Only 36 more shopping days until Christmas.

It's the time for the great shopping marathon, when stores deck their aisles with piles of merchandise, when shop-til-you-drop becomes standard operating procedure.It can be fun, it can be frustrating. But, 'tis the season.

Before you cross the starting line for this annual marathon, it might be helpful to know just what kind of a shopper you are.

"Shopping is an activity that takes time, and time is a scarce commodity for most of us," says Norleen Ackerman, family resource management specialist with the USU Extension Service. "We tend to develop a shopping style, or several styles that vary with what we are buying, to help us handle the job."

Knowing what kind of a shopper you are may help reduce the frustration. If you know what to expect from yourself or why you are doing what you do, you may be less likely to be unnerved by the unexpected.

As part of a study that Ackerman and Leona Windley, Extension housing and equipment specialist, are working on, they have developed a test to help you determine your shopping style.

Take the test on this page and check your scores with the shopping styles listed. Ackerman cautions that only early exploratory research has been done to date, and with further study, the number of styles and descriptions of styles may change.

There are some shopping styles that may be more effective than others, but there is no "one true shopping style." A lot may depend on the person and the shopping task at hand.

No matter how you do it, shopping is a time-consuming activity. But there are a number of ways to shorten the job, says Ackerman. After you've made your list, and checked it twice, here are some suggestions:

- Identify the sellers: Check the Yellow Pages, ask friends and neighbors. In extreme cases, you can ask the manufacturer to provide names and addresses of local sellers of their products.

- Evaluating products: Refer to product test results in magazines such as Consumer Reports. Talk with experts about what to look for in a product.

- Compare prices: Phone several stores and ask the price of the specific brand and model you want to buy. Check a large general merchandise catalog, such as Sear's or Penney's, for an idea of the usual range of prices for an item.

- When shopping: Plan your trip, use a list to remember everything you need to buy, shop for a number of items in one shopping trip. Take ads with you to clarify any questions as to what is being offered and at what price.

You can also save time and money by shopping the sales. Sales, once uncommon at this time of year, are now a regular occurrence. But there is a technique to shopping the sales, says Ackerman. Don't let a sale lure you into buying what you don't need. Keep these guidelines in mind:

- Know your needs and wants: Know the difference between what you need and what you want. Aimless bargain hunting can result in useless buys.

- Consider costs. Time, energy and money spent getting to the sale may offset savings once there.

- Shop at the start and the close of a big sale. The best selection is offered on the first day, but the last day may offer further price reductions.

- Follow usual spending patterns. If you usually spend $30 for shoes, look for $30 shoes reduced, or look for more expensive shoes selling for $30. You will get the quality you usually buy for less money, or you receive the better quality for the amount of money you generally spend.

- Be your own comparison shopper: Know the original price of items so that you can recognize a reduced price. Also compare quality, dealer reliability and services, as well as prices.

- Be alert. Watch for imperfect or damaged articles, and check guarantees and services provided. Be sure the sale price is an actual reduction. End of season clothing and discontinued models of other items may be less useful.

- Know store policies on sales. Find out what kind of sales are held and if sales merchandise is returnable. This is particularly important when you are buying gifts.