippines. If it’s 1000 pesos then let’s talk what it _is_ and then we can each calculate what 1000 pesos (times how-many to feed) actually costs us *that* day and is it available to toss. I too have in the past paid $25 for a meal, and have bought meals for family… Read more »

Ed
Ed
6 years ago
Reply to  James Ogle

Seriously, such is for people with way more money than brains, or a once-in-a-decade treat if rolling in excess funds, or if SomeOneElse (TM) is paying for it.. When I was in the vicinity, one of my favourites was the Mongolian Buffet at various SM mall locations in Las Pinas and Alabang depending on the year. All-you-can-eat-unlumited bowls ran around 200p, depending on location and year. Didn’t matter if you had a bowl or rice or many bowls of various meats, veggies, and sauces that you assembled and they cooked wonderfully and delivered to your table (and yes you could… Read more »

Rusty
Rusty
6 years ago
Reply to  Ed

Ed,

Good Post.

Rusty

Luke Tynan
6 years ago

Like any major move, comming here took planning to insure that everything went well and safly. I did not carry large amounts of money in the US why would I do that here. Even when I came here to met my wifes family the first time. I did not carry lots of money. as I heard and read from day one,even as I was first reading your advise Bob on line u advise care and planning, At every step if someone is moving here it needs careful research and planning. Kat and my move was a planed event that took… Read more »

Bob Martin
6 years ago
Reply to  Luke Tynan

Hi Luke – I sure agree with you. One point that I think it right on the mark is when you said that there are some who really should stay home. It is so true. If a person cannot adapt, and expects others to adapt to suit him.. that is not going to happen here. Just stay home and enjoy your life there!

Murray
Murray
6 years ago

Here in Angeles City we have scores of ex-pats with no source of income from their home countries. They are continually broke and a pack of nuisances. They are lying, scheming, scamming, no-goods, and myself and my friends have learnt to say NO in a loud audible voice. I wish they would all just go home.

MindanaoBob
6 years ago
Reply to  Murray

Hi Murray – Sorry to hear about that. Here in Davao, we have plenty of expats who have little money to live on, but certainly not to the extent or the extreme situation that you have mentioned for Angeles. I know that for an expat in that type of situation, most foreign embassies will do nothing to help them, it is up to their family back home, if that is possible.

Kevin Sanders
6 years ago
Reply to  Murray

I ran across some American guy in Manila begging–twice (at different locations). I also encountered one or two Westerners begging for money while living in Angeles City. It always struck me as bizarre.

MindanaoBob
6 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Sanders

It is certainly bizarre, but I think it is more common than any of us think!

Ed
Ed
6 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

I have on occasion mentioned to my wife that she’s only a hair away from forcing our kids to sit downtown with the beggars rattling stones in plastic cups, mumbling “GIVE ME MONEY”.

Seems my wife is starting to listen, since everyone here knows who my wife is, so no begging downtown, yet.

On the other hand, when obviously well-off people beg me to borrow money to give to them, I ask them to borrow money and give it to me. Seems fair.

Roger Craft
6 years ago

That guy can ramble on for sure. How do you do take that long to say so little?

Will Moore
6 years ago
Reply to  Roger Craft

PONDEROUS….

Bob Martin
6 years ago
Reply to  Roger Craft

He did certainly go on and on….

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