In the theory-laden world of personal finance, various concepts are readily available to everyone who's willing to learn about money management and investing:

Don't borrow more than 20% of your take-home income.”

In investing, you should buy low and sell high.”

There is a direct relationship between risk and potential return. The higher the risk, the higher the potential return is.”

Everywhere you look – in books, in magazines, in blogs, in radio shows and even in television – a multitude of personal finance tips are always available to welcome you. This phenomenon begs the question, “Where do I start now?”

Before anything else: DON’T FRET. You can start with these three tips - embodied in their superhero incarnations - to make that jump from financial zero to a financial hero.

1. Spend Trooper

Why you ignore this:

You think that having a spending diary means you need to list out all your expenses down to the last centavo in a complicated Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Also, you have to categorize your expenses and use elaborate color-coded sections in order to track your money, and that’s just too much work!

What it actually is:

The Spend Trooper won't require you to do a lot of effort, really. You just need to carry a small notebook and a cute little pen with you wherever you go, or download an expense tracker app in your phone. Using these tools, list down the date, the item you paid for, and the amount that you paid.

At the end of the day, add all your expenses. Do this again for the next days, until you've completed a month. At the end of the month, get the average of your expenses and figure out which items put the biggest dent on your wallet.

Personally speaking, I scoffed at this tip when I was just starting out: “Seriously? That takes up a lot of hard work.” It wasn't until I realized I had more month at the end of my money that I started doing this. Back then, if you asked me how much I spend monthly on myself, I'd probably say around P8,000. When I actually did this tip, I discovered that I spent P12,000 monthly pala! Where did all that P4,000 go?


Awareness, peace of mind, and conscious spending

A conscious mind can utter conscious words. Conscious words can plan conscious actions. Conscious actions give birth to conscious decisions.

If you don't know how much you spend per month, how can you know how much you want to set aside for your future?

2. Professor P

Why you ignore this:

You think that, you have to deprive yourself of your “wants” just so you can afford your “needs”.

What it actually is:

Your bare essentials are different from other people's bare essentials, so don't just take their word for it. Make the effort to really discover what you value.

List down your three priority items. Then, spend as much as you'd like on them. But, hear this: you have to cut back on items that are not on your priority list.

For example, for some people, cable may be a basic need. Weekly clothes and shoes shopping may be an essential. But for me, they're not. One of my priorities is travel so I splurge on my traveling experiences, but I cut back on others: I don't have cable; I buy high-quality clothes maybe four times a year and high-quality shoes once a year. I'm also not a gadget person but I wouldn't hesitate to spend money on airline fees and accommodations.


Satisfaction, a guilt-free desire to pursue personal finance, and goal planning – after all, you should Plan, You Only Live Once #PYOLO!

Everything is a matter of priorities.

Because let's face it, if it's not important to you, then why are you spending money on it?

3. Captain Automation

Why you ignore this:

You want to automate a system where 20% of your take-home pay would be put in another savings account that you can never ever touch – but you think that setting this up would be messy, complicated, and difficult.

What it actually is:

Nowadays, most banks and investing companies allow you to automate your savings, insurance premiums, even your investments! For example, in Sun Life, you can automate your VUL contributions monthly. You can even do automatic fund transfers for your mutual fund investments.

As you must know, personal finance is a lifestyle. It’s a long-term commitment. Being consistent with your saving and investing not only adds icing to the cake - it bakes your whole financial cake.


Self-control, a sense of fulfillment in knowing that you're closer to your goals, and a consistent saving/investing habit

Because taking control of your finances and of your life is not about how many books you've read, how many websites you've visited, or how many case studies you've analyzed.

Money management is simply planning, prioritizing, performing your action steps and, most of all, producing real, honest-to-goodness results.

Image used under Creative Commons from JD Hancock

Lianne Martha Laroya

Lianne writes to empower you to take charge of your finances. As a Sun Life Financial advisor, Lianne is also the founder of The Wise Living and Young Pinoy Millionaire, which are websites dedicated on money management and early investing for 20-somethings. Her book “OMG! Where Did Your Sweldo Go?” is already available in stores. You can ask her your finance-related questions at