Smart Spending: Filipino Finances in the Renewed Reality

How will Filipinos spend in the renewed reality? With many Filipinos’ incomes affected by COVID-19, Acumen’s insights indicate that Filipinos will continue to keep a close watch on their expenses but free up some leeway for non-essential spending.


For the majority of Filipinos, the COVID-19 outbreak in the Philippines has placed finances firmly in focus. According to a study by Global Web Index, 87% of Filipinos expect the COVID-19 outbreak to have a big or dramatic impact on their personal/household finances, +48pp from the global average of 39%. [i] This stark statistic is not entirely surprising given that unemployment in the Philippines reached 17.7% in April 2020 [ii] and, aside from job loss, 52% of Filipinos indicate that their jobs have been affected in some way, including pay cuts, reduced working hours, furlough, or deferred pay raises [iii].


Quarantine Cutbacks

To manage this strain on income, Filipinos have adopted multiple measures to manage their finances. 58% of Filipinos have used their savings to balance their budgets during the outbreak.[iv] In addition, 63% cut back on day-to-day expenses [v], reducing spending across all categories except groceries, at-home entertainment and telecommunication services [vi]. 92% of Filipinos also delayed big purchases [vii] and 60% looked for cheaper alternatives to regular products that they buy [viii].

As Filipinos transition out of quarantine, what can we expect of their finance management behaviors? Will these strict measures on their wallets persist?

Strategic Spending in the Renewed Reality

Interestingly, Filipinos will continue to keep a close eye on their budgets but they’re showing some flexibility in re-introducing spending on non-essentials. In general community quarantine and the renewed reality, Filipinos indicate that they will continue to drive down their day-to-day expenses, maintain or decrease spending across all categories vs. the quarantine period except for groceries, food delivery, at-home entertainment, and telecommunication services [ix]. They do, however, plan to complete big purchases that they’ve delayed because of the outbreak. 39% of Filipinos plan to complete a delayed purchase once the outbreak is over, prioritizing vacations/trips, clothes, and home appliances/devices [x].

In addition to big purchases, Filipinos also indicate a desire to spend on small indulgences, like snack treats or other products that make them feel that they’re caring for themselves in some small way during this period [xi]. Some Filipinos for instance, are now viewing treats like chocolate, sweets and other snack goods as essentials saying they’re critical, “For midnight snacking!” shared a single young adult, SEC B. Others plan to resume purchasing products like skin care and cosmetics because during quarantine the things they pulled back on buying were “personal care, such as make up, since food [was] the priority” shared an older working adult, with older kids, SEC C1.


What it means for businesses

Given this anticipated state of spending among Filipinos in the renewed reality, businesses catering to non-essentials need to craft their approach to capture Filipinos’ re-introduction of non-essential spending delicately. Messaging will be key as Filipinos test the boundaries of their wallets with trepidation. Flexibility will be a differentiator as Filipinos indicate a strong interest in accommodating solutions, like payment plans [xii], that make the cash outlay more manageable for their budgets.

In general, as consumers and businesses journey towards recovery, business will have to manage their relationship with consumers with agility, especially as the future remains uncertain and needs continuously shift to meet the moment.






Learn about Acumen Navigate’s solutions for re-connecting with consumers and building brand relevance by visiting this page.


Founded on proprietary research on Filipino consumers and businesses during the COVID pandemic, Acumen Navigate provides a suite of services anchored on a consumer-centric approach, helping businesses make informed bets and take keen action to recover and grow their business in this volatile and uncertain period.



[i] GWI Coronavirus Research | Multi-market research wave 4 (19-26 May 2020) [ii] “Employment Situation in April 2020,” Philippine Statistics Authority, 5 Jun 2020, https://psa.gov.ph/content/employment-situation-april-2020 [iii] GWI Coronavirus Research | Multi-market research wave 3 (22-27 Apr 2020) [iv] GWI Coronavirus Research | Multi-market research wave 4 (19-26 May 2020) [v] Ibid. [vi] McKinsey & Company COVID-19 Philippines Consumer Pulse Survey (17 Apr - 20 Apr 2020) [vii] GWI Coronavirus Research | Multi-market research wave 4 (19-26 May 2020) [viii] Ibid. [ix] McKinsey & Company COVID-19 Philippines Consumer Pulse Survey (17 Apr - 20 Apr 2020) [x] GWI Coronavirus Research | Multi-market research wave 4 (19-26 May 2020) [xi] Acumen Advancing for Business Recovery Study (Business Stakeholders and Consumer Research), May 2020 [xii] GWI Coronavirus Research | Multi-market research wave 3 (22-27 Apr 2020)

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