5 Holiday Shopping Mistakes to Avoid

Start with a gift list and you'll be on the right track.

By + More

With the holiday season now in full swing, it's easy to get caught up in the hype and fall for a few expensive shopping mistakes. Sure, we all want to give our loved ones a holiday to remember, but there's no need to deck the halls with boughs of money to have a happy holiday.

[In Pictures: 12 Money Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes]

To help you stay off Santa's naughty list, here are five holiday shopping mistakes you make, and the fixes that can save you money.

Mistake 1: You don't have a gift list. If making a list and checking it twice is good enough for Santa, then stop being a Scrooge by skipping this important financial planning step. Running around the mall not knowing what to buy is a surefire path to blowing your budget—especially when you're pressed for time.

The Fix: Budget today for tomorrow's gifts by downloading this free Gift Giving Worksheet. As you think of gift ideas, just add them to the list with your expected budget.

Mistake 2: You don't track holiday spending. You spent how much on decorations, wrapping paper, and stocking stuffers? Ouch! Those little holiday spends can add up to a lot if you're not careful. Not tracking all those little splurges and expenses can leave you with a huge bill to pay in January. Not fun.

The Fix: Stay on the right financial track by using this free Holiday Expense Tracking Spreadsheet. There are a myriad of costs to keep in mind during the holidays, and it's easier to stay on budget when your spending list is up-to-date.

Mistake 3: You don't look for a discount. Paying full price for anything when a better deal can be found can turn any Santa into a Scrooge. Bah, Humbug! Many last minute shoppers are too desperate to find a deal when the big deadline looms.

The Fix: Avoid paying the price for not shopping around—go online and comparison shop before spending your hard-earned cash. Many retailers offer online promotional codes and coupons to savvy shoppers, so finding that deal is just a click away. Check out How to Find Big Savings with Secret Online Coupons for the best ways to save like Santa.

[Visit the U.S. News My Money blog for the best money advice from around the web.]

Mistake 4: You don't give homemade gifts. Buying packaged gift boxes, baskets, and other store-wrapped goodies is tempting, but expensive. Pre-made gift packages are sold for top dollar, and it's easy to make something special for far less. Besides, making something from scratch is thoughtful and can also save you money.

The Fix: You don't need to be a crafty or have a special skill to give a homemade gift this year. These 8 Homemade Gifts in a Jar are super simple—just layer tasty ingredients into a mason jar and add a gift tag. Need a hostess gift? Try baking a batch of tiny tarts (see How to Make Pie in a Jar) or make your own gift basket by adding a cookbook to a few recipe ingredients.

Mistake 5: You don't shop at home first. Filling your shopping cart with holiday decorations, gifts, and food supplies is a massive money mistake if you already have the goods at home. Buying stuff you already own adds clutter and costs money that could have been used to pay off your credit card or pay down your student loan.

The Fix: Take a peek in your pantry, open your closets, and search the basement before heading to the store. It's possible to deck out your home with everyday items to get that holiday feel. Check out 5 Ways to Decorate Your Holiday Table on a Budget for some stunning ideas.

Kerry K. Taylor writes at Squawkfox.com, a blog where personal finance and frugal living are sexy, delicious, and fun. Kerry is the author of 397 Ways To Save Money: Spend Smarter & Live Well on Less.