THE BRONX - As crowds continue to pack stores and cash in on discounts for the official start of the holiday shopping season, there are tips on how to be a smart shopper.

It helps to start out by planning ahead financially before taking the big plunge into Christmas shopping. It?s easy to get overwhelmed.

Some shoppers said their spouses keep them in check when it comes to staying within budget. Others said they keep their credit cards at home to avoid making impulsive or expensive purchases.

Shoppers should read the fine print, look for hidden fees on gift cards, keep a close eye on bank balances and know stores? return policies. When buying toys, it?s wise to keep alternatives in mind in case the toy on your list has been recalled.

Of course it?s always important to keep receipts.

Related Information:Consumer Product Safety CommissionNYC Dept. of Consumer Affairsor call 311 for more information