On a tight budget? You can probably still give. I am, and I did.
Lest you think I'm handing out dessicated bath sets from last year's post-holiday sales, I'll list some of the presents that I gave. Would you have been upset if you got:
New Web site allows people to share their credit card transactions with friends.
Just in time for last-minute Christmas shoppers, Blippy has gone public -- allowing new users to share information about their credit card purchases with their Blippy friends.
For instance, if you’ve signed up, your friends can learn that you just bought “The Joy of Cooking” at Amazon, as well as "The Joy of Sex."
As you can tell, we’re really struggling to see the upside of this, so we turned to others for more perspective.
A family story about passing the torch on a Christmas tradition.
Since it's Christmas Eve, I thought I'd share a Christmas story. It has a bit of a personal finance angle, since it involves spending money on gifts, maybe on gifts people didn’t even want. And yet those gifts mattered after all.
The year I was 51, Santa Claus almost didn’t come.
In most families, Santa visits only the children. But in our family, he left presents for adults and children alike. Long after my four sisters, brother and I had grown into adulthood, Santa Claus was still coming. As the family expanded, through marriage and children and then grandchildren, Santa kept coming.
With just hours of shopping time left before Christmas, procrastinators have limited bargain options.
About 12% of shoppers say they plan to wrap up their shopping today, according to the National Retail Federation. “Many people have procrastinated, in part because they’re hoping for the same deep discounts we saw last year,” says Deborah Mitchell, a senior lecturer of marketing and associate dean for Enterprise MBA programs at the Wisconsin School of Business. But stores’ scaled-back inventories have left those shoppers out of luck. “Retailers are holding the line (on price),” she says.
If you’re planning to brave the crowds, however, cautious spending is still the way to go. The sales are out there, but they’re targeted to items that aren’t selling as well as retailers hoped -- namely, winter clothing and kitchen electrics, Mitchell says.
No matter how late you leave your shopping on Christmas Eve, there are still ways to snag a bargain. Here’s how:
Are you tall, good at duck calling or have a certain last name? There may be money for you.
Blogger Ramit Sethi likes to point out that college scholarship money can be found if you’ll just look for it. He’s right. You can find it from some unexpected or unheard-of sources.
Skeptical? Check out “45 of the weirdest college scholarships” at Zen College Life (and thanks to J. Money at Budgets are Sexy for the link.) If you’re tall, love hunting, or are a left-handed student at a certain college in the commonwealth known as PA, you can apply for free money for school.
- Bing: Can you afford college?
Here are some examples from the list of 45, starting with the wackiest one on the list (and our personal favorite):
Illinois couple are among the frugal folks who make a point of helping others.
Like many frugal families, Suja Thomas and Scott Bahr don’t have cable TV. They don’t eat at expensive restaurants, and they drive old cars, one of which they’ve decided they no longer need. They didn’t buy each other Christmas presents.
Both make a good living, but they have decided to live frugally so they can donate substantial amounts to charity. Last year Suja, 43, who is a law professor at the University of Illinois, and Scott, 41, who is a controls programmer there, donated $50,000.
This situation is likely not sustainable. Time to begin gradually cutting them off.
A few years ago, an old friend of mine bought a fantastically expensive home, far larger and with higher quality furnishings than the home I live in now.
I went to college with him and noted that after college, he worked at a minimum-wage job for a year and then earned a solid salary for only a little more than a year when he made this purchase.
“How could he afford it?” I wondered. So I asked him about it. He just grinned and said that he had a big bankroll.
AmEx tries to convince us that not being able to borrow money is a feature.
Investing was actually my second career. For the six years between college and B-school I wrote software. Back then, we Dilberts had a phrase we used to parody the marketing types who sold what we made. "It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!" In other words, that obvious flaw in the software is not, in fact, a mistake that makes it less useful, it is a brilliant design decision that actually makes it better and worth more to you, the customer.
- Bing: Worst credit cards
I also, at this time, had an American Express card, paying, I think, $50 or $75 a year for the privilege. I honestly forget why. I think I got it while still in college under some kind of special deal. And there was this store I frequented that in those days only took AmEx. Anyway, by the time I was 25 I came to my senses and canceled the thing. They sent me a nice letter saying that if I ever came back I could still have a card that said "Member Since 1986."
So I’ve got that going for me.
I was reminded of both these things from my past by a brilliant new marketing campaign from American Express.
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