My first memory of money was at the tender age of five. I went to preschool with my baon (snack and lunch box) and ₱2 daily allowance. If untouched, that meant I had ₱10 a week, and that made me feel rich… and empowered. Yes! It gave me a sense of independence, knowing that the money was for my expenditure and mine alone. I was permitted to make my own choices. On the very first day, I remember going to the canteen, weaving my way to the counter amidst taller grade-schoolers, and asking the manang (female server) for a piece of Mentos – the only thing I could afford with my ₱2 at the time.
As the weeks went by, I learned the value of saving, though it wasn’t a conscious effort. I just figured I’d hold off on some visits to the canteen on some days, so I’d eventually afford the more expensive treats later on. I had my eyes set on our school’s famous chocolate chip cookies priced at ₱4.50. That meant I needed to wait 2 days before I had enough to get it on the third day. I still remember the joy of a well-anticipated cookie, and it was a favorite until I was in high school. I kept on doing the same thing, until saving for it just became a habit. As I leveled up in school, so did my daily allowance; but while I could already afford more canteen treats on a daily basis, I had become set in my habit of accumulating the money for the pricier ones.One afternoon, my dad brought home bamboo banks. He handed one out to me and each of my siblings and cousins, then proposed a project we could do together. We had the entire year to try and fill it up with coins, and come New Year’s Eve, we would break them open and count our treasures. My dad promised he would double the amount we saved over the year, and deposit it in a real bank. Back then, I didn’t care much about doubling my money, I was just excited because it was like a game. We even designed our bamboo banks using markers, and labeled them with our names. I have memories of lifting my siblings’ banks occasionally to try and estimate how much heavier they were compared to mine. On that first New Year’s Eve, the coins seemed to scatter like raindrops when my dad split the bamboo banks open with an axe. It was dazzling and exciting. My siblings and I then found separate corners where we stacked and counted our coins, which also became an opportunity to practice our addition and multiplication. After that, we celebrated how rich we all felt.
On the 2nd of January, we all headed to the bank with our passbooks. My dad let us fall in line by ourselves and hand our hundreds of coins, together with all the cash gifts we’d received over the holidays, to the teller. I waited patiently, listening to the counting of every peso, until finally my most awaited moment: the stamping of my passbook. It felt like an achievement. I enjoyed our trips to the bank. It made me feel like an adult, and I loved it.The bamboo banks became a family tradition that we looked forward to yearly. As we got older, one bank for one year no longer sufficed, as we got better and better at saving. My parents were able to impart the value of delayed gratification early on. More than having seed money for the future, it taught me to take control of my finances, which has been invaluable to me throughout life.
At 24, tired of traffic jams and driving to and from Quezon City and Makati on the daily, I scoured the metro for a place near my office. Given the area, property did not come cheap; but delaying gratification taught me that if I have bigger wants in life, I will have to sacrifice the smaller wants. So while some spent on bags, make-up, gadgets, and trips to the salon, I had my eyes set on purchasing my first condo unit. I didn’t even notice skipping the smaller wants in my excitement to buy my own place and try living independently.