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5 Holiday Gifts That Come With Hidden Costs


Millennial couple holding dog inside home.

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The winter gift-giving holidays are approaching fast, but there’s still time to find the perfect gift! Looking for the best inexpensive gifts? Maybe you’re on the hunt for an amazing present for a special lady friend. I know you’ll find the right one. There are a few gifts out there, however, that come with strings attached — in the form of extra hidden costs to the recipient. You might want to think these ones through before you pull out your credit card.

1. Technology purchases

Everyone wants the latest tablet, smartphone, or video game console, right? Have you considered that the upfront cost for the gift of new electronics is really only the beginning? If you’ve decided to spring for a shiny new toy, note that the recipient will have to cover games, apps, a case or a stand, and possibly even a new data plan that comes at a higher monthly cost than for their old phone. Be sure to let them know there are ways to save on games for the new console or computer.

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2. Plane tickets

Gifting someone a flight can be a wonderful (and extravagant) present, but unless you’re including the rest of the vacation’s costs with the plane ticket, be sure your recipient can swing those costs. Perhaps you know they already have the money saved for their hotel room, food, and some souvenirs, and you just want to get them across the vacation fund finish line. At the very least, your loved one may have to cough up money to check their luggage, or buy some food on the plane.

3. Spa package or similar day of luxury

Are you planning to buy a trip to a day spa for a special person? Note that many spa package deals don’t include a tip (according to Real Simple, you should expect to tip 20% of the cost of services; if you bought a very comprehensive package, that tip could be costly indeed). And consider what else might need to happen for your gift to be happily enjoyed. Does the recipient have kids who will need a babysitter? Do they work long hours and would be unable to fit in that spa appointment, and maybe need to skip work for it?

4. Pets

We have reached a major STOP sign moment. It is rarely a good idea to give someone the gift of pet ownership. There are, of course, exceptions. If you have discussed the pet and their care ahead of time and the pet is definitely wanted, then you might consider it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t recommend it. Animals can be a huge emotional and physical responsibility that not everyone wants or is ready for. And don’t forget the financial side of pet ownership. I have three cats who are mostly healthy, but anything can happen at any time, resulting in a big vet bill. While it’s a good idea to save up a pet emergency fund, your gift recipient may not have done so. They might also be unwilling to get or unable to afford pet insurance.

5. A car

Buying a car, as a gift for someone else, in the current auto market? Even if the car is paid for in full upfront, its new driver will still be responsible for insuring it and maintaining it. And insurance rates are up and not likely to drop in 2023.

Any of the above five types of secretly costly gifts may actually be perfect for someone on your list, and maybe they are fully ready to buy travel chargers, pay for checked luggage, or take on the major responsibility of a new pet. But don’t assume — check with the potential recipient of a gift like these before buying it.

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