NEW YORK ( MainStreet) — Black Friday and Cyber Monday are long gone, but don't let that scare you into thinking you'll have to pay full price for the rest of your Christmas gift list. The consumer research group Nielsen has compiled the top 10 gift categories shoppers plan to spend their money on this holiday season, from gift cards to alcohol. We interviewed several experts on the best ways to save on these gift categories, so check them out before heading to the mall.

1. Gift Cards

Gift cards are the most popular gift this year, according to Nielsen, and according to MasterCard's 2013 Holiday Shopping Survey, they're popular among gift receivers: 43% of those polled said they would rather have a gift card above other gifts. But don't buy a gift card without first checking online to see if you can get it at a discounted rate. Multiple gift card sites like Plasticjungle.com CardCash.com and GiftCards.com offer gift cards cheaper than retail. Just be sure the site guarantees the transaction.

"You can also buy gift cards for less at warehouse stores," says Shelly Hunter, founder of GiftCardGirlfriend.com and spokesperson for GiftCards.com. "Costco in my [San Francisco] area, for example, has several gift cards for less than face value." She also offers this: "Be on the lookout for gift card promotions offering discount rates or bonus gift cards." Note that if you are getting a promotional gift card with a purchase, it may have time restrictions, so double check—no one wants to give a gift card that expires a week into the new year.

2. Tech

Tech products are popular and get bought up fast. That's why you should use user-driven consumer forums on deal sites "where they share up-to-the-minute deals on tech items," says Brent Shelton of FatWallet.com. Shelton notes the user base of deal site forums is keen to share coupons, rebates, cash back options and credit card rewards as well.

To jump on deals quickly as possible, download site apps from deal sites. FatWallet.com, Slickdeals.net and Dealnews.com all have free apps.

3. Toys

While retailers like Toys"R"Us are typical places to shop for kids, some manufacturer websites have their own sales. For example, Richard DeNardis, founder of the coupon and deal savings site Savor.co, notes that Mattel has free shipping and 20% off orders of $75 or more at their website.

"Also, a number of the department stores are featuring discounts on toys, including Sears's $20 off $200 with a coupon code, ending Dec. 31," says DeNardis.

4. Food

Not everyone has time to bake sweets or make bacon-flavored mints. While food might not go on sale quite as often as tech and toys, check out FreeShippingDay.com for a list of suppliers offering free shipping on Dec. 18.