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3 surprise holiday expenses

By Paula Pant ·
Monday, December 2, 2013
Posted: 2 pm ET

If you like to keep things simple during this season, you might think you have no major holiday expenses.

Maybe you're not planning to travel during the holidays. And perhaps you intend to buy small, token presents for your closest relatives that total $20 0r less.

However, unexpected holiday expenses still can pop up and ruin a frugal holiday. Those warnings about not spending too much money during the holidays apply to you, even when you think they don't.

Here are three increased expenses that can catch you by surprise, and tips for how to trim such costs and save money.

1. Home-cooked meals

Are guests coming to dine at your home? Cooking dinner for a table of six to eight people will cost a lot more than you might expect. If you normally cook for two to four people, imagine doubling or tripling (or more) your per-meal cost.

How to trim these costs: Buy in-season produce, look for store sales, and ask your guests to bring a dessert or drink. Focus on cooking foods that are more affordable, such as mashed potatoes, biscuits or cornbread.

2. Potlucks

Are your friends or relatives inviting you to their homes for a meal? You're probably expected to bring a side dish, dessert or a drink. This can easily cost $10, $25 or more, putting a dent in your savings account.

How to trim these costs: Ask your host exactly what you're expected to bring, and find out how many people that item is intended to serve. This will prevent you from accidentally bringing excess food or drink, which will go to waste.

3. Utilities

If you're hosting friends or relatives at your home, prepare for a slight spike in your utility bills. You can expect that lights will be on longer, heating costs will rise, and your use of the oven, stove and running water will peak. Likewise, if you decorate your home with Christmas lights, you may see a rise in your electricity bill.

How to trim these costs: Opt for energy-efficient products, such as compact fluorescent bulbs or LED bulbs. Cook multiple items in the oven simultaneously to reduce overall use. Use the dishwasher instead of washing dishes by hand, as dishwashers are generally more energy-efficient.

Paula Pant is a journalist-turned-blogger who helps people shatter limits, ditch the cubicle and live on their own terms. She's traveled to 30 countries, owns six rental property units and hasn't had an employer since 2008. Her blog, Afford Anything, is the gathering point for a tribe that refuses to say "I can't afford it." Follow Paula on Twitter: @AffordAnything.

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Anudral Council
December 29, 2013 at 10:29 pm

I would just love to get my card and not have to go through to so much to get it thank you.

Lauren McClain
December 23, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Making Cookie ornaments with the family this year. either you can buy made cookies are ready decorate and shellac them are make your own cookie dough and have fun creating your own design for the holiday spirit.

December 18, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Every year instead of buying expensive ornament for the tree I buy the plain simple ones , then get fabric paint to decorate them . make sure that you date them . its family fun for all ages. Great after 20 years. To see how much the kids have grown.I enjoyed seeing some of them on my sons tree this year. & even now its a tradition in our house. Happy holidays

bettyann schneider
December 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Instead of spending money on gifts that cost alot why not make gifts that come from the heart and would mean do much more