I came to the United Kingdom (UK) as a nurse. As I dragged the two suitcases packed with clothes and dreams of a better life, I thought this was my ticket to fortune. I thought I would be a millionaire in one year, but I was wrong.
I have never planned to work in the UK. It has always been the "American Dream", so I decided to pursue a Nursing career. So I pulled my sleeves up after graduation and worked as a nurse in the Philippines to gain experience as foreign countries opt for applicants with better employment histories. Shift after shift, the reality of being a nurse was depressing. Overworked and underpaid, I felt so depressed and undervalued as I earned Php 350 per day. The thing that hit me the hardest was the low salary. I couldn't even afford to buy a scrumptious "Chickenjoy" from Jolibee.
I chose to work as a medical representative to earn more while volunteering in the hospital to maintain my nursing skills. As my American Dream still lingered, I took the NCLEX twice but failed. I moved on and decided to get married and have a child, and my problems started piling up. We lost our savings with the medical bills we had to pay.
It was 2018 when I finally set myself to work abroad. The US probably wasn't for me, so I landed a job offer in the UK. I may like it, but maybe not. But how would I know if I won't try? So off I go to the UK, determined to earn and make my life more comfortable. I arrived in the UK with the autumn breeze of September 2019. Thinking I will earn a lot with the conversion from British Pounds to Philippine Pesos, I should surely be a millionaire in a year. But everything was so different from what I had imagined.
My life felt like it was going downhill. I was bullied at work; I felt lonely in a secluded place; I had difficulty adapting to the culture, and the salary was just enough, if not less, than the cost of living in the UK. I was earning £1800 each month, and after the rent, bills and £750 remittance for my family, it was barely enough. I never had any holidays or extravagant purchases, and I have only saved £5000 in one year only because I was a penny pincher. I thought of going back home.
I handed in my immediate resignation in August 2020. I didn't have a job offer then, but I realised my mental health was more important. I bought a coach ticket to London and stayed with a friend for a month, and luckily I found a job. With better pay rates in the care home setting, I decided to work permanently in a Care Home than in the NHS. However, I also take some bank shifts in the Royal Free Trust at times if I want to earn extra money. As a care home nurse, I make £20 an hour with paid breaks and handover. As work is routine driven, I manage to do 4 to 5 shifts a week. I worked hard every month and got paid well with around £3600 take-home pay.
Including the small amount I saved up when I was in the countryside, I was able to save £14000 in six months of working in the Care Home. I prioritised putting aside my hard-earned money and strict budget to achieve my financial goals. Here's the breakdown of my expenses and savings.
Household Expenses: £500
Remittance to the family: £700
SAVINGS: £1800 - £2000
After I had saved enough money, I decided to bring my son and my husband to the UK. We moved to a two-bedroom flat for £1200/month, and I bought furniture but stayed away from expensive items. Roughly, I spent £8000 on moving to a flat, deposit, house items, tickets, and visa fees. When they arrived in March 2021, I returned to having £10,000 in savings.
My husband worked as a carer shortly after arriving in the UK. His manager was generous enough to work his shifts around mine which covers our childcare needs. Hence, I could still work four shifts a week whilst my husband does three as a carer. Even if my expenses increased as a family of 3, I still found the balance and stability I once imagined.
With a total household income of £4,700 and total expenses of £2425, that leaves AT LEAST £2,275. I allocate £1500 for savings, and if I have more, I can allot as much as £900 per month for shopping, going out, buying stuff and paying for my hubby's driving. I ensure we occasionally go out and have fun to keep my sanity. However, I'm also limiting 1 to 2 major holiday getaways yearly.
My income: £3600 (which increases depending on my shift and years of service)
Husband's income: £1100
TOTAL INCOME: £4700
Council Tax: £135
My remittance: £200
Hubby's remittance: £100
PH Charity we support: £50
TOTAL EXPENSES: £2425
Here are some takeaways you might consider if you want to save and take control of your financial situation.
Look for opportunities that will maximise our earnings. For me, a care home is the best option because I'm comfortable with the job, and at the same time, I'm earning at least twice as much as in the NHS. I urge our "kababayans" not to fear working in a care home setting, as the financial rewards can motivate you and be the driving force to achieve your goals.
Keep track of your income and a breakdown of your expenses. You should know where your money is going and readjust if needed. Set a budget and stick to it.
Prepare meals at home. It's healthy, and you can also save money than getting takeaways. If you want to eat in a restaurant, limit it to once or twice a month.
If you like an item like clothes or gadgets, wait nine months. I always have a 9-month waiting rule, especially for non-essentials that cost more than £150. If after that time has passed and you still want it, then buy it. It just means that it will spark joy in you.
Don't buy lavish items that you don't need. To be fair, I splurge for my child but am still mindful of spending.
Don't show off. Don't buy designer items just because you want to post them on Instagram or other social media platforms.
Focus on your financial goal. If you aim to save £50,000 in 3 years, then focus on that goal day and night. Do not get distracted.
Bottomline is it is possible to save money despite the high cost of living in the UK. Financial stability is one of the key things to happiness. Indeed, money can't buy everything, but it is a tool for you to live comfortably and, at the same time, design the life you want for yourself and your family. For me, "Mas masaya kapag may pera."