25 holiday money wasters

No matter how caught up in the spirit of Christmas you may get, being careful in December will keep your finances is great shape come January. Avoid these 25 holiday money wasters.

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  • It can't hurt to spend a little extra during the holidays because, "tis the season," right? Wrong...it can and does hurt. No matter how festive you are feeling, not paying attention to these 25 money wasters will spell trouble when January rolls around:

  • 1. Shopping without a budget

  • Before you make any purchases, figure out how much you can afford to spend, stick to your budget and track your spending. Don't make purchases you haven't budgeted for.

  • 2. Not sharing the cost of entertaining

  • While it is tempting to just cover all the costs yourself, share your entertaining costs with guests by assigning out food, paper products and game supplies.

  • 3. Putting purchases on a credit card

  • Most of us tend to overspend when using a credit card. We are also less likely to compare prices when you can just get it now, and pay for it later. We rationalize away a few dollars that quickly add up.

  • 4. Using out-of-network ATMs when shopping

  • Those fees can add up, so plan carefully.

  • 5. Last minute shopping

  • This is a tricky one. Sometimes in a rush, we buy and spend too much...but sometimes there are great sales that are only available right before Christmas. The trouble is, supplies are generally pretty picked over and the frustration of not finding your item sometimes isn't worth the potential savings.

  • 6. Buying "little" gifts for too many people

  • Consider an alternative to gift exchanges. Determine a set amount that you donate to a charity, then tell all those would-be-recipients of your gift what you have done.

  • 7. Buying party supplies at grocery stores

  • Try discount stores and dollar stores for your party supply needs.

  • 8. Not comparing prices

  • Having the internet at your fingertips means being able to check prices...so do it! Free websites and apps include fatwallet, pricehistories, and consumerworld.

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  • 9. Buying new decorations every year

  • Cut back on the decorations this year, and use last year's decorations as much as possible. Get creative and put some time and effort into DIY decorations.

  • 10. Getting new holiday clothes

  • We don't need new clothes for a family photo, gathering or night out. Learn how to dress up the basics. Wear a basic black dress than can be dressed up a dozen different ways just by adding less expensive accessories.

  • 11. Not taking advantage of free activities

  • The holidays are full of free concerts, neighborhood parties and other free events. Go to these rather than spending money on pricey dinners and galas.

  • 12. Buying specialty foods or drinks

  • Carefully plan menus for simple and economical meals for the majority of your holiday dining. Remember to shop the sales to save on food.

  • 13. Not shopping a year in advance

  • Do you Christmas shopping the day after the holiday, when things are considerably reduced at the end of each season.

  • 14. Not using coupons

  • This time of year there are some really good deals and promotions...so if there are discounts on items on your list, don't pass them up. Look at coupons online and in any newspapers or magazines you subscribe to.

  • 15. Buying overpriced wrapping paper just to make your gifts look "extra special."

  • 16. Splurging on meals away from home

  • , or tipping too much when you do go out.

  • 17. Paying for warranties on appliances and electronics

  • You probably won't need the extra coverage because most major appliances don't break down during the extended-warranty period. Or you might already be covered. The four major credit card networks (Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express) provide up to a year of extended warranty protection for some cardholders.

  • 18. Not clearly planning your charitable contributions

  • We all want to help out those in need during the holidays, but it's easy to go over budget if we don't set aside a specific amount.

  • 19. Paying full price for gift cards

  • It is possible to find gift cards at a discount using websites like this and this.

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  • 20. Buying gag gifts

  • Though it might be funny to surprise someone with a gag gift, you'll end up spending twice when you give them their real present.

  • 21. Going overboard on your kids

  • It's an easy thing to do, but be careful. Stay within your budget and have a financially stress free holiday season.

  • 22. Running too many errands through poor planning

  • 23. Paying too much for shipping

  • Look for shipping coupons and shop early to get free shipping before "this date" for your online purchases.

  • 24. Spending too much on greeting cards

  • Use an e-card or design your own card and send it electronically to save on postage and cards.

  • 25. Buying for yourself

  • While you are worth it, no matter how good the deal, pass it up. On average we spend about $130 on ourselves during the holidays. So be careful...that is a lot of money that could go elsewhere.

  • If you do it right this holiday season, you'll have the money to shop for yourself later this year - if you have the money.

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Julene Reese is a public relations specialist for Utah State University Extension. Email:

Website: http://extension.usu.edu

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