13 Holiday-Season Costs Everyone Always Forgets About

Holiday time puts a strain on everybody's wallet, no matter what kind of budget you're working with. Factor in all of the under-the-radar expenses that everyone always forgets, and you're in danger of becoming a Grinch. Prepare yourself to better handle some of these hidden holiday-season costs so your spirit can stay merry and bright.

1. Postage for Holiday Greeting Cards

I used to spend hours and hours signing, sealing, and addressing holiday cards to my friends and family, and I always forgot to factor in postage. Not altogether, exactly — I knew I had to send them out — but I didn't prepare my budget for how much the postage actually would cost, which usually ended up around $100 or so. That's a whole gift's worth!

2. End-of-Year Tips for Service Professionals

Some service professionals you tip every time — hairdresser, masseur, manicurist, babysitter — and some you only tip once a year, like your doormen or mail carrier. Either way, it's important to factor in these "holiday bonuses" for all the people who do you well throughout the year. If you're thinking about skimping, don't do it. Now's not the time to be a miser.

3. Holiday Babysitting Premiums

Listen, we live in a free-market, capitalist society, where everyone, including that teenager up the street who babysits your kids, marks up their fees to reflect holiday pricing. If you want someone certified and trained in childcare, the price is even higher. Might as well get used to it.

"We charge additional fees and add automatic gratuities for holidays so that we can ensure that we will have babysitters that will be available for our clients," says Rachel Charlupski, founder of The Babysitting Company. "A holiday sitter will cost between $250 and $500 for four hours depending on the reservation, number of children, and the city."

4. Personal Upkeep and Grooming

I don't know about you, but I like to look good when I'm enjoying the holidays. For me that means a fresh haircut, eyebrow trim, spray tan, and maybe a few new clothing items. For you, it might mean a mani, pedi, and facial. None of these services are particularly cheap, so you should think about what you'll need to feel confident about appearance this time of year and set that money aside.

5. Increased Gas and Electric Bills

Your outdoor holiday lights spectacular and round-the-clock heating costs a pretty penny. Plan for it, but also plan ways to cut down, like putting the lights on a timer, turning off the heat when you're sleeping, and lowering it during daytime hours in favor of sweaters and warm blankets.

"Something that a lot of people get blindsided by during the holidays is the sudden increase in energy costs. This is especially true in colder areas such as the northern U.S. and much of Canada, which rely especially heavily on natural gas for heat," says energy industry analyst Joel MacDonald. "Households that only use a modicum of gas for cooking food and heating water suddenly see their usage skyrocket when the outside temperature drops, and in some years this is compounded by a spike in gas prices due to increased demand."

6. Higher-Than-Normal Grocery Bills

If you like to host holiday parties, expect your grocery bill to almost double what you normally spend in ordinary months. Feeding even a small crowd isn't cheap. Even if you're not hosting, you still have to factor in costs associated with holiday baking; snacks for school celebrations, if they're allowed, and foods marketed in seasonal packages, which always seem to find a way into your cart. Don't feel bad — mine, too.

7. Hidden-in-Plain-Sight Travel Costs

You've budgeted for the holiday flight, hotel, rental car, and gas, but that's just the beginning of this avalanche of financial assault. Personal finance expert Kevin Gallegos explains.

"Beyond the cost of an airplane ticket, it's easy to forget any needed cab, bus, or train rides to get to and from the airport; tips for porters, shuttle drivers, curbside check-in personnel; airport parking; any food and drink purchases made at the airport," he says.

If you're not careful, you can put a decent dent in your vacation fund before you ever reach your destination.

8. Dining Out More Than Usual

Between shopping trips, holiday parties, kids' activities, and visiting friends and relatives, you'll spend more time on the go, which likely will result in more food on the go.

Since dining out isn't cheap, you need to keep it in check as much as you can. Also, be mindful that all those groceries you just bought are going to waste much faster the more you neglect to eat them. It's a perfect storm for bleeding cash at a time of year you really can't afford it.

9. Gas for All That Extra Driving

You'll need gas to get around to all the holiday activities you have planned, and you'll be filling up your tank more frequently. A compromise to offset the cost of that extra fuel is to check GasBuddy.com for the lowest prices in your area (or download the convenient Gas Buddy app) and to sign up for any loyalty programs your go-to station may offer.

10. Post Office/Delivery Service Fees for Gifts

While a lot of retailers offer free shipping as a marketing gimmick this time of year, you may forget to account for those presents you buy at brick-and-mortars and have to ship yourself. As I mentioned earlier, postage isn't cheap — like, at all — and even a modest size package can cost upwards of $20. These fees can siphon a sizable chunk of money from your slush fund if you don't limit what you ship.

11. Stocking Stuffers

You've got a million and one presents wrapped under the tree, but — doh! — you forgot the stocking stuffers. Even a stocking filled solely with candy can set you back $10 or so, but these days kids expect more, like earbuds, lip balms, and other tiny but pricey items that can easily bump it up to the $50 territory.

12. Boarding Pets That Can't Travel With You

I love my dog very much, but for some reason, I always forget that he can't travel with me. Thankfully, my sitter is reasonably priced — though he'll need an extra tip, too. But if your holiday pet-sitting prices are anywhere near those holiday babysitting prices, you could be in for a doozy.

13. Last-Minute Host/Hostess Gifts

You should never, ever show up to a function — holiday or otherwise — empty-handed. If you're attending parties this season, pick up a few bottles of wine or other appropriate host(ess) gifts while they're on sale. I'll let you in on a little secret, too: This is the perfect opportunity to regift something that you don't want or like, but I highly recommend sticking to consumable items, like chocolates or cookies, or items that might immediately add to the current party, like a board game. Whatever you do, don't regift an item in the company of the person who gave it to you! There are rules to regifting, my friends, and you're wise to brush up before you embarrass yourself.

Are there more holiday costs that we all forget about? I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.

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Guest's picture

The stocking stuffers! I always forgot to budget for them. Now I put aside $50 or per stocking (2). It's easier now that our girls older - a little makeup, GC to the movie theater, and a small big of candy.

Guest's picture

$50 is way too much to fill one stocking for the holidays.. And you said you had to fill two..That's like a present....
Each. I wouldn't spend more than $10 on a stocking stuffers each..I thought that you're suppossed to help us save our $$$ as well..$50 a stocking isn't normal..