Beware of Hidden Holiday Costs

Woman shopping online with a credit card

The gifts we buy to put under our trees this season aren’t the only costs associated with the holidays. When January rolls around you may find that you spent a lot more than you thought. To keep your budget balanced, make sure you keep these hidden holiday costs in mind:

Gift Wrapping

The cost of wrapping your gifts can be costly. Even if you made a point to stock up on supplies from discount stores or during sales, the cost of paper, gift bags, name tags, ribbon and bows will still add up. Try wrapping presents in newspaper or magazine pages. Skip ribbons, bows and other gift-wrapping extras, or save them for next year. If you’re shopping online, forego the gift wrap option to save a few dollars per gift.


Many of us don’t get to see all our friends and family for the holidays, so we send them gifts in the mail. That means additional costs for packing materials and shipping that can often be more expensive than the actual gifts. Buy boxes and other shipping supplies from a discount retailer. Tip 1: You can often get cheap boxes at car rental places. Make sure to go online and check the U.S. Postal Service website to get an estimate on shipping costs. Tip 2: You can also save yourself a lot of time by buying a scale to weigh packages and purchasing shipping labels in advance online. You’ll be able to skip the long lines at the post-office as the holidays approach by just dropping off your packages. Tip 3: On December 18, hundreds of retailers will offer free shipping with no minimum and guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve as part of Free Shipping Day.


Holiday decorations can be a big expense, especially if you buy new decorations, or purchase new Christmas trees or wreaths each season. Ornaments, holiday-themed dishes and other celebratory knick-knacks will also add up fast. If you want to deck the halls for less, consider ornament exchanges with friends or co-workers. Keep your purchases to just one or two items you’ll treasure. Replace a real tree or wreath with an artificial one to save long-term. If you decorate your house with lights, you may see your energy bill go up in December. Look for energy-efficient LED lights to keep electricity costs down.

Holiday Cards & Stamps

Many of us send Christmas cards to friends and family in December. Whether you are buying cards or having them custom made from online companies like Mixbook, they will cost you some money. Make sure to sign up for card company emails to get discounts on custom cards. Remember to also factor in the cost of postage. If cards aren’t in your budget this year, save by sending a customized eCard for free. Sites like offer many complimentary cards to choose from.


Planning to travel for the holidays? Make sure you factor in flight, train or bus costs. You also need to add baggage fees, airport shuttle or parking charges, cab or Lyft charges, as well as tips for the drivers. If you’re driving you’ll need to add fuel and food costs to your trip budget. Consider packing snacks for the plane or a cooler full of meals in the car to save money.

If you are on the road during the holidays, ship your gifts rather than paying for an additional checked bag when you travel. If you shop online, you can send gifts directly to your destination instead of your house.

 Thank You Gifts

During the holidays, you may wish to show your appreciation to your regular service providers such as mail carriers, maids and hairdressers with cash or gift cards. Don’t overspend. Come up with a budget and stick to it. To save some money, consider giving baked goods or other handmade items instead.


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