ThreeJars Daily: What Not To Spend Money On This Holiday Season

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What Not To Spend Money On This Holiday Season

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit and overspend on extras—like that dancing Santa or $50 holiday cake—you really don’t need. Here’s what else you can skip.

By Susannah Felts

Gift Tags
File under: Sooo Not Necessary. If you need to designate which wrapped present is for whom, small pieces of folded gift wrap cut from those leftover scraps will do a perfectly serviceable job (and will coordinate nicely with your pretty packages). A cute holiday stamp on squares of plain white paper makes a lovely tag, too. Or keep them guessing: Just mark the recipient’s initials in tiny script on the bottom side of the package. Viva la suspense!

Extended Warranties
Stores push them because they’re very profitable—but they’re almost always not worth it to you in the long run. Most products already offer a manufacturer warranty and are generally reliable enough to make a longer warranty a poor gamble (the credit card you use might also offer an extended warranty; check before you shop). Plus, there are often numerous exclusions in the fine print of extended warranties. And ask yourself frankly: Will I really pack up my broken camera and send it off for repair in three years, when it’s nearly obsolete?

Fancy Baked Goods
Over several weeks of holiday gatherings, you can shell out surprising amounts of cash on prepared cakes, cookies, and candies without really realizing it. Pick and choose what you’ll buy (candy canes, festively wrapped chocolates) and what you make (cookies, cakes, etc.). For super-easy holiday treats, check out “Festive No-Bake, Low-Cost Holiday Sweets”

Big Holiday Productions
Sure the Nutcracker is beautiful, but for what you’d have to pay for your whole family to go to a holiday show, you could pay for quite a few movie nights. Instead, check out the free holiday events, like parades and caroling, in your area in your local newspaper. Or simply pack some thermoses of cocoa and drive around to see all the fabulous light displays at your neighbors’ houses and around town. That’s the kind of cozy holiday together-time your kids will remember.

Pricey Express Shipping
Newsflash: The USPS’ First Class, Priority Mail, and Express Mail delivery services are very reliable, says Consumer Reports—and far more economical than similar services offered by private shipping companies like FedEx and UPS. For example, overnighting a 5-lb package from Nashville, Tenn. to Birmingham, Ala. via the USPS will cost you $26.50 (or a tiny bit less if you pay online). The same service for that package via FedEx or UPS runs more than twice as much--just over $58! And Priority Mail offers the option of flat-rate shipping, which could save you more (for instance, the online rate for a medium box, regardless of weight, is $10.20 to ship anywhere in the U.S.). If you’re shipping really last-minute, the USPS’ Express Mail service guarantees overnight delivery, even on holidays.

In-store gift-wrapping
When you’re tired and pressed for time, it might seem worth it, but those per-package fees add up fast—and your money will go a lot further on cute, affordable wrapping paper for an at-home job. Make it fun: Turn on a good film or favorite album, pour a cup of tea, and get creative with wrapping. Or get a bunch of plain paper handle bags at a crafts store, decorate them with holiday stamps and ribbon, and you’re done.

Susannah Felts also writes for Health, Spry,, and other magazines and web sites.


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