With Christmas just around the corner and your 13th month bonus coming in a few days, make sure you spend your resources wisely. These valuable tips from two registered financial planners will help control your spending for the holiday season.
1. Don’t feel obligated to buy gifts if your budget is really tight. Alvin Tabañag, registered financial planner, founder and chief-trainer of Pinoy Smart Savers Learning Center, assures there’s no rule that says you have to give gifts to enjoy Christmas. Instead, give the gift of service. Donate to charity.
2. Volunteer your time, talent, and treasures to a service organization or charitable institution. “If you get exposed to the poverty and misery of others, you will probably learn to spend less,” reasons Tabañag. “Indulging in luxury will be more difficult when you are aware that others have almost nothing in life.”
3. Stick to a budget and observe reasonable amounts for gifts. You may want to forge an agreement with family and friends regarding “gift-giving policies” and ask everyone to follow them strictly. Or consider giving one gift to each family instead of giving every member a present. At the office, you may give one ‘group gift’ from your team or department to the boss.
Betty Dante-Aw, R.F.P., a licensed real estate broker, says she likes the idea of a Kris Kringle. “This saves us the trouble of shopping for loads of gifts. Plus, the recipient will surely receive a nice present because all attention has been focused on finding the perfect gift for him,” she says. “There is also the thrill of finding out what the person likes and keeping the recipient in suspense.”
4. Buy practical gifts. For example, if your kid needs a new bag for school, don’t get him a toy for Christmas. “Give him the bag. Otherwise, you’ll be spending twice—for the toy and the bag,” explains Tabañag. “Avoid buying gifts that will make you or the recipient spend more, such as toys that require batteries.”
On the other hand, if you don’t want the headache of shopping for a gift, Dante-Aw says an angpao or a red money envelope would always be appreciated, especially by young people. You can also give them shares of a blue chip stock which pays dividends, “Make them promise not to trade it and instead, keep it for when they really need it. Pray the price will go up. The dividends will serve as reminders of your thoughtfulness,” she affirms.
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5. You don't have to buy expensive gifts to impress. Choose simple, inexpensive ones. “It’s the thought that counts” is a saying that will always hold true. Consider making your own gift. It’s more personal, unique, and comes from the heart.
6. Make use of those corporate giveaways. Dante-Aw has a cabinet where she keeps all the freebies she accumulates throughout the year. “I raffle these off during the office Christmas party in addition to the corporate gifts and cash we give away.” This way, their employees find use for the items, she gets to de-clutter her home and, at the same time, put a more festive spirit to the occasion. “If there is enough to go around, I wrap some for the delivery boys together with some cash. This way, the little money we give them does not seem so little anymore and they get to have a souvenir from us.”
7. Buy affordable gift items throughout the year. “I love buying during sales anytime of the year,” confides Dante-Aw. “If I spot something I think someone would like, I buy it, keep it, and wrap it when Christmastime comes.” She also makes sure to place emphasis on gift wrapping. “Even if it’s just a simple gift, pretty wrapping makes it extra special - it shows that the giver put much thought into wrapping it.”
8. Consider recycling gifts. Dante-Aw mentions having a Christmas list stored in her computer where she lists down gifts she has given and received “so I would know what I have given a person or what I have received in return. I believe all gifts are given with the best of intentions. For gifts that I find no use for, I give them away.”
9. Find a store that offers a loyalty or discount card. Dante-Aw shares that she once bought all her Christmas presents in just one store to avail of its discount card. “This way, I enjoy discounts the whole year round.” She also recommends buying from a wholesaler to get good deals.
10. Give the gift of knowledge. A book is relatively inexpensive, and it’s one gift the recipient can open again and again. “A really good book can be life-changing,” says Tabañag, who authored Kaya Mo, Pinoy!, 12 Steps to Build Wealth on Any Income and 1,001 Ways to Reduce Expenses and Save Thousands.
11. Suggest potluck when planning a party. “It’s cheaper, healthier, and you get to taste other people’s home-cooked meals,” states Dante-Aw. She recommends pork barbecue (grilling on the spot brings on the festive spirit), fried rice (add chorizos, egg, and spring onions to make the dish colorful and more appetizing), and bihon guisado, to name a few. “Or visit Dampa, buy some fresh prawns, and have them cooked in garlic butter,” she says. “They can also cook other dishes that are cheaper than the usual restaurant fare. Or if you know a good cook, ask her for help.”
12. Make an inventory of the things you already have. Do this before shopping for holiday stuff. “Search high and low,” urges Tabañag. “There could be excess wrappers, gift tags, and even unsent gifts from last year, hiding somewhere.”
13. Get creative. Reuse ornaments you already have and learn to mix and match to create different looks. You’ll also save a lot by making your own.
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14. Don’t go overboard with the Christmas lights. “Decorative lights are expensive, consume a lot of electricity, and can cause fire,” warns Tabañag. “Christmas can be fun even without the bright lights. Simply being with loved ones makes the holidays enjoyable.” Dante-Aw adds that a home need not have Christmas lights to look festive. “Enjoy watching the lights in malls and hotels. A Christmas tree without lights will not make it any less a tree,” she encourages. “Just spruce it up with bright big balls.” Still yearn for lights? Dante-Aw advises to turn them on only when needed, “Such as when you have visitors, and on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.” She cautions not to leave them on overnight.
15. Invest in decor that can be used all-year-round. Two years ago, Dante-Aw bought pretty capiz lamps to serve as Christmas lights. “They now double as garden lights for our parties,” she says. She also proposes adding some hollies into your floral arrangements for that Christmas spirit. “I bought poinsettia plants. I hope to see the leaves turn red this coming Christmas.”
Tabañag reiterates the need to be money-savvy as the yuletide season should not be a reason to go overboard in your spending. In the end, “Memories of Christmas won’t be so merry when you’re left with a gaping hole in your pocket after the holidays,” he concludes.