Pia Dina Montemayor is a 39-year-old special needs educator based in Dubai, who manages her finances well enough to be able to fund her passion for travel.
A resident of the UAE for 12 years, the single mother has used her financial literacy effectively, shares her tips with Gulf News.
“I would like to call myself a frequent solo traveler, who travels around the world five to six times a year. I’ve already clocked 57 countries, including destinations as exciting as South Korea, Liechtenstein, Myanmar, Brunei, Andorra, Kyrgyzstan and Iceland. Every year when there is a spring, summer or a winter break or even midterms, I just set out to travel. It’s like a passion, a hobby.”
So how does Pia manage to save money to be able to set off so frequently?
“I can say that I am financially literate. I value my hard earned money. From a very young age I was taught to save. I saved my allowance, and all the money I received during special occasions and festivals, such Christmas. I kept them mostly in the bank as time deposits and made good use of it. I have continued that habit into adulthood. I am a saver, and I meticulously budget my money. That helps me save for my travels.”
Pia is particularly conscious how she spends during weekends. Knowing that it’s easy in Dubai to get carried away with food and friends, she makes sure she divides her money immediately after her pay day.
Dividing the pay
“10 per cent of my salary goes to Metlife for my Insurance, it’s called the International wealth builder; then 20 per cent goes to Philippines for my 19-year-old daughter's monthly expenses, 30 per cent goes to my expenses here in Dubai – that covers rent, Dewa, grocery, toiletries and leisure, 20 per cent goes to my savings and 20 per cent towards my travel fund.”
Pia is usually able to save Dh2000 every month for her travel. She is able to do this by keeping her weekends very tight and spending as little as possible on food and entertainment.
“Fridays are for relaxing and catching up on housework. So I spend the day mostly at home. On Saturdays I go to Church and then go out for lunch with my friends. I also do some grocery shopping for the first three days of the week.”
Budgeting the weekend
For a regular Saturday lunch, Pia keeps a budget of not more than Dh50. If it’s a special occasion, then she increases her spend to either Dh100 or Dh150, but not more than that.
“Our regular Saturday lunch places are the Filipino seafood restaurants in Rigga. The Dampa Seafood Grill is a particular favourite. When there are birthdays or any other special occasion, then we opt for a brunch or a buffet at a hotel that might be having a special promotion. Usually we go to the Sheraton Deira and the Radisson Blu near Union Square. These hotels often have a Dh199 brunch offer for two people on Saturdays or maybe during a UAE National Day. Sometimes we also opt for a late breakfast-early lunch offer which will be cheaper compared to a proper lunch buffet. Like if you manage to go between 10am and 1 pm, the price will be less compared to the lunch offer between 12 noon and 3 pm,” she explains.
Using apps for discounts
Pia and her friends also use the Entertainer app when it comes to eating out. “Three or four of us usually pool in money for the Entertainer and we use it frequently. That helps save money as well.”
Not paying much for entertainment
Pia also exercises discipline when it comes to watching movies on weekends.
“I don’t go to the theatres on weekends. It’s very rare that I do so. If I really want to watch films, I prefer to go on weekdays, between Sunday and Wednesday. I avail the 50 per cent promo offer by Reel Cinema to Emirates NBD card holders. I also take up the Du Tuesday offer.”
So what else does she do on a weekend?
“We also visit the Kite Beach sometimes. I love it there. We bring our own food, mostly home cooked and then spend an afternoon there swimming, eating and chatting away. When there are long weekends in the UAE, then we take advantage of the special offers for UAE residents and go to Miracle Gardens or to Motiongate. I am careful about any unnecessary spending. I remain quite tight with cash as whatever I am able to save goes into my travel fund.”
No compulsive shopping
On a regular weekend Pia spends not more than Dh50 on lunch and another Dh150 for groceries that she gets from Carrefour at the Deira City Center.
Remaining tight with leisure and entertainment expenses has allowed me to see the world. It’s my passion, just as people would be passionate about their dream luxury bag or shoes. You have to be financially literate to be able to exercise that discipline on yourself.
“Remaining tight with leisure and entertainment expenses has allowed me to see the world. It’s my passion, just as people would be passionate about their dream luxury bag or shoes. You have to be financially literate to be able to exercise that discipline on yourself.
“I look at myself as a conscious buyer and not a compulsive buyer. If I buy one dress, I make sure I am able to recycle two of my old dresses, which I would prefer to gift to someone who needs them. The same with shoes and bags.
“I am not ashamed to recycle unwanted gifts, whatever it is, rather than storing them in my home and wasting space. It is always good to save and utilise the extra income to do what makes you happy.”