This was originally published on Monday, December 2, 2013, in the Pacific Daily News. Click here to subscribe to the PDN.
Throughout the year I have written several articles about holiday financial tips. This is a perfect time to review a few of my past tips and discuss some new ones.
• Creating a budget is the most useful tool to avoid taking on debt. Decide how much you want to spend. Include gifts, travel, parties, decorations and any other expenses. If you have specific gifts in mind, compare prices and which deal is worth the savings, and your time.
• Go high-tech if you are comfortable with technology. There are several apps that can help with holiday shopping. Most will keep track of your spending and how much of your budget you are using. If your list is always with you on your phone, you are less likely to stray away from it. Consider creating a spreadsheet. You tend to spend less if you can see how much you are spending.
• Avoid impulse purchases. One rule is to walk around a bit before purchasing and think if you really want or need this. In most situations, by the time you’re ready to check out you may have decided that you really don’t need it. If you still can’t decide, walk away and sleep on it. If you still feel that the item is something you must have, then go back and purchase it. Don’t feel overwhelmed by sales clerks pressuring you into buying. If you stay on budget, you will be thankful later.
• Use cash, not credit. You can track how much you spend more efficiently by using money. Late or partial credit card payments can cost you more money through fees and interest.
• Shipping costs add up, whether you are shipping it off or purchasing it online. Some companies consider Guam an international destination. Try asking if a friend or family member back in the states can receive the gift and send it postal mail. Shipping by courier can cost more than the gift itself.
• Holiday utilities can be extra costly, especially if children are home using power-consuming devices, which are usually turned off during the day. Extra cooking and baking for holiday festivities add up along with holiday lighting. Consider buying LED (light-emitting diode) lights to save energy and money. They also burn much cooler than traditional lights reducing heat in your home.
• Food safety can save on your holiday expenses. Party foods are usually left out for long periods of time that can cause food to spoil. Throwing away good food and an unplanned trip to the emergency room can be a budget-breaker and ruin your holidays. Leftovers can extend your food budget. Freeze or go online and find creative ways to use leftovers. For more food safety tips, go tohttp://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/events/holidays/.
• Be creative; not all gifts have to come from the store. Look online for ways to create inexpensive personalized gifts.
• Holiday employment is a great way to earn a little extra cash during the holidays.
• The gift of helping may not be exactly a way to save money, but it sure can help you enjoy the spirit of the holidays. Volunteer to help with the less fortunate with family and friends.
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 email@example.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.