Why Overseas Filipino Workers Cannot Save?

When I was still in the Philippines I always heard people telling stories about lots of OFWs who came back to the Philippines without any savings.  I really wondered and even criticised them. I didn’t understand how can they not save when they were earning way bigger than what I was earning back then.

Then, here comes my turn to work abroad…

Everything has become very clear why…

Let me give you the THREE THINGS why WE  – OFWs cannot save abroad.

1.  Cost of Living – We may be getting 3, 4, 5 times our salary in the Philippines but the daily expenses that we have here is also high.  Let give share with you some of my expenses daily:

  • Breakfast – Egg & Cheese sandwich (7 dirhams) thats 88 PHP or 1.9 USD
  • Train fare – 5 dirhams per trip (10 dirhams roundtrip)  thats 126 PHP or 2.72 USD
  • Lunch – A filipina delivers food to our office everyday – 13 dirhams thats 164 PHP or 3.54 USD (just a cup of rice plus a filipino viand)
  • Dinner – I often go to a  cheap Filipino restaurant to eat – 20 dirhams  thats 253 PHP or 5.45 USD (that’s why sometimes I skip dinner, to save) or just eat salad (5.95 dirhams or 75 PHP or 1.62 USD.  You may think this salad is cheap but this is just from a Grocery store, the cheapest I’ve found here.  Other alternatives for dinner are 2 Shawarma (10 dirhams or 126 PHP or 1.9 USD)

Have you tried summing all that up? That’s around 50 dirhams a day if I want just the normal meal.  13.6 USD or 632 PHP a day.

I haven’t even added my monthly rent, electricity, internet, mobile charges, etc.

I am staying in a room divided into 4 partitions for 8 people.  I share my partition with an Indian guy.  He owns the partition and I pay him 700 dirhams a month (8,850 PHP or 191 USD). Our electricity and internet bill last month was 142 dirhams (38.67 USD or 1,795 PHP) Take note that bill has already been divided into 16 people staying in one flat.  We are sacrificing convenience and comfort just to be able to save money here.

2.  Stress – Working abroad is so different from working in the Philippines (UAE for me).  In the Philippines if we felt tired, unhappy, unsatisfied with the current employer we can immediately resign and look for another job.  Here, it’s a BIG NO! Once you have a job, you will be bound to a contract.  The only way for you to stay in the U.A.E. is for a company to sponsor your VISA.  Yes, your employers are the one paying for our VISA. If we get terminated or if we resigned, then we need look for another job and ensure that we have new visa to stay in the U.A.E.  If not, we need to get a tourist VISA and pay for it.

If you also quit, you will have to pay the company for the expenses they incurred when they hired you.  Like VISA processing, medical exams, etc… So, people need to stay for 2 or 3 years with the company before they can have the option to look for another job.

No one can actually stop you from resigning, but it is not a good option considering that looking for a job in the UAE is not easy anymore.  There is so much competition going on between different nationalities.

Here, work is work.  You are expected to give your best because they pay you.  That’s why STRESS is part of our DAILY DIET here.. Which is not good.

We resort to spending more with Food, Shopping, travel, etc and thus using the money we could have saved. 😦

3.  Our FAMILY back home –  The main reason why most of us Filipinos work abroad is our FAMILY.  We want to provide them everything they need.  We want them to experience a good life.  A life we only used to dream about.

Living abroad means seeing things that we didn’t have the chance to see back home.  And we want our family to see them.  Some of us always try to bring our family members to where we are.  And this is not easy and cheap.  A lot of Filipinos tried loaning money just so that they could support a family member to come here.  Again, savings gone… Going abroad is not a guarantee that you will have a good life. A lot of Filipinos here in the UAE are struggling with low salary because they don’t have options of a  better job. They just have to accept what’s available because if they won’t they would have to go back home.  Like I said earlier, you cannot stay in the UAE without a VISA. The best option to get it is to be employed.

Living abroad also exposes us to different brands, things that we only once dreamt.  We tend to buy stuff for ourselves. To make us feel better.  Like I said, STRESS is a way of life here and shopping is a good way to make ourselves feel better.  But… when we go shopping the first thing that comes to our mind is our FAMILY.  We don’t just buy stuff for ourselves, we buy for our loved ones back home.

Everytime I go to malls and see stuff, I buy them and they are not for myself.  Most of the time I buy for my Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Niece, Sisters, Brothers, very close friends, Gradma.  Again, that money should have been added to our savings, but gone… However, we are HAPPY.  I am HAPPY.

I am happy to keep buying stuff for all the people I love.  I don’t care if I can’t save as long as my family back home can experience the things that I wanted to experience when i was still there.  I want them to wear branded clothes, play nice toys, taste good food, experience a touch of the Middle East and other stuff.

I have already sent two balikbayan boxes and currently working on my third box.  I have been here in the UAE for just more than a year and still no savings.  No regrets though, the satisfaction and happiness I feel cannot be bought everytime I see my family so happy when they received the packages. A simple thank you from all of them is more than enough for me to go on with my life and fight the daily struggles here.

I am trying to save, most of us are… But we choose to share what we have and it makes us very happy.

So please.. don’t ever judge a Filipino going back to the Philippines without bringing anything or doesn’t have any huge savings because life here is very hard and we are doing it for love.

If your friend or a family member returns home, kindly give him / her a hug and say THANK YOU!

That’s all what we want to hear.


13 thoughts on “Why Overseas Filipino Workers Cannot Save?

    • 🙂 This is the life we’ve chosen. I am actually happy, it’s just sad how some people back home take us for granted and think that we pick money on the streets here. 😉

  1. Haha I [published one post regarding OFW sentiments, (check em out!) this life is sugar coated. they don’t even know or might I say they don’t have idea what’s on the inside. But, let’s keep moving forward then. 🙂

  2. jazper j – this was such a good read – so “you” and really learned a lot about experiencing the life over there –
    I recently heard two teens talking about not knowing where all there money went (from over the couple years they had some) –
    and it reminded me how money gets spent in very real time decisions – on some very real things – and so in general it is hard to save – all the more when expenses are high ((and high even sighs shared sacrifice)

    I love the no regrets part – sometimes we need to enjoy the fruits of our labor – or bless others with some fun goodies – even if it maybe goes against the most conservative thing – gosh- I feel like I could comment so much on this topic – but I have seen that sometimes the little gifts breathe new life into people and their days- and so those goody boxes you send – I bet the rippling effect of joy had huge impacts (subtle but potent) and that is just that way it is at times – Xxoo

    • Thanks again for dropping Ms. Y.

      yeah, its hard to save but still enjoying life here… 😉

      it just feel wonderful to be able to make others happy. especially if they are close to our hearts… 🙂

      Have a great weekend!

      • I agree – passing on the joy is so important – and sometimes when money gets saved – it gets zapped pretty quick and so there are many times when we ‘enjoy the fruits of our labor” – right? but such a layered topic – and one day at a time we make decisions in real time….. xoxo

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