5 Products to Avoid Wasting Money On During the Holidays

By Quinisha Jackson
December 19, 2019

Whenever the holidays roll around, even frugal shoppers can get sucked into the trap of spending money on things they don’t really need. 

Holiday sales are quite enticing and it’s only after the season is over that we look around and realize a lot of the things we purchased were a major waste of money.

So, before you go out and spend your hard-earned cash, we’ve got some tips to help you enjoy the holidays and keep your bank account healthy. Take a look at 5 products you should avoid wasting your money on this holiday season. 

1. Holiday Decorations

You’d have to be a major Scrooge to say no to all those light-up reindeer and snowflake ornaments, right?

Yet, while it’s tempting to grab all of the sparkly and fun decorations you come across, it’s also easy to overspend – especially if you shop after Black Friday and before New Year’s.  

Instead, try to use decorations from the previous year’s holiday season if you can. Unless you have lights that don’t work or other non-functional equipment, no one will notice the difference. 

If you use this tip for this year’s festivities, you’ll save money and then, when the holidays are over, you can stock up for Christmas next year as seasonal decorations will be deeply discounted.

2. Extended Warranties

Spending a little extra for insurance on the latest gadgets might seem like a good idea in theory. However, an extended warranty can sometimes be part of a slick sales tactic to add to your final bill. 

Sales team members are skilled at appealing to your worst fear that your new device could malfunction in the next few months. They will try to talk you into buying a warranty for added peace of mind. 

What they won’t tell you, however, is that if your device breaks after the warranty period is over, you’ll still have to pay for a replacement. They also don’t tell you that if you pay for items on your credit card, you might already get extended warranty protection through your card issuer. 

Credit card coverage can vary depending on what kind of card you have, so it’s best to check with your credit card provider to see what protection it may offer. This way you’ll be less likely to waste money on a warranty you don’t need. 

3. Unused Gifts

 As much as we all enjoy giving thoughtful, personalized gifts to our loved ones, there are times when we miss the mark. 

You might have picked out an adorable jacket for your nephew, only to realize he’s grown several sizes since the last time you saw him. Or, maybe you found a gorgeous pair of earrings for your sister, yet she rarely wears jewelry and would have preferred to get cash or a gift card. 

Unless you’ve selected a gift from someone’s personal wish list, it’s likely that you could end up buying something they’ll take back to the store – or toss in a corner and forget about altogether. 

To avoid spending time and money on a gift that won’t get much use, be sure to ask others what they’d like to receive for the holidays. If they seem unsure or ask for something outside of your budget, it’s fine to give them cash or a gift card along with a thoughtful holiday greeting card. 

While it might seem impersonal to substitute cash or gift cards for a physical gift, it’s just as thoughtful to give your friends and family the freedom to buy what they really like. 

And, here’s another pro tip: Save even more money by using the 4 Gift Rule with your family this Christmas.

4. Expensive Tools

Unless you’re a professional mechanic or home repair expert, you should think twice before shelling out hundreds of dollars on that shiny new power tool – for either you or as a gift. 

Yes: There will probably be a huge Black Friday sale that seems like the perfect opportunity to stock up on tools for that home project you’ve been planning all year. Yet, you’ll regret it when the holidays pass and those shiny tools are still sitting in your garage – untouched and in the boxes. 

Keep this in mind: It’s way cheaper to rent tools from Home Depot or another local equipment store. This option won’t cost nearly as much as buying tools brand-new, and you’ll also have a set amount of time to keep them, which will hopefully give you the motivation to get that project knocked out quickly. 

Another tip: Spending money unnecessarily on a sale item is still, well, spending money. If you don’t need something, keep the money in your savings account

5. Exercise Equipment

A fancy new treadmill or workout bench is another item that could end up collecting dust if daily exercise isn’t already part of your routine. 

While you might tell yourself that having the convenience of exercise equipment in your home will give you more motivation to work out, we all know how that usually ends up. 

So, rather than spending hard-earned money on fitness equipment that you may not use long-term, try signing up for a low-cost membership at your local gym or recreation center. See if you can commit to going a few times a week over the next several months and maybe even join with a friend to have an accountability buddy.

Pro tip: Gyms often offer super low membership deals during Black Friday week and then again right after the new year when folks are thinking about their New Year’s wellness resolutions.  

Save Your Money for the Long-term

While holiday sales might seem too good to pass up, remember that most items can be purchased at any time of the year. 

You work hard for your money, so try to be mindful of where you spend it this holiday season. Most importantly, try not to overspend. Even if FOMO sets in and you feel like you’re missing out on a deal, you’ll feel much better if that money is available in your bank account when you really need it. 

Quinisha is a freelance marketing consultant and writer based in California. She writes about topics on finance, careers, and diversity and inclusion, with bylines in the New York Times, Medium, and Business Insider.

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