Enormous Christmas Trees
Let's say, theoretically, that you've had a really horrible year. You’ve lost family, moved cities, and your children are distraught. In that case, get a comically enormous tree that doesn't actually fit in your house and makes you go back to the store for extra lights. They'll tell stories about it for years. But you only really need that experience once, and part of what makes it fun is the grinning realization that it's a terrible idea to have a plant corpse dominate your living space.
You don't need a Clark Griswold-sized Christmas tree to have a fun and memorable holiday season. Heck, you might even be able to have a great Christmas with an artificial tree—as heretical as that may sound to some Christmas die-hards! Save the giant trees for the forest and pick something more appropriate for your own home.
Some people buy a ton of booze to make sure they're the best party host in their friend group. Some people just need it to put up with Uncle John's racist diatribe at the dinner table. Whatever the reason, be smart about how much you're buying—and how much you consume.
We understand that there's no harm in getting a little tipsy for a special occasion like the holidays, but will Christmas really be ruined if you've got no booze on your table (and a little extra cash in your wallet)? You really don't need a fully stocked bar to throw a great Christmas party.
Ugly Christmas Sweaters
The Ugly Christmas Sweater was a beautiful thing. Then it was commercialized and ruined. The true meaning of the Ugly Christmas Sweater was that it was something given to you by an aunt or found at a thrift store and worn out of sheer respect and wonder at its awfulness.
In our post-irony society, however, you can now just straight-up buy "hilarious" deliberately ugly sweaters for terribly high prices from companies like Tipsy Elves. At this point, they're just so cliched that they aren't worth the money you have to spend on them. If you really want an ugly sweater, learn to knit!
Strings of Lights
There's something magical about the holiday season that makes you want to buy thousands of cheaply-made electric wire to cover your flammable house with. Most everyone puts up a little decoration somewhere, but every town has one of those people who can't seem to control themselves with the lights—don’t be that guy.
While we definitely recommend cutting down on the quantity of lights you're buying to save some money, we definitely don't recommend cutting down on the quality of lights you're buying. Those dollar store lights might look like a steal, but you'll be singing a different tune when you have to shell out to repair the damage from a house fire!
White Elephant Gifts
Gift-giving can be a great opportunity to show someone how well you know them and how much you care. But then there are times when you have to buy a present due to social obligations at the office. The problem with the white elephant is that it's inherently meaningless because you don't know who's going to get your present.
You either have to come up with something generically cool within the price limit and risk it winding up with someone who won't like it, or go the novelty route with a mambo Christmas album or something. Either way, the odds of filling a void in someone's life with your gift are slim to none, so don’t overspend.
Somehow Big Snack has convinced us that gingerbread and peppermint are only acceptable for a couple of months out of the year. They know that if they keep us leashed like animals until late November, we'll gorge ourselves like animals once we're given the chance. Everyone loves a good mulled cider, so why not make that business all year 'round instead of splurging during the tiny window "society" tells you to?
At the very least, try to stock up on these iconic Christmas flavors before the holiday season rolls around. Companies love to throw a little red and green on their packaging as a pretext to mark up the price of their items—but is a wreath on the package actually going to make your cinnamon sticks taste more Christmas-y?
Some offices are like families. Other offices don't actually treat their employees well enough to be like families but are desperate to pretend they do. Enter the super-extravagant holiday office party. This is the one with six serving stations—half of which feature meats you've never actually tasted before. If you're attending one of these, go nuts. The money's already been spent.
If you're looking to throw one, think long and hard before you do. Would your employees rather just get drinks after work somewhere and get Christmas bonuses? You don't have to have a lavish, expensive blowout for people to feel the warm camaraderie of the season. Sometimes simple is better.
We're not suggesting you stay home by yourself instead of visiting your family. Just be smart about it. Flights are crazy-expensive this time of year, but you can still take the sting out by taking red-eyes or midweek flights. You'll definitely find a few hidden deals that way, but just remember that no amount of money will make the crowds at the airport any smaller!
If you don't have a terribly long way to travel, driving to your holiday destination might actually be cheaper than flying. You can also pack meals for road trips instead of grabbing fast food and do all sorts of other little things to trim the cost of holiday travel.
Gifts for Distant Family
Many families do a rotating, "name out of a hat" gift exchange. In the midst of something like this, it's easy to compensate for not knowing your extended family by spending too much money on something you think is nice. But why not put away the Benjamins and stalk your relatives' Facebook pages to get a sense of their hopes, dreams, wants, and needs instead of blowing money on a juicer they'll never use?
If your relatives are reasonable people, we imagine that they aren't expecting or wanting you to spend a fortune on them. Plus, going with a really expensive gift for someone you don't know closely can make things awkward if everyone else's gifts are much cheaper than yours. It's probably a good idea to set a spending limit when you draw names to make sure this doesn't happen.
It's easy to spend too much money on wrapping paper. Maybe you get carried away by your inner Buddy the Elf, or maybe you got pressured into it by adorable rugrats as part of a school fundraiser. Whatever the reason, you're probably putting too much money into something that's going to get ripped apart and immediately recycled if not tossed out.
You could go the old-school route and shout at everyone to open their presents carefully so that the paper can be reused, but that's not going to win you any friends at Christmas. Just go with the cheap, dollar store stuff and let everyone tear into their gifts without any worries of wasting money.
You’ve spent the holiday season scrimping and saving and pinching pennies, but you’re not out of danger yet—there are still many opportunities for you to waste your money! Many stores love to offer post-holiday sales as a way to clear out their remaining holiday inventory, especially of Christmas-themed items and decor.
While you might think that sales always equal savings, that’s not necessarily the case. If you’re just buying stuff because its on sale (and not because you actually need it), are you really saving any money? You’ve just spend the holiday season opening up gifts from loved ones—do you really need more stuff, even if it is on sale?
When it comes to decorating your home for the holidays, we are strongly in favor of it! Don’t think that saving money means you can’t have any decorations whatsoever. However, if you play your cards right, you’ll be able to turn your home into a winter wonderland without taking out a second mortgage!
Creating a cute Christmas feel in your home is more about how you style and arrange your decorations as opposed to how expensive they are. You can buy name-brand Hallmark Christmas decor ‘til your bank account is in the red, but your decor still won’t look as good as someone with an eye for design using dollar store Christmas decor.
We’re big candle people, but even we can still see that Christmas-themed candles are a total scam. Companies are looking for any reason to jack up their prices, and the holidays are the perfect time to pump out red and green candles to swindle those who want to get into the Christmas spirit.
Many of the most common Christmas candle scents, like cinnamon and cedar, are available year-round at a lower price without the extra Christmas colors and packaging. Is that candle really going to smell less Christmas-y if you bought it in August at a lower price instead of paying a premium for it in December?
For some people, exchanging Christmas cards are a hallowed tradition that they’ve been participating in for years. However, for most of us, they’re simply clutter that we feel guilty about throwing out. The thought behind sending out Christmas cards is admirable, but in most cases they’re just a waste of your time and money.
If you can’t imagine the holiday season without sending out a few cards, at least be savvy about the money you’re spending on them. Don’t worry about sending one out unsolicited to everyone in your address book—instead, narrow the list down to the real Christmas card enthusiasts in your life who you know will really appreciate the gesture.
If you’re unable to be with your friends and family during the holidays, you’re probably intimately familiar with the headaches that shipping Christmas gifts across the country can create. However, there’s no need for all the stress and expenses that come with trying to get something delivered quickly.
You have a couple of options for saving money in the shipping category. If you’re a Type A early bird, you could get your presents shipped off long before Christmas so you know they’ll arrive in time. For procrastinators, pick an affordable shipping option and give your recipients a heads-up that their gift may be a day or two late. We promise it won’t ruin Christmas for someone to open up another gift a few days later!