Spending during the holiday season goes into overdrive and controlling your budget is harder than usual given the endless sales and impulse purchase temptations. In fact, a new survey found that 46 percent of millennials, 46 percent of parents with children under 18, and nearly half of those who are already in credit card debt are willing to take on more debt this holiday season.
In addition to managing your gift shopping budget, there are other seasonal purchases you need to be mindful of that can send your spending soaring.
Here’s a look at six hidden holiday costs and how to save on each.
1. Impulse purchases
The holidays are synonymous with sales and this year is no exception with stores like Target and Walmart rolling out Black Friday doorbusters the first week of November. Though there are plenty of saving opportunities to help you stretch your gifting dollars, there are also many impulse purchase temptations. Whether you’ve been buying yourself a few gifts or extras for loved ones, this can really send you over budget and into debt.
Avoiding unnecessary purchases can be easily done with a few simple tricks. First, turn off any retail app notifications and unsubscribe from email newsletters so you don’t get bombarded by flash sales. Second, delete payment and shipping information in online shopping accounts so you can’t make a buy without putting in a little extra thought. Lastly, track all your holiday purchases using an app like Santa’s Bag or Christmas Gift List so you know when you’re about to go over budget.
2. Takeout orders
The holidays are hectic and finding time to cook a homemade meal may seem impossible. Don’t fall into the trap of leaning on takeout orders regularly, which can quickly inflate your overall spending. Instead, plan out meals that are easy to prepare, like a stir fry or pasta dish. Cook in bulk so you have plenty of leftovers that can be reheated on the nights you don’t have time to cook.
Since you can order groceries online these days, you don’t even have to worry about wasting time fighting the large shopping crowds. To save more on your groceries, link your credit card to a free cash back app like Dosh, which rewards you with extra money back on purchases at partner brands like Walmart and Instacart. The money you earn can be cashed out via PayPal or sent directly to your bank account to help you pay for other seasonal purchases.
3. Gift bags, wrap, and bows
Some people find joy in wrapping holiday gifts and adding extra tinsel to make each package look magical. While this is a fun way to get into the holiday spirit, you can find a few easy ways to save on these seasonal expenses. First, always check your local dollar store for savings on gift bags, wrapping paper and gift bows. Second, use any leftover supplies you have from last year and remember that even plain color tissue or wrapping paper will do just fine for gifts. Lastly, you may be able to snag free or discounted gift wrap from stores offering special promotions. For instance, Nordstrom is offering free gift wrap to shoppers who buy in store or choose curbside pickup at check out.
4. Greeting cards
You will likely begin to receive holiday greetings in the mail, featuring beautifully printed cards gleaming with foil embossed messages and professional family photos. Don’t let this pressure you to rush order a set of custom greeting cards. In addition to expedited shipping and processing fees, you also have to consider the added cost of postage. Instead, send digital greetings by embedding a few favorite family memories from the past year along with a personalized message to each of your family and friends. The cost is $0 and your loved ones will appreciate the personal touch!
If you prefer to send actual cards in the mail, print pictures for as little as a few cents at a local drugstore and pick up a box of holiday cards from the dollar store. Remember, the cards are usually tossed in the trash just after Christmas, so you don’t want to overspend on these. Plus, it’s the message and thought that counts anyway!
5. Extra care for kids and pets
Whether you need to finish up your gift shopping or you’re visiting family for the holidays, you may need some extra babysitting or pet care services throughout the holiday season and this can add up quickly. Considering the average babysitter charges $15 per hour, you’re better off finding another family to exchange childcare services with.
When it comes to pet sitting, you can save money by finding reliable and affordable sitters in your area or at your chosen destination using Rover.com. Compared to the high fees you would otherwise pay at a kennel or boarding at your vet, you will not only find better prices, but also more comfortable accommodations for your furchild.
6. Seasonal drinks and foods
Your local restaurants, bakeries, and coffee shops likely offer seasonal specials that you’ve come to enjoy this time of year and, though it’s okay to splurge here and there, making it a regular habit can really eat into your holiday budget. Tracking your spending through the holidays is the most important step to avoiding debt since there are so many seasonal temptations that make it easy to overspend. Use apps like Mint to manage all your purchases, big or small, in one place to stay on budget!
You could also consider how to replicate some of your favorite seasonal foods or drinks. For instance, review this Marie Claire list of DIY Starbucks drinks you can make at home.
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