Supplied Sharon Labaste-Belen with her husband VG, and daughters Eunice Veronica, 10, and Aiesha Avril, 6. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Last year, I decided to honour my children’s sacrifice.

I have been working in Dubai for almost six years and for the first five years I had nothing to show for it.

My youngest daughter is now six, my eldest is 10. Both of them knew nothing about Dubai when I decided to leave the Philippines to work abroad as a nurse.

I was earning a decent salary to support my children’s education and family back home. But apart from that, I had no clue where my money went except maybe for a sale here and there and some clothes now and then.

I only got to realise how much of my hard-earned money had gone down the drain when I attended a Financial Peace University class organised by our church last year. So I was lending too much too often to friends. And I rarely got it back. Conservative estimates would put the money I had wasted at Dh5,000 to Dh6,000 a year. I shed a tear each time I think of it. If I had saved all of it all those years, I could have had the chance to go home for good after my fifth year in the UAE. But no.

Holes in my pocket

Through the classes, I saw the holes in my pocket and why I bled financially. There and then, I decided they had to stop.

I painstakingly created a budget and forced discipline not only on myself but also on my family. I learnt to value every dirham that came in and every one that went out.

When I went on vacation in October, I made sure it was a frugal one. I made sure my family felt my presence and gave no presents. My girls and I went gardening, we cooked together ...”

- Sharon Labaste Belen, Nurse based in Dubai

I listed down all my debts from smallest to largest and used the debt snowball method to pay off all my debt. Every small victory pushed me to do more, set aside more money and pay off my other debts faster.

I worked part-time as my schedule and body permitted. I squeezed every dirham so I could maximise my savings. (I can’t remember how many times I had to say ‘no’ to shopping opportunities). I gave myself a decent Dh100 to splurge on what I wanted and I stuck to it.

When I went on vacation in October, I made sure it was a frugal one. I made sure my family felt my presence and gave no presents. My girls and I went gardening, we cooked together, played games together and made every moment count.

Before going back to Dubai, I treated my husband and two daughters to a simple night out. I used that opportunity to apologise to them for being tight with money last year. I told them how much I appreciated their cooperation. Not once did they demand new clothes or toys last year, not even for Christmas.

In truth, it’s my two daughters and husband who sacrificed so much for our family. So I am honouring it now by making sure every penny we earn goes to our future.

Coming home sooner

And because of their sacrifice, we were able to fully pay off our house and a lot more last year worth almost one million pesos. I showed them the title deed as proof. Now, we have a place we can call our own.

If I hadn’t resolved early in the year to change, I guess I would have had to work abroad for five years more. But because I did and I stuck to it, I can decide to come home sooner Lord willing.

The journey wasn’t easy. But it’s all worth it. And it’s all by the grace of God.

- Sharon Labaste Belen, 40, Nurse in Dubai