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Don't buy online without first searching for discount codes.

By Teresa Mears Dec 2, 2009 1:22PM

Cyber Monday saw increased sales this year, and sales weren’t the only thing that increased in number. More shoppers are using online coupons, USA Today reports.


While sales on Cyber Monday were up 13% from last year, 42% of shoppers say they plan to spend less this holiday season than they did last year, Nielsen analyst Maya Swedowsky told the newspaper.

One way they hope to do that is by shopping sales and using coupons. And shoppers did both Monday. Coupon Web sites, such as and, reported significantly higher traffic on Cyber Monday compared with last year. RetailMeNot had 1.1 million visitors, up 57%. CouponCabin was visited 400,000 times, up 65%, USA Today reported.


She ended up with a substantial windfall by following these steps.

By Karen Datko Dec 2, 2009 1:00PM

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


When the job ends on Dec. 31, I’m planning to consolidate all my checking and savings accounts into just three: a checking account, an emergency savings account, and the self-escrow account to pay annual property tax and insurance bills. Right now I use one checking account as a “pool” from which incoming cash is disbursed to a half-dozen “cookie jar” accounts dedicated to various expense and savings needs.


The other day, thinking ahead to what the simplified system will look like, I added up all the money that has accumulated in the cookie jars and then estimated the last few pittances due this month. And I was astonished to discover how much cash has quietly accrued, painlessly, without my trying very hard to save.

Hang on to your hats, folks: More than $26,500 is sitting there in the credit union! That’s about $16,500 more than I thought.


What accounts for this startling windfall?


Is this what friendship is all about?

By Karen Datko Dec 2, 2009 11:16AM

This post comes from Marla Walters at partner blog Wise Bread.


After my first Arbonne “party” last weekend, I made a list of the other product sales “parties” I have attended. Can you match this?

  • Pampered Chef.
  • Princess House.
  • Mary Kay.
  • Tupperware.
  • Christmas Around the World.
  • PartyLite.
  • Oriflame.
  • Amway.
  • Stampin’ Up.

As it turns out, I have been to 19 of these things (some two or three times). I guess that makes me quite the party animal.


“Network marketing is the future!” proclaimed the Arbonne representative. Network marketing and multi-level marketing are terms that can be used interchangeably. The concept is that products are sold by an individual, but a distributor network is needed to build the business.

Interpersonal relationships and word of mouth are relied upon to market and sell. If I like a moisturizer from Mary Kay, the idea is, I’ll tell my girlfriend about it. In multi-level marketing, sellers get paid for their own sales plus the sales of others whom they bring into the company. In “direct sales,” the agent deals directly with customers, usually in a party atmosphere. These aren’t new concepts -- I remember my mother going to Tupperware parties in the ’70s.


In case you haven’t attended one of these shindigs, here is the rundown:


Better yet, give a charitable gift card so the recipient can select organizations to help.

By Karen Datko Dec 1, 2009 8:59PM

To gift card or not to gift card? Everyone has an opinion about that. But research suggests that those pieces of plastic can in fact make the perfect gift.


Bob at ChristianPF found the information in Kiplinger’s magazine: University of Pennsylvania economics professor Joel Waldfogel estimates that Americans waste billions each year buying holiday presents that are underappreciated by the recipients.

Waldfogel, the author of “Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays,” said, “When I buy for myself, I spend $100 only if I see something that’s worth at least $100 to me. But if I buy gifts for other people, how do I know what they would have spent for them?”


He added that “surveys that I’ve conducted over the years show that recipients value gifts at about 20% less than what was spent. That’s about $13 billion a year wasted.”


Personal-finance writers have been guilty of buying too much house or too much car, or living too large.

By Karen Datko Dec 1, 2009 5:03PM

Don’t true stories like these just about make your hair fall out?

You can find these and other financial foul-ups -- housing and otherwise -- in a series of guest posts compiled by Brian, the 20-something blogger at My Next Buck. Being smart people, these bloggers learned from their blunders and often offer possible solutions.

 “The problem lies in the simple fact that we believed we needed things before we could actually afford those things,” Matt wrote.


Hot toy can be found online -- for a big price.

By Karen Datko Dec 1, 2009 3:32PM

This post comes from Lisa Wade McCormick at partner site


Relief is apparently on the way for frantic parents scurrying to find the hottest toy of the 2009 holiday season -- the Zhu Zhu Pets hamsters. But many buyers are finding themselves at the mercy of online vendors who are selling the toys at exorbitant prices.

St. Louis-based Cepia LLC, maker of the popular toys, has increased production of its "smart pets," and is now turning out some 200,000 Zhu Zhu hamsters daily.


"We have ramped up production of Zhu Zhu Pets in China," said Natalie Hornsby, the company's director of marketing and brand development. "We originally worked with one major factory. We are now working with four factories."


Zhu Zhu Pets hamsters do not make a mess, never die, and have no odor. But the toys move like real hamsters and can make more than 40 different sound effects, depending on their environment. Those sounds include toilet flushing, teeth brushing, and even alarm clock noises.


How much could he win -- and donate to charity -- with 100 lottery tickets?

By Karen Datko Dec 1, 2009 11:46AM

This guest post comes from J. Money at Budgets are Sexy.


For anyone who missed it, I recently decided to embark on the $100 Scratch-Off Lottery Project. At first it was purely for entertainment, but after generating some buzz on Twitter I decided to donate all my winnings to charity -- specifically Project Hopeful.

Before I get into the results, though, I just want to reiterate that this was for entertainment purposes only. (Aka don't try this out at home, kiddies!) The $100 I spent to buy the lottery tickets came straight out of November's entertainment budget, and I was totally prepared to lose it. While I get a little loosey-goosey at times, all sane people know you're much better off donating money straight to charity than trying to increase your winnings via the lottery. Some just have to learn the hard way.


And now, the results

Well, my friends, the party has ended and I feel hung over. For all the buildup (and hope), the results really blew.


Most of the information on a check would not pass the 'Internet safety test.'

By Karen Datko Dec 1, 2009 10:29AM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.


Recently, The Consumerist mentioned a story that said fewer retailers are accepting personal checks this holiday season. They cited check fraud as the big reason for not accepting checks.


I argue that check fraud is the big reason why many consumers should not write checks: The personal check is one of the most insecure methods of payment. 

Consider this test, which I call the Internet safety test. If you took an image of a completely filled-out check, how much of it would you have to black out before you’d feel comfortable posting it on the Internet?



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