Some Holiday Gifts May Come With Sticker Shock

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The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® identifies some popular gifts that are costly to keep.

National Foundation for Credit Counseling

Feelings of joy can turn into disappointment if the presents being given are too expensive for the recipient to maintain, potentially sending them into debt.

Consumers are expected to spend over $630 billion on holiday shopping this season, in the malls and online. Once the gifts are unwrapped and put to use by their new owners, some of the recipients may be in for serious sticker shock when the cost of maintaining their new possessions begins to add up. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) has identified some popular gifts that are often too expensive to maintain.

“Giving gifts to friends and loved ones is what makes this season special,” said Bruce McClary, spokesman for the NFCC. “Feelings of joy can turn into disappointment if the presents being given are too expensive for the recipient to maintain, potentially sending them into debt.”

Whether giving or receiving, here are some high maintenance gifts to consider avoiding this year:

  • Mobile Phones – The latest and most advanced model of a cellphone may be on everyone’s wish list, but the purchase price is only the beginning when it comes to the full cost of owning one of these. The average monthly cellphone bill is over $100, including phone calls, texting and data. Accessorizing a new phone is also an expensive proposition. Items like cases, chargers, hands-free headsets and batteries are often sold separately. Some phones come with service contracts that are very expensive to modify or cancel, and can also come with many hidden costs for roaming and data overages.
  • Cars and Boats – If there’s a gift waiting in the driveway, be sure there is room next to it for the truckload of bills that will come along soon. In most communities, cars and boats are subject to personal property taxes. They also require insurance coverage, fuel and maintenance. A recent study by the Automobile Association of America (AAA) reported that the average cost of operating a sedan in the United States was $8,698 per year. For those maintaining a boat, the annual costs can be well beyond that.
  • Pets – There’s nothing quite like the joy of giving or receiving a new pet for the holidays. Pets can be valued members of the family that will soak up attention and show affection to their owners. Pets do require a consistently high level of care and commitment from their owners, and much of that comes at a cost. Some reports list the total first-year cost of owning a dog or cat above $1000. Unless prepared emotionally and financially, it is better not to bring a new pet into the household.
  • Gift Cards – It is very easy to reach for a gift card in the kiosk and quickly check off the people on the Christmas gift list, but the gift of green that they will be receiving could help lead them into the red. This is especially true for cards that charge high fees when activating, reloading, checking balances and calling customer service. If receiving a card bogged down with high fees, the best strategy is to use it until the balance is gone and discard it afterward.

The NFCC encourages everyone to learn more about the maintenance cost of the gifts they give and those that are received. If a gift is too costly to keep, look for ways to sell it to someone else or exchange it for one that is more affordable. Anyone struggling with holiday debt is encouraged to reach out to an NFCC® Certified Consumer Credit Counselor. To be automatically connected to the closest NFCC member agency dial (800) 388-2227, or to find an agency online, visit


Founded in 1951, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) is the nation’s first and largest nonprofit dedicated to improving people’s financial well-being. With 600 member offices serving 50 states and Puerto Rico, our NFCC® Certified Consumer Credit Counselors are financial advocates, empowering millions of consumers to take charge of their finances through one-on-one financial reviews that address credit card debt, student loans, housing decisions and overall money management. Make one of the best financial decisions of your life. For expert guidance and advice, call (800) 388-2227 or visit today.

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