Take the stress out of holiday shopping with limits, lists

This was originally published on Monday, October 6, 2014, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

It is hard to believe that the holidays are just around the corner. Hopefully throughout the year, you were able to tuck some money aside to help ease the potential stress of holiday shopping. If not, it is not too late to start planning for the approaching season.

Set your limits. Think about how much you want to spend. What you want to spend may not be a realistic goal. How much you can afford after paying your bills should dictate your spending limit. Sit down and plan out what you can afford, then create your holiday budget. In your budget, be sure to include the small items, such as wrapping paper, mailing/shipping expenses and holiday cards. They may not seem like much on their own, but they do add up.

Keep track of what you are spending. Don’t let the time of year, stores and commercials play on your emotions. Try not to give in. Be sensible. You will feel much better about your decisions once you start off the New Year without breaking the bank.

To gift or not to gift. Not everyone on your list needs a store-bought gift. Explore your creativity and make homemade gifts. If you have a talent such as baking, cooking or painting, use it to create gifts from the heart. There are many websites that have tutorials or ideas to create the perfect gift. A small personal gift is worth more than a large expensive gift on any given day.

Stick to the list. Once you decide who you will be shopping for, do not stray from that list. Impulse purchases, no matter how small, eventually will add up. Unless your list calls for double of that item, stay away from the “buy one get one half off” deals. These deals are meant to get the consumer to spend a little more.

The gift of you. You could be the best holiday gift. Going home for the holidays or helping around the house could be the best gift. Create an IOU to help paint the house, do some landscaping, or to wash a car. If you can’t travel off island for the holidays, send pictures or a calling card. Instead of a holiday party, throw a volunteer holiday party. Gather your family and friends and spend some time volunteering at an organization that could use your manpower and time.

Compare and save. Plan ahead and be on the lookout for some wonderful holiday savings. It can be a bit overwhelming, but take some time to go through newspaper circulars or online deals. Doing so can save you a substantial amount of money. Online, you can look for coupon codes that you can use for online stores. Sometimes, if your online total reaches a certain amount, you could also get shipping and handling for free. If you are baking or cooking gifts, look for coupons for the ingredients to help keep the cost of giving down.

Enjoy the season. Being thrifty is not being a scrooge. The holidays are not about gift buying but creating memories. If you are hosting a party, don’t be afraid to make it a potluck party. Continue with your routine exercises. Walking, jogging and other physical activities help reduce stress.

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 at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.

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