7 Hidden Ways We All Waste Money Over the Holidays

As magical as the holidays are, this time of year can also be a bit stressful—between handling a barrage of party invites, planning your own get-togethers, wrapping up the year, visiting family and getting all your holiday shopping done… well, it’s a lot. And then there’s the whole spending money thing. Shopping and celebrating add up, but it doesn’t have to be quite so painful. There are ways we all wind up spending more than we need to, and they’re pretty easy to avoid.

There are ways we all wind up spending more than we need to, and they’re pretty easy to avoid:

Not Making a List (and Not Sticking to the Budget)

Much like walking into the grocery store hungry and without a plan, not having a list or a budget in mind when you start your holiday shopping will most likely result in spending more than you hoped you would. Making a budgeted list ensures you don’t forget anyone important, you won’t have as much stress during the shopping process, and most importantly, you won’t spend more than you need to.

Buying Gifts Out of Obligation

Speaking of not sticking to your list, are you buying gifts—or buying more expensive gifts than you’d typically plan to buy—for people when you don’t need to be? Your holiday shopping list doesn’t need to include every person you’ve ever interacted with. It’s totally OK to keep your gift list to close loved ones, and if you still feel obligated to do something for others, do something that requires less of your budget—rather than buy gifts for all the coworkers you’re friends with, for example, maybe bake them holiday cookies.

Paying Too Much for Shipping

Since shopping online for gifts is pretty much the go-to nowadays, it’s important that you factor in the cost of shipping for all of your holiday purchases. In some cases, like with some highly specialized gifts, shipping costs are just another piece of the puzzle that you can’t get out of. But when you can, take advantage of Amazon Prime and shop from stores that offer free shipping. And here’s a common sense tip: If a store has a minimum purchase to qualify for free shipping, try to buy multiple gifts for the people on your list from the same place in order to hit it. Mailing gifts yourself? Plan ahead so you don’t find yourself shelling out a lot of money at the post office to send them express which costs a lot more.

Waiting Until the Last Minute to Buy Gifts

We’ve all done it — put off buying a gift until, in a panic, you run to a store (or go online) and buy something that is not even a very thoughtful gift and often costs more than you had planned to spend because you just need something, anything to gift. And, as I mentioned above, if you’ve bought it online or need to get it in the mail on a close deadline, you’re going to pay extra to have it shipped.

Forgetting About Price Matching

Buying gifts—or even holiday decorations—that you can also find at other stores? Many retailers, like Target and Bed Bath and Beyond, offer price matching. So if you plan to do most of your shopping at a retailer that does, but you see the same item for less at another store, show proof of that while you’re shopping, and they should sell it to you for the lower price.

Sending Too Many Holiday Cards

Much like buying gifts, you don’t have to send holiday cards out to everyone you’ve ever met. The more cards you buy and the more you spend on postage (even a little bit adds up!), the less money you have left over for other important things in your budget. Try cutting your holiday card list down to only people you actively keep in touch with—they’ll appreciate it more, and you’ll save in the long run.

Putting Up (and Leaving On) Too Many Lights

Don’t let us stop you from living your festive truth, but don’t feel like you have to outdo your neighbors’ light displays, either. The more lights you put out—and the more you leave them on and plugged in—the higher your electric bill is going to be when it’s all said and done. You can save yourself by cutting back on the amount of lights you put up and being mindful of how long you keep them on for.

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