The holidays can put a big dent in anyone's bank account. Even if you were smart enough to set aside extra money to spread some holiday joy, you can easily bust your budget if you use the holidays as an excuse to abandon good financial habits.
Here are 13 ways you could end up wasting money this Christmas season.
Not Setting a Budget
To avoid overspending and racking up debt, it's imperative to create a realistic budget to which you can actually adhere.
Take the time to make a gift list with a dollar amount you can afford to spend on each item. Because most people tend to buy things for themselves while doing their holiday shopping, you should factor a gift for yourself into your budget.
And don't forget to write down all the extra things you'll be paying for -- such as the restaurant meals you'll eat while out shopping, ingredients for holiday goodies that you'll make for friends and family, postage for holiday cards, cab rides home from holiday parties, and the list goes on.
Shopping at the Wrong Times
Some of the best deals can be found online before and after the US Thanksgiving holiday.
Generally, you won't find steep discounts on most big brand-name or high-ticketed items until after Boxing Day anyway.
Not Comparing Prices
There are plenty of sales around the holidays, but not every deal is actually a bargain. Make sure you compare prices before you make any purchases to find the best deal and avoid spending more than you have to on gifts.
Racking Up a Credit-Card Balance
You might think you're saving money by buying all your gifts and holiday items on sale. But if you charge everything to a credit card and don't pay off the balance, those savings can easily be erased by the interest you'll pay.
Layaway allows customers to select items they want and pay for them over a period of time. Once final payments are made, items may be picked up. This method of payment can be a good option for consumers who would otherwise use a credit card and not pay off the balance quickly (thus accruing interest).
However, there are several reasons layaway can be a money waster, such as the fees you'll have to pay.
Paying Too Much for Shipping
If you plan to do your shopping online, you often can avoid paying for shipping by having your purchases shipped to a retailer's brick-and-mortar store or by taking advantage of free shipping promotions.
Exceeding Your Charitable Giving Budget
If you stuff a few dollars into the charity pot every time you go to a store or say yes to every colleague who is collecting money at the office for a special cause, your generosity could easily break your budget.
Make a plan for your seasonal giving: Identify specific organizations that you care about, and allocate appropriate funds for them. Leave room in your budget for some discretionary donations, and be prepared to confidently and politely decline some requests once you've reached your limit.
Going Overboard with Holiday Decorations
Not only do you have to foot the cost of forking out for decorations, but your electric bill can take a huge jump as a result. Instead, make your home look festive with a fresh greenery approach, and hold back on the light display.
Buying Bad Gifts
Don't waste your money on gifts that no one wants, such as useless gadgets, tacky Christmas apparel or the infamous fruit cake. Instead, buy a gift card if you don't know exactly what to give someone on your list.
Opt for all-purpose cards, such as an American Express or Visa gift card, rather than store-specific -- unless you know the person's favorite store.
Shopping at the Wrong Store
Sure, it’s convenient to get all of your holiday supplies at the same place. But if you buy your baking supplies, gift wrap and paper table settings at the same store, you’re probably spending more than you have to on many items in your shopping cart.
Paying for Warranties
When saving big on doorbuster electronics, don’t give back your savings to pay for unnecessary warranties. Appliance and electronics salespeople will sell you on a product's merits and, after you commit, badmouth it so you'll also buy a service contract.
Odds are you won’t need the extra coverage because most major appliances don’t break down during the extended-warranty period.