Money & Me: Filipino radio presenter tuned in to smart habits in Dubai

Louie da Costa started her car­eer as a radio presenter with 104.4 Virgin Radio before launching the first Filipino station in the UAE, Tag 91.1, in 2013. The 32-year-old, from the Philippines, hosts the breakfast show, Gandang Umaga, every weekday morning from 5am to 10am, and Bandang Hapon from 2pm to 5pm on weekends. The Dubai resident has lived in the UAE for 16 years and has a daughter, 10, and a four-year-old son.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

I grew up watching my parents budget their salaries each month. My mum was mostly in charge of finances, but both parents would sit down and discuss it together. My dad had these beautiful leather journals where he’d write every single daily expense, so I somehow learnt that money has to be valued and spent wisely. My parents were never tight-fisted because they would often give or lend to those in need, especially family, which made me realise that money is simply a means to an end. Be smart with this “tool” and you can enjoy life after all the hard work and still have something for a rainy day. Be foolish and forget to budget, then you’ll have a problem.

How much did you get paid for your first job?

I was a radio traffic reporter, earning about 10,000 Philippine Pesos a month … that’s less than Dh1,000.

Are you spender or saver?

A bit of both. I make sure there’s money set aside for the future and emergencies, but at the same time I want to enjoy life with my family.

What is your most cherished purchase?

An entire family holiday to the Philippines in December 2014 worth Dh37,000. After our youngest was born, there were so many things to prioritise when it came to budgeting, meaning family trips were put on hold. Then we decided it was time for the whole family to meet our little guy. We put money aside every month for a year.

Have you ever had a month where you feared you could you not pay the bills?

I think every couple has been there. There were those transitional months when switching jobs or when my husband first decided to become an entrepreneur in January 2014, launching his events company Digital Creations. As with any start-up company, the initial months were tough.

Do you prefer paying by credit card or in cash?

I often pay by credit card simply because I don’t like carrying too much cash, just in case I lose my wallet. The problem with using a card is the tendency to lose track of expenses.

What has been your best investment?

I’d always wanted to invest in stocks, bonds or mutual funds but lacked the know-how and the time to do the research and monitoring. So a financial adviser helped us invest through a trusted asset management company. That way we have div­ersified investments that we don’t have to strictly monitor ourselves.

What do you most regret spending money on?

Online shopping. You can’t ­really check the quality and fit of your purchase and it’s so easy to just keep clicking “add to cart” when something looks good in the pictures. At US$200, thankfully it wasn’t too much of a waste.

What financial advice would you offer your younger self?

Save for two things: one, your future – when you’ve got a family and things get a little shaky, you will look back and think of all the money you wasted. Two, to see the world. Travel while you’re young, without little ones to worry about and miss if you go on a trip without them.

If you won Dh1 million, what would you do with it?

First I’d pay off the car, remaining credit card bills and some properties we’ve invested in. Then I’d invest some more and give to family of course. Then I’d save a little for a trip to Disneyland with the kids and then, finally, fulfil my dream to open a shelter for the homeless back in the Philippines.

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