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Lessons on Financial Matters

By Mitch S. Lastrilla 

Growing a family amidst the financial meltdown is a real challenge. My husband and I are both working and we have a small household of four adults and our four-year-old son, yet we still find it challenging to juggle our finances. This situation has forced us to sit down and to analyze how we had been spending and where we had invested or wasted our money.

We discussed how we SEE money because we know that our PARADIGMS greatly influence the way we SPEND (DO) and this, in turn, affects our FINANCIAL HEALTH (RESULTS).  We made a paradigm shift—from thinking that we own our money, therefore we can spend it in whatever way we want, to seeing ourselves as God’s financial stewards. This mental shift has greatly affected our spending. While before, the priority was satisfying our desires for eating more and having more, now it is finding the best way to use God’s financial provisions for His glory. Most of the time, this means saying NO to eating out, shopping, going to the movies, and other activities that we tend to take to the extreme.  This does not mean that we don’t go out to celebrate special occasions or buy clothes that we need. It means that we just don’t spend on these things—we pray, plan, and prioritize. We also realized the value of generosity—that giving is the attitude of the heart, not the function of what we have.

We discovered that household operations, transportation, and allowances comprised the bulk of our expenses.  It seemed that we were not spending on the non-essentials but when we looked deeper, we identified a lot of expenses that we could cut down. To help us in prioritizing, we used the Money Management Matrix as our guide.

Money Management Matrix



QI (Urgent and Important) are our operating expenses that cannot be avoided and have to be acted upon immediately. QII (Not Urgent and Important) are the investments that give us more, such as financial investments and relationship building (family and friends). We plan and prepare for this quadrant by saving part of our salary for these things on a monthly basis. We decided to do it monthly because it is more workable for us.

QIII and QIV are temptations for us, particularly for me. They seemed important and urgent before but when we looked closely, we realized that they are actually non-essentials. When we avoided these quadrants, we were able to save a lot of money and even got to develop our EQ, particularly delaying gratification.

Here are some practical ideas that we have been applying and have been helpful for us:

Use the principle of 80/20. Set aside 20% of your income for tithing and savings and 80% for all other expenses.

a. Groceries

  • Check your pantry or inventory before going to the supermarket (to avoid having doubles).
  • Buy more vegetables.
  • Re-pack meats so that each meal is just enough for the household (e.g., 1 kilo of meat – I divide it into 3 packs instead of buying two ½ K of meat).
  • Teach kids to eat table food (no special food for my son, Ian).
  • Plan your meals.

b. Electricity

  • Check lay-out for possible rearrangement to save on electricity. (I rearranged our kitchen so that the refrigerator is far from our gas range. Since then I have been saving about P400/month in my Meralco bill.)
  • Totally switch off all appliances after use instead of putting them on stand-by mode, e.g., TV, computer, DVD player, microwave oven, etc.
  • Use the timer option for the air conditioner (if applicable).
  • Check Meralco savings tips (on-line and in booklets that are available in all Meralco branches).

c. Personal Expenses

  • Bring lunch “baon,” which are mostly left-overs (we save at least P500/week).
  • Lessen eating out (this is a want so if we don’t have the budget, we don’t eat out; instead, we prepare sumptuous meals that are within our budget.)
  • Avoid unnecessary shopping (hard to resist, so I avoid going to malls if I know that I don’t have money to spare; instead, I mix and match to come up with new looks using my old clothes.)

d. Transportation

  • Avoid the Skyway unless it is badly needed.
  • Wake up early to avoid traffic, thus saving on gasoline consumption.
  • Car pool if applicable.

e. Loans

  • AVOID as much as possible.
  • If badly needed, do your best to pay them at once, to avoid accumulating interest.

f. Savings

  • Save! Save!
  • Never underestimate the power of savings even if you think you have too little to spare.

I am still a work in progress. There are times when I still give in to the temptations of shopping, eating, and entertaining. But by God’s grace I have been improving on this area.  

It is a constant journey since the prices of commodities, education, housing, and all the other things that we spend on are continuously increasing. It is our commitment to spend based on what we can afford that will help us weather the storm and be generous that will help us finish strong.

Lesson on Money Matters from Life Matters by A. Roger and Rebecca Merill

Money is a huge communicator of value. WHAT we buy with our money reflect what’s important to us—at least, at the time. HOW we buy it reflects our character, discipline, and the value we place on relationships with those who are (or should be) involved in our spending decisions. Both WHAT and HOW we spend dramatically impact the quality of our lives, the quality of our relationships, and the legacy we leave to our children—not only in terms of dollars and cents, but also in terms of character, financial intelligence, and the ability to interact in positive ways around money matters.