For less stressful holidays, start preparing your finances now

This was originally published on Monday, July 18 ,2016 in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Christmas in July? Ho, ho, ho!

Can you believe that 2016 is more than halfway through? Soon the holidays will be here. How prepared will you be? For many, the holidays are a fun time of the year. For others, the holidays heighten anxiety levels because of the cost. Preparing now can help bring down that anxiety and get you in the holiday spirit.

  • Naughty or nice list. Start thinking about to whom you want to give a gift. How much are you willing to spend? From there, start creating a budget. How much can you spend without starting next year further in debt? Take a look at what you spent last year and compare that to what you think you will need this year. Don’t forget to include in your budget holiday food, decorations, clothing, and party necessities. You may also want to factor in the spike in your power bill and gasoline budget.
  • Start saving now. Since you planned your budget you now know how much you need to save. Decide how you want to save your money. Would you prefer to save it in a separate savings account, in a jar, or in a time certificate? Store your savings in some place that is a bit difficult for you to access so you can’t use it on every temptation.
  • To gift or not to gift. Not everyone needs a store-bought gift. As we get older our social network grows and that can put a hurt on our budget. Think of ways to say “I appreciate your friendship” other than store-bought gifts. Find gifts that come from the heart and not the pocket. There are many websites and apps that are dedicated to creating homemade gifts and affordable prices.
  • Start buying early. Start shopping now for those gifts you intend to buy. Shops are less busy before the big holiday rush and you will feel less pressure. Leave yourself plenty of time to compare prices and think about purchases. Your shopping will go a bit easier when you are not pressured.
  • Be careful of holiday credit. In-store credit may look tempting but store credit cards charge much more interest than the traditional credit cards. Sometimes they will offer you nice savings on your first purchase making it much more tempting. If you do give in, pay that card off in full with the money you budgeted. Don’t think of it as extra income that has freed up your money for other uses.
  • Use cash if possible. It is easy to lose track on how much you spent when you swipe your card. By using cash you can see just how much you spend. Do be careful and keep it safe. Do not go around flashing wads of money around. You will make yourself a target.
  • Keep safe. Although the holidays are a time of cheer, there are some that think of the holidays as a way to take advantage of those shoppers who are completely involved in their holiday shopping. Park your car in well-lit parking areas. If possible, shop with a buddy. Keep an eye on your purse/wallet. Be sure you always get a receipt. If you do use a credit card, never let the sales associate walk out of sight with it. Be aware of your surroundings, especially at an ATM. Keep your home well lit and safe as well. Following these safety tips can spare you heartache of being a victim of theft.

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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