The most common sin every seafarer faces during their vacation is debt. The fear of having not enough money to last until our next contract haunts us and would ultimately bury us slowly into debt. This post aims to help you break that cycle so you will avoid getting into debts during your vacation.
The process may be simple but its not as easy as you think. Because even though this is rampant, it’s quite surprising that many seafarers don’t learn from it. Is it because of the “bahala na” mentality or are we just complacent with the “one day millionaire” lifestyle that we have.
If you are one of those seafarers who want to change your life around debt, keep on reading. You might learn a lesson or two.
Why You Need to Avoid Getting Into Debts
Debts can be good or bad depending on how you use it. However, for many seafarers I know, they use debts as an emergency fund for non-emergency everyday expenses. Worse, they use it in the middle of their vacation even if they know they don’t have the money to pay it within the next few months.
Once you are in debt, you are robbing your future self already. The money that you earn on board will go into paying your debts plus interest. The interest adds an extra kick in the gut. If you expect to embark the next week but got cancelled, the interest will keep on pounding you.
Peace of mind also tend to flee away from you when you are getting into debt. Family problems start to ignite when you don’t have enough money to pay the bills because all your savings on board went into paying your debts. With it comes health problems due to stress, anxiety, and depression.
Then there’s the broken friendships and trust from your friends. Knowing that the people you borrow money from may knock on your Facebook wall anytime to remind you of your obligation may make you crazy unless your face thicker than a 12-inch flange.
Realistic Ways on How to Avoid Getting Into Debts
Incurring debt is a recurring pattern for seafarers. To avoid them, we must break that pattern and create something new that will steer us away from debt.
The process is simple but extremely hard because you have to go against the norm. This means you’ll be sacrificing something especially in the beginning of this journey. But trust the process because the fruits are great!
1. Have a realistic look at your salary
First thing you can do is to look into your salary. Why? Because this is most probably your only source of funds. And when you are not working on board, the pipe stops flowing and it leaves you nothing going into your pocket.
Mind you, your income is much more than average compared to those working in our country. But its not as high as you think and your previous experience probably told you that already. Recognize this fact and learn from it. Since you have accumulated experiences with money problems, use it as a guide to steer away from that problem.
2. Look into your expenses
You have bills to pay everyday, every month – as long as you’re alive. It could be your children’s tuition fee, house mortgage, food, utilities, hobbies, or car loans. Training requirements don’t just pop up so these can be planned as well.
Whatever it is, write it down including your jeepney fares and tips to the restaurants. Track all your expenses so you will know which cost drains the bigger part of your income.
3. Set a budget and religiously stick to it
Now that you know how much money you have coming in and going out, it’s time for you to create a budget. This is where you plan on how you handle your money especially during vacation.
If you plan on having a three month vacation, you have to save a budget three times your monthly spending.
For example, if your family’s monthly spending is PHP 20,000.00 (includes kids allowances, power and water bills, phone bills, food, internet, dine out, etc..), then you should save PHP 60,000.00 for your three-month vacation. I live in the province so I’m setting that in our example.
To create a safety net, double that amount to PHP 120,000.00. Who knows how much longer your vacation will take. Your vessel assignment might go into inconvenient ports. That extra PHP 60,000.00 is like your buffer fund.
What about your training, travelling allowances, vacations, kids’ tuition fees, fiestas, and other celebrations? Then you must also take that into account. Create a separate budget for that so you won’t have nightmares. These things are expected to come so you have the capacity to make a plan for it to avoid getting into debts.
4. Want to travel? Set destinations that fit your budget
Your travel plans must conform to your budget and not the other way around. There are many vacation spots that are affordable but extremely underrated. You’ll even be surprised that some of them are in your province’s “backyard”. There are less than PHP1,000 vacation but feels like PHP100K!
It’s really just up to you to discover them. Do some research and find a place that you can enjoy without breaking the bank.
5. Look for ways to save money
Now that you allocated your budget for nearly everything, try to save the unused budget on a separate savings account. Remember that every cent counts because there’s literally zero pesos going into your bank account.
Saving money during vacation is very challenging. But you will thank your future self for that extra savings you are making. Moreover, it helps build a habit of self-control especially in today’s world of instant gratification.
6. Look for ways to earn money
Admit it. Not all of your 90-day vacation is spent doing busy things. There will always be “calm moments” that you are not doing anything productive. So instead of scrolling over social media or binge watching movies the whole day, try to look for extra income opportunities.
There are actually so many ways to earn money today, and your imagination or action is the limit. Most common ways I see is by leveraging social media especially videos. People earn real money with these through ads, donations, or sponsorships.
Another way is to create a blog like the one you’re reading now. Try to look into online business as well since many of these ventures have a low barrier to entry.
7. Pay with cash
In other words, avoid paying with credit. Credit is just a fancy word for debt so it actually defeats the purpose of this post if you use it. Besides, if you are not careful with credit, It will “punish” you big time if you miss one payment. Not really worth it.
Today, credit has many faces and they tend to put a lot of cosmetics on it. Some of their fancy names are, buy now pay later schemes, credit cards, and three months to pay schemes.
8. Consider taking a shorter vacation
If you’re on a very tight budget even if you extended your contract, consider taking shorter vacation. Take this as a hard lesson and learn from it so next time, you will be able to value more the money that you earn.
It doesn’t mean you’ll be doing this every time. Only this time since staying on vacation for too long may get you more into debts. This is why you should really devote yourself on your goal of avoid getting into debts during vacation.
9. Avoid unnecessary souvenirs
Buying souvenirs or pasalubong is a Filipino tradition that’s been practiced for many years already. It’s an act where you have to buy gifts- be it food, chocolates, or items to a friend or relatives after returning from a trip abroad
This is actually fine until you realize that you’re buying for the whole barangay and they’re so much expecting it from you that you become obliged to do so.
Ask yourself, “Do you really need to buy pasalubong every time you go home from abroad especially if you’re spending $500 for it.”
10. Review your financial goals
We are not working abroad just for the sake of working abroad and going there to take selfies with camels or sunsets from different parts of the world. We are actually trading our time away from home for money.
With that money, we want to build our dreams for our family. Be it a house, car, or family necessities, these things will help us create a better life for ourselves and our loved ones.. However, if we’re not careful, our dreams can easily turn into burdensome debts.
Debts don’t just happen overnight. They are a collective decisions of small negligence done in months or even years before. To avoid getting into debts, you must be financially conscious and disciplined on following your plan of action.
May the winds be on your favor.