5 Unexpected Holiday Expenses (and How to Avoid Them)

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The holidays are here, and while they can be a time of joy and merriment, the season can also have quite an effect on your wallet. Luckily, a little advance planning can keep the season bright without stretching your budget. Here are five unexpected holiday expenses and how you can avoid them.


It’s easy to remember gifts for the people closest to us—Mom, Dad, our partners. But oftentimes you end up having to get additional gifts you didn’t even think about. There’s that office white elephant exchange you forgot about, and then your aunt got you a gift and now you feel it’s necessary to reciprocate. On top of that, you were invited to a holiday party and feel obligated to bring a gift for the host.

All of these unexpected, additional gifts can seriously add up. In order to avoid these expenses sneaking up on you, add a little buffer to your budget ahead of time to account for them. You can also set expectations with friends, family, and colleagues. They would almost certainly rather receive a thoughtful gift than an extravagantly expensive one.


Before you know it, the holidays will be here, and your favorite shipping services will be swamped. If you don’t plan ahead, you could be caught off-guard and hit with increased shipping costs trying to get your gifts in time. Need faster delivery than the standard timeframe? You’re going to pay for that, because waiting until the last minute can lead to price hikes if you want to have things delivered by the big day. To avoid these costly expenses, start purchasing your gifts now and mail out what you need well before the rush period. Giving yourself the gift of time will also put money back in your wallet.


One of the best parts of the holiday season is all the festive holiday parties. It can be a great time to connect with friends, family, and your colleagues. However, many holiday parties request specific “holiday attire.” Maybe you’ve been invited to a signature ugly sweater party or the invite requests that you wear your best green and red, which makes you realize you have nothing in your closet that fits the bill.

You might think you need to go out and buy new holiday wear, but why spend money on something that’s once a year? First, ask your friends if they have anything you can borrow that would work for your event. If that doesn’t work, go to a secondhand store to get something inexpensive so you’re not blowing your holiday budget on an outfit you will only wear once.


Sometimes you’re so focused on getting gifts that you forget you actually need something to wrap them in. Sound familiar? Instead of going out to buy fancy gift wrapping and a specialty card, why not DIY it? You can use old newspapers to creatively wrap gifts or re-use a gift bag you got from someone else. As for the card, try a handwritten letter instead. Nothing too fancy, just something from the heart. With a little creativity, you can save money on all the extras and just focus on the gifts.


If you’re flying to visit friends and family for the holidays, you might have to pay hefty baggage fees. And if you’re traveling with loads of gifts? It could add extra weight to your bag, increasing the cost.

To avoid this expense, see if you can choose an airline that offers no baggage fees, at least on the first bag. Also, if you think your gifts might add a lot of weight to your baggage, consider sending them off ahead of time—it just might be cheaper.

Another great hack for your holiday budget: Earn cashback on every purchase you make. With Discover’s cashback match, Discover will match all the cashback you earn at the end of your first year as a cardholder automatically. Terms apply. Learn more at Discover.com.