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Life is too short to obsess over whether the gift tags match the wrapping paper.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 29, 2010 11:40AM

One harried late-October evening years ago, I rushed through a store's costume section in a frenzy of last-minute preparations. To my horror, the reds and greens of Christmas cards and wrapping paper beckoned from a nearby aisle.

"Oh, spare me," I said aloud. "I haven't finished feeling guilty about Halloween yet."

 

Here are a couple of ways to give to food banks -- even if you think you can't afford it.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 26, 2010 3:29PM

Yesterday I counted up my found money -- the coins and bills I pick up from sidewalks, the floors of public buildings and the returned-change bins in Coinstar machines.

 

It added up to $19.79, considerably less than last year's $34.54. Maybe that's because I got my degree last December -- no more days on the University of Washington campus, the home of lots of loose change.

Or maybe the economy is tight enough that more people are picking up the dimes they drop.

 

Free photo collage, plus coupons for waffles, soft drinks, ham and sweet potato fries are on this week's list of food deals.

By Teresa Mears Nov 26, 2010 2:22PM

If you've spent the morning shopping till you drop, you might be thinking of how you can save a little money in the future.

 

We're here with new food deals and freebies. Some of the Black Friday food deals we posted earlier are good through the weekend. Today is the day to get a free purple Slurpee from 7-Eleven. Some of last week's food deals and coupons also are still good.

 

Chick-fil-A wants you to celebrate and save all year. Its annual calendar, "The Cows of Reality TV," is on sale for $6, filled with more than $30 worth of coupons, with a new food freebie each month.

 

If you want to create a permanent record of your Thanksgiving memories, you can get a free 8-by-10-inch photo collage at Walgreens through Nov. 27 with promo code THANKSGIVING. Eliminate shipping charges by picking it up at your local store.

 

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 ConsumerAffairs.com.

 

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 dealnews.com.

 

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 CreditRatings.com.

 

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.

 

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