Tips to save on holiday spending

This was originally published on Monday, October 13, 2015, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Thank goodness the holidays only come around once a year. Many people find themselves overspending during the holidays. Overspending can put you and your financial health in jeopardy. This year, start planning early and save some money.

Kids’ expectations. We always want to get our loved ones that perfect gift, especially when it comes to kids. Children usually will give you their wish list that is quite extensive. Have them review the list and pick their top five choices and which is their No. 1 choice. This can help curb their expectations and reduce the disappointments of not getting what they want.

Simple decor. When we think of the holidays, we could think of the halls decked in extravagant decorations straight out of a Hollywood movie. If you want to upgrade your theme indoors, try doing an exchange of decoration between family and friends.

Reduce power costs. Dressing your house can be quite expensive, not to mention the power used to light the strands of festive bulbs. Have you seen the movie “Deck The Halls” with Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick? If possible, retire the old strands of light that are less efficient and replace them with new LED models. LED lights burn brighter, longer and are cool to the touch. If you are lighting up your outdoors, you can purchase outside rated timers that can turn your lights on and off at certain times. This will help manage how much power you use, especially if you don’t need your holiday decor on all night.

Holiday party. You do not have to be a Scrooge and forgo hosting a holiday party. Make your party a potluck where friends and family bring their favorite holiday dishes. Or try a progressive dinner, a social occasion where the different courses of a meal are eaten at a different house. This gives everyone the opportunity to host and show off their decorations.

Free entertainment. The holidays are never short on free entertainment. Drive around the neighborhood viewing the lights, go to the mall to watch dancers and choirs sing, or watch a holiday program and curl up with some hot cocoa and popcorn. Several places have trains and holiday decorations set up for the public.

Give back. Nothing is more satisfying than giving back to those less fortunate during the holidays. You can donate old toys or clothing, canned goods, or your time. There are many nonprofit organizations that help bring holiday cheer to those who are less fortunate.

Start saving. Why wait till next year? Start today. Look for banks that offer a Christmas club account. These usually tend to have higher interest rates and limit when you can withdraw from them. You can set up an automatic direct deposit to the account so it’s out of sight out of mind. Check the balance of the account regularly to see if you are close to making your goal. Next holiday season will be a lot less demanding on your wallet.

After-Christmas sales. Once Christmas is over, stores start planning for the next big holiday. This means huge savings to those who are smart. Stores put candles, wreaths, wrapping paper, bows, ribbons, and other holiday supplies on sale. Stock up on your holiday items today for next Christmas.

Most importantly, remember what the season means. It is not about material things but the memories that are created. Veer away from impulsive buying and trying to keep up with the neighbors.

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 moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.

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