Pinoys’ Poor Money Habits

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I often say in my articles that Filipinos refuse to mend their ways. That includes not only their habits with Pinoy Pride, but also their habits with money. We attribute poverty in the country to many things.

But for me, one of the obvious things that people tend to gloss over is that Filipinos tend to keep themselves poor with poor money-managing habits. Filipinos tend to be careless with money, and often fail to use it in ways that generate wealth. They like to blame other reasons or other people for their poverty, but often, Filipinos refuse to admit their own mistakes.

I believe the poor money habits of Filipinos can be blamed on these reasons:

1. Wasteful habits have been ingrained into Filipino Culture as tradition and custom.

Most obvious of this is the Fiesta tradition, wherein Filipinos seem compelled to come out with grand feasts, even to the point of driving themselves into debt. Some people will reason that because of the relative poverty of Filipinos, they deserve a momentary escape out of this misery. The problem is, this very means of escape not only brings false happiness, but it may also further drive them into that poverty, as the means by which they make this escape are expensive. In other words, Filipinos tend to shoot themselves twice in the foot with their traditions.

There is also this Filipino cultural meme of one person treating people out. I’ll call it the En grandeng painom sa kanto (grand drinkout at the street corner). This is reflected in one thing I hated about Filipino birthdays, that the celebrator is the one to treat people. Quite the opposite of the western tradition that other people pool together to give something to the celebrator. Sometimes, I think this tradition was created to keep people poor. Some people may say, this is to teach people to share their blessings. However, I think it has the side effect of making people expect these “blessings” nearly every time, encouraging mendicancy.

It also reflects an attitude of “one-for-all,” as in one person provides for several people. It seems to be a fixture in Philippine society, like in the family, where one provides for all. This is different from the attitude of other cultures saying that it is better for each person work for their own keep. Don’t depend on others, and teach others to work. Unfortunately, it seems Filipino culture deems this wrong and seems to make it normal that many should depend on one. Making them work is even considered evil. This attitude also contributes to mendicancy.

2. Sense of Entitlement

Consumerism is furthered by the notorious “sense of entitlement” that seems so common in Filipinos. Some Filipinos, when they want something they don’t need, will just say, “I deserve it,” with no valid explanation on why. Sometimes, this sense of entitlement is played upon by media and advertising, which Filipino consumers swallow hook, line and sinker. Filipinos can want things that they not only can do without, but may actually be harmful for them.

I have noticed, especially among old people (those who were young in the 50s and 60s), that some Filipinos value opulence. A display of wealth. For example, I noticed my mom, when we had our house reconstructed, she wanted designs that looked extravagant or expensive. She frowned on the simple, minimalist designs that tended to be cheaper. I’ve seen several people of the older generation who were like that. It supports my feeling that consumerism and opulence were ingrained in people in the 1950s, when American consumerism started taking the world by storm.

Columnist and artist Marivic Rufino wrote on this attitude of opulence in her article Flaunt It . Even just her intro sentences tell a lot: “The status seeker, the bored, spoiled dilettante and the arriviste share common characteristics. They live and spend extravagantly — sometimes, beyond their means. Making an impression and attracting attention matter to these shallow characters. The adrenaline high derived from an audience is addicting (KSP is the root of all evil, remember?)” And, in the end, like all those who are wise, she says it is all meaningless and vain.

3. Emotionalism

Filipino emotionalism seems to play a large role in the above attitudes. Filipinos like to feel more than they think. Thinking is a task, it means having to work your brain. Many Filipinos do not like to work their brain; they just want comfort without working for it, which for some means to do nothing and receive dole-outs from others. This causes them to want the easy way, as business columnist John Mangun wrote of the tricycle drivers victimized by the Aman Futures scandal.

They also tend to get into the dig of a highly emotional promotion easily, as Marivic Rufino notes. Emotional extremes seem more attractive to Pinoys. Spending can give an emotional high, and some commercial promotions tend to take advantage of that. Or perhaps spending, then showing something that other people might be jealous of (“inggit”) gives them an emotional high. As Ms. Rufino would agree, it is empty.

We always hear the slogan, “live within your means”. It however seems that Filipinos are among the first to disregard this advice. It seems that living within one’s means is an insult to Filipinos – especially if they are poor. Most Filipinos still dream of opulent lifestyles, and feel that they deserve them.

With all this, perhaps I can add a fourth reason why Filipinos can have poor money habits.

4. Pride.

Ego. When a person wants to be the the center of attention because of wealth, this is pride at work. Pride remains the center of all wrongdoing. It can be the cause of corruption, since after all, after embezzling the money, they go on to buy opulent stuff. It can also be seen as the cause of the shallowness of Filipinos which in turn leads to poor money-making habits. Yes, greed can be part of it, but that greed is often because people want to be proud of something. It makes them covets the things that they feel can make them proud, build their ego, but they sometimes hurt people while trying to get them.

Proper money management is still a key to a better future.
Business columnist John Mangun identifies wealth building attitudes in one of his very useful articles. In the article, he describes a certain experiment where a homeless man is given some money. The man, instead of investing, does exactly what the above describes: treats out friends, buys expensive but useless stuff. He didn’t even buy a house. In the end, Mangun mentions that the man never had the right attitude toward money.

While Mangun talks of a positive kind of greed, I think that it just a desire to be non-poor, or rich without pride. Practical richness. Perhaps that is the attitude the Filipinos should emulate.

Now that Christmas is around the corner, the Filipino’s consumerist habits will again be at their high. But it’s also the best time for Filipinos to take a good look at their culture, and their habits, and think, what should I change? Perhaps it should start with pride.


About ChinoF

I stick with this blog because I believe, as my cohorts do, that many things Filipino embrace as part of their culture keep their society backward. And blogging freely to show that in a truly decent society, with true freedom of speech, even nobodies have a voice.

Post Author: ChinoF

I stick with this blog because I believe, as my cohorts do, that many things Filipino embrace as part of their culture keep their society backward. And blogging freely to show that in a truly decent society, with true freedom of speech, even nobodies have a voice.

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49 Comments on "Pinoys’ Poor Money Habits"

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Robert Haighton
In ref to the homeless guy and what he did, its very easy and very evident. He got the money for free, he didnt need to work for it. So he doesnt care. He only cares for getting through till the next day. People that work for their own money are more “conswervative” about spending their own money. Maybe you know people who got a big, huge inheritance. Maybe they saved it for a rainy day, maybe they spent it on luxury items for themselves. Same applies for people who win the jackpot/lottery. Most will spend it and not save… Read more »
Robert Haighton
How does it work: your parents die and the house and their bonds, shares, put options are yours. You didnt have to do enough for it. If you have money enough yourself, you will sell your parents house; you will sell the shares, bonds etc. Maybe you may keep the shares, stock, but you will sell the house bec you already live in your own house which you think is much nicer and bigger and more comfortable. And what to do with 2 houses anyway? Does it have sentimental value, emotional value? Can you afford to have 2 houses? As… Read more »
Aramis Alvarez

Here’s a novel thought for those middle-of-the-road-middle-class Pinoys that exhibit this type of behavior.

“The best thing you can do for poor people, especially your friends who are worse off than you?

If doing what you’re doing is making you head down that path, then maybe you ought to rethink your plan.

Cling Hillman

Amen to this! I now find somebody else who notices the opulence of the 50s and 60s generation. My parents belong to such a generation. Although financially struggling, I can’t really understand them when their opulent mindsets resurface.

It is unfortunate that most Pinoys have this mindset about money. They are shooting themselves on the foot without even knowing it. I think, similar to reproductive health, they should be taught more about money management through proper education. There is a tendency among Filipinos to think short-term instead of long-term even in business. In Chinese circles in the Philippines, it is a common observation that a lot of Pinoys in business want to “win” big as soon as possible. For example, a certain halo-halo store suddenly shot up in popularity because of their tasty delicacy. However, seeing his store… Read more »

Going down the other way, opposite that of the Filipino mindset, also brings about its own ruin. Even though we need to be more wary of our money, we shouldn’t be too frugal as to prioritize it above family and relationships, losing our compassion, and that is a problem in most first-world countries.

It’s up to personal interpretation which is the better of the two differing philosophies, but keep in mind, a delicate balance of those two opposite monetary mindsets is what seems to be the most ideal.


Based on most recent published study, Filipinos are the most emotional in the world. One proof, a Filipino movie is never complete without sampalan. A funeral is boring for spectators without loud cries and fainting. A wedding is bland without bubbles, confettis, doves, butterflies and the works.

Filipino culture is very baroque. Baroque art was the in-thing during the 17th century. The world has moved past this period, but not the Philippines.

Ariel Dumaran

I kinda agree that most pinoys lack financial planning with small or big resources.


Seems to me that some personal finance classes would be in order


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One faulty point, there is no such thing as positive greed. Greed is but an attitude construct that leads to being ungenerous.

I believe it would preferable that a person is “fiscally and financially adept” and being generous. I prefer a generous elite class who shares the EXCESSIVE fruits of labor while at the same time being a good manager in budgeting their finances.

If we could emulate such to the ordinary Filipinos, it may yield better results. BTW, you should add envy on the list.

Silka Papaya Tax Evasion

I don’t know if this has been taken up here, but the way I see it, the rich get richer because they essentially just tell the government what they’re going to pay in taxes.

The rest of the salaried population have no choice but to pay as a large chunk of their paycheck goes to taxes whether they want to or not.


hey author can you give me a nation or race that you would consider to have good money habits? so i can give you their credit card debts and see just how “good” they are? make an effort to answer now… because i think you’re singling out the pinoy for something that all peoples are guilty of:poor money habits


still waiting for that nation who has good money habits……. it will be a long wait

Bobby Tan

I have hopes for Filipinos…..the much younger and better educated filipinos who are more exposed will be better than their forebears.


[…] is compounded rather than solved. Add to that the poor money-handling habits of Filipinos, whether here on home soil, or […]


I have good money habits. I live below my means. I save money and invest wisely. I worked hard. Being an engineer and an MBA grad, I should have been rich by now. But I’m not… Why? I was in the Philippines!!! …Right now, I’m a nurse in US and an American citizen. Sometimes you have to be in the right place to be productive, whatever belief or values you may have… Philippines will not change in my generation… a civil war or revolution should take place first.

It gets bizarre in America. If I have to attend all the weekend birthday parties (I have at least 3 invitations per month), my yard work and my restroom cleaning schedule would be messed up. And $$$ adds up, if you know what I mean…so I keep it simple. When its my family’s special day, we’d go eat out, bother some of the kapuso and the kapamilya but not the whole neighborhood. I learned this weirdness when my Hispanic teacher, a single mom with three girls whined that she regretted throwing all those birthday parties and blowing a lot of… Read more »
The difference between people from richer countries and Philippines spending on luxury goods is their income vs the prices of those goods. In Singapore, a mobile phone costs 20% an average monthly salary. Same thing costs 5 months of an average pinoy’s salary. Having said that, however, life is not easy for Singaporeans, as cost of living is also equally high. However, what we do best here is our ability to prioritize our purchases. Most people here will invest in a dwelling place first before getting married. They make sure that they can feed their family before committing to establish… Read more »
Hi Author! I agree and understand what’s your point in your article. The thing is, there’s always someone who disagree because only less people can really analyze, realize and admit why is our country suffering.(Don’t get me wrong I knew there are lots of other issues, but poor money habits are one of the reasons) I agree because I am saying with these by my experience and saw the difference between other countries when it comes to how people spend their money and of course I expose myself to different culture not only in Asia. There is no perfect country… Read more »