Enjoy the holidays without financial anxieties

This was originally published on Monday, August 26, 2013, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

The holidays bring about great memories, time with family and the dreaded financial stress. You don’t have to go into financial distress to show you care. By starting early, you can enjoy the holidays without the anxiety.

• Use cash not credit. Try your hardest not to use your credit card to buy holiday items. When you use your credit cards, you tend to lose track of how much you have spent. Besides, if you do not pay off your balance right away, those Christmas gifts could end up costing you twice as much.

Many stores offer savings at the register if you use their in-store credit cards. Keep in mind that these cards usually carry a very high interest rate. If the promotional discount is worth it, use the card then go directly to customer service and pay off the balance with the cash you would have used to purchase the items.

• Combine the cost. If you have a large family or group of friends, think about drawing names and create a spending cap. Everyone will receive a gift, but you will only have to buy one. Others in your group will appreciate the money-saving idea.

• Shop online. Shopping online makes it easy to compare prices —- it saves fuel, you can shop at home versus a crowded store and it helps reduce temptation of impulse buying. Be sure you have enough money in your checking account to pay off the balance right away.

• Use layaway. If the store you are shopping at has a layaway program, consider using it. If you start early, you can put a little toward your gifts each month. Plus, it is a great way to hide gifts from snooping family members.

• Big holiday sales. Be careful of those big holiday sales that offer buy-one-get-the-other-half-off deals. If you don’t need the second or third item, then don’t purchase it. It is a marketing tool to get you to spend more than what you really were planning on spending.

• Don’t forget the extras. When creating your budget, don’t forget to include the other areas of holiday spending, not just the gifts. Decide how much you plan on spending on decorations, holiday foods, parties, shipping expenses, your Christmas party dress or outfit, and fuel. Let’s not forget to include the spike in your power from holiday lights and cooking.

• Entertain on a budget. Look for community events that are free, such as tree-lighting or caroling. If you are throwing a party, make it a potluck. Maybe even make it a competition by voting for the best dish, with the winner walking away with a nice gift. Look online for creative games for gift-exchanging or games that keep the holiday cheer going.

• Remember the season. Do you remember your parents saying it is better to give than to receive? What better time to give to your community. There are many organizations that are in need of your skills and time. Make it a family event and feel the spirit if the season.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog atwww.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com

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