When you’re short on time and gift ideas, it’s easy to throw money at the situation—and thriftiness out the door. To help you guard your cash and keep spontaneous spending under control, we pulled together five of the biggest money mistakes people make during the holidays. 

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Opening Store Credit Cards

Sure, it’s tempting to throw any unplanned expenses (like gifts) on plastic, with a plan to pay it off early next year. But watch out: Come Christmastime, a lot of store credit cards try to get you with offers for “deferred” interest rates versus regular ones—meaning you’ll still owe the full interest amount, you just get a six-month grace period on paying it off. Of course, the higher-than-usual APRs (sometimes as much as 29 percent) are another reason to steer clear of in-store credit-card offers. No matter what, be sure to read all the fine print before you commit.

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Overspending Just to Get Rewards

Your budget for your office holiday party was $50, but the saleslady just told you about an amazing deal for $25 off your next purchase if you spend $100 today. Don’t bite. A reward like this is simply a marketing ploy designed to get you to spend more money than you originally planned. (Besides, actually remembering to come back and cash in is easier said than done.)

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Shopping for Gifts on Websites That Aren’t Secure

Online shopping discounts are the best. But if you don’t see a closed padlock icon next to the website’s URL, it’s a risky move to put down your credit card. Other signs that your card could get hacked are tons of pop-up ads or unsolicited spam-like emails suddenly showing up in your inbox.

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Forgetting to Budget for Holiday Cards (and Holiday Parties)

Good for you—you set aside money for gifts. That’s no easy task. But other holiday expenses (like photo cards and parties and gift wrap) can set you back a pretty penny. Add separate budget lines for those items (think “holiday entertainment” and “wrapping supplies”). That way you won’t run short—or have to rely on a credit card—when the time comes.

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Dipping Into Emergency Savings

Experts say you should have three to six months’ worth of paychecks set aside for an emergency like a job loss or car repair—not to cover your hubby’s Apple Watch. Add holiday spending to your budget now so that you’ll have cash set aside for gifts come December. (Hey, if you set aside $50 a week starting now, the cost of the watch will be covered before Christmas. You can handle that.)

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