Making the Most of Your Holiday Budget

Holiday money in a jarThe holidays are a wonderful time to celebrate with your loved ones. But unless you manage your festivities and gift-giving carefully, it’s easy to fall victim to the temptation to overspend on presents and cheer. The best way to avoid overindulgence is by doing a little planning so you know how much you have to spend.

Here are some tips:

Set a realistic budget
Keep your overall financial picture in mind when you set your holiday budget. Set a dollar limit for how much you want to spend in total, not only on gifts, but also other categories of expenses such as holiday travel, entertainment, food and drink, and even decorations and wrapping paper.

Add up all the categories, and, if the total is too high, you can tweak your numbers or cut back in areas that are less important to you. For example, you might forgo restaurant meals for a certain time to afford those expensive Star Wars toys. By making choices, you won’t find yourself ringing in the New Year with a new pile of credit card debt.

October is generally the month when Christmas Club account holders can begin to take penalty-free withdrawals in preparation for holiday shopping. These dedicated short-term savings accounts are a tradition that became popular during the Great Depression, and they are a great way to sock a little away each month throughout the year. Credit unions like Hawaiian Tel Federal Credit Union offer free Christmas Savings share accounts that pay the same dividends as regular share accounts.

Try a holiday budgeting app
Use your smartphone to manage your holiday shopping list and keep tabs on your budget. Popular free apps like Santa’s Bag for iPhone, and Christmas Gift List for Android are highly rated by app store users. They provide a handy way to create a gift budget for each person on your list and check off presents as you buy them. They also create an archived record that you’ll be able to refer to next year.


Research prices online
Instead of trudging through the mall or driving to many brick-and-mortar stores, save gas money by shopping online for the gifts you plan to buy. Check for discount codes on savings websites like RetailMeNot and You can often find significant savings on toys, clothing and even holiday food items for parties. For online orders, allow plenty of time for delivery. In previous years, many websites were overburdened with holiday orders, and some deliveries were delayed until after Christmas.

Don’t pay for postage
With the cost of first-class package delivery up over 5% in 2015, sending gifts to friends and family can be more costly than ever. One way around this expense is to take advantage of online shopping websites that offer free shipping. If you have an Amazon Prime membership, you’re also eligible for free shipping.

So if your nephew is dying to get that Munchkin board game for Christmas, make your purchase online and send it to him directly, instead of buying it at the local toy store, gift-wrapping it at home and mailing it at the post office.

For smarter spending around the holidays, refer to your budget often as you make your way through your gift list. If you do splurge on one present, find another area where you can cut back to stay on track. Then you’ll be able to enjoy the holidays without worry.

Jeanne Lee, NerdWallet
© Copyright 2015 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Veterans Day

Every year, on November 11, the American people honor all those who served in the military, past, present, and future.  Veterans Day is a national holiday that was originally created during the end of World War I when an armistice took effect between the Allies and Germany on November 11.  From that day on, November 11 was known as Armistice Day–a day to remember veterans from World War I.

It was during World War II that the name was changed to Veterans Day to honor vets of all wars.

Veterans Day is celebrated every year, and here in Hawaii, we have our own way of celebrating those who serve.  The Wahiawa Veterans Day Parade is a huge event that attracts hundreds of spectators.
2015 Veterans Day Parade 2015 Veterans Day Parade

This year’s parade featured many different groups, including local veterans who served in WWII,  Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East.


Multiple bands came out to perform, including the Royal Hawaiian band and Schofield Barracks’ very own 25th Infantry Division Tropic Lightning Band.  They filled the streets with uplifting, patriotic music that left us all with a sense of pride and motivation.



Schools from all over the state also showed their support through their marching bands, JROTCs, and other school associations.



Even the girl scouts and boy scouts were seen proudly marching in the parade as well as many other different groups.

All in all, the parade was a great way to show appreciation for all of our men and women in uniform.  It was very humbling to see people from all over the state come together to show support.

For those of you in service, past and present, Happy Veterans Day and thank you for all that you do!

Volunteering at the Les Murakami Stadium

This past Saturday, October 17, HiTel FCU employees had the opportunity to volunteer at University of Hawaii’s Les Murakami Stadium to help with renovations.  Armed with brushes, rollers, and green paint, we broke into groups and were tasked with painting the dugouts and sprucing up the stands.


It was a bright and sunny day for the most part, but a few showers caused the newly painted walls to run!  Despite the rain, we persevered and continued to paint and retouch the areas that got wet.

After a daunting 4 hours, we completed our share of the stadium renovations and were rewarded with pizza and refreshments.  The UH baseball coach and the team were even there to join us and thanked us for our efforts.

This was the first time that HiTel FCU volunteered at the stadium and it was time well spent.  It was a fun, new experience for our employees, and with ICU Day having just passed, it was a great reminder of who we are and what we do – we are people helping people make their dreams come true.

Mahalo to everyone who came out to volunteer!

P1020604 P1020605

5 Tricks to Help You Pay Off Your Credit Cards Every Month

iStock_000016074423_LargeResponsibly managing credit card accounts is an excellent way to build and maintain a good credit score — just as charging more than you can afford to pay off is a surefire way to hurt your credit score.

If you’re looking to protect your credit, follow these five tricks to ensure you pay off your credit cards each and every month.

1. Don’t settle for the minimum

If it’s within your financial means, don’t simply make the minimum payment each month. Sure, paying the minimum is all you’re required to do, but don’t stop there. Make a habit of paying off the entire balance. When you don’t carry debt month to month, you don’t pay interest.

2. Treat a credit card like a debit card

It may seem obvious, but it bears repeating: Don’t use your credit cards to spend more than you can afford. If you’re having a difficult time with this, try treating your credit card as if it’s a debit card. Don’t swipe any plastic unless you know you already have the money in your bank account. This mindset may help prevent costly impulse buys.

3. Set up automatic payments

If your credit card payment problems are more about organization than spending, set up automatic payments. The amount you owe will be deducted from your bank account each month, without any action on your part, so you’ll avoid that last-minute stress of getting your payment in on time. Just ensure you have sufficient funds in your account to cover the payments without incurring overdraft fees.

4. Remind yourself

If you don’t think you’ll remember to pay on your own and you’d rather not use automatic payments, there’s a third option: text, email or other push notifications from your credit card provider. This can include balance, payment and/or statement notifications. Of course, you don’t have to wait for such a reminder. Act as your own notification system and pay off your credit card after every purchase you make (or at least more often than once a month). Paying it off quickly may be the best tracking system, and if you know you’ll need to pay right away, you may be discouraged from charging too much in the first place.

5. Keep your balance low

Finally, if you maintain a low credit card balance, it’ll be much easier to pay off. You don’t want to stop using your card entirely—after all, credit card use is essential to building credit. Instead, set aside your credit card for certain purchases (online transactions only, for example).

Limiting your purchases — as opposed to putting everything on your card — will not only leave you with less to pay off at the end of the billing cycle, it will also mean you’ll be using a smaller portion of your total credit limit. Keeping your credit utilization ratio low can boost your credit score.

© Copyright 2015 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

A Lesson from Rachel Pross

iStock_000075063043_LargeSometimes we are so caught up with work, we forget to just sit back and enjoy life.  For those of us with children, it is sometimes hard to find a balance with working and spending ample time with family.

I recently came across an article written by Rachel Pross about one of her personal experiences regarding her outlook on life, fittingly entitled “How an Awkward Middle Kid and a Super Blood Moon Changed My Outlook”.

In her article, she talks about her son, who is going through his awkward teenage phase and is fascinated by the blood red super moon that came out a couple weekends ago.  Although the family initially all stood out in their yard to watch the moon, they soon started to disperse back into the house…except for her middle child who was still looking into the telescope.  Pross heads back out to accompany her son, and he simply turns to her and says, “this is really something, isn’t it, mom?”

Those words alone put everything in perspective for Pross as she silently studied her son.  She learned to appreciate that moment with her son and appreciated his innocent wisdom and fascination of the universe.

Her article is a great reminder for us to appreciate our children and the little things in life that we may overlook.  Rachel Pross is an advocate for credit unions and has written many helpful and thoughtful articles.  You can read the full story about her son and the blood red moon here, or check out more of her articles here.