How to prepare for your first winter

If you’ve spent some time in Baguio City or Mountain Province in January or February, then you have an idea of what cold is like. You cannot take a bath without a heater or hot water. Your breath steams early in the morning and the fog!

But that is nothing when you experience your first winter in the United States. It is cold, nope not Baguio Cold, but refrigerator, freezer cold!

If you are new to the US you better prepare for the cold of winter!

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The Art of Accumulating Pasalubong

Every Overseas Filipino know the importance of stocking pasalubongs for loved ones in the Philippines. Some even send balikbayan boxes regularly. You probably see many balikbayans at NAIA with lots and lots of baggage and boxes, especially during the Christmas season.

Pinoys who have spent many years in the USA have probably come up with their system of buying and accumulating pasalubongs. But for newcomers, it may be a bit overwhelming. Here are a few tips on the art of accumulating pasalubong.

First things first: decide on a budget and stick to it!

Do not bankrupt yourself because you want to give something nice to family and friends. I repeat, do not bankrupt yourself! Decide on a budget and stick to it. Read my post on keeping up with the Joneses.

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3 FREE Ways to Communicate with Loved Ones in the Philippines

Before the advent of the Internet and all the free ways to communicate online, friends and family of overseas Filipinos had to go to a payphone, line up, and wait for their turn to talk. If that doesn’t work or if their town does not have an RCPI outlet or a payphone, the only alternative is to send letters that would take weeks or months to be delivered.

Now, thanks to all the internet technologies at our disposal, we can contact friends and family all over the world. You don’t even need to pay extra if you have a device and an internet connection.

A phone call to the Philippines from the USA is very expensive. But it’s important for us to see the faces and hear the voices of our loved ones. And if we can do it for free, that’s even better! Here are the three free ways that we communicate with our family and friends in the Philippines.

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How to Apply for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)

Disclaimer: The article that follows tells the story of how my wife and son applied for their Individual Tax Identification Number (TIN)s. It is not meant to be taken as financial or tax advice. This is only for educational and informational purposes. The reader is encouraged to do their due diligence.

After my first year of working in the United States, I had to file my income tax return. I had my Social Security Number, our HR Department withheld my tax every payday. All I had to do was to file my income tax. I decided to do it online through TurboTax. It was easy–all I had to do was upload my form W-2, which our HR provided.

There was a catch, though. I was taxed as a single person because I could not claim my wife and my son as my dependents. They did not have Social Security numbers and they couldn’t get it either. They are considered as dependents of a non-immigration alien. What that meant is that my wife cannot work at all.

I, on the other hand, was being treated as a resident-for-tax purposes.

Good thing, I got in touch with a few Filipinos who had been in the same situation as we were. They told us to explore the possibility of getting an ITIN for my wife and son. That’s exactly what we did in November 2016.

If you have family members who are dependents, but you want to claim them as dependents in your tax returns, then this information may help you.

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How to Save Money on Your Child’s Haircut

Kids haircut in America costs at least $12, plus tip, it would be around $15-$18. Our son gets a haircut probably 8-10 times in a year. That would be about $120 to $180 yearly.

When I was a small boy, my father cut my hair. I know that I looked pretty good as a kid. But I don’t really remember what my haircuts then were like. As I progressed through my elementary years and my father got busier, I started going to a barber. I usually got a “flat top” or a “barber’s cut.”

When I felt like I had haircut problems in America, I started looking for the right barber. At about the same time, my wife and I decided that I could cut our son’s hair in the comforts of our home. That’s important tip for y’all out there. Always consult your wife in all important matters such as your child’s hair!

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The Best Ways to Send Money to the Philippines: Transferwise

Like any good Overseas Filipino, I need a fast and reliable way to send money to the Philippines. For the past three years, the main way for me to send money to the Philippines is Xoom.com. I have reviewed this remittance website in the past. You can read that review here: http://amightylife.com/the-best-ways-to-send-money-to-the-philippines-from-the-usa-xoom

My main problem with Xoom, however, is their terrible, terrible exchange rate. They charge an upfront fee of $4.99 for USD to PHP transfers or $7.99 for USD to USD transfers from your US bank account to your recipient in the Philippines.

However, they also make additional money on the backend through their exchange rate. It’s the same criticism that has always dogged Paypal.com.

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How to Support an OFW: Tips for Family, Loved Ones, and Churches

It’s never easy for anyone to pack up their bags and go to a different country. Yet more than ten million Filipinos (including me and my family) decide to do that because of necessity or choice. Whatever the motivation that drove them to go to a different country, they still need the support of family and friends.

My faith community and church is important to my life. That is true for a lot of Overseas Filipinos, too. Some churches and non-profit organizations have some ministries and services to overseas Filipinos in many countries and also in the Philippines. Here are some ideas on how to support an overseas Filipino.

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How to Use a Dishwasher (and not just as storage space)

For almost a year, we did not really use our dishwasher… we didn’t use it for washing our glasses, dishes, pots, pans, and utensils. In stereotypical Asian fashion, we used it as drying rack for dishes and other kitchen utensils.

Don’t know some Asian stereotypes? Read this article from Buzzfeed: https://www.buzzfeed.com/daozers/27-signs-you-were-raised-by-asian-immigrant-parents

And watch this video, too:

 

I don’t remember our reasoning at home why we didn’t use it.

  • We probably wanted to conserve water and electricity.
  • We didn’t really know how to use it.
  • We’ve always washed dishes and kitchen utensils manually and old habits die hard, especially when you move from the Philippines to America.

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The best ways to send money to the Philippines from the USA: Xoom

Filipinos abroad need to know the best ways to send money to the Philippines. Same is true for Filipinos in the USA. We continue supporting our parents, siblings, and other family members in the Philippines.

The US dollars we earn can go a long way in the Philippines. A hundred US dollars can be converted anywhere between PhP 4,500 to 5,300. That would be helpful for a family in the Philippines.

That is why remittance services are important in America. You want fast and less expensive service. We live in Tennessee where there are fewer Filipinos. That is why we don’t have a lot of Filipino-oriented services compared to cities in California and Illinois.

I consider myself with a bit of tech savvy, so naturally I want online solutions that won’t require me to leave the comforts of home.

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Teaching Tagalog language to our son

Even before traveling to the USA, we started teaching and talking to our 1-year old son in English. We thought that doing so will help him adjust more easily to life in America. So by the time he was two, he can converse well in English, but he could also understand Tagalog.

We totally underestimated his ability to pick up languages and his capacity to adjust to life in the USA.

When he turned three, we thought of enrolling him to a Pre-K at the school of the church we go to. He didn’t need to go to school every day. Instead, we opted for the twice-a-week schedule for him. It was a great chance for him to socialize with other kids and give my wife some time off by herself. He also had a view of what it is like to go to school. Preschool in the USA is very different from preschool in the Philippines. It is less structured, there’s more time for play. But that’s an entirely different post altogether.

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