8 Unnecessary Expenses To Cut From Your Holiday Budget

American 100 US dolllars as a Christmas gif t or a Christmas spending concept.
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With the 2021 holiday season right around the corner, many consumers are anticipating celebrating in person this year, which means the holidays have the potential to be much more expensive than they were last year. 

We’ve Got You Covered: GOBankingRates’ Smart Holiday Spending Guide
Save More: Wrapping Paper, Greeting Cards and More Holiday Items to Only Buy at Dollar Stores

PowerReviews Holiday Consumer Survey 2021, which contains insights from 7,743 U.S. respondents, found that the majority of people are planning to spend between $500 and $1,000 on gifts for themselves and others in the buildup to the holidays. But gifts aren’t the only thing people will spend money on this holiday season. Wrapping paper, alcohol, hors d’oeuvres, holiday outfits and shipping and mailing costs are all expenses that accompany this festive time of year. 

Find Out More: Why Do We Spend So Much Each Year on Holiday Shopping?

To help you avoid debt regret in the new year or to simply get more out of your planned holiday budget, here are eight unnecessary expenses you should avoid. 

Make Your Money Work for You

Expensive Gift Wrap

“One of the most unnecessary pricey things that can be removed from gift-giving is expensive gift wrapping,” said Scott Hasting, co-founder of BetWorthy LLC. “This actually adds a lot to the cost of the gift — especially if you are going to give a lot of gifts. Aside from gift wraps, adding ribbons to the wrapping to add aesthetics can add a lot of costs to gift-giving but can be removed. I highly suggest using upcycled gift wraps like brown paper bags from grocery stores in order to save some money.”

To give you an idea what you can save, 20 square feet of premium holiday gift wrap from Hallmark is $6.99 per roll and 18 feet of ribbon is around $5. 

Tips: From Airfare to Gifts to Your Tree, How To Save on Every Aspect of Holiday Spending

Holiday Event Clothing

If you can’t find anything to wear in your closet to an upcoming holiday event, Lisa Thompson, savings expert for Coupons.com, suggested inviting a friend over. “Sometimes a new pair of eyes can pull an outfit together that we didn’t notice hanging right there in front of our eyes!” she said. “Better yet, host a clothing swap: Invite a few friends to bring some of their favorite pieces, and see if you can all mix and match to create ‘new’ holiday fits for each of you.”

Make Your Money Work for You

Depending on how much you normally spend on clothing, your savings could potentially add up to hundreds of dollars.

Check Out: Your Complete Guide To Getting Ahead and Saving on Holiday Shopping

Individual Presents for Coworkers

“Instead of buying all your coworkers and acquaintances presents, see if there’s interest in doing a Secret Santa or White Elephant gift exchange instead,” said Steffa Mantilla, certified financial education instructor and founder of Money Tamer. “This way, you only have to buy one gift, but there’s an added element of secrecy and gameplay to make it fun. These exchanges also have a budget limit on the lower end making them a great way to save on holiday gift costs.”

By cutting the expense of buying individual gifts, you could potentially save $100 or more.

See: 11 Gifts You Should Buy for Christmas Now — Before They Sell Out

Fancy Wines

“If you’re hosting a get-together at your home, there’s no need to spend a lot on having a huge selection of wines or serving top dollar bottles,” said Kari Lorz, a certified financial education instructor and founder at Money for the Mamas. “There are so many offerings these days, and some at a great value! Higher-end grocery stores may be hosting holiday wine tasting events, where you can sample a bunch of options. If they aren’t doing tastings, ask the wine steward for their best recommendation in your price point; they will be happy to help you find something to fit your event and your budget!”

You can buy a good bottle of red wine for around $33, according to Vivino, while a higher-quality, more expensive bottle of wine could be almost four times as much at $125.

Modern Money Etiquette: The Ultimate Holiday Etiquette Gift Guide

Fancy Party Foods

“With everyone gathering for the holidays again this year, it’s going to be so tempting to make things special,” said consumer analyst Julie Ramhold with DealNews.com. “But if you haven’t done these upscale versions of your favorite foods before, this probably isn’t the year to start. If your friends are used to seeing home-cooked favorites like cornbread and chili, they’re probably not going to have the same level of excitement over baked brie — even if it is covered in pecans and honey. Instead of going all out on expensive foods that your guests may or may not like, stick with tried-and-true affordable favorites. If you want to get inventive, consider hosting a cocktail party for New Year’s Eve with a few small appetizers, rather than going all out on a huge fancy meal.”

By going this route, you could save a good chunk of money no matter what size party you’re feeding. 

Helpful: Don’t Let Inflation Bust Your Holiday Shopping Budget

Traditional Holiday Cards and Postage

“Yes, some people love to spend hours and hours handwriting out holiday cards, but I’m not one of them,” Lorz said. “You can easily get the same thing accomplished in 20 minutes online. It will save you money on cards, on postage and you’ll get hours of your life back (not to mention not having a cramped hand from all that writing)! Use an eCard for this instead, again it will take maybe 20 minutes max, and many sites do this for free.”

Christmas cards can cost nearly $1 each and first-class postage is 58 cents. 

Don’t Forget: Shipping, Wrapping & More Extras To Account For in Your Holiday Budget

Gifts for People You’re Barely Acquainted With

“With things kind of returning to normal this year, there’s a good chance consumers will find themselves invited to a ton of different parties, some of which will involve swapping gifts,” Ramhold said. “Bow out gracefully from these events if you’re trying to save money; in addition to keeping more of your cash, you’ll also save yourself stress from trying to figure out what to buy a coworker you barely know and have only seen once since the end of 2019. This goes for friends of friends too don’t be ashamed to dip out of too many gatherings to save your wallet and your sanity this year.”

If you spend an average of $20 on each gift, you could potentially save hundreds of dollars. 

Shipping and Mailing Costs

“If you’re used to mailing gifts for friends and family out of town, consider alternatives to paying for those shipping costs, which can add up fast,” Thompson said. “Can you purchase something from a retailer and have them ship the gift directly to the recipient? Can you buy an experience rather than a tangible gift that needs to be wrapped and shipped? How about a streaming service or subscription box that’ll keep on giving past December and requires no postage? Think outside the mailbox, so to speak, and consider creative alternatives that don’t need to be shipped. Potential Savings: $50+”

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Last updated: Nov. 3, 2021 

About the Author

Cynthia Measom is a personal finance writer and editor with over 12 years of collective experience. Her articles have been featured in MSN, Aol, Yahoo Finance, INSIDER, Houston Chronicle, The Seattle Times and The Network Journal. She attended the University of Texas at Austin and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

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