It's December, and if you're like the rest of the country, you're probably making your shopping list. Maybe you should check it twice: some items include outrageous markups, often selling at many times more than it costs the retailer to get them to the store. So how can you spend your holiday dollars more wisely this season? Here are seven holiday items with the biggest markups, and some alternative ways to give this year. (For related reading, also take a look at Products With Surprisingly Low Markup.)


IN PICTURES: 9 Ways To Trim The Fat From Your Spending

  1. Brand-Name Clothes
    Whether you're shopping for a fashion-savvy teenager or that brother who will only wear brand-name clothes, you're paying a steep price for that coveted label. Brand-name clothes have a whopping markup of 500-1000%, explaining that outrageous price tag. If you're a smart shopper, you'll scratch these overpriced designer labels off your list. Instead, find something else to make your gift recipient happy; high-tech items like gaming stations and phones, for instanc,e have a much smaller markup - just make sure you understand the financial commitments of phone plans and pricey games before diving in.

  2. Greeting Cards
    Ever spend 20 minutes digging for the right Christmas card, only to find you'll have to fork over $4 for that moving poem or funny joke? Greeting cards have an average markup of 100-200%, making them one of the worst wallet drainers. Consider buying your greeting cards by the box for better value, or better yet, embrace technology and send a free e-card using one of the many providers on the web. Not only are you saving money, you're being green too.

  3. Jewelry
    If you're to believe the TV ads, any man who loves his other half gives her jewelry for Christmas. Would you believe the markup on jewelry is an average 100-200%? Before you pull out the plastic to pay for that expensive tiny gift box, take a moment to ask the gift recipient what they really want. Jewelry may not be it at all, contrary to what advertisers would like us to think. Being thoughtful beats being extravagant any day.


IN PICTURES: Top 6 Mindless Money Wasters

  1. Coffee
    Are you buying that teacher, co-worker or friend a coffee shop gift card for Christmas? You may want to think again: the markup on coffee is an average 300%, making that gift card a bad value for the money. Instead of resorting to the old standby gift card, think of giving that coffee lover a bag of gourmet coffee and a mug, a far more personal gift at a lower cost and better value.

  2. Texting
    You finally caved and bought your teenager a mobile phone. He or she is already texting friends at up to 20 cents a pop - would you believe that's a staggering 6000% more than the cost to the provider? Look for plans that include unlimited texting, particularly for teens who love to send those e-messages, and make sure your teen understands the cost of his or her electronic habit.

  3. Pre-Cut Produce or Fruit
    Getting ready to cook a big meal for family or friends? Maybe in your hurried shopping, you reach for those pre-cut fruits or veggies to make life easier. You may want to think again: pre-cut fruit and vegetable items have a 40% markup over their whole items. Save some money and cut the food yourself. You can even put the kids or family to work to make cooking a family affair - and save some money at the same time.

  4. Restaurant Wine
    Going out to eat for the holidays? That bottle of wine may be a nice addition to the meal, but consider this: restaurant wine carries as much as a 300% markup over its store bought counterpart. Save yourself some money and drink water with your meal. You can have that glass of wine when you get home - you shouldn't be drinking and driving anyway, right? (For a list of low priced quality wines, see Top Recession Wines For The Holidays.)

The Bottom Line
Christmas is a great time to take a stand as a consumer, and refuse to pay for these overpriced items. Be smart and thoughtful in your giving - caveat emptor, and your Christmas season will be merry and kind on the wallet. (For additional reading, check out 6 Outrageously Overpriced Products.)

Find out what happened in financial news this week. Read Water Cooler Finance: Insiders, Door Busters And Debt Contagion.

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