In Filipino Expat Budget, we ask our kababayans about their income and expenses. Paola C. used to work as an au pair in the Netherlands before becoming a working student in Belgium. From her income as a working student, she was able to invest in a house in the Philippines, and pay for her Master’s degree.
Tell me about your investment
We lived in my Lola’s house together with the siblings of my parents. And you know in the Philippines, when the parents die, issues about ownership surface. My Lola passed already passed away so the house is meant to save my parents from future issues. I bought a house and put it in my parents name. I pay Php15,000 so that’s my remittance of €280.
You don’t send remittances?
My parents don’t require me to send money, only when it’s absolutely necessary. They are very supportive and understand that I am a student so they don’t pressure me to send money to them.
I studied in La Salle on a full scholarship with allowance so I was never a burden to my parents. My younger sibling was also on full scholarship but because of Covid, her current scholarship is only 50%, which is about Php25,000 per month, including tuition fee increase. My youngest sister is also going to senior high and her tuition fee is around Php30,000.
When I finally have a job here, my goal is to bring them to Europe so that they can study here.
How did you become a working student?
After my au pair contract, I really did not want to go back to the Philippines anymore. So I made Plan A, B, and C. I applied for different master’s programmes in different schools. My first choice was Erasmus Mondus, another was in Maastricht, and Leuven University was my last choice. My Plan D was to go home.
I got accepted in all programmes I applied to but in Erasmus Mondus, I had to spend the first year in the United Kingdom, and there is no scholarship. I needed to pay around £18,000. In Maastricht, I was eligible for a 50% scholarship but the remaining tuition is still €9,000 for international students. That’s still too expensive for me. So I chose KU Leuven.
The university offers scholarships to students from the Global South. So instead of €7,000, I only pay €1,250 per year, that’s automatic for students from the Philippines. My tuition fee is even cheaper than my siblings!
You earn €800-€900 monthly. What do you do?
I work in a fast food company. My contract is 10 hours because students in Belgium are only allowed to work 475 hours per year. But I need to pay my rent every month so I talked to the HR to allow me to maximize my hours and earn at least €400 per month to pay my rent. I earn €13 per hour.
You splurge on going out with your friends and scrimp on groceries? How often do you go out?
I just try to limit my budget to €20 whenever I go out with friends. I ask them to come to Leuven or we go to Brussels. A return ticket to Brussels from Leueven is only €7,20. I go to the Netherlands every other week to be with my boyfriend. That’s my work-life-love-balance. With groceries, I only buy the most essential items like milk, cereals, pasta, and because I also cook, I also buy garlic, onions and those things. The nice thing about my work is that I can eat there for free, and sometimes I can bring home free food. I buy the 5-kilo rice pack from the Asian store and that’s good for more than a month.
You don’t pay for telephone subscriptions or utilities?
I stay in a student dorm with 38 students. I have my own room and a shared kitchen, shared bathroom/shower. So gas, electricity and water are all included. My boyfriend pays for my mobile subscription but it’s only €15 per month.
Why do you have a debt?
That was from the time I went to a South African game reserved for a school research. I needed extra money so I borrowed €200 from friends. The trip was a requirement for school and I paid for it with my own income. But my boyfriend helped me and paid one month’s rent so that I could save up for the trip. The plane ticket was paid by the school but I had to pay the accommodation of €320 and some pocket money.
What are your future plans?
I am really planning for the future of my siblings. One of my sisters wants to become a nurse so I am gearing her up to learn German. I already know people who took Ausbildung, so I am encouraging her to come to Germany as an au pair, and study nursing at the same time. It’s cheaper than paying Php60,000 of tuition fee per semester for a 4-year nursing course. At least here, she’ll be recognized as a nurse right away.
If you won €1 million, where would you spend it?
Buying a house for my family, insurance, paying off family debt, savings if any left.
What’s the best thing that money has given you?
Life experience (traveling) and emotional satisfaction (eating out with friends, shopping).
What’s the one thing you think that money cannot buy?
Relationships with other people. Good attitude. Kindness. Contentment.
If you are interested to share your Filipino expat budget with us, send us an email email@example.com
The Filipino Expat budget was first published in TFEM’s Spring 2023 Issue under Money Talk section.
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Dheza Aguilar is the Managing Editor of The Filipino Expat Magazine. She was a former Netherlands correspondent for ABS-CBN, and freelance writer for other publications. She works for a supply company in Rotterdam and is eternally juggling passion and career. She also blogs at www.girlfromthebarrio.com.