Commonly overlooked holiday expenses that can bust your budget

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Despite all the time and effort consumers put into creating a holiday budget, unexpected expenses can derail even the most carefully crafted spending plans. Such unplanned costs may include charges for shipping an oversized gift to a loved one or paying a restocking fee for returning an impulse purchase. Whatever the expense, such unanticipated items can leave many people feeling more stress than joy this time of year.

Don’t let unplanned expenses turn into stress!

Although preparing for the unplanned seems impossible, it’s important to take note of which unexpected expenses are more likely to creep up during this season so you can make better decisions with your spending. Here is a list of commonly overlooked holiday costs with ideas for how you can overcome them before they get the best of you and your budget.

Shipping charges

When it comes to giving gifts to out-of-state family and friends, sending items you purchased in person will get costly especially if you have to rush it. Dodge this added expense by shopping online and shipping gifts directly to the recipient — and do it well before ground shipping deadlines to avoid expedited fees. Be mindful of those who may require you to spend more money to quality for the complimentary service, however, as there are plenty of online stores offering free shipping with no minimum this season. So shop around and compare shipping rates to determine the best site to order. You should also consider signing up for a free trial of two-day shipping programs like Amazon Prime or ShopRunner to benefit from expedited delivery at no added cost. Just make sure to cancel before the trial is up or you’ll be charged a membership fee.

Holiday greetings

Sending holiday wishes to loved ones seems like a minor cost, but it can quickly snowball. According to the National Retail Federation’s Holiday Consumer Spending Survey, consumers spend around $30 on greeting cards during the holidays and those who opt for custom photo cards typically spend much more. If you’re sending cards to a list of 100 family and friends, get ready to dish out another $49 just on stamps. Trim these costs by limiting the number of people you send greetings to. Otherwise, consider forgoing traditional cards and opt to send a picture or video messages via text or email instead for free. Your loved ones will appreciate the personalized touch!

Babysitting services

Between gift shopping, preparing for out-of-town visitors and attending various holiday festivities, parents often tap into extra childcare services during this season. However, with the average babysitter fee averaging at $13.44 per hour, this added expense can eat away at a family’s holiday budget quickly. Consider swapping babysitting with another family who may also need help for their upcoming holiday obligations.

Party attire

December is a busy month for various seasonal celebrations and whether you’re attending a company party, ugly-holiday sweater shindig or Christmas dinner with family, you may be looking for something new and festive to wear. Save on party attire by shopping for new-to-you clothing at consignment stores for big savings. You can also find name brands for less at discount retailers such as TJMaxx and Nordstrom Rack. Otherwise, look for ways to recreate a new looks with items you already have in your closet. For instance, a statement necklace or blazer can instantly dress up a basic black dress.


Groceries for guests

When you’re hosting out-of-town visitors over the holidays, a trip to the grocery store is in order. Stocking the fridge with extra snacks, drinks and other food staples can become costly depending on how many people you’re prepping for.  Cut back by looking for bulk deals at warehouse stores  where you can pick up large containers of milk, eggs, crackers and cheese or even frozen finger foods for up to 30% savings compared to traditional grocery stores.

Gift wrap

Americans spend roughly $3.2 billion a year on wrapping paper and while it’s fun to add all the trimmings to your presents, it all inevitably ends up in the trash. So look for ways to save by shopping for gift wrap at a local dollar store. Not only can you can find 50-cent greeting cards (a much cheaper option compared to those that average $4 a pop at big box stores), but you can pick up other inexpensive supplies like ribbon and bows, gift bags, wrapping paper and tissue. Solid colors like red, green and gold are a smart option because any leftover supplies can be used to wrap presents for other celebrations like a birthday or graduation.

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