The Christmas rush is in full swing, and it’s becoming a bit more challenging to be mindful about where our money goes..
So to kick off our Q&A series, Mindful Matters, we’ve decided to tackle what’s foremost on our minds these days: Christmas shopping, budgets, gifts, and the less-than-sexy (but important!) side of the holidays.
Joining us is a dear friend and supporter of Mindful Manila, Jocelyn “Jocs” Pantastico, founder and CEO of TheOliviaApp.com, a really simple and ingenious way to (finally) solve the pain point of expense tracking. Jocs has deep expertise in business, finance, and consumer insight, and here she shares more about how we can practice more “money mindfulness” for the holidays.
(Editor’s Note: I’ve consulted with Jocs on managing my personal finances, and–trust me–following her advice really works! ~ NT)
Mindful Manila: Please tell us a little bit more about why you decided to establish TheOliviaApp.com?
Jocs: Like most women, I needed to be reassured that there are enough funds for my expenses and bills. So I kept all my receipts, hoping to record all my expenses, but I ended up just keeping a thick stack of them in my wallet and by the time I got around to doing anything with them, they had already faded.
I also tried apps, but found having to manually type every expense tedious so after a few weeks, I gave up.
The result: a few days after payday, I would be thinking “where did my money go”? I also couldn’t answer questions like: Will I be able to afford that vacation? When can I start investing?
We therefore needed to think of a way automate and simplify expense tracking and money management in a cash-driven market.
The Olivia app was born of this pain point. The app enables you to scan receipts and it will auto-fill and auto-categorize your expenses. We didn’t stop there. Since some find dictating more convenient, we built algorithms to allow users to simply talk to the app and say something like “Olivia, I spent 120 pesos on milk tea” and the expense is automatically recorded (with no judgement ☺ ).
Our mission revolves around giving women a place where they can manage their money all in one place.
MM: What do you think are women’s top challenges when it comes to being mindful about spending–or money, in general?
Jocs: The biggest challenge is about not having visibility on where our money is going. A Visa study in 2105 revealed that about 42% of the average Filipino’s expenditure is a “mystery” or unexplained. And anything you can’t measure, you can’t manage. So mindfulness starts with an awareness of your money in-flows and out-flows.
The next challenge is aligning your spending decisions with your priorities. A budget is not just “saying no” to everything, but saying “yes” to a lifestyle that you choose. So taking time to think about the lifestyle you want, and lining up your spending to accommodate that is important. For example, if travelling overseas twice a year with your family is the top priority, then you may have to ease up on other expenses.
MM: What are 3 practical tips you can offer our readers to practice more mindfulness in their shopping and spending, especially for the holidays?
Jocs: A study showed that women spend much more than men on gifts. And it’s because females tend to give to more people (even if they spend less per gift). They also spend more time shopping for each item. Something to consider, therefore, is grouping your list by interest eg., books, beauty products, gadgets, then shopping by group. For example if you need to get 3 people a book, plan your shopping trip/event so that you buy all these books at the same time and location. This way, you save time and perhaps get some discount on bulk purchases.
Try giving experiences rather than ‘stuff’. Companies like ExperiencePh, Cocotel are a few you can check out. ExperiencePh lets you give someone a surprise adventure while Cocotel has really nice beach properties in unusual places in the Philippines.
Lastly, let’s talk about our Christmas outfits. We probably have at least three parties a week starting December and don’t want to appear on our IG and FB posts with the exact same outfit. So try mix and matching outfits so you don’t need to spend on an entirely different outfit for every event. What I’ve recently tried is to ‘borrow’ or buy pre-loved items. The site BasicallyBorrowed.com has curated a great range of clothing and have very nicely presented them and also provide accurate measurements. Let’s do what we can to contribute towards #sustainablefashion.
MM: But, of course, the key to financial independence is being mindful over money and spending on a daily basis–and to make this “money mindfulness” a part of their routine. How do you suggest people do that beyond the holidays?
Jocs: Try the 30-day rule. If you feel like buying something, wait four weeks before buying it.
If you really are the impulse purchase type, then set aside a certain amount per month for these purchases.
Whenever I am stressed or sad, I tend to go to my hairdresser and ‘demand’ that she give me a new hairstyle (usually involving bangs and hair color … very lethal I can promise you). Luckily, I have a very wise hairdresser who refuses to do anything with my hair when she senses I am in this situation.
Similarly, avoid going to a store (online or otherwise) when you are emotionally charged. Take a walk instead, or better yet, read a book. Your wallet will thank you for it.
MM: What was your biggest challenge when it comes to money mindfulness, and how are you working to address that?
Confession: I worry about having enough money for retirement (and I recently found out that about three in four women are worried about being broke when they retire). Worrying is not mindfulness, because worrying and anxiety often lead to unwise money decisions.
So a couple of years ago, my husband and I talked about what kind of life we wanted to have when we retire. Then we figured out how much that lifestyle will cost (plus a buffer for some unknowns). We are now working towards setting aside an amount of money that will give us the cash flow for that lifestyle.
MM: Please feel free to share or cite any tools, books, online resources, etc. that you would like to recommend to our readers.
Jocs: Money Mountain: A New Perspective on Spending, Saving and Investing, a book that I co-authored with Anita Untario. It’s a personal finance book enhanced with augmented reality so you can scan images in the book and unlock quizzes. We’ve made learning about money experiential and applied (quizzes are about money situations rather than theory). We’re sharing stories of people who have generously talked about their journeys and challenges.
MM: Last words on mindfulness and money:
Jocs: Being mindful about money is NOT about being money-minded. Being mindful is about stewardship and managing finances so that you can use it achieve goals. Mindfulness is treating money as a tool, not an idol.
Jocs founded Olivia, a wealth management app for women, to address the gender gap around financial inclusion. She has an MBA from University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Follow her here!