Recession is changing retailers' tactics, but how has it changed consumers'?
For better or for worse, the recession has changed how people shop, at least for now. We’d like to think most of it is for the better, as customers have focused on finding value and living within their means.
Shopping is changing, too.
It's the best way to stay on top of your financial situation.
When you were in school, chances are you knew what you needed on each test to get an A, B, or C (or avoid an F). At work, you have project deadlines to meet and performance criteria to fulfill. When it comes to your finances, there isn’t a convenient, single number you can use to track your progress.
In school, there was your GPA. In personal finance, you can’t just look at your account balances because they don’t give you the whole picture.
That’s where measuring and tracking your net worth can come in handy. Every month I record a snapshot of our family’s net worth in a simple Excel spreadsheet.
If you are planning a procedure, be savvy about the price.
Patients have dodged a proposed tax on liposuction, Botox injections and other elective medical procedures, but cosmetic surgery is still no bargain.
Despite a 12% decline in cosmetic procedures during 2008 (the latest figures available), Americans still spent $11.8 billion on cosmetic surgery, according to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Congress sought to capitalize on that interest with a 5% tax -- aptly nicknamed the “Botax” -- but cut it from health reform bills late last year after intense lobbying pressure from doctors and drug makers. Lawmakers estimated the Botax would have pulled in $5.8 billion over 10 years.
- Bing: What does Botox do?
The tax would have put extra burden on consumers, considering most procedures are entirely out-of-pocket already. “It is a consumer purchase funded out of the household budget,” says Tom Seery, the founder of RealSelf.com, a review and price site for cosmetic procedures. “Rarely if ever does insurance pay for that.”
While no surgery is trivial -- and all carry risks -- many consumers will elect to go under the knife this year. If you're set on Botox injections, a facelift or tummy tuck, here are five ways you can cut costs.
Thinking jewelry for your valentine this year? Here are tips to get more and spend less.
If you're a woman, this post is my Valentine's Day gift to you: Forward it to your beau with a note like "Came across this article; thought you'd be interested."
If you’re a guy faced with jewelry shopping this Valentine's Day, I feel your pain. Jewelry shopping is bad on so many levels: First, you might end up at someplace like a mall. Then you'll be expected to spend a lot for what looks so little (hey, I could have bought a used motorcycle with that!) And finally, you're going to feel about as comfortable as you do when you go to Victoria's Secret (might as well while you're at the mall).
But if your valentine likes jewelry, there are obvious rewards that go along with giving it (see Victoria's Secret comment.)
So let's see if we can make the process a little less painful by arming you with a few quick tips to make it less stressful and less expensive.
A new study shows that parents pick lower-calorie fast-food meals for their kids but not for themselves.
A Seattle researcher says there is now.
In a new study, the amount of calories selected by parents for their child's hypothetical meal at McDonald's restaurants were reduced by an average of 102 calories when the menus clearly showed the calories for each item.
Job Search Difficulty Index ranks major cities based on number of job-seekers vs. online employment ads.
Are you looking for a job? Maybe you’re in the wrong city.
The online job search engine Juju.com has released its January index of the best and worst cities in which to look for a job. The Job Search Difficulty Index was calculated by dividing the number of unemployed workers in each metro area, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by the number of jobs in Juju's index of online jobs, compiled from thousands of employer career portals, recruiter Web sites and job boards.
She became fed up with big banks long ago.
As Americans lose patience with the overweening greed on display at certain gargantuan banking institutions, a lot of people are talking about moving their money out of megabanks into small community banks or credit unions. I moved my money to a credit union years ago -- and thereon hangs a tale.
From the moment I graduated from college, I did business with banks. I’d never heard of credit unions, and when I did get wind of their existence, I didn’t understand what they were. I imagined they had something to do with labor unions.
Watch out for inflated prices, damaged goods and pseudo deals.
Outlet malls have a reputation for big-name brands and low prices. Now, shoppers can add Bloomingdale’s to their list of potential bargains.
Parent company Macy’s announced last week that it will open four Bloomingdale’s outlet stores before fall, in Paramus, N.J.; Miami; Sunrise, Fla.; and Woodbridge, Va., with more locations planned for 2011. The outlets will sell clearance items from the mainstream Bloomingdale’s stores.
Considering that competitors Saks, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom already have booming outlet divisions (Off 5th, Last Call and Nordstrom Rack, respectively), Bloomingdale’s move is more about opportunity than desperation, says Kim Picciola, a senior analyst for Morningstar who covers the retail sector. “They can really use outlet locations to unload excess inventory,” she says. Bloomingdale’s outlets will also expand the brand’s customer base, because outlet malls tend to draw more value-oriented crowds.
But in the struggling economy, the eye-popping deals shoppers have come to expect don’t always materialize, says Howard Davidowitz, the chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, a national retail consulting firm and investment bank based in New York. Retailers and designers have scaled back inventory amid slumping sales, which leaves less overstock. Some of that may go instead to discount stores such as T.J. Maxx, sample sales and even charity.
Many brands -- including Coach, Ann Taylor and Brooks Brothers -- fill the gaps with outlet-only lines that they sell at full price.
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ABOUT SMART SPENDING
Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
Having worked as a writer, reporter and editor for more than 25 years, Editor Julie Tilsner is the sort of person who can't help but correct grammar in Facebook postings and on billboards. She's written for BusinessWeek, the Los Angeles Times, Parenting, Redbook, AOL and others. She lives in Los Angeles County with her family and loves to drink wine and practice yoga, although not generally at the same time.
A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.
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