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Strategic use of gift card bonuses, savvy Black Friday shopping and other frugal hacks yields nearly 20 holiday gifts for almost nothing.

By Teresa Mears Dec 16, 2010 5:15PM

How much are you spending on holiday shopping this year? $100? $200?

Katiria Colon of Hollywood, Fla., did all her Christmas shopping for $6.32.


That's right. She spent less than $7 to buy presents for about 20 people: her husband, 8-year-old son Kyle, grandparents, mother, two sisters, two nieces, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, her boss and his wife, a cousin and the cousin's daughter, a neighbor family and her son's teacher, reports Marcia Heroux Pounds of the Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale.


More kids are asking Santa for necessities rather than toys. The requests show that the recession isn't over for many families.

By Teresa Mears Dec 16, 2010 2:45PM

Kids still write letters to Santa. Among the requests for Barbies and video games this year are some more poignant pleas: requests for clothes, shoes, and help with parents' bills.

Pete Fontana is the "chief elf" at the main post office in New York City, one of about 25 post offices around the nation that match families in need with people who want to help.


"The need is greater this year than I've ever seen it," he told USA Today. "One little girl didn't want anything for herself. She wanted a winter coat for her mother."


As part of a settlement with the states, some customers with unresolved complaints may be entitled to refunds.

By Karen Datko Dec 16, 2010 1:08PM

This post comes from Mark Huffman at partner site


Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna gets a lot of complaints from his state's consumers in a year's time. But the many complaints generated by DirecTV in recent years made him sit up and take notice.

Washington became the first state to file suit against DirecTV, the nation's largest satellite television company, over allegations of unfair business practices. Now, the company has agreed to make restitution and pay $14.25 million to settle Washington's complaint and a separate action filed by 49 states and the District of Columbia.


You can make the process less stressful by learning 5 steps before you venture out.

By Stacy Johnson Dec 16, 2010 10:40AM

This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News.


Diamonds are a girl's best friend, the saying goes. Odd, because they can be a man's worst enemy. They're expensive, they're complicated and, as a retail experience, about as far as you can get from Home Depot.

To make matters worse, because they're always a popular holiday gift -- more than a third of diamonds are bought in December -- when you go to the jewelry store, you'll be in a pack of other dazed men being preyed upon by commissioned salespeople. Not a pretty picture.


The lawsuit by a consumer group alleges that toys bait children to eat junk food.

By Karen Datko Dec 15, 2010 4:50PM

This post comes from Truman Lewis at partner site


As it threatened in June, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has filed suit against McDonald's, charging that its Happy Meals use cheap toys as "bait" to lure children into gorging on "unhealthy junk food."

The suit, which seeks class-action status, was filed in California on behalf of Monet Parham, a Sacramento mother who said the Happy Meals make it "so much harder" for her to say no when her children beg her to take them to McDonald's.


National Regifting Day celebrates the fact that most people think giving a gift they no longer want is OK.

By Karen Datko Dec 15, 2010 3:49PM

This guest post comes from Lou Carlozo, Green Dad columnist at


Make it a green Christmas, you say? That can go a long way past decking the halls with boughs of holly, piney wreaths and all that Yuletide verdure.


This Thursday, Dec. 16, marks National Regifting Day and finally, we have a contrived holiday that avoids making you needlessly consume -- either by buying or eating. In fact, the message of National Regifting Day stresses quite the opposite: Consume less by passing on those ghosts, er, "gifts" of Christmas Past instead of buying more stuff.

Don't worry about being typecast as the Secret Santa Scrooge of your workplace, either. The folks at, which is promoting the itinerant holiday, insist you'll land in good company this year.


New giver carries on tradition of giving $100 bills to strangers in Kansas City, Mo. A small act of kindness inspired the original Santa.

By Teresa Mears Dec 15, 2010 3:02PM

For years, it was Kansas City's favorite Christmas story: An anonymous man, dubbed the Secret Santa, would go around town and give $100 bills to complete strangers.

For 26 years, no one knew who the Secret Santa was. But in 2006, as he was dying from cancer, Larry Dean Stewart revealed his identity. He died weeks later, at age 58.

But Secret Santa didn't die with him. Tuesday, Secret Santa II, with the aid of a few "elves," handed out $10,000 to people in shelters, thrift stores and food pantries in Kansas City, Mo.


In some cases, false attorney signatures have led to foreclosures being dismissed.

By Karen Datko Dec 15, 2010 2:13PM

This post comes from Sasha Chavkin at partner site ProPublica.


Many foreclosures have been thrown into question because of flawed documentation such as inaccurate affidavits describing a mortgage's history. But three recent court cases point to another type of flaw in foreclosure filings that could place thousands more cases in doubt: false attorney signatures on court documents.

Experts said that foreclosures that relied on court documents with the signatures of attorneys who in fact neither signed nor reviewed them are vulnerable to being thrown out in the 23 states in which foreclosures must be approved by a judge.



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