Soaring prices dampen Guamanians’ Christmas spending
Holiday gifts will not abound and the food spread will be smaller this year
By Gina T. Reilly
Goody Rosario, a government of Guam employee, said he and his wife, Jhane, have changed their buying habits, limiting their household budget to bare necessities.
Gone are the days of frivolous spending. For most Guam residents, shopping is now a matter of what they need versus what they want—what with the soaring prices of everything brought about by global inflation and supply chain issues.
“Before, we bought things that we want or like. This time, we have a list and stick with it. We are also trying to be creative in finding a gift for an entire family instead of buying individual gifts,” said Rosario, a resident of Chalan Pago, who is undergoing treatment for cancer.
“Our priority is to set aside money for medical needs,” he said. “The cost of everything, including airfare, for my treatment is burdening us so much.”
The federal stimulus funds that flooded the island at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic have all dissipated. And while many have returned to work, the current state of Guam’s economy remains fragile, with tourism still far away from its pre-Covid level. The island’s wage rates can’t keep up with the spiraling prices of goods that mostly affect lower- and middle-income earners.
According to the Bureau of Statistics and Plans’ third quarter CPI report, Guam’s inflation went up 7.3 percent, while the dollar’s purchasing power dropped to 45 cents.
Food prices increased by 8.6 percent compared to the same period last year. Egg products alone increased 42.2 percent. The cost of dining out climbed 13 percent.
Last year, Jayar and Hannah Calilung were able to give gifts to most of their relatives, co-workers and friends. This year, they are cutting their list, limited to family members and close friends.
The Tamuning couple created two shopping lists “based on things that are nice to have versus essentials. We prioritize the essentials, and if the budget allows it, that’s the only time we will buy from our ‘wants’ list,” they said.
Lyn Kesterson, a mother of three, took advantage of Thanksgiving promo sales to purchase a new laptop, uniform items and children’s clothes.
“We didn’t get much. It was just items that we needed. We are watching our budget because we just bought a vehicle, which is more important. To cut down on spending we tried to limit eating at restaurants,” said Kesterson, a Santa Rita resident, who is married to a servicemember.
Sharisse Lucas skipped the Black Friday chaos and the weekend sales at the mall. The Mangilao resident did not buy new Christmas decorations this year. Instead, she just recycled what she used last year. To further cut down her expenses, Lucas will plan a strict budget for family gifts and reduce the food spread at Christmas dinner.
In Tassia Nave-Serrano’s household, holiday feast will be on the chopping board as well. “The cost of food is really high nowadays. That’s what I would probably cut,” said the Dededo resident.
Adonis Mendiola of Mangilao said he is not a big fan of waking up early just to grab discounts during the sale season. “I don’t usually trek out early for those deals. However, I took advantage of feed for my egg layers,” he said. “I used to sell the eggs to friends and family. Now they too had to absorb the escalating costs so that business has slowed. The price of commercial eggs has jumped to $9 a dozen.”
Mendiola’s household has also reduced their shopping and prioritized their budget for food, medicine and basic utilities.
Analysts consider the Black Friday weekend a key barometer of consumers’ willingness to spend, and this year’s smaller crowds at the malls were indicative of the Guam shoppers’ reluctance to splurge.
“Nowadays, we have to be creative in spending, especially in buying gifts,” said Selena Ray of Barrigada Heights. “If you cannot afford to buy someone a gift, just give them a greeting card instead of burying yourself in debt by using credit cards.”