Many utility companies offer rebates and credits to help pay for programmable thermostats and other upgrades.
Recently, just before a large blizzard hit central Iowa, our furnace went out. I took a look and couldn’t diagnose the problem myself, so we called a repairman. (Ouch.) The guy we called was someone who was recommended by a few friends who told us that we’d be surprised how inexpensive his first visit was.
They weren’t kidding.
The repairman stopped by on Monday morning, took a look at our furnace, and within 10 minutes had figured out the problem. It was our thermostat, which had short-circuited. He offered to replace it with a programmable one, of which he had several on hand. (I’ve mentioned before that programmable thermostats can be a big money saver.)
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t buy one in this fashion, but he happened to have the exact model I was considering buying, and offered to provide and install it for the same price I was going to buy it for.
Here’s the kicker:
Landing a great deal is all about timing.
Just as summer apparel and furniture tend to go on sale in the fall, the end of the year is a good time to start checking the price tags on winter clothing like thick overcoats and water-resistant shoes. It’s also the season to score deals on some home goods and video games.
To make way for new items and clear out last year’s merchandise, retailers typically discount heavily this time of year. Those discounts won’t be as steep as they were last year because retailers were able to adjust their inventories, but shoppers will still have plenty of opportunities to land a deal, says Jack W. Plunkett, the chief executive of Plunkett Research, a market research firm in Houston that tracks the retail industry. “The deeper into January you get, the bigger the markdowns,” Plunkett says.
Here are three categories in which shoppers can now find some of the best deals:
You need to wear a patch, travel to Guatemala or Mexico, and keep a diary.
A U.S. vaccine manufacturer is offering to cover travel expenses for 1,800 volunteers who are planning to go where Montezuma’s revenge is more than an idle threat.
In exchange for up to $2,200 to cover airfare and accommodation in three-star hotels, Intercell is asking volunteers who travel to Mexico or Guatemala to keep a diary of study events, shall we say, for 17 days.
Forced to embrace a new life, writer invents a personal holiday.
When Thomas McDermott lost his job in publishing at 58 and was forced into early retirement, he joined thousands of 50-plus workers who have been forced to start over. Some have found fulfillment in entrepreneurship and new careers, and others have lost their homes and are struggling to get by.
He foundered for a few years after “being fired, broke and selling the house,” as his teen-age daughter put it bluntly. But eventually he decided to create his own holiday, which he celebrates around Thanksgiving, he wrote in an article on Recession Wire. He calls it Arrival Day.
The company offering the sky-high-interest-rate card to consumers with poor credit says the response has been great.
Readers’ responses to our post about a credit card with a 79.9% interest rate included more than a smidge of outrage. “It is almost time for Americans to pay off all credit card debt and then only pay cash. These people have given new meaning to the word GREED,” “pghkid” wrote.
But how is the new subprime card offer mailed by Premier Bankcard going over with prospective customers? Premier hasn’t said how many applications were distributed, but CreditCards.com reports:
(Miles Beacom, CEO of Premier Bankcard) called the response "phenomenal," adding 2% of people receiving the offers have applied for the cards. Their normal response rate is 1% to 1.2%, he says. "It's double what our normal product was."
While that may seem nuts, it’s actually understandable.
"Party like it's 1929!" was one of the best-selling recession T-shirts.
During the last week of the year, it’s customary for journalists and critics to round up the “The Best Of” and “The Worst Of” various topics. The Business Insider has rounded up the best-selling financial memorabilia of the year, at least on CaféPress.
CafePress, which allows you to create and sell your own T-shirts, bumper stickers and other items, sports hundreds of thousands of items with ties to the economy, including 143,000 products about the bailout, 114,000 about Wall Street, 85,600 on the recession and 5,360 sporting TARP jokes.
These were the top sellers (click on the links to see them):
The truly huge discounts come just after Christmas -- but this year it may pay to wait a few extra days.
In an effort to rid their shelves of unsold holiday merchandise and make way for the New Year’s replacements, retailers traditionally mark down their unsold holiday inventory just after the holidays.
However, as many stores have gotten wise to the fact that consumers like to redeem gift cards a day or two directly after the holidays, many have pushed off steeper discounts until later this week to maximize their profits. “The real deals come at the tail end of the week,” says Dan de Grandpre, the chief executive of sale-tracking site DealNews.
Still, thanks to the expectation that 2009 would offer a more subdued holiday shopping season, this year’s year-end sales won’t be as notable as years past, says Kathryn Finney, the founder of trend- and sale-tracking site The Budget Fashionista. “Retailers had better control of their inventory. As a result, they don’t have to discount as deeply,” she says. “For consumers, they won’t get as rock-bottom prices as they did in ’08.”
Here are nine places to scope out post-holiday sales:
Auto-pay can make you lazy, and that can lead to costly errors.
The allure of automation is obvious. Look at the famous Ronco Rotisserie catchphrase -- “Set it and forget it!” Automation is appealing because it lets computers do the work and lets you do something else more interesting.
Set your 401k contribution each month, set the allocation, and then go spend time with your family. Set credit cards on auto-pay, go all electronic for the statement credit and for the environment, and spend more time playing video games and watching television.
I get it and I love automation too, but there’s something you should know: Automating your finances can lead to bad habits, and bad habits can lead to tragic losses. In this Devil’s Advocate post, I explain why automating all of your finances can be an expensive mistake.
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