The 12 Hidden Costs of Christmas

By Julie Ann

Every year some economics expert calculates the total cost of all the items mentioned in “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (You know, the partridge in a pear tree and such.) I haven’t seen the figure for 2010 yet, but last year it would have cost a whopping $87,403. But here’s what they aren’t figuring: How much will you end up spending in hidden costs, you know, the feed for all those birds and insurance premiums on five golden rings?

Maybe you’re wise and have set a gift spending limit, but have you budgeted for the hidden costs of the holiday? My “12 Hidden Costs of Christmas” are not necessarily things we need to avoid; but rather things we need to be aware of and be sure to plan into our budgets, so we don’t ring in the New Year up to our necks in Yuletide debt. Sing it with me now!

“On the 12th Day of Christmas, I stopped to count the costs…

12 Cards a Greeting
Greeting cards are a staple of the season, however the price of a greeting card is almost all mark-up. Even if you aren’t sending cards in mass, just picking up a couple of cards to hold gift cards or cash will set you back. Consider forgoing cards, sending e-greetings, or better yet, get crafty and make your own cards.

11 Strings a Lighting
Every string of lights you tack up and every giant electronic snow globe you set up in the yard is going to add to the electricity bill. Keep electronic décor minimal and your inner Clark Griswold in check.

10 Goodies Baking
Sweets abound during the Christmas season, and at some point, you may be called upon to bring the cupcakes. Be sure to add extra money into your grocery budget for baked goods and all the trimmings for the holiday meal. Look for coupons too (see “Hassle-free Coupons” in the Single! archives).

9 Songs for Singing
Tired of the same old Christmas music? Downloading new holiday tunes is just one of the hidden costs of holiday entertainment. With more days off and friends and family around, I tend to spend more on movies, bowling and eating out. Other entertainment costs may include holiday concerts, new board games and movie rentals to keep everyone entertained while indoors.

8 Boxes Shipping
If you are buying gifts online or plan to ship dolls to your nieces in Wyoming, you’ll be shelling out a lot for shipping. First of all, think “light” in your gift choices, and then look for free shipping, and have the package delivered directly to the recipient. If you’re shipping something bought locally, check out Just What You Need for a review of the best buy in shipping.

7 Socks for Stuffing
A few days ago a lady in line with me at a store mentioned that she wanted to buy some of the bookmarks on the counter as stocking stuffers for her grandkids. I don’t know if she noticed the price, but I did: they were $2.50 a piece. I don’t know how many grandkids she had, but that will certainly add up in a hurry. Watch the true cost of “little purchases” that you are making.

6 Santas Dancing
Sure decorating is fun, but resist the impulse to buy the newest, cool thing. Ask yourself, “Do I really need that dancing Santa?” I didn’t think so. If you think it through and decide to buy, wait until the after Christmas sale and get it at 75% off for next year.

5 Craft Supplies
Even making your own gifts and décor can get costly. If you practically live at the craft store during the holidays, be sure to plan your craft projects wisely. Don’t start anything that you can’t finish (like I always do!). Consider going in on supplies with fellow crafters.

4 Trips to the Mall
A couple extra trips to the mall here and driving to a few Christmas parties there can drain a couple of tanks of gas. Combine trips, planning your route logically to minimize time and gas expense. And make lists so you don’t forget anything.

3 New Shirts
If you are invited to a lot of holiday get-togethers, you may be tempted to buy a new outfit and accessories for each party. If you must buy new threads, limit yourself to one or two new pieces and then mix and match items you already have in your closet. And don’t forget to shop at second-hand stores; there’s always a good stock of Christmassy clothing.

2 Special Gifts
Around the holidays people tend to feel more generous and nonprofits know this. From the Heifer gift catalog to the Salvation Army bell ringer, opportunities to give to charities abound. Definitely give all that you can, but be sure to track your giving. If you plan to claim the gifts as tax deductions, be sure to get a recipient.

And the Time to Get it All Done
Between wrapping presents, standing in line, browsing for the perfect gift and the thousand other little things you have to do around the holidays, your time is sucked up pretty quickly. If time is money, then perhaps the best thing you can do this holiday season is to relax, avoid the stress and really ponder the true meaning of Christmas. After all, if Jesus didn’t need fancy electric lights, a grand Christmas dinner and hotel accommodations, why do we?

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