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Todays post is all about those hidden holiday costs that sneak up on you and threaten to blow your Christmas Budget.
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The holidays are filled with endless temptations to spend, spend, spend. With a well-planned budget, however, you can manage your finances without skimping on the fun of the season.
As you prepare your spending plan, it’s important to look beyond just gifts and travel. Anticipating every possible cost will keep you out of debt and keep you from dipping into your savings. Here’s a list of commonly overlooked expenses with tips on how to hack these hidden holiday costs.
1.) Gift wrap
The cost of wrapping a gift adds up quickly, from festive paper at an average of $5 per roll to name tags, bags, ribbon, and bows. Instead of wasting money on wrapping supplies, repurpose newspapers, store circulars, grocery paper bags, and cereal boxes, all of which are free. If you must buy gift wrap, head to the dollar store for cheaper options. If you’re shopping online, skip the gift wrap option to save yourself an extra five bucks per present.
If you’re planning to send holiday greetings to friends and family, factor in the cost of postage in addition to the cards. For a regular-sized card, you’re looking at 49-cents per stamp and even more for odd sizes.
While this seems nominal, for 100 cards for 100 people you’re looking at an extra $50 in your growing holiday budget. Save on greeting cards and stamps by sending a customized eCard for free from sites like AmericanGreetings.com.
Childcare costs rack up this time of year with all the holiday festivities parents have to tend to, from work parties to charitable events and even gift shopping.
Since other families may share these similar needs, sign up at Babysitter Exchange which operates like a babysitting co-op and also helps you schedule your errands or carpool with other busy parents.
4.) Shipping charges
Online shopping is convenient, but can become costly if you’re paying for delivery. Opt for free site-to-store shipping to dodge delivery fees or sign up for a free trial of two-day shipping services like Amazon Prime or ShopRunner.
Also, there’s Free Shipping Day on December 18 when hundreds of retailers will offer free shipping with no minimum and guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve. Avoid return shipping fees using PayPal as they’re offering free shipping both ways. Get more smart shipping tips here.
5.) Restocking fees
Many retailers charge restocking fees on electronics and appliance returns at up to 15% of the purchase price. This is a huge waste of money! That’s why it’s important to read the return policy and never buy anything on impulse.
For those goods that you do buy, keep all original packaging and don’t open the box until you’re 100% sure you’re going to keep it.
When shopping for airfare, factor in extra fees you may pay like checked or overweight bags, in-flight entertainment, extra leg room, early boarding, and carry-on bags. These costs could add another $100 to your trip per traveler!
Dodge baggage fees by packing light and send gifts directly to your final destination by shopping online. Don’t forget to bring your own food and a reusable bottle to fill at water stations. Otherwise, you’re looking at dishing out $5 or more for a bottle of H2O.
7.) Groceries for guests
Holiday hosts often overlook the costs of extra groceries for their guests. Considering that popular breakfast foods like eggs and cereal are pricier, it’s important to shop wisely for meals and ingredients. Head to warehouse stores to get the best price per unit when buying food in bulk and grab bagged produce for big savings.
Check for coupons and bake all your own sweets to avoid the high bakery markups.
Better yet, save money on the rest of your groceries that money by using one of my meal plans.
When it comes down to it, make your Christmas budget but don’t forget these little items. These hidden holiday costs really do have the ability to break the entire budget.
Read more from Andrea Woroch at www.AndreaWoroch.com.
Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer-finance expert dedicated to helping Americans save money without sacrificing their lifestyles. As a sought after expert, she regularly contributes to national media and has been featured on Today, Good Morning America, Dr. OZ, CNN, New York Times, USA Today, Money Magazine, Forbes, Real Simple, Better Homes & Garden and many more. Enjoy Andrea’s personal finance advice and savvy shopping tips at www.AndreaWoroch.com or follow her on Twitter.