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The emotional side of our brain often gets us in a financial fix.

By Karen Datko Nov 19, 2009 5:18PM

You’re not stupid. So why do you do things like splurge on yourself to punish your spouse, drain your bank account to bail out spendthrift kids, or pay high interest on credit card debt when you have the savings to pay it off?

The brain is a funny thing, says a post at CBS MoneyWatch.com, and an oversized part of it is often getting the best of us and our money. Writer Kathy Kristof turned to psychologist Brad Klontz for some analysis. She writes:

A financial psychologist, Klontz says that when it comes to money smarts, size matters: The logical part of your brain is so much smaller than the emotional side that it’s like “a circus performer riding an elephant.” To make smart decisions about your finances, you need the logical side to dominate.

Her post describes nine dumb things we do with money when emotions get the best of us. Among them:

 

Retail theft rising, with more middle-class shoplifters, study finds.

By Teresa Mears Nov 19, 2009 2:18PM

It’s no surprise that, in this economy, shoplifting is up. Worldwide, retail theft grew 5.9% last year, accounting for about $208 per family.

 

A new Global Retail Theft Barometer study, produced by the Centre For Retail Research, found that the greatest increase in retail theft came in North America, where the rate grew 8.1%. (The highest rate of theft was in India.) The study’s authors attributed the increase in theft to the recession and also to stores cutting their security budgets. The survey covered July 2008 to June 2009.

 

Bruce Crumley, writing for Time magazine from Paris, talks about “one of the more surprising findings: A growing number of new shoplifters are outwardly reputable, middle-class people who are walking off with French cheeses, quality meats, cosmetics, mobile phones, clothing and other goodies that they feel they need to maintain a quality of life they can no longer afford.”

 

Here are steps you can follow if a merchant isn't treating you right.

By Karen Datko Nov 19, 2009 1:19PM

This post comes from James Limbach at partner site ConsumerAffairs.com.

 

If you've gotten a raw deal from a retailer, the law is often on your side, but many consumers are unaware of those protections when trying to resolve disputes.

 

People often make the wrong assumptions about what the laws allow, or they rely on misinformation from friends, family or merchants.

"There are recourses available to consumers, but often people don't know about them," said Noreen Perrotta, finance editor of Consumer Reports Money Adviser. "From getting rain checks from your local supermarket when they are out of the spaghetti sauce they advertised as half off to doing a credit card chargeback after your refrigerator dies three months after the warranty expires, in many cases, consumers may have more rights than they think."

 

Here are some common scenarios and tips from Consumer Reports Money Adviser experts on how to get satisfaction:

 

Trent is making a list -- and sticking to it.

By Karen Datko Nov 19, 2009 12:14PM

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

 

Thanksgiving will be upon us in a week, immediately followed by Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year. Black Friday is often the day that pushes retailers over the line into profitability for the year (from the red to the black), hence the name. Naturally, since it’s the day following Thanksgiving, many people have the day off from work, and many will use it to get started on their holiday shopping.

In order to get customers into the stores on Black Friday, many retailers offer enormous discounts on a handful of specific items. These items are often sold at a loss in order to simply get people into the store, because the logic goes that once customers are in the store, they’re likely to buy other things. Plus, it provides some positive word-of-mouth promotion for that retailer, as people will talk about where they got enormous bargains that day.

 

As a result, many retailers heavily advertise their Black Friday sales in the week or two leading up to that day. Web sites proliferate online, tracking the bargains to be had.

 

And, through it all, the big goal is to whip consumers into a buying frenzy.

 

Such a frenzy is bad news. Getting caught up in Black Friday just to get deals on stuff you and those on your list don’t really want or need is a sure way to watch your money float away.

 

That’s not to say that Black Friday can’t be useful to someone with savvy. It certainly can.

 

Here’s exactly how I handle Black Friday.

 

There's seemingly no limit to airlines' attempts to generate revenue.

By Karen Datko Nov 18, 2009 10:04PM

AirTran is selling ad space on the bottom of seat-back tray tables, and bloggers are having lots of fun with this.

 

"Since you've got to lock that puppy up for taking off and landing, and for any time you don't want to bang your knees on the tray in flight, those ads are going to get plenty of 'air' time," Bryce Longton wrote at BlackBook.

What’s next? Selling ad space on the outside of the plane? It turns out that’s been done -- by Skybus and Ryanair. 

 

The new ads, which will appear soon in all 138 AirTran planes, were purchased by Mother Nature Network to promote a chance to win a Royal Caribbean cruise. Tom Johansmeyer of Gadling said subsequent ads in the 2.5-by-9-inch space will also be travel-related. (Meanwhile, The Associated Press reports, ads promoting alcohol, cigarettes and strip clubs won’t be allowed.)

 

However, Bryce suggested five other products he thinks would be a good fit as well, including the Slanket (a Snuggie competitor), Bose noise-canceling headphones, Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader, and JetBlue. "What better way to steal business from your competitor than to advertise on their turf? 'You could be watching 36 channels of DirecTV instead of reading this ad!'" Bryce writes.

 

Distributing a huge catalog no longer makes sense in the Internet world.

By Karen Datko Nov 18, 2009 7:06PM

J.C. Penney’s fall/winter Big Book is the last of its kind, as the once robust publication joins the Sears Roebuck & Co. catalog in the big recycling bin in the sky.

“The Internet has made the 1,000-page shopping venue obsolete, and printing and transportation costs have been rising annually. The move also improves Penney's environmental footprint, reducing its catalog paper use by 30% next year,” The Dallas Morning News reports. (These are truths that keep newspaper publishers awake at night.)

 

Much slimmer catalogs will still be mailed to targeted audiences, but their aim will be to direct people to Penney stores or to jcp.com, rather than pick up the phone and place an order.

 

Big catalogs, thicker and heavier than the phone book in most towns, have a warm and fuzzy place in many people’s personal histories, the Morning News observes.

 

The way we pay for cell phone service doesn't make sense.

By Karen Datko Nov 18, 2009 5:26PM

This guest post comes from Frank Curmudgeon at Bad Money Advice.

 

Would you rather pay $399 now and $20 a month for two years, or $199 now and $30 a month for two years? If you are a rational consumer, you probably prefer the $399 deal. The other one is like a $200 loan at 20% interest.

 

And yet, according to a long and meandering article from The New York Times on the madness of cell phone pricing schemes, we wacky Americans preferred the iPhone at $199 with a $30 data plan over the previous deal of $399 with a $20 plan. I’m not sure I buy that. IPhone sales could have increased for a number of reasons, including the fact that the $199 phone was an upgraded version. Still, the Times piece does bring up a number of peculiarities about the economics of cell phones.

 

Target, Wal-Mart have the bargains to beat this year

By TracyC Nov 18, 2009 5:00PM

The much-anticipated Black Friday sales ad from Wal-Mart was released today after much of its deals had been leaked to online bargain sites.

 

The ad, which comes six days ahead of schedule, contains a number of hot early-bird specials (5 a.m. to 11 a.m.), while supplies last:

 

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