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Popular gifts range from GPS to winter clothes

By TracyC Nov 30, 2009 1:52PM

More shoppers headed out to the malls and onto the Web this year for Black Friday shopping, but once there, they didn’t exactly load up their carts.


The National Retail Federation estimated that 195 million shoppers visited stores and websites over Black Friday weekend, up from 172 million the year before, but spending dropped 7.9% to $343.31 per person from $372.57 in 2008.


Some of the drop can be attributed to shoppers focusing on smaller-ticket electronics such as cell phones, rather than computers and huge flat screens, and more practical gifts such as


Reader gets lots of grief at work because he doesn't have a TV.

By Karen Datko Nov 30, 2009 12:34PM

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


Your friends and family influence you. They affect the way you view life. If your friends are frugal, it’s easier to be frugal yourself. But if they’re wrapped up in consumerism and materialism, it can be difficult to resist the urge to join them. It’s only natural to want to fit in.

Rob wrote recently to ask how to handle a situation where he wants to lead a simple life, but those around him aren’t supportive. How can he cope with peer pressure? Here’s his story:


Actually, you shouldn't use your work computer to order gifts, but many people will.

By Karen Datko Nov 27, 2009 7:00PM

Employers won’t like this combination: Lots of people plan to shop online at work for holiday gifts, and retailers are pushing Cyber Monday with more gusto than ever before.


That suggests that come Monday, as the online holiday shopping season kicks off, you've got to wonder who will be minding the store, so to speak.


The Wall Street Journal reports:

According to, more than half of the participants in a recent survey said they planned to shop online on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Of those, two-thirds expect to make purchases on Monday (80% will on Friday, and half will on both days).

A National Retail Federation survey found that 56% of men, 51% of women, and 74% of those between 18 and 24 who have Internet access on the job plan to shop on their work computers this holiday season.


But it is important that you get the basics right.

By Karen Datko Nov 27, 2009 1:33PM

This post comes from partner blog The Dough Roller.


You’ve seen this e-mail:

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae.The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit any porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Whlie it's not at all clear wheehtr a Cmabrigde Uinervtisy stduy rellay exsits, the concpet has treeemnduos aplpication to presoanl finncae and ivnsetnig.

Get the important things right. While we don't have to be perfect, we do need to get the important things right. Just like the first and last letters of a word need to be correct, there are some core personal-finance and investing concepts that we must get right:


Found coins add up slowly, but they DO add up.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 27, 2009 11:53AM
I'd planned to wait until mid-December to count my dropped change. By Nov. 18, the old vase in which I keep the coins was about to spill over. Eleven months' worth of found funds came to $34.54: a $5 bill, three $1 bills, 25 quarters, 117 dimes, 46 nickels and 629 pennies.

In the past week I've already found $1.05. Looks like it's going to be a good year for what blogger Candace Baltz-Smylie calls "Dirty Money."

She means that in a good way, of course.  

Under the right circumstances it is, but you'd better know what the recipient likes.

By Karen Datko Nov 25, 2009 9:53PM

Several questions come to blogger Abigail Perry’s mind when she sees one of those commercials with a car in the driveway topped by a big bow. You know -- where the wife goes outside and there it sits, all nice and pretty.


Abby (the daughter of MSN Money "Living With Less" columnist Donna Freedman) wonders how the car got there without the wife noticing. Did they bring it in the middle of the night? Did they check with the husband to make sure she’s asleep? “Does that mean the husband gets a walkie-talkie and gets to say things like ‘The bear is in hibernation’ and ‘Roger’ and ‘Over’?” Abby writes at I Pick Up Pennies.


OK, that’s the silly stuff. But Abby also raises some good questions. Is a car really an appropriate holiday present? No, she says, and here’s why not -- from the hypothetical wife’s point of view:


The season is filled with lots of traditions that were recently invented.

By Karen Datko Nov 25, 2009 8:39PM

This guest post comes from Frank Curmudgeon at Bad Money Advice.


We are now in what we Americans call the Holiday Season. And it is a season: not just one holiday, but a joyous period in which every day is special. A few of those days don’t have names yet, but I am sure that in time that gap in our culture will be filled.


Here’s a rundown of the next week or so.


The traditional fun begins with Travel Nightmare Wednesday. Observed the day before the last Thursday in November, this holiday is celebrated around the nation by crowding into planes and spending quality time with loved ones inside cars crawling along interstates.


Then comes Thanksgiving, when we solemnly thank the Almighty for football and giant balloons in the shape of cartoon characters. Some families also give thanks that once again they deep fried the turkey without burning the house down.

Things pick up a bit with Black Friday, a holiday that celebrates the simple pleasures of buying stuff. Traditionally, it is observed by talking about how everybody else is going to the mall that day and recounting how it is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year. It is not, nor has it ever been. That honor usually goes to Most Busy Saturday, which falls this year on Dec. 19.


Sure, times are tough, but think about how life was for those who came before us.

By Karen Datko Nov 25, 2009 4:01PM

This guest post comes from “vh” at Funny about Money.


How lucky we are. How incredibly lucky we are to have been born when we were born and where we were born.


Every now and again, I cruise the Web looking for my grandparents and great-grandparents, whom I never saw and about whom I know only some tantalizing hand-me-down legends. Because the pool of public records online grows deeper with each passing day, occasionally I come across something new.

The other night, what should I find but the 1900 census records listing my father’s parents, living way to hell and gone out in some godforsaken patch of east-central Texas. My father was not yet a proverbial twinkle, but both of his brothers had come into being in the early 1890s.



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