Budgeting | Life | Personal Finance | Personal Stories | Article

Here’s How I Keep My 13th Month Pay Intact During the Christmas Season

by Rica | December 14, 2023 | 7 mins read

Several years ago, I received a Christmas gift from a friend in September. I thought it was odd to receive one months ahead, but I realized later that it made sense, especially for my friend’s wallet. 

Firstly, it’s not too out of the norm as in the Philippines, Christmas season is as long as the “-ber” months. Therefore, Christmas “starts” in September and giving Christmas gifts is still within the right “season”.

Secondly and more importantly, it’s better for your wallet if your presents are ready in September. As the presents were purchased off-season, chances are you’d save more because prices are lower compared to what they are when Christmas is nearing as that’s when demand is high and most people are more likely to buy.

Putting these two theories into practice helped me to avoid the financial stress of the holiday season and saving me an extra month’s worth of salary – a Christmas bonus indeed!

Shop as early as you can

Whenever Christmas is nearing, there are sales everywhere and I used to think that I was getting a good bargain as I stocked up on Christmas gifts. However, I realized that despite the “sale”, prices were still higher than what they were earlier in the year. And because I was waiting for my 13th-month pay to come in late November before I start Christmas shopping, I ended up paying more.

Now, my gift shopping starts as early as January so I can take advantage of the best prices available.  That’s also when most stores have the best sales, especially after the sky-high prices of the previous month.

If your family has to travel for Christmas, the same theory of paying for your tickets early in the year applies too. My family usually spends Christmas at my husband’s home in Bohol. If I book my flights well in advance, the regular one-way fare for one adult from Manila to the island province down south could go as low as ₱3,000 to ₱4,000. Try booking in December and you’d be lucky to find an all-in fare lower than ₱6,000.


Budgeting | Life | Personal Finance | Relationships & Family | Article | 5 Oct 2023

Why I’m Giving Money Instead of Gifts

Party on weekdays

Rush hour traffic in in Metro Manila is bad, but rush-hour traffic during the Christmas holidays turns from worse to even worse, particularly on Fridays and weekends, with commuting time doubling or tripling in length. This means more time spent on the road, higher taxi fares and fuel bills.

I used to take it as a given expense and the “reason” why I have my 13th month bonus, which in hindsight was not a financially savvy way to think. These days, as much as possible, I only organize or attend Christmas parties held on weekdays, preferably around lunch or in the afternoon. Other than the transportation savings, restaurant or venue rates tend to be cheaper during weekdays, so it’s a win-win situation.

Declutter your gift list

I used to have a long gift list, especially because I looked at my 13th-month pay as my holiday budget. As it seemed like I had extra money, I ended up buying more gifts than I can actually deliver in time for Christmas, such as buying a gift for an uncle who lives across the globe and presents for a friend that I won’t see until April next year. And sometimes these gifts would never get given to the intended recipients.

These days, I limit my gift list to only those who I am meeting or can actually receive my gift in time for Christmas. This has cut my list and how much I spend on gifts by almost half.

How i keep my 13th month pay intact: People in a pot luck gathering

Go for a potluck

After a number of Christmases, it’s normal to wonder – what gift is there that you can still give your friends other than those that you have already given them over the past couple of years? Maybe instead of a gift, treat them to lunch or dinner, or organize a potluck get-together. It might be a better way to reconnect with them rather than giving them bags or accessories that they might never even use.

And if you’re gathering together, you don’t need to spend a bomb on catering from a restaurant. Instead, consider doing a potluck. On Christmas Eve, we hold an annual family reunion in our ancestral home where more than a hundred of us in the clan get together to celebrate. We assign each family a dish they can bring that’s good for everyone to share so we can save on the costs. It’s not just cheaper, but every family gets to flex their kitchen speciality which adds a personal touch to the affair.


Life | Personal Stories | Relationships & Family | Comic | 24 Jan 2023

I Tried Showing Love With Expensive Gifts

Be creative with your gifting

Since I belong to a closely-knit clan, gifts are a given. But it is painful for the wallet if I gift everyone a personalized present – it’s a lesson I’ve learnt after years of trying, at the expense of my 13th-month pay. That is why recently, I resorted to fun games as a means of giving to my family. It could be a charade or spin a wheel, or any game that’s trending on social media or on television where either the smart or the lucky ones win anywhere between a ₱20 to ₱1000 bill.

It’s a collective family effort where everyone contributes a certain amount of money and this is used to fund the games, prizes, and even gifts. That way, everyone gets to bring something home.

Give gifts to the family unit

Another thing that I’ve done for the sake of my wallet is that instead of giving gifts to individual members, I now mostly give gifts to the entire family. This could be something for the home, a car accessory, a food package, or anything useful and communal. It’s not just better for my wallet, it’s also easier to keep track of how many gifts I need to buy as I don’t need to worry about the number of members each family has, just the number of families.


Budgeting | Personal Finance | Article | 6 Jan 2022

Where Did All My Money Go?

Upcycle your decor

When I was little, setting up the same Christmas tree and decorations was a yearly family tradition. And now that I have a family of my own, I want to carry on the tradition with a twist.

Instead of buying a new tree and decorations each year with my 13th month pay, we reuse the same set of décor – and there’s really nothing wrong with that. What we do each year to make it a bit special is to accentuate the decor with DIY pieces my son managed to come up with.  This way, we don’t spend unnecessarily on decorations we really only use once a year.

Celebrating the holidays doesn’t have to be costly so never let a budget dampen the spirit of the yuletide season. You also shouldn’t think of your 13th-month pay as a license to spend. That can (and should) go to your savings or your emergency fund instead. Plan early and make some adjustments to how you spend and you’ll be fine.

After all, the holidays will always be about the memories created and the love shared, never about the amount you’ve spent on the gifts and the parties you’ve thrown.