Moms always worry about the cookie jar

Moms always worry about the cookie jar


Back in December, I remember contemplating my 2024 Belle Du Jour Power Planner with so much hope. I bought new, bright sticker packs, sparkly pens, and a companion journal. I did not have to reach far for positivity: I thought that with 2023 as twisted as it turned out to be, it was a no-brainer that the next year would be a rebound year.

I was dead wrong.

Inflation was supposed to be back at the 2 to 4 percent level before midyear; instead it is slowly climbing again. I saw a meme that said, “I don’t brag about my expensive trips, but let me tell you about my recent trip to the grocery…”

Food prices, which account for more than half of most Filipinos’ spending basket, especially those at the lower end of the income brackets, are again growing as hot as Bini’s “Pantropiko” song. Every mother worries about her electricity and gas bills, because the heat waves have made air conditioning a matter of public health.

Interest rate cuts, initially expected in the first quarter, are slow in coming. Small business owners—mostly women in the Philippine setting, by the way—who are in need of additional capital will have to make do with existing funds and their interest rate burden will also remain higher for longer.

Sometimes, at night, I can’t sleep thinking about the kids who are crying in Gaza because their mothers are gone, or about what might be happening at the West Philippine Sea. Are mothers forever going to stare at the dark late at night when all the dishes are done or are the spreadsheets and bedsheets saved and filed or folded away? When will these all end? Should they? There are some burdens only mothers can see, on top of everything else that is casting a dark shadow over the planet.

Mothers, I see you. The work of handling households, bringing kids and their baon (packed meals) to school and home, juggling careers and checking accounts, and being emotionally available at all times to both teenagers and husbands (sometimes, they may act in the same way!?) can seem tremendous.

Add to all of that what America Ferrera said in her iconic Barbie movie speech, “You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman but also always be looking out for other people.”

There’s more, but my Mother’s Day essay is supposed to be short.

Six months and just a few days before Mother’s Day, I reviewed my Power Planner. It doesn’t seem very powerful. It is full of mishaps and mistakes. Revenue targets that have yet to be achieved. Disappointments in the personal balance sheet. Knees that seem to speak out like another teenager every time I do a barbell squat.

READ: What motherhood taught me about personal finance

As I finish lunch with my son, he says: “Nay, you said to be transparent, OK?” My breath catches. Thirty minutes later, I am crying with so much love in my heart for the beautiful things I am hearing. His love, his thoughtfulness, his teenage wisdom. He calls me out on some painful things, but ends the conversation with so much openness and forgiveness.

And as he holds my hand, my Shih Tzu joins in by licking our hands.

Mothers, the money will sort itself out. Who cares whether 2024 is another addition to the lost financial years after COVID-19? In financial planning, no one can expect everything to happen the way we want them to. What I have seen in the stories that I have written through 30 years of journalism proves that so long as we fix the financial foundations of our lives, things will be OK, albeit in a timeline that might look strange to our former self.

What are financial foundations?

Don’t forget to carve out space in your budget for future needs, not just current ones

This is hard to do when inflation is constantly a worry, but try. It is very important to have an emergency fund. Set aside some amount regularly for kids’ tuition and your retirement. Even if it is just P500 per month, over time, as the discipline is set, the amount will go higher as your income goes higher. Compounding return, if you put the money in the proper savings and investment vehicles, takes care of the rest.Manage your debt wisely. The dark side of compounding rears its ugly head in credit card bills and consumer loans that are not managed properly. Pay your total credit card bill in full every due date or else don’t swipe at all. Sell those clothes and shoes or offer your professional help to a friend for a few hours per week instead and make extra money (don’t give them for free). Loans are good friends if they increase your net worth, but they will add to your wrinkles if they don’t.

Automate your budgeting and saving

This is my beauty tip! The financial system has evolved so well that tools and banking solutions have made it possible for us to focus on the most important things in life and not be buried under spreadsheets and official receipts.

Make sure that you have life and nonlife insurance. It is very rare that savings and investments are enough for our young ones in case we pass on. This is the best “I love you,” but invisible to most people. But, I implore you to buy the right ones. Don’t just sign on the dotted line because a friend is pressuring you.

Invest but stay away from scams

It doesn’t have to be complicated, I promise you. Things will not feel easy, even if you check off all five items on your list in the remaining months of the year. You will continue to worry. You will still feel heavier than you should be or not as pretty as you want to be.

For us women, that is normal. You will, however, have one less thing to worry about—money. And that means that you can enjoy the feeling of that hand in yours more fully and have time and energy for the conversations that make our life—in truth—more powerful and meaningful. It is never all about the money.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there, single and married, young and old, whether you are actually physically male or female. You are loved. — Contributed INQ

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The author is a financial literacy advocate with shows on ABS-CBN News Channel, and online through her SalveSays Facebook, Youtube and Kumu social media pages. She is also president and CEO of Empower and Transform, OPC.

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