This was originally published on Monday, October 13, 2014, in the Pacific Daily News. Click here to subscribe to the PDN.
Holiday shopping can cause a lot of tension and anxiety. The music, decorations, lights, smells and hurried pace can cause any sensible shopper to be tempted to buy, buy, buy. This emotional shopping can be detrimental to your budget. Studies show that far too many customers pay for their holiday sprees far beyond six months. So how do we control the temptation to spend? Here are a few tips:
• The time of day. If possible do your shopping during the early morning hours of the day through lunch time. This is when you are well-rested. Eat a sensible meal that will fulfill you until the time you return home. If you shop later in the day, you are most likely already tired, and the stress of the day is starting to wear on you. At that point, you will make rash decisions just to get out of the store.
Shopping on an empty stomach creates more aggravation to an already stressful situation. Of course, to satisfy the hunger immediately, we purchase food which most likely was not factored into our budget.
If possible do your shopping while family members are carrying on with their daily routine such as school or work. This will lessen the distractions and curb the temptation of impulse buying to satisfy a cranky child. Besides, most people do their shopping later in the day and the stores are much more crowded.
• Shop early. If you can plan and finish your shopping before the holiday rush, you may be able to enjoy the holidays a little more. A friend of mine purchases Christmas gifts all year round. Doing so spreads out her purchases and she does not feel so overwhelmed. If you aren’t as organized to plan shopping for the holidays so far in advance, some experts say the best time to shop is between Oct. 1 and Dec. 1.
• Use cash. If possible use cash to make your purchases. It is very easy to go over your budget when you do not see the money actually leaving. According to the Consumer Credit Counseling Service, people spend a third more when they make purchases with a credit card.
If you do use your credit card keep track of your purchases in a small notebook that you keep with you so you always know how much you have spent.
Many stores have in-house credit cards that help you save money when you make purchases with them. Be very careful. Although it may reduce your initial purchase by a certain percent, you may be paying over that percentage on interest. If you do use an in-store credit card, pay it off when you get the first bill so that you can take complete advantage of the discount.
• Snail mail. If you send your family’s yearly updates by mail, don’t forget to factor postage or shipping into your budget. The costs of sending out holiday greeting cards go up almost every year. So does the cost of shipping packages off island to love ones. There are websites in which you can send an e-card for little to no money. Just remember that some of your relatives, especially the older ones, may not have email accounts. Send your packages out in enough time so that you are not paying for the most expensive delivery method to get the gift there on time.
The holidays do not have to be stressful. Create a reasonable budget, set your spending limit and stay within your budget.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.