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Watch out for inflated prices, damaged goods and pseudo deals.

By Karen Datko Jan 25, 2010 12:46PM

This Deal of the Day comes from Kelli B. Grant at partner site SmartMoney.


Outlet malls have a reputation for big-name brands and low prices. Now, shoppers can add Bloomingdale’s to their list of potential bargains.


Parent company Macy’s announced last week that it will open four Bloomingdale’s outlet stores before fall, in Paramus, N.J.; Miami; Sunrise, Fla.; and Woodbridge, Va., with more locations planned for 2011. The outlets will sell clearance items from the mainstream Bloomingdale’s stores.


Considering that competitors Saks, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom already have booming outlet divisions (Off 5th, Last Call and Nordstrom Rack, respectively), Bloomingdale’s move is more about opportunity than desperation, says Kim Picciola, a senior analyst for Morningstar who covers the retail sector. “They can really use outlet locations to unload excess inventory,” she says. Bloomingdale’s outlets will also expand the brand’s customer base, because outlet malls tend to draw more value-oriented crowds.


But in the struggling economy, the eye-popping deals shoppers have come to expect don’t always materialize, says Howard Davidowitz, the chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, a national retail consulting firm and investment bank based in New York. Retailers and designers have scaled back inventory amid slumping sales, which leaves less overstock. Some of that may go instead to discount stores such as T.J. Maxx, sample sales and even charity.


Many brands -- including Coach, Ann Taylor and Brooks Brothers -- fill the gaps with outlet-only lines that they sell at full price.


Here's how a couple balanced family demands and their own limited budget -- and loved the results.

By Karen Datko Jan 25, 2010 10:15AM

This post is from partner blog Get Rich Slowly.


Note from J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly: This guest post from Lars is part of a new feature here at Get Rich Slowly. Every Sunday will include a reader story. Some will be general “how I did X” stories, and others will be examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success.


I got married last month. It was a bit of a whirlwind romance: At the beginning of 2009, we’d been talking about an engagement later in the year, with a wedding in 2010. Things being what they are, the engagement got moved up a couple of months, and we decided to plan a wedding for the end of the year.


The first question we had to ask ourselves was, “What size wedding do we want?” The next question was, “What can we afford?”


A little background
Let’s talk about our personal situation for a moment before I answer the questions in detail. My wife is finishing school and doesn’t work. I finished grad school 18 months ago, and had a bout of unemployment for the last four months of 2008.


As I’d just gotten out of school, I hadn’t yet amassed much of an emergency fund. I mostly lived off of credit cards during that period. After moving, paying rent for two months on two apartments, and a small weekend trip to Europe earlier this year (before the wedding was in the works ... if I had known we were getting married this year, we wouldn’t have gone), I racked up more than $10,000 in credit card debt. I set a goal in April to have my debt paid off by the end of January 2010 -- a goal I’m quite pleased to say that I’ll meet.


Basically, the takeaway here is that we didn’t have much money for a wedding.


A free online tool sheds light on the fees you're paying for your retirement accounts.

By Karen Datko Jan 22, 2010 6:24PM

Here’s the find of the week: Carla Fried, a retirement blogger at CBS MoneyWatch, alerted readers to a new Web site that can tell you how much your 401k's are costing you in fees.


A San Diego company called BrightScope, which rates more than 30,000 401k plans, now has a Personal 401k Fee Report -- and it’s free.


It’s been said that 401k fees are one of the great mysteries of retirement planning. If you don’t believe me, take a look at your statements. You may find some fees, but all might not be listed there. Can you easily determine what you’re paying? Are you paying too much?

In fact, the AARP says 83% of plan participants don’t know what they’re paying in 401k fees.


We just got a 401k statement from a former employer, so let’s check this new service out.


50% of surveyed couples would take parental cash in lieu of financial help with a wedding, but how about taking a more frugal approach?

By Teresa Mears Jan 22, 2010 5:39PM

Nothing brings out our inner curmudgeon more than tales of Bridezillas and extravagant, expensive weddings. If we ruled the world, all weddings would be simple and inexpensive affairs. Are we showing our age if we suggest getting married barefoot in a field of flowers?


Free Money Finance brought our attention to a Brides magazine survey that says more than half the respondents would take money from their parents in lieu of a contribution to the wedding. Really? Who are these young slackers who expect their parents to pay for a wedding?


It's easy to find out how your premiums match up with those at other companies.

By Karen Datko Jan 22, 2010 3:11PM

This post comes from partner blog The Dough Roller.


I've had my car insurance through Nationwide for almost 30 years. My parents used Nationwide when I started driving, so that's who I used. Of course, back then there was no Internet or easy way to compare auto insurance quotes. You had to call agent after agent to get rates. Today, comparing auto insurance is a snap.

In fact, searching for the lowest rates is so easy, it's worth doing every year. A few years back I called Geico to see if they could beat the rates I was getting from Nationwide. Despite their commercials, they couldn't. Still, it was worth the 15-minute call. Just last month, Nationwide decided to bump up my insurance rates by $100 a year. So I'll be comparing rates this year, too.


Here's how to do it.


You can try Domino's new pizza, free Wi-Fi at McDonald's and a free yoga class.

By Teresa Mears Jan 22, 2010 2:15PM

It’s once again time for Friday food deals and freebies, with a little help from our friends at Cities on the Cheap.

Some of last week’s deals are still good. McDonald’s has rolled out its free Wi-Fi service for customers. At Starbucks, register your card and get two hours of free Wi-Fi every day, plus other perks.


'Pay what you can' shows are a boost to the entertainment budget.

By Donna_Freedman Jan 22, 2010 1:47PM
Want to see a play, have some laughs or absorb a little culture even when your wallet says "stay home"? The "pay what you can" concept is a frugalist's best friend.

Pay what you can is the happy hour of entertainment, a way to get out of the house without going off the rails. In my case, it was a Thursday night performance of "Jihad Jones and the Kalashnikov Babes" at Theater Schmeater.  

Retailers may track your purchases, but they'll also target you for sales.

By Karen Datko Jan 22, 2010 1:16PM

This Deal of the Day comes from Kelli B. Grant at partner site SmartMoney.


Next time you’re out shopping and a cashier asks if you’d like to join the store’s free loyalty program, do your wallet a favor and say yes.


Turning up your nose to the offer probably means one of three things: You’re worried about retailers tracking your purchase history, you aren’t sure if you’ll have a long-term relationship with a store, or you are (for lack of a better word) lazy, says Kit Yarrow, a professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, whose book “Gen Buy” assesses consumers’ purchase motivations. “They view (loyalty programs) as not worth their time and effort,” she says.


You may have reasons to be suspicious, but there are counterarguments to each objection.



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