5 Sneaky Hidden Holiday Expenses (and How to Avoid Them!)

You planned your holiday shopping well in advance; made a detailed list so you’re not tempted to buy extra items; and stashed a little extra dough every month to prepare for spending. But if I had to guess, I’d say all of this careful planning was for gifts, maybe parties…but not those many other expenses that pile up this time of year, pushing your budget to the max before you even realize what’s happening! Here are 5 sneaky hidden expenses to look out for to avoid blowing your budget during the last month of the year:


The average shopper will make 5.4 trips to the mall this holiday season. That’s a lot of time spent away from work and home, not to mention a lot of money in gas. Consider carpooling with friends to the mall and sharing gas costs, or taking public transportation if your area has it. You can also get super organized with apps like Santa’s Bag or Christmas Gift List, which allow you to create profiles and specific lists for each recipient.

Wrapping paper.

According to research from Hallmark, Americans spend approximately $3.2 billion a year on wrapping paper (and yes, that includes gift bags which, fun fact, they also found to be the #1 way consumers wrap gifts). Remember that the more gifts you buy, the more wrapping paper – or gift bags – you’ll likely use. Budget accordingly. Or better yet, go for reusable cloth bags, gift boxes, and tins which can be used year after year.

Sales tax.

45 states currently impose a sales tax on retail purchases with rates ranging from 4% to 7.25%. So if you’re spending $700-1,000 on holiday gifts this year, that’s a sizeable chunk of change in taxes. In some states you can avoid this tax by ordering online, but at the very least you should factor it in to your shopping budget.


More than half of all consumers will indulge in self-gifting this holiday season, spending an average of $127 on gifts for themselves. It’s easy to do while you’re out shopping for others, so budget self-gifting in by purchasing a pre-paid Visa gift card for a set amount. After you’ve used it on your self-gifts, the spending party is over.

Gift cards.

According to the National Retail Federation, 62% of people surveyed were hoping to receive gift cards this holiday season, more than clothing (53%), electronics (35%), and jewelry (25%). You might be tempted to use last year’s gift cards for this year’s holiday shopping, which is a great idea! Just remember: that card is for a set amount for a reason. Don’t fall into the common trap of spending over the limit “because it’s a good deal.” A gift card is, indeed, free money. Spending more on top of that is not.


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