Wednesday, December 27, 2023

8 Wedding Planning Tips During the Holiday Season

The allure of a holiday season wedding captivates many couples and might even compel them to plan their weddings during the most wonderful time of the year. Imagine saying "I do" surrounded by the twinkling lights of December or during the fresh start of a New Year. Indeed, the yuletide season offers a magical backdrop for a wedding.

However, tying the knot between December and January in the Philippines comes with its own set of challenges. From competing with holiday events for venue bookings to navigating the whims of the chilly weather, planning a wedding during this time can seem daunting.

But don’t fret! If you and your partner have decided to wed amidst the bustle of the holidays, you can achieve the perfect wedding through thoughtful preparation and embracing the season's unique opportunities. With the tips below, you can orchestrate a celebration of your love that resonates with the warmth and splendor of the season.

1. Book Your Venue Early

The holiday season is synonymous with parties and other large gatherings, making it a peak time for venue bookings. So, for your wedding, start your search early and make your reservations as soon as you can to ensure you get your dream location. Popular wedding venues in Cebu and other large cities should be booked a year or more ahead, especially during prime dates like the holidays. To further avoid the holiday rush, consider booking midweek days as they offer more availability and lower costs.

Booking early also allows you to send out save-the-dates sooner, which is crucial for a holiday wedding when guests might already have other plans.

2. Plan for the Cold Weather

In the Philippines, the holidays are often marked by cooler weather, intense rainstorms, and sometimes even typhoons. While the country doesn't experience the freezing temperatures of a typical winter, the weather can still pose unique challenges for December, January, and early February weddings. If you’re considering an outdoor ceremony, it’s crucial to have contingency plans. Consider venues that offer both indoor and outdoor spaces so you can quickly move your celebration inside if a sudden downpour occurs. Providing umbrellas or raincoats can be a thoughtful touch for guests moving between different parts of the venue.

3. Budget Wisely

Budgeting for a wedding during the holiday season requires extra attention as prices for venues, catering, and other services can be higher. It’s better to be transparent with your vendors about your budget and look for creative ways to maximize it. For instance, your venue might already be decorated for the holidays, offering a festive atmosphere without the additional cost. Also, consider the timing of your purchases. Buying decorations or attire off-season can lead to significant savings.

4. Confirm Vendor Availability

With the Christmas season being a busy time for everyone, it's essential to confirm the availability of your vendors long before your event. These include caterers, photographers, florists, and entertainment. Be clear about your expectations and their ability to deliver on time, especially around peak dates. It's also wise to have a list of backup vendors in case of last-minute cancellations or changes.

5. Ensure Your Guests Are Informed and Comfortable

It's essential to inform guests about the wedding details well in advance because, as mentioned, many of them may have pre-existing holiday plans. Consider creating a wedding website or sending information cards with your invitations months before the wedding so they can prioritize your event. Make sure to include details about accommodation options, transportation, and any planned activities.

To enhance guest comfort, especially in colder weather, provide amenities like blankets or a hot drink station. If your venue is remote or is prone to be affected by the weather, consider arranging transportation to ensure everyone arrives safely and on time.

6. Embrace Holiday Decor and Seasonal Colors

The holiday season naturally brings a palette of rich colors and festive decorations. You can integrate these elements into your wedding theme to create a harmonious and spirited ambiance; doing this can also help you save on decor costs by utilizing the venue's existing decorations.

For something more unique, think beyond the traditional reds and greens; consider winter whites, blues, silvers, and gold for a sophisticated twist. Use lighting to create a warm, inviting atmosphere: fairy lights, candles, and lanterns can transform a space into a winter wonderland. Remember, the goal is to complement, not compete with, the holiday décor.

7. Capture the Holiday Magic in Your Photos

Your wedding photos are a cherished keepsake and a holiday wedding offers opportunities for breathtaking photographs. Collaborate with your photographer and take advantage of the holiday magic in the air by reflecting it in your photos. From snowy landscapes to twinkling lights, these elements can add a magical touch to your photos. Consider a mix of daytime and evening shots as well to take full advantage of the varied lighting during the holiday season. Don't forget to capture candid moments of guests enjoying the festive atmosphere—these spontaneous shots often become the most treasured ones.

8. Anticipate and Plan for Delays

The holiday rush can affect everything, from vendor deliveries to guest arrivals. Communicate with your vendors about contingency plans for late deliveries or other unforeseen events. If guests are traveling from afar, remind them to plan for possible travel disruptions. This foresight eases stress and ensures that your special day runs smoothly.

With these 8 tips, it should be easier for you to plan your wedding during the holidays. It's everyone's season to celebrate love and joy, and that includes your wedding! 

Your special day is a joyous occasion that can be magnified by the enchanting background of the yuletide season. While it can be challenging, the hurdles you might encounter when planning a holiday wedding are mere stepping stones to creating an event filled with warmth, love, and cheer. Follow these tips to help you weave the season's charm into your special day. Your holiday wedding can be a beautiful blend of romance and holiday spirit, leaving you and your guests with memories that will sparkle for years.

*photo by JESHOOTS.COM from Unsplash.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Our LEGO haul from Rustan's!

Whether it's summer time or school time, sunny or rainy, day or night, it's always LEGO time for my family! And when it comes to gifts, I can't emphasize enough how amazing LEGOs are to give! Here's my gifting spree to my boys at Rustan's Shangri-la! 

Piero fell in love with the Super Mario sets. We watched The Super Mario Bros. Movie and it's really fun and entertaining. And I speak from total ignorance of the game. I thought I wouldn't like it because I have no idea what it is. But I loved it. So imagine how much my boys LOVED it! Naturally, when Piero saw the Luigi LEGO sets, he grabbed them immediately.

Another movie the kids enjoyed this year was Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse. I'm not a fan (all the flashing lights and the malikot na paikot-ikot gave me vertigo and a headache) but my husband and sons LOVED it. So Vito just had to have this Miles Morales spidey.

Iñigo had a harder time choosing what he was going to get. There are SO MANY kinds of LEGOs, you see, not just TV and movie merchandise. Although he did end up getting a Harry Potter Hogwarts set anyway hehe

Here's another movie haha Yep, we just couldn't get enough of our favorite movies in our favorite toy! And our absolute favorite place to shop for LEGO sets is at Rustan's Shangri-la. My husband and kids always head over to the toy section to check out what's new whenever we're at Shang. So while I'm picking out clothes, socks, undies, and shoes for the boys, they're just a few steps away fully immersed in all things LEGO!

I also love how Rustan's has the nicest staff. They're so helpful and great with suggesting sets we might like. But they don't hover. They even obliged us when we asked for a family photo! Moms and dads, buy your LEGOs from Rustan's! Ganda ng stock nila and mababait pa ang mga tao. We've been buying LEGOs from Rustan's Shang for a decade or so!

Anyway! Before I go, here's a little peek at the LEGOs my kids got:

Yeah, I should show more pics but my kids won't let me borrow their sets long enough! So anyway, if you're still looking for gifts to give your sons and daughters, nephews and nieces, grandkids, husbands, brothers, and boyfriends, grab them some LEGOs!

Monday, October 30, 2023

How to pay off your credit card and other useful tips

It's Halloween but you know what's scarier? My credit card bill. 

I'm about 5 digits in debt. It's actually not that bad but considering my history with credit cards (read: I Was a Credit Card-aholic But My Marriage Saved Me), I have really painstakingly made sure I always paid my bill in full. But I didn't have an income late last year and then this year wasn't good for me, mental health-wise, so I slipped and charged a lot of food orders on my card to buy some happiness. And so here we are - fat and in debt!

Again, it's not that bad, but with all the things I pay for, I still can't pay off the full amount every month. A friend told me to take out a loan with a smaller interest rate because our credit cards here in the Philippines charge an astronomical rate of 3% interest a month. I'm still considering it. 

I found this useful tool online called when I was looking for help on how to manage my credit card bill. And the Credit Card Payment Calculator told me if I'm very, very good and very, very disciplined, I'd be able to pay off my debt in 9 months. 

Nine months. Gosh. That's a long time. Not a whole year thankfully, but still a long time. I need to make more money so I can pay this credit card debt sooner!

To empower me with this daunting task, I asked my dear Loyal Readers for some credit card advice. I've collected them all into a list. Hopefully, if you're in the same boat as I am, you'd find these tips on how to pay off your credit card debt useful, too!

1. Acknowledge Your Debt Situation
Before diving into debt repayment strategies, understand your current financial situation. Whether it's due to unforeseen circumstances or a history of credit card misuse, recognizing your debt is the first step toward financial freedom.

2. Explore Debt Consolidation Options
Consider consolidating your credit card debt with a loan that offers a lower interest rate than your credit cards. This can help reduce your overall interest payments, making it easier to pay off your debt. Like what my friend advised, I should explore options for loans with lower interest rates in the Philippines.

3. Utilize Online Tools
Online tools like can be incredibly helpful. The Credit Card Payment Calculator, for example, can estimate how long it will take to pay off your debt with disciplined payments. Knowing your timeline can be motivating.

4. Set Clear Goals
Establish specific and realistic goals for paying off your credit card debt. Determine how much you can afford to pay each month, and create a timeline for becoming debt-free. Having clear objectives will keep you focused on your financial journey.

5. Cut Down on Credit Cards
Consider reducing the number of credit cards you hold to prevent further accumulation of debt. Having only two credit cards is a manageable approach, ensuring you can handle your expenses without relying on multiple cards.

6. Choose Fee-Free Credit Cards:
Opt for credit cards that don't charge annual fees or waive these fees if you meet certain monthly payment criteria. Saving on annual fees can help you allocate more funds towards debt repayment.

7. Negotiate with Your Bank
If you've been a responsible cardholder, contact your bank to negotiate annual fee waivers or lower interest rates. Banks often reward loyal and responsible customers.

8. Leverage Reward Programs
Use credit cards that offer rewards for your spending. Accumulating rewards can provide some financial relief or extra perks while you work on paying off your debt.

9. Create a Budget
Establish a monthly budget that covers essential expenses such as groceries, utilities, and phone bills. Stick to your budget to ensure you have enough funds for debt repayment.

10. Pay More Than the Minimum
Always pay more than the minimum amount due on your credit card bills. Paying only the minimum prolongs your debt repayment and increases the interest you owe.

11. Opt for Interest-Free Installments
When making significant purchases like appliances, choose installment plans with zero interest. This way, you can spread the cost without incurring additional charges.

12. Prioritize Debt Repayment
If you have multiple credit card debts, prioritize paying off the one with the smallest balance or the highest interest rate. Focus your efforts on one card at a time.

My goal for 2024 is to wipe out my credit card debt. I've stopped using that card and I plan to pay more than the minimum. Hopefully, that would lessen the time estimated it would take for me to be debt-free. Their Family Budget Calculator can also help me with managing my finances, and soon maybe I can start saving again (their Savings Calculator is cool, too).

Wish me luck! 

Friday, September 15, 2023

Review: The End of All Skies by Vincent C. Sales

This weekend is the Manila International Book Fair! That means it's the anniversary of The End Of All Skies by Vincent C. Sales! Here are a few pics of us at his book signing today at SMX. Plus, I'm finally making a book review... after one year!

One year ago, the entire family trooped to SMX, and even while we were still clutched in the claws of a pandemic, we all decided that this book launch was such a monumental event, that we all had to be there. When a dream comes true, you have to bear witness! Here's a couple of photos from that day a year ago today:

The boys were still so small! In just one year, they're nearly as tall as me!
Vince getting interviewed by the NBDB

I wanted to share this joyful event with you, my dear Loyal Readers. This was such a happy day. It took Vince years to write his Filipino fantasy novel. It took years of shopping it around. It took years of prayer! And how wonderful that when the fullness of time came, his novel was published by the biggest publisher in the world, Penguin Random House

Vince's publishing journey is not my story to tell, however. I can only tell some of it and only from a wife's point of view. 

So I'll do a book review instead!

I read the book while waiting outside our youngest boy's chess club.

The End Of All Skies is a unique novel. The world building is gorgeous and it takes time to do this so be patient at the start. It's unlike any fantasy world but it's not wholly invented because if you remember all the alamat (myths) we studied way back in elementary school, it's our ancient Filipino stories, our mythical creatures, our old gods. This is why it felt spectacularly imaginative and yet familiar for me as a Filipina, but I think global readers will find it all very new.  

The End Of All Skies is about how dreams big and small dreamt by people big and small can achieve something great and terrible. It's told from many points of view and the ancient Filipino names are hard to remember and there are many. It's best to read it in one sitting so you can follow all the stories. And there are many! 

The destruction of the city Sun Girna Ginar is coming and we see it unfolding from all these characters affected by this great and terrible sultanate and the cruel tyrant who rules it. Whose story is real? Whose story matters? All these stories, vignettes of many lives, all fuse in the middle of the book and then, with the settings and characters established, the plot now moves very quickly. In the end, I realized each story is important because each one, no matter how short or fleeting, contributed to the downfall of Sun Girna Ginar.

The story resonated with me deeply as a Filipino. I think people who were colonized, who struggled with dictators and corrupt governments, who dealt with an alipin (slave) mentality, and who have forgotten their greatness will have a more profound connection with the story. 

I was moved to tears a few times, when I read about heroes who believed the people are worth dying for, about the downtrodden who finally realized they too have power inside them then rose up and overthrew a powerful tyrant, about ordinary people who cleverly faced mythical creatures like tikbalang and gigante to achieve their goals. 

It's a fascinating read! A few reviews said they found it challenging to get into, especially when they're used to just one point of view. I also think people who've never been in a position where imperialists and traitors stole everything from your country will find it fantastical. Sadly in the Philippines, this is still a frighteningly true and relevant story.

The End Of All Skies is worth reading if you're up for something new and different. And powerful and true. 

The language is so beautiful, too. I am a lover of words and the words are so gorgeous, almost poetic. Sometimes I would pause and reread the sentences because they're just so pretty.

I highly recommend! Proud of this #FilipinoNovel. Proud of the Filipino story. May we #NeverForget who we are!

More reviews here at Goodreads! 

If you're going to the book fair this weekend, all Penguin books are at 20% off at the giant Fully Booked booth! Buy 5 Penguin books and you get a cool Penguin umbrella!

Follow Vince on Instagram and like his Facebook page!

Buy The End Of All Skies by Vincent C. Sales from Fully Booked bookstores and Acre's Lazada. It's also available on Amazon, Kindle, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, Blackwell's, and other global booksellers. 

Monday, September 04, 2023

7 Essential Financial Skills Every Aspiring Small Business Owner Should Have

Last week, a co-worker asked me what I was doing before I joined the company. I said, "I'm still doing it. For the last 10 years, I worked as a professional blogger, freelance writer, and editor. It's a real BIR-registered business. And she was surprised because apparently, she doesn't know anyone who owns a small business. And it was my turn to be surprised because Filipinos have an entrepreneurial streak, especially when the pandemic hit. Online sellers, freelancers, sari-sari store owners, etc etc. So she asked me how to start a small business and what are good home-based business ideas. Click the links to find out!

My small business is writing! I enjoy being a writer and interviewing celebrities.

Meanwhile, I also think aspiring entrepreneurs in the Philippines are facing a dynamic business environment that demands a solid understanding of financial principles. Don't just start a business without thinking of the financials! To maximize your chance of success in such a competitive environment, soon-to-be business owners like yourself need to develop sound financial skills.

A clear grasp of different financial processes and best practices empowers you to make well-informed investment decisions and confidently negotiate with clients and stakeholders. If you're thinking of starting your own small business or startup, here are seven essential financial skills you should hone to build a strong foundation for your ventures and increase your chances of long-term success and sustainability:

1. Debt Management

Understanding debt management is vital for an aspiring entrepreneur who may need to apply for a business loan to start their venture or support its growth. Developing this skill enables people to assess their borrowing needs, choose suitable financing options, and manage debt responsibly.

In a business context, effective debt management helps entrepreneurs avoid overleveraging, minimize interest expenses, and maintain a healthy credit profile. A startup company, for instance, might be presented with the option to apply for a business loan Philippines banks are making available to their commercial clients.

A startup or small business like yours may find a good fit in the Maya Flexi Loan, a business banking loan that offers low fees and enables entrepreneurs to divide Php 2 million worth of funding into separate loans. Someone with excellent debt management skills will be able to use this flexible financial product to grow their venture and create a repayment plan that aligns with their business's cash flow.

2. Budgeting

Aside from being able to manage business banking loans well, aspiring entrepreneurs should also aim to develop strong budgeting skills. Knowing how to budget your finances and the funds that you’ve received through loans allows you to effectively plan and control your resources.

If you know how to create a well-structured budget as a small business entrepreneur, you can estimate your income and expenses, allocate your resources strategically, and avoid overspending, thus ensuring your business remains financially stable. You’ll also be able to identify cost-cutting opportunities, make informed decisions about investments and marketing campaigns, and set realistic financial goals for your organization.

3. Financial Forecasting

Financial forecasting refers to your ability to predict future revenue and expenses based on historical data and market trends. When you master financial forecasting (a skill I have sadly not mastered, hence here I am, an employee again - sigh!), you can anticipate potential challenges and opportunities and make proactive decisions to stay ahead of competitors.

Business owners who’ve developed the skill of financial forecasting can play a pivotal role in creating strategies, setting achievable targets, and guiding inventory management. It’s possible to build up this skill by analyzing historical sales data, conducting market research, and employing financial modeling and scenario analysis to project different outcomes.

4. Cash Flow Management

Effective cash flow management is essential for the survival and growth of any business. If you master this skill (again, a skill I failed at because of the pandemic), you’ll likely always have cash on hand to cover daily operational expenses, manage debt, and seize growth opportunities.

The skill of effective cash flow management also helps entrepreneurs avoid shortages that may lead to missed payments or disruptions. During periods of positive cash flow, on the other hand, this skill enables businesses to invest in equipment, hire skilled employees, and fund marketing campaigns.

5. Record Keeping

An accurate and organized financial record should serve as a solid foundation for your business decisions. It’s a must, then, for aspiring entrepreneurs like you to make a habit of keeping clear records of all your business transactions, including profits, accounts receivable, and the loans for businesses that the establishment has acquired. Doing so will allow you to get a clear overview of your business's financial health at any time, thus enabling you to assess its performance in the most accurate manner.

Proper record-keeping simplifies financial statement preparation and supports evidence-based decision-making, and it also facilitates smooth audits and financial reviews. Consider learning how to use accounting software to streamline record keeping and ensure that your business always has consistent and accurate records.

It’s also a sound habit to regularly reconcile bank statements, receipts, and invoices. If you aren’t confident about your current abilities, invest in financial training or hire an accountant to ensure that your records are accurate and up-to-date.

6. Pricing Strategy

Pricing strategy refers to the ability to set the right prices for products or services, and it’s also something aspiring entrepreneurs should learn or pick up. Business owners who are able to master this skill can maximize their profitability and maintain their competitiveness. This is because a well-crafted pricing strategy can attract customers, create perceived value, and boost sales.

You’ll be able to determine optimal pricing schemes by understanding production costs, competitor pricing, and customer demand. Boost your capability to optimize pricing, and strike the right balance between profitability and customer satisfaction, by conducting market research, analyzing competitors' pricing strategies, and considering customer feedback.

7. Financial Analysis

Lastly, entrepreneurs should also be able to assess the profitability, liquidity, and overall financial health of their businesses. This skill is called financial analysis, and it allows business owners to gain valuable insights into their venture’s performance.

Financial analysis informs decision-making by helping entrepreneurs identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement. In a business setting, this skill aids in evaluating investment opportunities, measuring financial efficiency, and formulating growth strategies. Go into your new business venture with the desire to improve your financial analysis skills over time.

By developing these skills, entrepreneurs can create strong financial foundations for their businesses, make the most responsive business decisions, and navigate future financial challenges and growth opportunities with confidence. Knowing that continuous learning and applying these financial skills will be instrumental in achieving long-term success and sustainability for your business, aspire to hone these in your journey as an entrepreneur.