Around this time every year, we pull out our lists (checking them twice) to put together a budget for the holiday season. We try to account for all the gifts and the trips we plan to make to the grocery and liquor store; yet somehow, we’ve all had a year (or many) when we get to January, realize we went well over our budget, and find ourselves scratching our heads wondering what we missed. .
Lucky for you, this year is going to be different. We’ve uncovered five sneaky holiday costs that are easily overlooked and, better yet, we have tips to avoid them!
From the extra loads of laundry due to hot cocoa spills, cookie-baking mishaps, and snow-covered clothes to the Christmas lights twinkling from inside and outside your home – chances are, your utility consumption will surge during the holidays. However, you don’t have to be a grinch with holiday lights or festive fun to diminish this impact. Just test out one (or all) of these tips to help keep your utility bill low(er):
- Switch to LED lights. They use at least 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than traditional bulbs. Check out this year’s best-rated Christmas light options
- Use a light timer to control when your holiday lights turn on and off. Automating your lights to turn on when it’s dark and off at bedtime will save you effort and energy!
- Wash full loads of laundry in cooler water. Not only are you saving by running bigger loads, but you can cut a load’s energy use in half by using warm rather than hot water. For more ways to save in the laundry room visit gov.
2. Last-minute gifts
Whether due to hectic schedules and improper planning or gifts from unexpected givers, we’ve all found ourselves scouring stores in search of last-minute gifts. This doesn’t just boost our stress levels, it can also rack up costs and wreck budgets. Last-minute shopping can mean limited deals, fewer options, and bad purchases. Fortunately, with a little foresight and planning, last-minute shopping can be avoided!
Here is how:
- Make a list and check it twice. Account for all the people you intend to buy a gift for and list the amount you plan to spend on each person.
- Skip the embarrassment and mad dash. Purchase a few extra small gifts in case of any surprise gifters.
- Shop early. You’ve heard it before, but if you start sooner, you can shop around, maximize deals, and skip the expedited shipping fees!
PRO TIP: When online shopping use deal-finding tools and sites to help you comparison shop and secure the best deals.
Each year, without fail, stores get filled to the brim with new and exciting holiday décor. We know how easy it can be to get swept into the magic. But let’s be honest, you probably already have bins and bins of decorations at home and switching it up or adding to your stash every year will inevitably make a dent in your wallet.
To avoid this tempting holiday cost while still indulging the desire to have something new in your home, try your hand at these budget-friendly Christmas decorating ideas.
4. Personal Spending
While playing Santa and finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list, you’re likely to find a few items on your wish list that might seem too enticing to pass by. Personal spending is one hidden holiday cost that can seem easy to justify, but just like the others, starts to add up.
You don’t need to entirely cut off personal spending to avoid blowing up your holiday budget. Instead, you simply need to account for potential spending in the creation of your budget. Here are two options we recommend:
- Once you’ve added all gifting, grocery, and other holiday spending items to your usual budget, you can use any remaining funds for personal spending.
- Just as you set a budget for everyone else on your gift list, set a specific budget for yourself as well. That way, whatever you find (if it’s within your budget) you know it’s safe to get.
5. Gift Wrapping
We don’t often think about wrapping paper, gift bags, bows, name tags, or tape when planning our holiday expenses each year. However, these small disposable details can add up to a chunk of change when the whirlwind of Christmas passes.
Get thrifty with these tips to eliminate this sneaky cost:
- Wrap presents in repurposed papers such as newspaper, old maps, magazine pages, or different holiday wrapping paper you have on hand. This could give Christmas morning a unique look and create a fun new tradition.
- Snag gift wrapping materials on sale in January. Stores are eager to get rid of excess holiday goods as soon as the clock strikes midnight on December 26. Purchasing those materials in advance will save you money and time next holiday season.
- Invest in reusable gift bags. This might cost more upfront but will save you from spending on wrapping materials for future holidays. Plus, this method can help reduce waste!
We may not have uncovered every hidden holiday cost, but by knowing and avoiding these five, you’ll be well on your way to sticking to your holiday budget and setting yourself up for financial success in the new year!