It feels like every Christmas season, businesses compete for your hard-earned cash in new (sneaky) ways. They kick their festive marketing tactics into high gear to get you to spend a little extra. And guess what? It’s works. Christmas retail sales in the United States hit $789 billion in 2020.1 And Christmas 2021 is expected to top that and cross the $850 billion mark.2
Ready for one more number to make your head spin? Despite crazy inflation numbers, people aren’t cutting back on their spending. The average American plans to spend almost $1,000 on Christmas this year.3 Wowzer.
It’s clear that stores are going to lay it on thick to do whatever they can to get you to splurge this season. So hang on to your cash and steer clear of these Christmas extras they say you can’t live without!
Extra! Extra! You Don’t Need These Things
1. Extended Warranties
You’ll hear the pitch for the extended warranty as soon as you reach the cash register. 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?
Start budgeting with EveryDollar today!
You should say “no, thanks” to the extended warranty because—spoiler alert—it’s not a good deal. Warranties at electronic stores are ridiculous because these stores don’t make a lot of profit on the products they sell. And they have to make money somehow (hello, upselling of extended warranties). The markup is unreal! Stores can make a major profit (and commission) just from selling one warranty to you—that’s why you’ll hear a pitch about a $1 warranty on your $2 pack of chewing gum.
2. Store Credit Card Discounts
Say it again: No.
Hey, you’re getting really good at this.
Every store from the big-box retailers to Uncle Bob’s Toothpick Shack seem to have their own store credit card these days. They’ll be more than happy to offer you 10–20% off a $7 purchase of Santa Claus socks if you’ll just open a credit card account.
We know, we know—you’ll pay that store credit card off as soon as you get the bill. But even though you might mean well, the truth is that totally wiping your balance out just doesn’t happen. Life gets in the way, the bill for your kid’s allergy testing comes in the mail, and then the next thing you know—you end up paying only the minimum payment on that credit card. Just think, you could still be paying off this year’s Christmas next December! Talk about Christmas memories that last—bah humbug to that!
3. Buy Now, Pay Later Plans
These things are everywhere and are one of the sneakiest Christmastime marketing tactics out there. Oh sure, it sounds innocent enough. Split up your total bill into a couple of payments—what could it hurt? But the truth is, no matter how you slice it, buy now, pay later plans are still debt.
And don’t forget, this “easy” way to pay for Christmas gifts will cost you extra money if you miss a payment. You’d be surprised by how often that happens. People do end up getting slapped with late fees on these buy now, pay later plans. Our Ramsey 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!
4. High-End Electronics
So, this is Christmas. And what have you done? Bought everyone on your list an iPad. When your budget said only buy one.
It might be Christmas, but that doesn’t mean you need to buy people the latest overpriced electronics. It’s still Christmas whether you gift your friends and family a DIY gift like a coffee mug for beverage-sipping or a big-screen TV for game-watching. And let’s be real, once you start buying the fancy Apple products, TVs, cameras and other gadgets—where do you stop?
If you’re getting Mom an iPhone, Dad’s going to want one too. If your brother is getting a drone, what do you get your sister-in-law? Your 7-year-old wants an iPad? Nice try, kid—here’s a pencil and a notepad.
The truth is, electronics add up to be way more than most people want to spend on Christmas. But we end up giving in once we get caught up in the Christmas craze. Steer clear and focus on more personalized, meaningful (and cheaper) gifts—we know a few. You don’t have to spend a fortune to make a big impact.
5. Exercise Equipment
You might be thinking, Who buys exercise equipment for Christmas? And the answer to that is—a lot of people, actually. Why? We all know January is lurking right around the corner. And even though we aren’t about to pass up that second round of chocolate pecan pie, we’ll splurge on an expensive exercise bike in the hopes that seeing it every day will make us want to use it.
So, you want to make a commitment to stay healthy—and that’s a good thing. But if you wait until January, you might find some better sales headed your way. Stores are trying to clear out what didn’t sell over Christmas, and they know the rush of people with their shiny New Year’s resolutions has already passed. That’s the time to score a great deal. Better yet? Check out your local Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist listings for good used equipment to get your fitness on—on a budget.
6. Gift-Wrapping Services
If it’s free at the store, 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. It’s all going to get ripped up on Christmas morning anyway.
You could also get crafty and creative! Grab some newspaper, brown bags or butcher paper and wrap your gifts with it. 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 cheap and heartwarming.
And if you really want to try something unique this year, how about using wrapping paper made out of a potato chip bag? We’re serious. All you have to do is turn an (empty) bag of chips inside out, wash it, and then use the shiny silver foil to wrap your gifts!
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—especially this year with all the supply chain chaos. Just order a few weeks early, get 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! And even his Christmas magic can’t clear up the trouble at the ports. Plan ahead (like right now!) so you don’t have to worry about those extra overnight shipping rates.
8. Everything on Your Kids’ Christmas List
Oh, yes. This is so “extra” as the youths would say. Just because your kid (who has been mostly good all year) put 20 super expensive items on their list doesn’t mean you have to spring for every last one of them.
Set a reasonable budget, figure out what’s fair for each kiddo, and stick to it. Be sure your gift budget is set before you go out shopping. Don’t let your kid’s list tell you how much money you spend—your budget should do that.
Look out for sneaky buys that drain your budget too—like stocking stuffers. Some people can spend just as much money on stocking stuffers as they do on regular gifts under the tree. Don’t get swept up in a stocking that looks like it was loaded up by St. Nick himself. Set a minimum gift amount per kid and keep it simple. Don’t break the bank on stocking stuffers when your local dollar store 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 the family and your holiday-ready pet, but do you really need to?
If you do, go the inexpensive route here: Skip the professional photographer and set up your tripod and self-timer yourself. Or ask a family friend with a good eye (and on-point photography skills) to snap some Christmas photos for you.
When it comes 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 only send those Christmas cards to 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.
Invest in meaningful experiences and gifts—not another fruit cake, trendy gift or touchscreen gizmo. Look for thoughtful items that will make a difference in the lives you care about. 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.