The 15 Holiday Purchases We Always Make — & Regret Later

Celebrating the holiday season and spending money go hand-in-hand. The whole thing officially kicks off with a giant shopping day, after all. From there, little dollar signs dance like sugarplums in our heads. All that shopping and travel (not to mention a therapeutic bottle of wine or two) really quickly starts to add up.

Some purchases, like gifts for your nearest and dearest or flights home to your family, are well-thought-out purchases you don't regret when the season is over. Others, however, are the kinds of things you look at on January 1 and wonder, "What the hell was I thinking?"

From the pricey (that New Year's Eve event ticket you already don't want) to the cheap (looking at you, last-minute White Elephant gift), here are 15 holiday purchases that just aren't worth emptying your bank account for. It's enough to turn even the biggest Mariah Carey-loving heart into an Ebenezer Scrooge. Bah, humbug!

Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Whether you go with multicolored or the more year-round white, twinkle lights are the perfect way to give your apartment some sparkle during the darkest weeks of the year. But then, after you've packed them away for the year, they come alive in the box and twist and tangle themselves into a Christmas version of a rat king. A year later, after you've detangled the mess, you plug it in to find one broken light has rendered half of the string completely dark. Anyone else think these things should come printed with expiration dates?
Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
To our four-legged companions, the true meaning of Christmas is the annual presence of a dead tree in the house. They neither expect nor require gifts, yet somehow it seems absolutely necessary to buy them their own stockings, menorah chew toys, and sparkly collars. Or at least that's what we tell ourselves as we leave Petco with snow-themed food bowls and dog beds.
Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
So much cheap sparkle, so attractively priced, so destined to get crushed in the closet after the season is over.
Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
There's only one cure for the cold, clammy sweat you break into when the airport security line loops around the terminal twice: incredibly overpriced airport food. As the sole source of salty snacks or alcohol, these restaurants and bars are free to sell you a slice of pizza or bag of M&Ms at three times the market rate. And you, helpless, are forced to pay it.

And after you add an armful of celeb magazines to the pile, your airport-terminal spending feels dangerously close to the GDP of a small island nation.
Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Somewhere between the obvious (your mom) and the definite no's (the distant relative whose contact is restricted to Facebook birthday greetings), there exists a vast, unknowable swath of people for whom you might need gifts. Inevitably, one of them will surprise you with handmade cookies or a box of your favorite chocolates, and you, in a white-hot panic, will have to run to the nearest store and buy them something. Hopefully, you're not shopping at Walgreens. But either way, you'll end up spending way more than you want.

Oh, and you'll need to buy a gift bag and tissue paper, too, of course.
Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Holiday parties create a very brief need for sparkly dresses that are as impressive as they are impractical. Yet, year after year, we answer the siren song of sequins by telling ourselves we'll dress them down with a denim jacket for everyday wear.

Then, halfway through the office holiday party or New Year's open bar, your arms are chafing from the fabric or you're leaving a trail of loose glitter everywhere or your frenemy just happens to be wearing the same outfit. The dress will soon join the ghosts of New Year's outfits past at the back of the closet, next to the '80s prom dress from Halloween '13 and red-white-and-blue dress that only sees the light of day on July 4.
Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
'Tis better to give than receive, but it's hard not to add yourself to your shopping list when, everywhere you look, value packs of bath and beauty products are being advertised as a $115 value — now just a low, low price of $49.99. And weren't you going to buy new face wash soon anyway?

Come July, the utility of a 75-eyeshadow palette, all with names like "Blitzen" and "Eggnog," might seem questionable, but now it all seems to make perfect sense.
Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Ugly sweaters are the cupcakes of holiday clothing. They're a trend that just won't die. And while it all started with thrifted sweaters from the '90s, these days there are plenty of new options available to buy, no Goodwill trip necessary. You can go classic, meta, or pop-culture-relevant. Then you'll wear it once to a friend's ugly-sweater party, glare at guests who somehow manage to wear "ugly sweaters" that are still really cute, go home early, and never wear it again.
Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Complaining about too much bubbly might be the most literal definition of "Champagne problems," but this is the time of year when you can practically make it to your neighborhood wine store's cooler (and straight to the cheapest prosecco) blindfolded. You can't show up to any holiday get-together, cookie swap, or ugly-sweater party empty-handed.

Being a party guest is hard work (on our wallets at least).
Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Your friend will tell you the $150 price tag is totally worth it because it's an open bar, there's plenty of food, and an amazing DJ.

In reality, you'll be pushing strangers aside all night for a sippy cup's worth of flat bubbly, the appetizers are room-temperature crudités, and you're pretty sure the DJ is using a premade Spotify playlist. PJs and pizza have never sounded like a more appealing (affordable) alternative.
Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Black Friday has gone from one day of people punching each other out over flat-screen TVs to a weeks-long barrage of deals that starts as early as the Monday before Thanksgiving and now bleeds into a "cyber week" of "savings" with nonstop emails. Which means that your inbox now becomes a place where teasing promises of 75% off and free express shipping lurk at every turn. Who can resist?
Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Unlike pumpkin-spiced anything, no one is holding countdowns or hashtagging the return of eggnog to the shelves. Yet return it does, where it joins mulled wine as the holiday drink that you force on party guests when all they really want is beer.
Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Whether you're hosting a cookie swap or a cocktail party, it seems imperative that every cup, plate, fork, or napkin your food touches bears the likeness of Santa or one of his reindeer.

Of course, after the party is over you're left with an odd assortment of paper products you can never use again.
Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Once upon a time, the numbers "2016" seemed alive with possibility. A blank planner, emblazoned with that year, was a sign that you were going to be different, too: more organized, less likely to eat ice cream straight from the carton. Then, sometime between MLK Day and President's Day, the planner became an afterthought, then forgotten altogether.

Now you're pretty sure this year was cursed by the gods, and you'd rather not cart around a visual reminder of the past 12 months. But 2017 is going to be so different, right?
Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Even the most text-reliant, e-book-loving millennial's heart melts at the sight of a cutesy card wishing season's greetings. Which makes it all too easy to ignore the $5 price tag for a letterpress card wishing your colleague a Happy Owli-days or Llamaka.