One of the greatest mysteries in life is this: where did all my salary go? It is this one question that perennially comes up just a few days after you receive your paycheck. And for how many years have you had this predicament? It seems like the more you earn, the less you save.

And then you blame the rent. Monthly rental is among the most convenient excuses when you can’t seem to live within your means. But the truth is, there are smart ways on how to live frugally in Manila; you just have to be willing to make some adjustments. You can live in a condo and still manage to save up if you only have the will to do so. You can enjoy resort-style condo living by renting in the best condo in Manila, and still manage to start some investments.

From one condo renter to another, here are easy and doable frugal living tricks for you.

Pack your lunch

Sure, you are going to get some weird stares. Co-workers will look at you as if it is a crime to bring lunch to work. Celine, a BPO employee in Makati, recounts how one officemate taunted her when she brought her lunch at work: “Nagtitipid ka?”

Sadly, packed lunch or “baon” in the Filipino setting is synonymous with being broke. But cheer up because you know better than that. And besides, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with trying to spend less and save more. In fact, go ahead and tell everyone you are cutting down your expenses for something more meaningful. Food in business districts can be ridiculously overpriced, so if you have time, prepare your own lunch. At least you know what’s in them and that they are way healthier.

Make your own coffee

Seriously? P150 for a cup of joe? Face it: it is not worth it even if it comes with a planner. One of the best ways to spend less is by making your own coffee. Buy a French press and brew your own. Copywriter Angie learned this the hard way. “I did not realize I was spending P3,000 on coffee alone. That’s double my electric bill,” she said. The money you spend on coffee can be used to pay your bills such as association dues for your condo. Now, that’s money well spent.

Dine in more

frugal living dine in more

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When you live in a condo, you are typically surrounded by restaurants and fast food chains. This is among the come-ons of condos for rent: their location is truly supreme. But ask condo renters everywhere and they will tell you how much they miss mom’s adobo and how they crave for “lutong bahay.” So, why not cook? You can turn to YouTube for cooking instructions. And after you realize that you are capable of preparing something edible, you will feel so fulfilled. Trust us on this.

Don’t swipe that credit card

frugal living dine in more

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Twenty-five-year-old Paul applied for a credit card just to get the new iPhone. After all, it’s 12-months installment with zero interest. Quite a steal right? No. Live by this rule: If you need a loan to get something, you can’t afford it. Paul, just like many others, defaulted on his payments and while he can’t even pay the iPhone, he kept using the card for the most ordinary purchases: a meal, groceries, movie or a cup of coffee. Before he knew it, he has maxed out his credit and now sets aside a significant chunk of his salary to pay off his credit card debt. You don’t want this life stressor, do you? So stay away from bad debt.

Think twice about that “piso fare”

frugal living think twice about piso fare

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Okay, who doesn’t get excited over promo fares? After all, how often can you chance upon a P4,000 roundtrip ticket to Boracay or Hong Kong? But if you are serious about following saving tips, you have to think about booking too many flights just because they’re cheap. The reality is you have to book a hotel, arrange tours, have some pocket money, and buy souvenirs or “pasalubong.” There are a lot of “hidden charges” so to speak. So if you must travel, you have to plan it really well. As much as possible, do not look at your savings for funding, you must start a travel fund months before the trip.

Staycations instead of vacations

frugal living staycation instead of vacation

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The best thing about condo living is you have pleasant vacations without ever leaving your room. Jackie lives in La Verti Residences, a condo for rent in Pasay. After she committed to start a savings account of her own, she decided to spend more weekends at home. After all, a modern-tropical community sure feels like spending a weekend out of town. Take advantage of your condo’s amenities or be creative with your weekend activities to have the best staycation ever.

Walk or bike to work

The primary reason people choose to live in condos is because most condominiums are close to work. They save on gas and commute time. They get to escape traffic. So why not maximize this proximity? Eric, who lives in Flair Towers for rent have been biking to work for over a year now. It only takes him 30 minutes to get from Mandaluyong to Ortigas. Apart from savings, biking (or even walking) to work is healthy. It’s even hip and cool; so get on that bike now.

Change your “reward” perspective

frugal living change your rewards perspective

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“It’s been a long day. I deserve new shoes.” Don’t we always make this excuse when we just really want a new pair? Stop telling yourself you have to be rewarded for doing what you’re supposed to do, like working hard. Why not reward yourself by putting aside money for savings?

Cancel the gym membership

frugal living cancel the gym membership

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When was the last time you went out of your way to go to the gym and used your overpriced membership? Did you sign up for classes too? The advantage of living in a condo is most of them have indoor fitness gyms, which you can access for a minimal fee. If you’re lucky, you can have an extended gym with a great outdoor view. For example, Tivoli Garden Residences offers more than just a typical gym but also features a play court and landscaped areas for morning walks.

Use resources creatively

frugal living use resources creatively

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If you assess your lifestyle, you will realize that you are spending too much for unnecessary pleasures. An example is the Internet connection. If you have data on your phone, what do you need Wi-Fi for? Also, print what you need in the office so you don’t have to get a printer. And do you even watch cable TV? How about the shower heater? Instead of buying a car and applying for a loan, why not inquire with your office if they offer shuttle service or if you can carpool with co-workers.

Live simply and minimally

No one is asking you live like a Japanese with only a bed in a room. But if you are trying to find creative ways on how to live frugally in Manila, you might want to look at minimalist designs. After all, it is not a trend in condo living for nothing. By living simply, you become more responsible with your purchases.

Grow some herbs

frugal living grow some herbs

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Gianne loves to work in the kitchen. She loves to whip up a good meal for her family. “Spices cost a lot. Even those greens you use for flavor or plating can be pricey. So I turned to the Internet for help and found out that starting an indoor garden is really easy,” she said. You can start with an herb garden in your kitchen. It doesn’t take floor space and it makes your condo look more alive.

Power of DIY

frugal living power of DIY

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Yes, that baking soda actually cleans surfaces. Those lemon peels actually smell nice. Do not underestimate DIY hacks because they are great saving tips for everyone. Make your own cleaning solution, home fragrance or even your beauty paraphernalia such as lip balm or body scrub.

Water therapy

frugal living water therapy

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Fitness experts always tell you to drink lots of water. It has numerous benefits—from keeping you hydrated to helping you function productively throughout the day. So instead of juices, soda or coffee, why not drink more water? It is not only a healthy decision, but also an economical one.

Use less of everything

frugal living use less of everything

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Toothpaste shouldn’t fill the entire brush. You don’t need to fill your whole palm with shampoo when taking a bath. Just a drop of that dish detergent is enough to make the sponge bubbly and effective. Try to use less of ordinary items around the house and you will be saving a great deal.

Frugal living doesn’t mean you have to go extreme. You just have to be more responsible. Make a commitment to live not just within but below your means and save up for more meaningful investments.