Bad habits can creep into our holidays. Too much food or eggnog. But some habits hurt financially. Beware of these 6-holiday habits that drain your wallet.
Do you have $34,130.99 to spend on the ultimate Christmas gift? If so, then you can provide all the things listed in the classic tune “The 12 Days of Christmas.” For the record, the most expensive item on that gift list would be the “seven swans a-swimming” which can be yours for a steep $13,125.
Perhaps you’re not feeling quite that extravagant. Still, there’s a good chance that your wallet is going to take a hit this holiday, as it does every year. The best approach to avoid those potential budgetary pitfalls is to be proactive. See if any of these holiday habits will be coming up on your spending radar:
You’re Hosting The Holiday Dinner
Cramming as many friends and family around the dining room table is a holiday tradition. Whether you’re hosting Christmas Eve, Christmas or Festivus, it can be a very pricey affair. A decent turkey alone can run about $50. That might be more than half of your food budget for the whole week!
But nothing is set in stone and just because you’ve always done it doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it or even that anyone likes it! Maybe there’s a reason we only eat turkey once or twice a year!
Going Italian with a nice lasagna will be a lot cheaper than carving up a turkey with all the side dishes. Speaking of side dishes, you can always fill out the table by going potluck. Why should the host be stuck doing all the cooking? When people ask what they can bring, tell them!
When you get right down to the reason for the dinner, it’s not really about the food but the company. Do you even remember what you ate at your last holiday dinner, or do you remember what a good time you had catching up with everybody?
If traveling is part of your holiday plan, hopefully, you have already booked your tickets. Nearly all airlines charge for checked luggage so do what you can to travel only with hand luggage.
Don’t pack gifts and if you do, don’t wrap them. They will probably be unwrapped by security. The TSA miss 95% of fake bomb and weapons during security tests but they’ll open your nieces’ Candy Land game! Buy, wrap, and mail the gifts before you leave or even better, order absolutely every gift from Amazon and you won’t have to bother shipping or wrapping.
Check out the cheapest options for ground transportation to and from the airports. Cabs and car services cost a fortune and can add a lot to the cost of your trip. Check for shuttle services.
They may not drop you off exactly where you want to go, a lot of times they pick up and drop off at hotels but since most airports are removed from the city center, it might be cheaper to take a cab from the hotel to your destination and do the reverse when you fly back.
Don’t buy food and drinks in the airport. You know they’re going to gouge you. Bring an empty bottle from home for water and throw a banana and some almonds in your bag. You won’t starve if you don’t eat for a few hours. You’re going to spend the entire trip eating! Fast while you can.
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You’re Going To Self-Gift
The closer we get to Christmas, the more the prices are going to drop. That includes in stores and online. Can you resist the temptation to self-gift? Finding a bargain that is perfect for you could punch a hole in your gift-spending budget.
Instead of buying things for yourself, drop some good hints with your family. Those hints can include subtle things like a printout of the item, a map to the store and a Starbucks gift card for hot chocolate as an enticement.
People will be grateful. Do you enjoy wracking your brain trying to figure out what to buy for someone? Well, they don’t like doing it for you either. At least wait until after Christmas to treat yourself because they’ll be plenty more bargains – especially online – and you might be armed with gift cards.
You’re Going To Splurge On An Outfit
If you’re invited to a fancy holiday party, you might want to splash out with a new outfit. Before you go crazy, think about how many times you’ll be able to wear that outfit again. We’re talking about amortizing the cost. If that outfit is going to be a one-off, then you’re not going to get a good return on your investment.
A little black dress is a good investment. A hot pink ball gown, show stopper that it may be on New Year’s Eve, is not. It’s much cheaper to buy a few inexpensive accessories, necklaces, a silk scarf, a brightly colored clutch, to dress up the LBD than to invest in an entirely new outfit for each occasion.
You’re Going To Buy Extra Gifts
Don’t you hate it when you get a gift from someone you didn’t buy a gift for? Now you’ve got to scramble to get a last minute gift for them. You know this is going to happen, it happens every year. So plan ahead.
Everyone has a kitchen and everyone likes to eat and if you stick with that theme, your gifts can be uni-sex. Tea towels, a set of wooden salad spoons, a small container of fancy salt of vinegar are all pretty generic, but still appreciated gifts.
You’re Going To Pay Credit Card Interest
A few days after the ball drops on New Year’s Eve, you’ll put away the decorations and let out a huge sigh of relief. The holidays are over and you survived. Then the credit card bills start drifting in and the blood pressure rises in correlation to the interest charges you’ll be paying.
You know how some people go on a food or booze “detox” in January to make up for all of their holiday debaucheries? Well, that’s what you’re going to do only yours is a spending detox. January is the perfect time for it. It’s cold and miserable out, no one is having any parties, there are no gift buying or dinner having holidays.
So you are not going to spend one coin that isn’t necessary. No dinners or lunches out, no movies. You’re going to eat your pantry, fridge, and freezer clean before you buy any groceries.
You are also going to look into starting a side hustle so you can bring in some extra money and help kill that credit card debt faster.
A little budget planning can go a long way toward making your holidays merry and bright and can prevent starting the New Year in a debt hole.
Anum Yoon is a writer living in Philly. She is the founder of Current On Currency, a personal finance blog for 20-somethings who can’t adult well enough to be savvy with their money.