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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.


Some owners say it's been difficult to get the repair kit.

By Karen Datko Nov 25, 2009 3:13PM

This post comes from James Limbach at partner site


The recall of more than 2.1 million Stork Craft drop-side cribs, including about 147,000 Stork Craft drop-side cribs with the Fisher-Price logo, is just the latest in a series of actions involving cribs this year.


In January, Stork Craft announced the recall of more than 500,000 cribs. And this summer, Simplicity announced it was recalling more than 500,000 cribs.

As part of the most recent recall, involving about 1.21 million units distributed in the United States and 968,000 units distributed in Canada, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is urging parents and caregivers to stop using the recalled cribs immediately, wait for the free repair kit that converts the drop side on these cribs to a fixed side, and not to attempt to fix the cribs without the kit. The recalled cribs have been linked to four deaths.


It also is advising parents to find an alternative, safe sleeping environment for their baby.


However, obtaining the repair kit has not been easy for everyone.


Don't let lack of time, fear of failure, and The Damn Dishes hinder your efforts.

By Karen Datko Nov 25, 2009 1:37PM

This guest post comes from Kris at Cheap Healthy Good.


When it comes to eating healthier and saving money on food, we've established time and time again that few strategies are more effective than cooking at home. Making meals in your own kitchen gives you total control over nutrition, flavor, ingredient quality, and expenditures, among other things. Plus, making a mess with flour is fun.

Still, for many, home cooking is nigh inconceivable. Maybe you work 80 hours a week, and can't find 20 minutes to make a sandwich. Maybe you live in New York's East Village, where your apartment galley doubles as your bathroom and your bedroom. Maybe you never learned to cook, and are afraid of blowing $10 on a chicken, then charring it beyond recognition.

Fortunately, we here at the CHG laboratory (translation: my bathroom) have the answer.

First, we isolated a handful factors that most affect people's ability to fire up their own stoves. They are: time, space (in the capacity sense, not the extraterrestrial sense), inexperience, fear of failure, and The Damn Dishes. More than anything else, these five elements drive the average folk to takeout, restaurants, and pilfering fruit from sweet old ladies.


How many Bahamas vacations could you get instead? Those questions put big purchases into perspective.

By Kim Peterson Nov 25, 2009 1:15PM
Bargain Hunter © Hill Street Studios / Blend Images / Getty ImagesAs we head into a big spending season, Dan Ariely of Duke University suggests thinking about money in terms of sacrifice.

In other words, what are you giving up in order to buy that Christmas gift? In economics terms, that's called the opportunity cost, and it's something people don't think about enough, Ariely said.

Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics, once went into a Toyota dealership and asked people what would they not be able to do in the future if they bought that car they were eyeing.

"You would expect people to have an answer," he said in a video essay. "But people were kind of shocked by the question. They never thought about it before." 

You can keep food costs under control and save preparation time.

By Karen Datko Nov 25, 2009 1:09PM

This post comes from Trent Hamm at partner blog The Simple Dollar.


Recently, several couples in our community started a frozen-meal exchange. It’s a really simple idea.

On a certain day, everyone in the exchange meets for coffee and brings along a laundry basket full of frozen meals, one for each family, along with any needed instructions taped to the lids. The club members swap the meals so that everyone takes home one of each meal that they didn’t prepare.


It’s a very clever idea for several reasons.


Blogger excoriates women who expect men to pay for everything.

By Karen Datko Nov 24, 2009 9:25PM

The following story set off a thoughtful rant by “Fabulously Broke”: A judge this year granted alimony to a jobless woman despite the fact that she and her husband had waived any claim to alimony when they divorced 27 years ago.

This turn of events is one of the anecdotes in an excellent Wall Street Journal story about why some lawmakers think alimony laws are sorely in need of an update. (It appears that the economy is prompting more people to seek support from spouses they divorced years ago. We should also note that a large majority of alimony payers are men.)


Here’s the core of the WSJ piece:



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