ASU faculty member gives financial planning tips for holiday inflation


October 17, 2022

As the holiday season approaches, the fear of inflation has some shoppers concerned about the cost of holiday shopping. 

A recent survey found that half of consumers are heading to stores early this year to get a head start on their holiday shopping, with nearly 20% starting their shopping as early as October.  Portrait of ASU Senior Lecturer Debra Radway. Debra Radway, senior lecturer at the W. P. Carey School of Business Download Full Image

RELATED: Holiday shopping deals in October?

Here, Debra Radway, senior lecturer at the W. P. Carey School of Business who teaches financial planning courses at Arizona State University and ASU Online, talks about how inflation will play a role in consumer spending, and how families can prepare for this holiday season and beyond.

Question: How will inflation impact middle- to low-income families this holiday season? 

Answer: The cost of goods and services that impact most middle and low-income families are up significantly this year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from August 2021 to August 2022, rent is up 6.7%, household energy costs are up 13%, food at home is up 13.4% and gasoline is up 24.6%. Although the increases are moderating recently and some costs like gasoline are falling, salary increases have not kept up with these rising costs. This will leave families with less money to spend on gifts and holiday entertaining.

Q: Is it too late or are there things people can do now to lessen the financial impact? 

A: Making a list of who you want to buy holiday gifts for and setting a budget for your total and per-person gift expenditures will help minimize overspending. For example, once you know you are budgeting $50 on a gift for your mom, you can start looking for items that would be a thoughtful gift and take advantage of pre-holiday sales. Many retailers are anticipated to have extra inventory this year, so you may be able to find deals earlier in the holiday season.

A way to save a substantial amount of time and money on holiday gifts while maintaining the joy of giving is by doing a family gift exchange. We have been doing this for years in my family. Instead of buying a gift for every sibling and parent, we draw names anonymously through drawnames.com. Each family member gets the name of another family member and their wish list. We then proceed to buy one special gift, based on the agreed-upon budget, for the chosen family member.  We all get together and exchange the secret Santa gifts. If you have a family of 10 people and have a $35 gift budget, you will buy one gift for $35 instead of 10 gifts for $350.

Q: Looking beyond the holiday season, what can people do to plan their finances better in the coming year?

A:  Here are my suggestions for healthy finances.

1. Financial health checkup.

A financial health checkup will tell you if you are spending more than you make. Have your credit card balances increased since a year ago? Has your total savings and checking increased or decreased since a year ago? Have you withdrawn money from investment accounts over the last year? If you are spending more than you make, you will see one or all of the following: credit card balances increasing, investment withdrawals or savings decreasing.  

2. Pay off credit card debt.  

If you aren’t able to pay off credit card debt on a regular basis, you probably shouldn’t have them. About half of Americans pay off their credit cards each month, and the other half pay costly interest rates of 18% to 22% or higher. Cut the cards up and start paying down the debt by eliminating high-interest cards first or low balances first. Once they are paid off, close the account, and if you need a card, keep only one card at home and not in your wallet going forward. 

3. Check your credit report and credit score.

You can check your credit report for free using a trusted site, such as AnnualCreditReport.com, to make sure that all credit transactions are being properly reported. Your credit history will determine how much you pay for future loans, so improving your credit can save you money.

4. Pay cash for purchases.

Individuals spend less when they have to depend on cash for a transaction. So after you cover your monthly bills for housing and cars, take the leftover money and split it into categories such as groceries, eating out and entertainment, clothing, etc., and pay with cash. When the cash is gone in that category, you need to wait until the next month or pick up more work. One thing we learned during the pandemic is that we spend a lot of money each month on things we can do without. 

5. Take advantage of a company match in your 401(k) or 403(b). 

Many employers will encourage you to save for retirement by matching what you put into your retirement accounts. This is free money that you should take advantage of. If you make $40,000 and your employer matches your first 6% of contributions, you can contribute $2,400 to your 401(k) and your employer will put an additional $2,400 into your account. It is worth it to get spending under control and take advantage of this “free money.”

Q: Anything else you'd like to add that people should be thinking about when it comes to their finances?

A: Take a look at your automobile costs. Many families spend a significant amount on their cars. Some families are spending close to their housing costs on the vehicles they drive. So extending the life of a car or purchasing a used car instead of a new car can substantially cut the costs of the car payment, auto insurance and licensing.

Meenah Rincon

Public Relations Manager, ASU Online

ASU School of Molecular Sciences professor wins photochemistry award


October 17, 2022

Gary Moore is passionate about research that has the potential to create a more sustainable, less destructive energy future.

An associate professor in Arizona State University’s School of Molecular Sciences and a researcher in the Biodesign Center for Applied Structural Discovery and Center for Negative Carbon Emissions, Moore studies what plants can teach us about solar energy storage, something he and his research team recently explored in depth in a Chemical Reviews articleAuthors include current School of Molecular Sciences graduate students Edgar Reyes Cruz, Daiki Nishiori, Nghi Nguyen and Lillian Hensliegh. titled “Molecular-Modified Photocathodes for Applications in Artificial Photosynthesis and Solar-to-Fuel Technologies.”

Portrait of ASU Associate Professor Gary Moore surrounded by large laboratory machinery. ASU’s Gary Moore, an associate professor in the School of Molecular Sciences and a researcher in the Biodesign Center for Applied Structural Discovery and Center for Negative Carbon Emissions. Download Full Image

“Do we want to choose to make investments in research directions, technologies and policies that minimize the impact of climate change, or do we continue making use of an energy infrastructure with components and processes that are over a hundred years old?” asked Moore.

In recognition of his work and accomplishments, Moore was recently awarded the 2023 Inter-American Photochemical Society (I-APS) Young Investigator Award, which will be presented at the 2023 annual meeting at Sandestin Beach, Florida.

I-APS was established in 1975 and today has more than 600 members in academia, industry and government throughout North and South America. Its mission is “to promote and disseminate knowledge, and encourage development, of photochemistry and allied subjects throughout the Americas.”

The I-APS Young Investigator Award was established in 2002 to recognize outstanding photo-scientific contributions by society members.

“I am honored to receive this recognition from the Inter-American Photochemical Society and remain thankful for the interactions I have had with members of this community. I also acknowledge the contribution students in my research group have made toward advancing our discoveries in the photochemical and molecular sciences,” Moore said.

Ian Gould, a School of Molecular Sciences President’s Professor and associate dean of online and digital initiatives in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, called Moore a leader and “a force in the field of photocatalysis for real-world applications.”

“He is building hybrid, multifunctional nanoscale materials that combine multiple functions in most imaginative ways,” Gould said of Moore. “He is extending the boundaries in several scientific areas critical to advancing technology, including interfacial chemistry, energy conversion chemistry and the catalysis of industrially important fuels and basic materials for energy and manufacturing.”

Harnessing the power of sunlight

A photon is a tiny particle of light that carries energy. The amount of energy depends on whether it possesses, for example, ultraviolet, visible or infrared frequencies. Photochemistry involves the chemical effects of light, where reactions are usually caused by absorption of ultraviolet, visible light or infrared radiation.

The photons Moore’s research team works with come from sunlight and are used to convert water and air into domestically produced, non-fossil-based fuels.

“Inspired by the process of photosynthesis, we can develop alternative energy sources and industrial processes to produce clean fuels as well as other commodity products,” Moore said.

In addition to studying solar energy conversion pathways, the design and synthesis of catalysts is also central to the research efforts of Moore and his team.

Catalysts provide low-energy pathways for carrying out a chemical transformation at a desired rate. For this reason, they are used in myriad industrial applications and are imperative to the bioenergetics of all living organisms.

Moore and his group place a strong emphasis on developing effective methods for interfacing catalytic materials with those that harness solar energy. They also seek to better understand the relationships between the structure and function properties of the resulting architectures. Moore’s research provides graduate students and young professionals a wealth of opportunities.

“We are an interdisciplinary group of researchers developing molecular-based materials that are fundamentally interesting and address societal challenges,” Moore said of his research group.

Moore has earned national recognition as an emerging leader in the field of energy materials science. He is a Department of Energy Early Career Awardee, a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar, a National Science Foundation CAREER Awardee and was recognized as an “outstanding chemist with Native American heritage” by the National Science Foundation during the 2020 Celebration of Native American Heritage Month.

Moore was also selected to give emerging junior faculty research talks at the 2018 Electron Donor-Acceptor Interactions Gordon Research Conference, the 2017 Photochemistry Gordon Research Conference, and the second International Solar Fuels Conference. More recently, Moore co-organized the 2021 Western Photosynthesis Conference and the 2020 Inter-American Photochemical Society (I-APS) Conference.

Jenny Green

Clinical associate professor, School of Molecular Sciences

480-965-1430