What a banker really thinks about the ₱50‑challenge

Cover art Erka Capili Inciong

Words by

Digital Reporter

Early this year, 22‑year‑old Yona Abella, a young girl who seems to be engaged in direct-selling, decided to treat all fifty-peso bills that come her way as “invisible.” By May, her red‑colored notes were worth ₱42,300.

Her post has amassed more than 116,000 likes and has been shared by nearly 40,000 users, prompting us to ask: With these saving schemes becoming appealing to people of different ages online, should we indeed start rolling our sleeves and take on the “challenge”?

So we asked a banker to weigh in.

To our surprise, Ruben Carlo Asuncion, who happens to be the chief economist of Union Bank Philippines, responded to our email with more than an explanation but also a confession:

“I am actually doing the fifty‑peso saving challenge now,” he wrote.

“I consider all my ₱50 bills as invisible now. I simply just tuck them away somewhere in a safe place and target to finish doing it by December,” he continued. “I do not have plans of buying anything with it or any lofty goals. I am happy when I achieve what I planned to do.”;

According to him, such saving patterns help people in developing self‑control and delaying gratification for higher and long‑term goals because “it entails sacrifice.”

“It means foregoing with the daily frappe and/or afternoon snack that one usually buys or consumes,” he said. “Sacrifice itself is not supposed to be considered a disadvantage because it is a training of the mind and heart to forego momentary pleasure or gratification for a loftier goal like setting aside money for purchasing a first car or saving for equity to buy a house or condo unit.”

However, he noted that doing so may not work for all people. “Some may be comfortable with doing other ways like simply putting aside 20% of their income as savings,” he told SparkUp. “As long as it works for a particular person, then, go for it and keep at it.”

Art Erka Capili Inciong

According to him, those who do not want to jump on this bandwagon can never go wrong with traditional means of saving money.

“One can still go the traditional way of setting aside money via pass‑book only accounts. By this, one can only access funds via withdrawal over the counter which can deter one from readily accessing the account versus an account with an ATM card,” he said. “Another is the traditional “bamboo” way or the “piggy bank” way. There are many other ways to save aside from the trending ones.”

For people opting to start saving money, especially the young ones, Mr. Asuncion said they should do so “one day at a time.”

What makes the ₱50‑challenge an ideal place to start? It’s a small step.

“Decide that you will save and just do it,” he advises. “Don’t do big steps where you end up just frustrated and discouraged after all the effort. Start small and then move to bigger ones.”