With the holiday shopping season in full swing, a lot of folks are wondering where to get the best deals and how to know if they're getting a good price on their purchases.  In a lot of ways, the answer to both of these questions starts with you the consumer.

It's easy to get wrapped up (pardon the pun) in the hustle and bustle of the season.  But you're really better off having some patients and taking your time to make educated decisions about what to buy and where to buy it from.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Shop around.  It might sound trite, but a lot of people don't bother to take the time to comparison shop.  That little bit of effort can really pay off, with price differences from store to store.  Just because you have gotten a good deal at a particular store in the past doesn't mean that their current price is the best around.  After all, businesses are in business to make money off of you.
  • Put off your purchase for a week or two.  Or, buy your item - save the receipt - and keep checking the stores every week for their latest round of sales.  Often, stores will drop prices as the holiday gets closer - especially on hot or trendy items.
  • Comparison shop online - but buy it locally.  Online sales have skyrocketed in the past few years, but that doesn't mean that those digital storefronts always have the best prices.  But a tactic that can help you out is using a search engine to comparison shop and find out what the average price for an item is - and then hit your local stores with that education in mind.  Internet stores charge shipping  - which is something that a lot of people don't consider when they buy off the web.  Buying that item locally for a dollar or two more might be wiser than taking a lower price - while paying a hefty charge for shipping.
  • Utilize bizrate.com and pricegrabber.com .  These sites (along with plenty of others like them) monitor prices for items.
  • Take advantage of coupons or rewards points/credits.  A lesson that has been lost on our current generation is the value of saving a few cents or dollars.  Yes, it may seem trivial to clip a coupon to save 25-cents off an item - but if you redeem four of those coupons, you've saved yourself a dollar.  Save a dollar at every store you shop at this season and you could walk away hundreds of dollars richer.  Store rewards clubs are also great ways to boost your savings potential.