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Recession-battered retailers have reduced inventories, making many must-haves hard to find.

By MSN Money producer Nov 9, 2009 11:52PM

Zhu Zhu Hamster © Mark Lennihan / AP

If toys are on your Christmas shopping list, you might want to hit the stores now as many of the season's hottest items are already in short supply, The Associated Press reports.

Don't blame overeager parents and collectors. Retailers stung by the recession have cut inventories in anticipation of a repeat of last year's dismal shopping season.


The hot toys this year, according to the AP:


If you want the best bargains, you have to show up early.

By MSN Money producer Nov 9, 2009 5:58PM

The Kohl's Black Friday sale ad was leaked Sunday morning. There are a few standout deals buried in its whopping 64 pages -- mostly toy, jewelry and home items. Coupons, rebates and Kohl's cash make the deals even better.


As usual, all of the truly smoking deals are early bird specials, available only on Friday, Nov. 27, from the time the store opens at 4 a.m. to 1 p.m. (The ad does say some deals will be available online.) For every $50 you spend, you get $10 in  "Kohl's cash" to use in the store the first week of December.


Here are some of the better bargains:


Facebook and MySpace games are rife with shady advertising, blogger says.

By MSN Money producer Nov 9, 2009 5:07PM

Trouble's brewing in FarmVille.

A small online firestorm was stirred up recently by technology blogger Michael Arrington at TechCrunch when he called out free Facebook and MySpace games for their deceptive advertising practices.

In the post "Scamville: The Social Gaming Ecosystem Of Hell," Arrington says games such as Mobsters and Farmville are raking in big bucks from ads that promise in-game currency in exchange for signing up for often dubious services. To make matters worse, the games that feature the most egregious scams have become the most popular with users, edging out games that don't feature such trickery.


Potluck dinner, minimal decor, early shopping can all help.

By Teresa Mears Nov 9, 2009 3:17PM

Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away. If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to start shopping and planning to make your holiday frugal as well as fun.


The Sunday newspaper fliers are filled with coupons for such items as chicken broth, butter and other ingredients for Thanksgiving cooking. Many grocery stores also are putting these items on sale, so keep an eye on store deals and look for good sale/coupon combos to really save.


Sweating the small stuff is good, but true savings come from making wise choices on big-ticket items.

By MSN Money producer Nov 9, 2009 2:27PM

This post comes from J.D. Roth at partner blog Get Rich Slowly.

Last winter, my wife and I re-financed our mortgage. In one fell swoop, we trimmed our monthly payments for principal and interest from $1,386 to $1,137, boosting our cash flow by $249 per month.

If we had consumer debt, that's $249 per month we have could used for our debt snowball. It’s $249 per month we could stick in our retirement accounts, or to put into savings accounts for our trip to France next year -- or to pursue other hobbies and interests. Really, it's $249 we could use for anything we wanted. (As it happens, we chose to use that money to accelerate our mortgage payments.)

There's no question that frugality is an important part of personal finance. It's good to clip coupons and to mend broken furniture and to turn the thermostat down. But it's even better to shop around for the best deal on a mortgage. Everyday frugality can save you a little money consistently, but by making smart choices on big-ticket items, you can save thousands of dollars in one blow. Or you can boost your cash flow by hundreds of dollars per month.


Taxing sugary drinks might improve the nation's health, supporters say.

By MSN Money producer Nov 9, 2009 2:25PM

This guest post comes from Andrea at Fools and Sages.

Politicians are tossing around a few ideas to help pay for health care reform, and one of the possibilities is to create a sin tax on sugary beverages.


Supporters point to obesity rates and the success of such taxes (and strong public awareness campaigns) in reducing smoking rates. Detractors say that the government should stay out of the nanny business, and that it would be a regressive tax, unfairly impacting lower-income Americans.


Expect to see more recycled gifts under the tree this year, survey finds.

By Kim Peterson Nov 9, 2009 12:50PM
Santa on a budget © 2008 MSN MoneyI have an brand new Nescafe Dolce Gusto machine sitting in the garage, a beautiful gift from a friend. But I already have a Keurig coffee maker, so I've decided to give the Dolce Gusto to my coffee-lovin' dad for Christmas.

Do I feel guilty about regifting? A little. But my dad won't care. And my friend probably won't either. It's going to a good home. And, I admit, I am relieved at having one less present to buy this holiday.

More Americans are doing the same thing, a new survey shows. About 36% of us plan to recycle a gift this year, up from 31% last year and 24% in 2007, according to Consumer Reports. 

A study shows that four different types have emerged from the Great Recession.

By Karen Datko Nov 6, 2009 7:54PM

This post comes from James Limbach at partner site


One fact often ignored in the current debate on the lasting effects of the recession is the wide variation in the way American consumers are dealing with the downturn.

A new study -- "Marketing to the Post-Recession Consumers" -- by the marketing strategy and research firm Decitica has identified four distinct consumer segments emerging from the recession:

  • Steadfast Frugalists
  • Involuntary Penny Pinchers
  • Pragmatic Spenders
  • Apathetic Materialists


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