As the holiday season approaches, it’s easy to put our holiday shopping off to the last minute. The problem is prices will increase as the days go on, and those hard to find items will become even harder to find.

There are better and more efficient ways to shop this holiday season, and if you keep the following tips in mind, you’ll become a smarter shopper, and you won’t break the bank.

Looking at reviews — Online reviews are not foolproof, but they do go a long way in identifying where other consumers see the same problems. For instance, if you are interested in a name-brand camera, go online and search for some Sony digital camera reviews for information about that specific product, rather than impulse buying. Online reviews allow you to actually read about other people's feelings on the product or service. Additionally, a list of pros and cons will help you make a better decision overall.

Consult friends and family — Your friends and family are a great source of information. People you know who have purchased a particular item can relate their experience in a personal way. While you may get anecdotal evidence, you are speaking with someone that you trust. If you hear a common theme among various friends, it is likely true.

Look out for deals and specials — Black Friday should be considered an extreme sport, and some people want a more enjoyable experience. Instead, try shopping online on Cyber Monday, which is the first weekday after Black Friday. “You're likely to find great deals and/or specials on Cyber Monday at most online retailers” says Carl Ford with, a men's watches retailer. Cyber Monday allows you to shop the globe rather than just your neighborhood retailers, and you will likely find a great deal.

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Check for product recalls — Don't forget to check for recalls on the products you think you’re interested in. You don’t want to waste your time finding something at a good price and later finding out it's been recalled. Be sure to check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's website at

Comparing generics with name brands — With grocery shopping, buying generics rather than name brands can save your wallet from a big hit. There are plenty of generic items out there that have the same "stuff" but don’t have the big ticket price.

With some common-sense measures, you can get most or all of the items on your holiday list and not break the bank while doing it.

Andrew Johnson is a writer and marketing specialist. Read more at