Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Best advice: Verify the return policy before you buy anything online -- or in the store.

By Karen Datko Nov 24, 2010 4:41PM

This guest post comes from Ashley Watson at


Returning or exchanging an online purchase to any retailer can be complicated, regardless of the reason for the return. Many stores have restrictions, restocking fees, and nonrefundable clauses hidden in the fine print.

We have found that returning the item to the individual store, if possible, is always the easiest even if it takes up your time to travel there and stand in line.


But you still need to know a few things:


Sure, it's tempting to sign up immediately when you're offered a steep discount on purchases. Before you do, make sure you understand the long-term consequences.

By Money Staff Nov 24, 2010 3:30PM

This post comes from Joe Taylor at partner site


About two in three American shoppers spend more than $500 on holiday gifts every year. That makes the new credit card discount offers at most retailers very attractive to cash-strapped consumers.

Gift givers who use retail credit cards strategically can save $50, $100, or even more on their annual shopping lists. Some stores even hand out extra freebies to attract new accounts. However, if you're not careful, that short-term savings can turn into a long-term financial burden that can weigh more than whatever presents you chose to hide in a stocking.


Retail historians often cite J.C. Penney's early credit card strategy as the template for modern store credit accounts. It's a feat of historical irony, given the company was founded by a man whose middle name was "Cash." Today, most stores offer credit cards with easy, in-store signups. Many of those "instant credit card" offers come with percentage-off discounts or other incentives that can save money while inflating the cost of your shopping spree.


You can take a break from shopping and get free coffee, free breakfast and free pie. And don't forget the purple Slurpees.

By Teresa Mears Nov 24, 2010 2:01PM

When you're out shopping on Black Friday and later this weekend, you're bound to reach the point where you absolutely must stop for food and drink (though really die-hard shoppers bring a sack lunch).


Wouldn't it be great if there were Black Friday food deals?


There are. Free food on Black Friday isn't as entrenched a tradition as getting up at 4 a.m., but we're hoping it catches on.


Six ways to prepare for the trip and make it out intact -- with deals in hand.

By Karen Datko Nov 24, 2010 12:30PM

This Deal of the Daycomes fromKelli B. Grantat partner site SmartMoney.


Black Friday shopping isn't an excursion to take lightly -- those big sales can be a risky proposition for your wallet, your health and even your safety.


An estimated 138 million Americans will hit the stores over Black Friday weekend, according to the National Retail Federation. That's 4 million more than did so last year, and enough that the Occupational Health and Safety Administration reached out to 14 big retailers to underscore the importance of crowd control. No one wants a repeat of the 2008 disaster, in which shoppers trampled to death a Wal-Mart employee on Black Friday.


Big crowds and high traffic online increase risks of all kinds, including theft -- of the gifts from your car or simply your credit card information. Meanwhile, sale-hopping and long lines can make the trip physically exhausting, experts say, and the crowd mentality can encourage you to spend, spend, spend.


One home, lower car insurance and better credit card rewards are among the benefits of tying the knot.

By Karen Datko Nov 24, 2010 10:54AM

This post comes from Ben Edwards at partner blog Wise Bread.


Have you heard the stories about how finances are one of the leading causes of divorce? What exactly are people arguing about? Being married actually has some pretty good financial perks.


I don't mean to downplay the financial challenges of married life. We've had our share of heated discussions over money. But there are some definite benefits to pooling your resources in marriage. Here are 10 ways that you and your spouse are hooking each other up.


It turns out we remember the high prices much better than the deals we got.

By Karen Datko Nov 24, 2010 9:43AM

This guest post comes from Pop at Pop Economics.


Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal and Sarah Palin had a rare face-off over a pretty trivial remark.


In a blog post, a reporter wrote about a speech Palin gave against the Fed's new quantitative easing efforts, and toward the end, pointed out that one bit of rhetoric she gave -- "everyone who ever goes out shopping for groceries knows that prices have risen significantly over the past year or so. Pump priming would push them even higher." -- contrasted with the Bureau of Labor Statistics' official measures of inflation.

Palin (or a representative) responded on her Facebook page, and the reporter responded to that response, and quickly, thousands of commenters were chiming in with their own views on whether or not grocery prices had or hadn't risen in the last year or so.


Some professionals and service workers can't accept cash, but there are ways to get around that rule.

By Karen Datko Nov 23, 2010 4:06PM

This guest post comes from Coupon Sherpa.


This isn't your standard holiday tipping guide. Plenty of people will tell you to give the maid one day's pay for the holidays or slip the trash collector $10 to $30 the next time he wakes you at 6 a.m. Instead, this is your annual guide to tipping those who can't accept tips.

These people may work equally hard all year round, yet are precluded from extending their palms by company standards, government regulations or simple rules of etiquette.

To make the whole process easier on you, we went to the proverbial horses' mouths and nailed down exactly what types of gratuities are acceptable for non-tippable professionals.


When it comes to maintaining your score, diligence pays off -- because lots of people are looking.

By Money Staff Nov 23, 2010 3:41PM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner site US News & World Report.


 U.S. News & World Report on MSN MoneyIn many of my recent columns I've been writing a lot about credit reports and credit scores. Most of us don't need to be reminded of the importance of reviewing credit reports and fixing any errors, we know that keeping a clean and accurate credit report is important.

If you're one of the many Americans who already own your home and a car (or don't plan on buying either in the near future), you probably think that your credit score itself isn't that important. If you aren't getting a loan in the near future, why should you worry about your score? Unfortunately, your credit score is more important than you think and is being used by many institutions to help make decisions about you.



Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.