Charity should be measured more by restored lives than good intentions, some experts suggest. Perhaps we should be going about 'helping' differently.
This post comes from Matthew Illian at partner site Credit.com.
The giving season is fast approaching, and many of us are making plans to donate our time, talents and treasure to help those in need. Helping others is an integral part of the American character. Compassion experts and fieldworkers argue that much of these good intentions fuel a toxic form of charity that fails to offer lasting change.
When President Lyndon B. Johnson announced the War on Poverty, he intended for these new efforts to be a "hand up," not a "handout." In hindsight, while the War on Poverty introduced massive increases in welfare spending, the American poverty rate remained at 15%, right where it stood two years after Johnson's effort was announced. President Bill Clinton, before passing welfare reform legislation, shared that welfare is "a broken system that traps too many people in a cycle of dependence."
Private charity can create the same cycles of dependency. According to two books, "When Helping Hurts" by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, and "Toxic Charity" by Robert Lupton, much of the assistance Americans provide to those in need is doing more harm than good. Religiously motivated charity is often the most irresponsible.
Overspending is just one of the things that can go wrong during this traditional day of holiday bargain hunting.
This post comes from Allison Martin at partner site Credit.com.
Black Friday is the most anticipated, but potentially dangerous, shopping day of the year. As millions of Americans head out in the wee hours of the morning following traditional Thanksgiving Day festivities, many are unaware of the credit dangers that await them.
Here are a few important Black Friday credit perils you can avoid.
1. Identity theft
Holiday shoppers aren’t the only ones who anxiously await Black Friday. It is also the optimal playing field for thieves looking for marks among the estimated 37% of adult shoppers who partake in the day’s festivities. Criminals might use easily concealable skimming machines to retrieve data from credit cards. Others may pose as charities, and steal identities by obtaining card numbers or other information that they convince donors to disclose, such as a Social Security number, driver’s license number or bank account information.
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It's hard to eat organic and cheap at the same time -- usually, you've got to choose one or the other. How much will an organic Thanksgiving feast cost?
This post comes from Carmel Lobello at partner site The Week.
It's your turn to host Thanksgiving. Fun! Sometime next week, you'll make a list, drive to the grocery store, and spend an afternoon stalking the aisles, attempting to pick the best ingredients to satisfy and impress your family, your in-laws, and maybe your vegetarian friend Brenda, whose retired parents are spending the holiday abroad.
One choice that may come into play: Whether to serve organic food to this gaggle of loved ones.
For many, the organic question is also a cost question. When you're shopping for yourself, it may feel reasonable to spend a few extra dollars here and there to limit the hormone and pesticide content in your meats and veggies. But if you're hosting Thanksgiving and prepping to serve ten or more relatives, the price gap between fresh, organic ingredients, and conventional ones will certainly pack a greater punch.
But how much greater?
Use hot holiday deals to build a 'gift closet' that will see you through just about any occasion, all year long.
This post comes from Donna Freedman at partner site Money Talks News.
Some of the hottest deals of the year will catch fire on Gray Thursday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Although not every advertised special is the year's best deal, you'll see some prices so low they look like misprints.
Savvy shoppers dream of a loss-leader Christmas. But really savvy shoppers know better than to limit their buying to gifts that go under a tree. If you want to save money all year long you’ll build yourself a gift closet: a clutch of "evergreen" presents to see you through just about any holiday or special occasion.
Most of these gifts can be bought either in person or online. One exception is the famous "doorbuster" deal, the extreme loss leaders that retailers use to reel you in. The hope is that you'll stick around and buy other items, too. If you’re shopping on foot vs. online, don’t take the bait: Hop from store to store and deal to deal.
Just don't limit yourself. Think outside the Christmas gift box.
Oh, the price you'll pay to access your own cash -- or for services like 'maintenance' and 'overdraft protection.' Here's how to keep more of your money for yourself.
This post comes from Bob Sullivan at partner site Credit.com.
It can feel like the ultimate gotcha. You give a bank your money for safekeeping, and seemingly just because it's sitting there, your bank helps itself to a handful of your cash. Your balance dips below $5,000 for one day? That'll cost $25. You buy a hamburger at the wrong time with your debit card? That'll be $35! You grab cash instead at a nearby ATM: Better leave a $4 tip for the two banks involved.
The fees add up fast. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found this year that a consumer who overdraws an account pays an average of $225 in fees annually. That'll eat up any measly interest you might earn on a checking account, and eat substantially into your deposits, too.
Some consumers who don't want to play financial games opt out of credit cards so they don't have to worry about interest charges and late fees. It's nearly impossible to do the same with checking accounts -- it's very hard to participate in our economy without access to tools like direct deposit, ATMs and online bill-pay. So to be a sophisticated consumer in the 21st century, you have to know how to play checking account roulette.
You won't have to worry about signing away your firstborn to make a return at these stores.
This post comes from Maryalene LaPonsie at partner site Money Talks News.
Even the most thoughtful gift-giver can’t get it right all the time. In fact, Randy Allen – an associate dean for the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University – told The Wall Street Journal anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of holiday sales are returned or exchanged.
But return policies aren't created equal. So it's something you should take into account whenever purchasing something that may be returned - especially gifts. So which stores are the nation's best when it comes to hassle-free returns?
Even with a recent slight uptick in prices, Americans are paying about 20 cents less for a gallon of gasoline than at this time last year.
This post comes from Beth Braverman at partner site The Fiscal Times.
National average prices ticked up a few cents this week, but at a current $3.20 per gallon, they're still more than 20 cents lower than they were a year ago. They've been on a downward trend since Labor Day. In fact, we're paying the same amount today per gallon as we did in 1980 -- 33 years ago, adjusted for inflation, when the average price was $1.13.
Gift cards bought on the secondary market are like 3 to 30 percent-off coupons that never expire. Here's where to find the best deals.
This post comes from Donna Freedman at partner site Money Talks News.
In addition to frugal hacks like cash-back shopping, price comparison websites, online coupons and rewards credit cards, true deal hounds will seek out the secondary gift card market.
Sites like Raise, Cardpool, Plastic Jungle and ABC Gift Cards provide new homes for unwanted retail scrip. At these and other secondary market sites you can buy cards at less – sometimes a lot less – than face value.
Although cards for popular retailers like Target and Walmart may offer only a 3 percent discount, others may hover in the 10 to 25 percent range. (I’ve heard of specialty cards going for 50 percent off, but that’s rare.)
At these sites you can also sell any cards you have but don’t want, earning up to 92 percent of their value (and sometimes more if you agree to take an Amazon credit instead of cold, hard cash).
How do these cards end up as orphans? Either they’re not a good fit or the sellers would rather have the money.
Or sometimes both:
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