12 Holiday Money Mistakes to Avoid

12 Holiday Money Mistakes to Avoid

By Dave Carpenter, AP Personal Finance Writer

CHICAGO (AP) — The holiday season is full of pitfalls that can drain your bank account.

If you're not careful, you can end up taking a year to pay for all the spending. More than 13 million shoppers are still paying off last year's holiday debts, according to Consumer Reports.

It's fine to cut back on gifts if your finances are stretched thin. But if you plan to join the holiday shop-a-palooza, remember that it's not going against the holiday spirit to keep your bottom line in mind.

"You have to be smart," says Gail Cunningham of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. "Know how much you can spend in advance and don't get caught up in the holiday moment."

Regardless of the size of your bank account, you'll save plenty if you can avoid common holiday traps. Some are laid by retailers hungry for cash while others are simply a result of poor planning.

Here's a look at 12 holiday money mistakes to avoid:

1. Discount fixation.

Retailers advertise deep discounts to get you to bite. But don't take them at their word without comparing prices. A store's sale price may reflect a markdown from the regular price, but there's no guarantee the manufacturer's suggested retail price isn't actually lower. Think more about the item you're buying.

"The stupidest thing people do is focus more on price than on quality," says Dan de Grandpre, editor-in-chief of Dealnews.com. "Especially on Black Friday. You see really low prices because in many cases it's cheap stuff."

Avoid unfamiliar brands, be wary of the cheap version of name brands and don't go crazy for bogus bargains on footwear, apparel, power tools or anything else, cautions Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at the NPD Group.