Every Christmas season, it feels like businesses compete for our hard-earned cash in all-new ways. They kick their festive marketing tactics into high gear to get us to spend a little extra. And guess what? It works. Christmas retail sales in the United States hit $929 billion in 2022. And Christmas 2023 is expected to top that and cross the $957 billion mark.1 Woah.
One of the things retailers love to do during the holidays is sell us on some Christmas extras that we absolutely “can’t live without.” Well, most of the time, we can. These are some of the most common extras stores love to offer, and trust us—you definitely don’t need them. Steer clear and protect your cash!
Extra! Extra! You Don’t Need This Stuff
1. Extended Warranties
These days, you’ll hear a pitch for the extended warranty as soon as you reach the cash register at a ton of stores, and it’s almost always a terrible deal. Stores today will offer you a warranty on pretty much anything more expensive than a pack of gum.
Stores also make extended warranty plans seem like something you can’t live without, but the truth is that these plans are huge moneymakers for the stores—not you. For you, they’re nothing more than money stealers.
Just selling one extended warranty can net a major profit and commission for a store, which is why they push them so hard and make them seem like such a good idea. But you can combat this marketing tactic in a simple way. Say this magical word: no. It’s a complete sentence. Now wasn’t that easy?
2. Store Credit Card Discounts
Everything from the big-box retailers to Uncle Bob’s Toothpick Shack seems to have its own store credit card these days, and the stores will all be more than happy to offer you 10% to 20% off a $7 purchase of Santa Claus socks if you’ll just open an account.
Say it again: No.
Hey, you’re getting really good at this!
Now, we know what you’re thinking: I’ll pay that store credit card off as soon as I get the bill. But why take the risk in the first place? Because if something pops up, like an emergency or a routine bill you forgot about, you’ll wind up only paying the minimum payment for your “Bless this Mess” throw pillows and start to rack up crazy interest fees. Just think, you could still be paying off this year’s Christmas next December! Those aren’t the kinds of Christmas memories you want to last.
3. Buy Now, Pay Later Plans
Buy now, pay later sounds like something that could help you out. After all, splitting up your total bill into a smaller payment frees up room in your budget, right? Wrong.
If you miss even a single payment, you’ll get hit with outrageous fees and interest rates. And by the way, the data says you probably will miss a payment. Our State of Personal Finance report found that 74% of people who used buy now, pay later in the last three months have missed a payment.
Even if you’re one of the exceptions, you’ll be chained to debt until you finish out your payment schedule. Who wants to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year like that?
Pay for your Christmas gifts in cash. If you can’t, then find some cheaper gifts. Don’t get stuck still paying for the holidays in January and February. Buy now, pay later is not your friend.
4. High-End Electronics
It might be Christmas, but that doesn’t mean you need to buy people the latest high-priced electronics. It’s still Christmas whether you gift your friends and family a big-screen TV or a DIY gift like a coffee mug for beverage sipping. And let’s be real, when you buy a fancy Apple product, TV or camera for one person, you’ll want to buy one for everyone else.
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Electronics add up to be way more than most people want to (or should) spend on Christmas, so steer clear and focus on more personalized, meaningful and affordable gifts (we know of a few). You don’t have to spend a fortune to make a big impact.
5. Exercise Equipment
We all know January is hiding right around the corner, which means lots of folks will be making New Year’s resolutions to exercise more. If you’re one of those people and you’re thinking of splurging on an expensive exercise bike in the hopes that seeing it every day will make you want to use it, hold your horses.
Buying a treadmill or elliptical isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you might find some better deals headed your way if you wait until January since stores will be trying to clear out what they didn’t sell over Christmas. Better yet? Check out your local Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist listings for good used equipment so you can exercise on a budget.
6. Gift-Wrapping Services
If it’s free, go for it. But you really don’t need to pay for someone else to wrap all your gifts—this isn’t the North Pole. You’ll save a ton of money by just buying a roll of wrapping paper and a bag of bows from the local dollar store. Besides, it’s all going to get ripped up on Christmas morning anyway.
You could also get crafty and creative with your gift wrapping. Grab some newspapers, brown bags or butcher paper and wrap your gifts with that instead. You can dress them up with some festive twine and ribbon or let the kids decorate them with stamps and markers to give to the grandparents. It’s more affordable and personal.
7. Overnight Shipping
You don’t need overnight shipping, because you’re planning ahead, right? Don’t wait until December 22 to order your Christmas presents. Just order your stuff a few weeks early, get the free shipping, and have it arrive in plenty of time for Christmas.
Santa’s on a tight schedule, and he doesn’t have time to sit around and wait for your last-minute order! Even his Christmas magic can’t clear up the trouble with supply chain issues (yep, that’s still a thing). So plan ahead! If you do, you won’t have to worry about those overnight shipping rates.
8. Everything on Your Kids’ Christmas Lists
The average American family with children plans to spend $1,300 on Christmas in 2022, according to our 2022 State of Personal Finance. That’s a lot of money! Here’s the thing though: You really don’t have to spend that much to have an awesome Christmas. Want to know a good way to cut back a little? Avoid spending a small fortune on gifts for your children.
Look, just because your kids have been (mostly) good all year doesn’t mean you need to spring for everything on their lists—there is such a thing as spending too much on kids’ Christmas gifts. Besides, they don’t need all 20 of those super expensive items.
Set a reasonable budget, figure out what’s fair for each of your kids, and stick to that amount. And be sure you set your gift budget before you go shopping. Don’t let your kids’ lists tell you how much money you should spend—your budget should do that.
You should also be careful about sneaky buys that drain your budget, like stocking stuffers. Don’t get swept up in creating a stocking that looks like it was loaded up by St. Nick himself. Set a minimum gift amount per kid and keep it simple. And when it comes to stockings, your local dollar store probably has everything you need.
9. Christmas Cards for Everyone
We know you want to send out the annual Christmas card with a festive photo of your family and holiday-ready pet, but do you really need to?
If you do, go the inexpensive route here: Skip the professional photographer and set up a tripod and a timer. Or ask a family friend with a good eye (and on-point photography skills) to snap some Christmas photos for you.
When it’s time to print the Christmas cards, look for companies offering coupon codes. Some will even give you a certain number of cards for free—and all you have to pay is the shipping cost.
You can cut costs even more if you send those Christmas cards to only five to 10 of your closest friends and family. It’s okay to be a little choosy here. You don’t really need to send a card to the pizza delivery guy, your boss’s cousin, and your ninth grade Sunday school teacher.
Make the Most of Your Money This Season
It might not sound like much, but skipping these nine Christmas extras can go a long way toward giving your budget some breathing room. At the end of the day, remember this: Christmas is all about finding joy by spending time with others and blessing them—not spending money just because every Christmas commercial told you to.
Investing in meaningful experiences and gifts doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Look for thoughtful items that will make a difference in the lives of people you care about—not another trendy gift or touchscreen gadget. If you’re stumped for ideas, we have plenty of meaningful gifts in our online store that will leave a lasting impact long after this Christmas season is over.