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A California man got a lot more than he expected when he purchased a used minivan last year.

By Giselle Smith Nov 14, 2011 7:17PM
When Charles Preston purchased a used Chrysler minivan for $14,000 in May 2010, he thought he was getting a pretty good deal. The 2008 vehicle was in pristine condition and had power steering, foldaway seats and tinted windows. So what if the windows wouldn't roll down all the way?

The van came with one extra Preston hadn't asked for -- half a million dollars' worth of cocaine, hidden inside the frame.

Preston discovered the cellophane-wrapped packages of cocaine -- the drugs were the reason the windows weren't working -- when he took the van to have its brakes checked in August, the Mercury News reported on Sunday. The San Jose, Calif., psychologist immediately reported the find to police, who told him to have the van checked for a tracking device, and then get rid of it.  

With less than two weeks until the biggest shopping day of the year, how's your gift list looking? If you need ideas for presents and tips to save some money, we have lots.

By Stacy Johnson Nov 14, 2011 5:10PM

This post is from Brandon Ballenger at partner site Money Talks News.


MoneyTalksNews on MSN MoneyThere may be more people going on Santa's "naughty" list this year.


A survey from the National Retail Federation finds that despite smaller holiday budgets for 2011, people are planning to take advantage of deals and do more "self-gifting."


Also, Macy's will open its doors at midnight on Thanksgiving.

By MSN Money Partner Nov 14, 2011 3:51PM

This post comes from Melinda Fulmer at MSN Money.


Just when you thought Black Friday couldn't come any sooner, Toys R Us announced this past weekend that its Black Friday specials will start at 9 p.m. Thanksgiving Day and run until 1 p.m. Friday.


It's not clear how many of its door busters will be available online.   There weren't a lot of jaw-dropping deals in the ad, however there were plenty of 40% off and 50% off toy offers.


What do sticky fingers find irresistible? The food item most tempting to shoplifters worldwide might surprise you.

By MSN Money Partner Nov 14, 2011 2:31PM

This post comes from Jeanine Skowronski at partner site MainStreet.


Jean Valjean might have gone after a loaf of bread, but research reveals cheese is actually the food that's most likely to disappear from grocery stores due to theft.


Worldwide, the dairy product has a 3.09% shrinkage rate, besting fresh meat (2.79%), and chocolate and confectionery candy (2.78%) globally, according to the U.K.-based Centre for Retail Research. The shrinkage rate measures the amount of products received that go missing from store inventories due to theft or errors.


Chocolate and confectionery candy, however, were more in demand in North America, with a shrinkage rate of 3.60%. In North America, cheese is actually much less in demand when compared with other parts of the world.


New IRS inflation-adjusted figures increase the maximum individual 401k retirement plan contribution to $17,000 for 2012. Should you take advantage of it?

By MSN Money Partner Nov 14, 2011 1:12PM

This post comes from Ashlea Ebeling at partner site


A surprising number of folks contribute the maximum amount to their retirement savings plans at work, and thanks to Internal Revenue Service inflation-adjusted figures released Friday, they can ratchet up even more tax savings in 2012.


The maximum an individual can contribute to a 401k retirement plan for 2012 is $17,000, up from $16,500 this year. The new higher limit applies to all 401k type retirement plans, including 403b plans and 457 plans.


"If you can afford it you should do it," says Craig Copeland, a senior research associate at the Employee Benefits Research Institute in Washington, D.C.


Your holiday shopping tab can expand in the blink of an eye if you're not careful.

By MSN Money Partner Nov 14, 2011 12:56PM

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


As Kris and I neared the end our trip to Peru, we began to make preparations for our return home. That meant shopping.


I spent some time buying books, for instance. Keeping in mind my recently drafted guidelines of what to buy, I picked up a couple dozen Spanish translations of classic novels and popular children's books. These books are all tiny (about the size of a religious tract) and cost only about 50 cents. I now have practice material for months to come!


The shopping Kris did was more practical. She went in search of socks. Not for herself, but for other people. Christmas is coming, and buying gifts in a place like Peru is a fun change of pace. Plus, it's cost-effective. By shopping for Christmas gifts there, she was able to stretch her budget. (Obviously, it wouldn't be cost-effective to fly all the way to Peru to do Christmas shopping; but it's frugal to do so if you're already there.)


Who's got the best Black Friday deals? Several big retailers have already released their day-before-Thanksgiving sale prices, so you can decide.

By MSN Money Partner Nov 11, 2011 7:38PM

This post comes from Melinda Fulmer at MSN Money.


Target's Black Friday ad was released to deal sites just hours after Best Buy's ad was posted.


And for once, it appears that Best Buy has the hottest deals on electronics. Sure, you'll find plenty of bargains at Target, which opens at midnight on Thanksgiving, including a Westinghouse 46-inch LCD HDTV for $298.


But the most sought-after TV deal will surely be a Sharp 42-inch 1080p LCD HDTV for $199.99 at Best Buy. Name brands like Sharp go on sale a lot less frequently than brands such as Westinghouse or Vizio, says Michael Brim, who operates, which posted the ad earlier this afternoon.


You can avoid a horror-movie ending for your credit rating by avoiding these menacing credit-score-damaging monsters.

By MSN Money Partner Nov 11, 2011 4:39PM

This post comes from Geoff Williams at partner site


When we're kids, those shirts in the bedroom closet can look like lurking monsters. Without a night-light, the dark can seem ominous and chilling. When we're a little older, our fears turn to horror movies, roller coasters and pop quizzes. But for grownups, nothing is quite as dark and creepy as a steadily dropping credit score, that mysterious number that determines how favorably you're viewed by all types of lenders from credit card companies to mortgage issuers.


Credit scores may be enigmatic, but a few precautions will help keep the monsters at bay. It's not quite as simple as going out to the store and buying wooden stakes and garlic, but as long as you're on solid financial footing to begin with, a few simple practices will help keep your credit score safe. Stay away -- far away -- from these five surefire credit-score killers.



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