5 Little Costs That Add Up Fast During the Holidays

During the holidays, you're always up for spreading good cheer. While everyone around you gets into the festive spirit during the holidays, it's important to realize that gifts, decorations and other items add up fast. It's the peak shopping season and there are numerous costs to account for. To stick to your budget when others are going overboard, think about all the little costs including:

1. Postage and Shipping Costs
In showing relatives, friends, co-workers and other loved ones that you care, you might send them a special piece of mail like a holiday card. However, be aware of postage rates or other charges and whether all those shipping fees are making a dent in your wallet. Postage costs and fees usually include buying stamps, shipping for gifts and expenses for sending greeting cards, post cards and party invitations.

When deciding whether to ship your presents or give cards, it's best to mail early if you do not want to pay extra costs related to expedited shipping. People are well-aware the holiday season is an especially busy time for mail so sending mail weeks instead of days ahead of their intended delivery date should reduce some of the stress of whether packages arrive on time. This is true especially for international packages and mail. Additionally, many postal carriers will also give you the option of paying a tracking fee to alert you when your items have been delivered so you can have peace of mind. 

2. Energy Bills
During the holidays, people look forward to putting up lights in and around their house. Whether you're decorating with simple string lights on the tree or elaborate decorations on the lawn, your energy costs will likely go up during the holidays. Depending on the type of bulbs, wattage consumed by these lighting options and how long they're turned on, you may be spending more than you need to. You might also be using electricity during peak hours, which could push your bills even higher. 

Before placing lights around your house, consider upgrading your old string lights with light-emitting diode models. LEDs are more energy efficient than regular incandescent lights, which could reduce your utility bill and ensure that lights will last for future holiday seasons. To further lower costs, you could also install a timer that will automatically shut off lights during the late evening hours. If you don't want to have a timer, you could also shut off your lights when you're not occupying your house or before you go to bed. 

3. Food Expenses and Supplies
When you're planning on hosting a party, you will likely see a spike above your typical food budget. Feeding a ton of people will require more food, drinks, dishes and other supplies. Even if you're not having the party at your house, you might be expected to bring a dish to a company potluck or family gathering, so that's another cost to think about. In addition to food, you might also have to pay for candy and snacks to munch on, give out to kids or use as stocking stuffers. 

Be sure to check your bank account and allocate some money for these food expenses. When making a list of ingredients, spend money on essentials and cut back on any fancy gadgets or kitchenware that you only use once for the holidays and which don't see the light of day for the rest of the year. If you're hosting a party, ask guests to bring an appetizer, drinks or other favorite items to share with the rest of the group. This reduces your food expenses and gives you one fewer item to worry about for your big event. 

4. Gas/travel Costs
The holidays are when everyone in your family gets together and celebrates. Although some families are lucky to still be close-knit and stay in the same location, others find that it takes more than a drive up the road to get everyone in one spot. Gas and travel costs are naturally lumped together with other holiday expenses. You'll have to determine whether you will have enough money to make the trek across the country or state to meet up with family members.

If you're trying to save money while driving, make sure your vehicle is working as efficiently as possible. While you can't change gas prices, you could enhance your car's performance to maximize its fuel efficiency by getting it checked and giving it a needed tune-up. If you're flying, book travel plans early to avoid the holiday rush and soaring ticket prices. 

5. Decorations
Festive decorations complete the look of the holidays with tinsel, wreaths, trees and other ornaments. However, you could easily be paying more than you anticipated if you don't keep track of all your receipts.

Be sure to spend money on decorations that you could use again and again rather than ones that will fall apart after the first use. You could also choose to buy items that you could have as decor year-round. Red table runners will fit a variety of interior designs and you could use them more than once.