CBC Radio Column: Hidden Costs This Holiday

This is in interview format as it is based on the topic covered in my CBC Radio Column from Nov 3rd, 2015. I have added some additional info here that may not have been covered on air live that morning. Enjoy!

You have budgeted for Christmas gifts, decorating and the holiday meal, but you seem to always find yourself with an empty wallet come New Year’s? Here are some tips to help you plan ahead for some of the hidden costs of the Holiday Season.

What exactly do I mean by hidden costs for the holidays?

I would be referring to the things we often overlook. They are not necessarily “hidden”, they are simply things we tend to forget to account for. Things that we may usually buy month to month, but during the holidays we buy more. We will talk about what some of those things are and how to help cover those costs without having a huge impact on the December budget.

Besides gifts and food, you may be wondering what are some of the other things we may forget to budget for?
MY Top 6 Hidden Holiday Expenses would be:

Shipping Charges:

This is an expense you will encounter if you are shopping by catalogue or online. Watch for deals on shipping, many retailers offer Free Shipping, but not all do. The key here is to add the shipping cost in to the total you have budgeted for that particular gift or person you are buying for. It may not seem like much, but if you are paying $10 or more on shipping and you shop at 4 or 5 online retailers, that is an additional $40 or $50 you are spending from your Holiday budget.


You may plan to have friends or family over for a pot luck, but remember, you have more cost than just food. Extra napkins, plates, extra loads in the dishwasher, etc. Drinks are also a big expense, especially if you are serving alcohol. Figure out a budget and stick to it, or ask people to bring what they plan to drink.

Wrapping supplies:

You have the gifts purchased, but you need to wrap them. The costs of paper, boxes and bags can add up. People spend an average of $45 or more on wrapping supplies each year during the holidays.

Cards and Stamps:

This is one that can be high and many people don’t think about the money until you are dishing it out. Tips below on how to save on stamps. If you haven’t picked up cards from last year’s sales, then be prepared to pay a good amount for cards last minute.


We all tend to drive more around the holidays. Between more trips to the shopping mall and visits to friends and family, you could be adding another couple hundred dollars to your gas budget in the month of December. This can be much higher depending on where you are travelling.

Interest on Credit Cards:

Credit cards can be a great tool to help this time of year, BUT you need a plan to pay it back off right away. If you use your credit card for online shopping, then gas, and maybe extra groceries, you need a plan to pay it off quickly. Or you may just increase your spending again by another 20% in interest.

How can you plan ahead for covering some of the additional costs without it dramatically affecting your monthly spending?

Starting in January is ideal, and will cause the least impact on your bank account in December each year!
Many people find it hard to put money aside each month. Here are a few ways to do it, that may make it a little easier.

Change Jar:

Have a change jar that you seal the lid on (do not dig into it anytime during the year, leave it for December ONLY.  At the end of the day, every day, empty your pockets and change purse into it. Simple, and it really adds up! Try the 52 Week Challenge Jar.

Gift Cards:

Buy gift cards throughout the year to put towards your December spending. If you go to the grocery store 2X per month, add only a $5 gift card to your order each trip, by December that will be $110 in grocery gift cards you will have to cover additional costs. You can do the same every time you buy gas. If you or your kids have favourite stores to shop at, do the same at those stores (spreading out the cost of their gifts throughout the year as well). It is amazing how they add up!

Saving on stamps:

To help with the cost of shipping cards, do the same as above and purchase a few each month. Also, on occasion you will see stamps on sale for 15% off. Or buying them at Costco is also a little cheaper, if you want to buy a roll of 100 stamps. Watch CanadaPost.ca for specials as well. Old sets of “P” stamps go on sale often throughout the year. They are valid for whatever the current reg postage rate is.

Here are some more ideas and tips for planning ahead for Holiday Expenses.

Cut Back! Easier said than done, right?

I will be honest and say, I remember very few of the gifts I have received over the years, especially as a child. What I do remember are the family meals, hot chocolate in my parent’s kitchen after an afternoon building a snow fort with my dad, and the caroling party or sledding party I went to with my university friends (many years ago). We remember the memories of time we spent with others, not the “stuff” we received.

It is very hard to cut back on the gifts when you just want to give your kids everything, but I assure you, they will not notice. They want YOU more than anything. Just remember to keep it fun, exciting and enjoy every minute you have together. Most of us spend more time in the presence of family over the Holidays than any other time of year, so be there, enjoy and don’t worry about trying to impress those you love, that’s not why they love you!

Happy savings and if you can’t start budgeting right away, make a plan to start a holiday budget in the New Year for the following Christmas.

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*This is based on the script from my CBC column about Shopping during the holidays. The actual on air column may or may not have covered everything we had prepared. I am sharing this as part of our articles on the site as it was prepared with a few additions. It is in an interview format, myself being the person responding to the questions. Each column is prepared to allow for approximately 5-7min of air time. I may have added additional info on this page or links to further details.



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