Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Cyber Monday awaits. If you're planning to shop online this year, here's how to stay safe.

By Stacy Johnson Nov 26, 2010 2:08PM

This post comes from Michael Koretzky at partner site Money Talks News.


A few years ago, some shopping analysts were predicting the demise of Black Friday because online retailers had declared the next weekday "Cyber Monday."


Well, most Americans still believe nothing beats shopping in person.

"Consumers not only think Black Friday has the best deals, but they also plan to put their beliefs into action and shop on Black Friday," said shopping site PriceGrabber, which recently conducted a Black Friday shopping survey. This was the key finding:

Sixty-one percent of consumers said they believe Thanksgiving weekend has the best shopping deals compared with the rest of the holiday season. Of this 61%, 86% believe the best deals are found on Black Friday. Cyber Monday came in a distant second, with 33%.

Make no mistake: Online holiday shopping continues to grow, but so do the concerns about it.


Here are three points to consider before you bring the wrong tree home.

By Karen Datko Nov 26, 2010 12:56PM

This guest post comes from Len Penzo at Len Penzo dot Com.


Oh, Christmas tree! When I was growing up, I had a friend whose family used to put up an artificial aluminum Christmas tree every year. Pink.


After all, nothing says happy holidays like a beautifully trimmed pink aluminum Christmas tree, don't you think?

The pink color wasn't the only thing unconventional about their fake tannenbaum either. I remember one particular Christmas this family had an ornament of a smiling Elvis Presley hanging on the tree -- just above the manger scene they had neatly tucked under it.


For those of you counting at home, one could make a strong argument that their version of the Nativity actually had four kings instead of three. I digress.


Needless to say, I now detest pink artificial aluminum Christmas trees. In fact, truth be told, I'm really not a fan of artificial trees of any material or color -- even the forest-green ones. That's why, although nobody will ever confuse me with Grizzly Adams, when it comes to the holiday season I demand a fresh-cut natural Christmas tree in my family room.


If your company does allow holiday shopping on the clock, that's not a license to spend all day filling your shopping cart.

By Karen Datko Nov 26, 2010 10:58AM

This post comes from Fred Yager at partner site


If you're thinking about doing some holiday shopping while at work, keep this in mind: Eight out of 10 companies  either restrict access to shopping websites or will be watching for unauthorized Internet use.

Among the 1,400 chief information officers surveyed:

  • 48% block access to online shopping sites.
  • Another 34% said they allow access but monitor activity for excessive use.

Meanwhile, not all companies are going to be so restrictive. The CIOs whose companies allow shopping (14%) say they expect employees to spend three hours per week, on average, bagging online deals while at work this holiday season.


Best advice: Verify the return policy before you buy anything online -- or in the store.

By Karen Datko Nov 24, 2010 4:41PM

This guest post comes from Ashley Watson at


Returning or exchanging an online purchase to any retailer can be complicated, regardless of the reason for the return. Many stores have restrictions, restocking fees, and nonrefundable clauses hidden in the fine print.

We have found that returning the item to the individual store, if possible, is always the easiest even if it takes up your time to travel there and stand in line.


But you still need to know a few things:


Sure, it's tempting to sign up immediately when you're offered a steep discount on purchases. Before you do, make sure you understand the long-term consequences.

By Money Staff Nov 24, 2010 3:30PM

This post comes from Joe Taylor at partner site


About two in three American shoppers spend more than $500 on holiday gifts every year. That makes the new credit card discount offers at most retailers very attractive to cash-strapped consumers.

Gift givers who use retail credit cards strategically can save $50, $100, or even more on their annual shopping lists. Some stores even hand out extra freebies to attract new accounts. However, if you're not careful, that short-term savings can turn into a long-term financial burden that can weigh more than whatever presents you chose to hide in a stocking.


Retail historians often cite J.C. Penney's early credit card strategy as the template for modern store credit accounts. It's a feat of historical irony, given the company was founded by a man whose middle name was "Cash." Today, most stores offer credit cards with easy, in-store signups. Many of those "instant credit card" offers come with percentage-off discounts or other incentives that can save money while inflating the cost of your shopping spree.


You can take a break from shopping and get free coffee, free breakfast and free pie. And don't forget the purple Slurpees.

By Teresa Mears Nov 24, 2010 2:01PM

When you're out shopping on Black Friday and later this weekend, you're bound to reach the point where you absolutely must stop for food and drink (though really die-hard shoppers bring a sack lunch).


Wouldn't it be great if there were Black Friday food deals?


There are. Free food on Black Friday isn't as entrenched a tradition as getting up at 4 a.m., but we're hoping it catches on.


Six ways to prepare for the trip and make it out intact -- with deals in hand.

By Karen Datko Nov 24, 2010 12:30PM

This Deal of the Daycomes fromKelli B. Grantat partner site SmartMoney.


Black Friday shopping isn't an excursion to take lightly -- those big sales can be a risky proposition for your wallet, your health and even your safety.


An estimated 138 million Americans will hit the stores over Black Friday weekend, according to the National Retail Federation. That's 4 million more than did so last year, and enough that the Occupational Health and Safety Administration reached out to 14 big retailers to underscore the importance of crowd control. No one wants a repeat of the 2008 disaster, in which shoppers trampled to death a Wal-Mart employee on Black Friday.


Big crowds and high traffic online increase risks of all kinds, including theft -- of the gifts from your car or simply your credit card information. Meanwhile, sale-hopping and long lines can make the trip physically exhausting, experts say, and the crowd mentality can encourage you to spend, spend, spend.


One home, lower car insurance and better credit card rewards are among the benefits of tying the knot.

By Karen Datko Nov 24, 2010 10:54AM

This post comes from Ben Edwards at partner blog Wise Bread.


Have you heard the stories about how finances are one of the leading causes of divorce? What exactly are people arguing about? Being married actually has some pretty good financial perks.


I don't mean to downplay the financial challenges of married life. We've had our share of heated discussions over money. But there are some definite benefits to pooling your resources in marriage. Here are 10 ways that you and your spouse are hooking each other up.



Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.