Financial planner reminds Pinoys: Spend wisely this Christmas

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 13) — This year's Christmas will be far less festive than how Filipinos used to do it, and it may be for the best.

Financial planning expert Chinkee Tan reminded cash-strapped families not to spend beyond their means during the holiday season, as the "new normal" brought about by COVID-19 also meant more Filipinos poor, hungry, and without jobs.

"Wala pa akong nakitang batang na-ospital o namatay dahil hindi nakapag-blow ng birthday cake. Wala pa rin akong nakitang pamilya na namatay din dahil hindi nakapag-celebrate ng Christmas, 'di ba?," Tan told CNN Philippines' The Exchange with Rico Hizon.

"Kung hindi natin kaya, especially sa panahon ngayon na taghirap... ipagpaliban po natin kahit isang taon lang. Bawi na lang po tayo next year kung gusto niyo," he added.

[Translation: I have not seen a kid get hospitalized or die just because he wasn't able to blow out candles on a birthday cake. Nor have I seen a family that died because they weren't able to celebrate Christmas. If you can't afford it now during a financial crisis... just postpone it and host a bigger celebration next year.]

Times have been extremely tough for millions of Filipinos as lockdowns and other quarantine rules kept people away from shopping and travelling, which also meant more businesses closing down or laying off employees.

RELATED: Longer quarantine drives 23M Filipinos into hunger, 4.5M more poor

While the worst is over for the bigger economy, the recovery may be longer for the common Juan.

For Steven Cua, president of the Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association, there are other ways to prepare a noche buena feast without splurging.

"Given na limited ang budget, a lot of people would have to be creative in how they prepare for their noche buena," Cua said separately.

While money is tight, the supermarkets chain executive said consumers may opt for alternative products to replace traditional Christmas eve staples. The fancy queso de bola may be switched with any other cheese variant, the block of ham may be dropped in favor of the cheaper canned spiced ham, while fruit salad dressing may be replaced with a mix of real and substitute mayonnaise to save cash.

"It's the spirit of Christmas which is more important –– 'yung nagsasalo at nagsasama tayo [where the family bonds and shares a meal], of course with proper safety protocols," Cua added.

Meanwhile, another lesson from Tan is for people to save. Ideally, a family's buffer should be enough to tide them over for at least three to six months – and their 13th month pay may be a good start.

"Dapat meron kayong maitira para sa iba pang purposes, 'di lang pwede 'yung one-day millionaire," the popular financial adviser said. "That's the most common mistake ng karamihan na ginagawa ng mga tao."

[Translation: People should set aside money for other purposes; you can't just be a one-day millionaire. That's the most common mistake that people commit.]