The Christmas season is once again bearing down relentlessly upon us. Malls are sprouting calendar kiosks, photo studio elves can be spotted smoking around the sides of buildings, and everybody is starting to agonize over a growing gift list and a shrinking budget. If it seems like you should have started planning your Christmas shopping back in January, you’re not alone. Here are eight ways to save on your Christmas shopping this year:

Time Your Purchases

Find out when your preferred retailers have the best deals. Sometimes that will be Black Friday, or it could be right before Christmas. It can also depend on what you are planning to buy – toys for example have traditionally dropped more in price as Christmas nears, than on Black Friday, according to Carrie Rocha, the author of "Keep More of What You Make" and PocketYourDollars.com.

Embrace Technology

Technology has also changed the smart shopping landscape, with more and more shopping taking place online. Virtually every retailer have either an app or an online store, and sometimes prices differ between online and brick-and-mortar retailers. This is especially powerful when there is a price matching guarantee offered by the store you are at, so make sure to do your due diligence.

Find Coupon/Promo Codes

Countless of retailers offer coupons or promo codes during the time leading up to the holidays. A quick Google search before you buy can save you anything from free shipping to larger percent discounts, so make sure to check before you buy. Retailmenot.com is a good source for great deals.

Groupon

Groupon offers thousands off deals on everything from pottery classes to oil changes for your car. If you are a first-time customer you can get 25% off the already discounted deal.

Outsource Your Search

Follow sites such as JungleDealsandSteals.com that monitor Amazon.com for the best new deals, and use CamelCamelCamel.com to get alerts when prices drop on the products she is targeting.

Don’t Pay For Shipping!

Don't waste money on shipping cost. Many sites offer free shipping with a minimum purchase price, but you can find free-shipping promo codes on sites such as Retailmenot.com and FreeShipping.org as well. Keep in mind that stores with free shipping with no minimum purchase often work the shipping cost into the product cost.

Play the Field

There is still some value to be found in brick-and-mortar shops – especially when it comes to encouraging some healthy competition. Many large retailers offer a price match and will pay you back the difference if a competitor sells the same product for less.

Keep an Open Mind

We should never forget that the thought still does count. The effort of finding a gift that means something will often mean more than the gift itself whether it's a good book or an experience to be shared.

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