Archive for the ‘Holiday Shopping’ Category
By Jamie Sotonoff and Kim Mikus, Daily Herald Staff, for Daily Herald
Your money supply is short.
Demand for your business is high.
And that combination means you should be able to save on most products this holiday shopping season.
Businesses are using every trick in the book to lure customers, including online offers, store coupons and an array of creative discounts.
The key is planning, says Chicago’s Brad Wilson, owner of BradsDeals.com.
“You have to plan where you’re going and what you want to get,” he said. “There’s probably a coupon for 90 percent of the stores, and I don’t think people realize how many there are and how easy they are to get.”
And sometimes, good planning will allow you to do better than just a discount – like free shipping.
Here are a few strategies for bagging bargains during the holiday season.
A sale at one place is sometimes the same as a sale at another, thanks to price-matching guarantees. Many competing businesses do this, but to reap the benefits, you must do your homework. Know the competitor’s price and be armed with a current sales flier or Web printout to argue your case. If you’re organized, you can enjoy sale prices from multiple stores in a single stop.
Beware of: The hassle vs. the savings. It’s not worth your time if you have to wait 15 minutes to save $1. “It’s important if you’re buying a $1,000 TV, and less important if you’re buying a book,” Wilson says. Also be aware that some stores might not match deeply discounted Black Friday prices, so check in advance.
If you enjoying shopping online, don’t buy anything until you first Google the store’s name and the words “promotional code.” Chances are, you’ll find an offer for free shipping or a percentage off a certain purchase amount. Try RetailMeNot.com and CouponCabin.com.
At ebates.com, you get a cash rebate on every online purchase – sometimes as high as 50 percent – from more than 1,000 retailers. Just shop like you normally do; no forms, no points. Then get your check in the mail (or a deposit in your PayPal account).
If you’re going out to shop, print out coupons from hundreds of national chain stores at FabulousSavings.com and BradsDeals.com.
Beware of: Shipping charges. They’re the downside of online shopping, but be careful that you aren’t stuck with ridiculously high fees or aren’t required to pay for shipping on returns.
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Deck your home with the best and brightest — and most budget-friendly — specimen around, with shopping tips from consumer expert Jennifer Litwin, author of Furniture Hot Spots: The Best Furniture Stores and Websites Coast to Coast.
Half of all Americans who buy Christmas trees are getting artificial ones, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. Usually shipped almost fully assembled, the faux firs never need watering, nor do they drop needles or drip sap all over your living room rug. Often, they’re even prehung with lights, sparing you any scary moments teetering atop a stepladder.
What’s more, the current crop of fakes, with full branches and rounded needle tips (sometimes hand-painted), do a good job of fooling the eye. Of course, finding space to store the tree when the holidays are over can be challenging, but at least you don’t have to drag it to your sidewalk or drive to your local dump to dispose of it.
Five- to 7-foot fakes generally sell for $200 to $500, and last between 6 and 10 Christmases. At the bargain end, Target (target.com) offers a prelit, 6-foot version for around $200. It’s not as full or real-looking as more expensive trees, but is a good deal for the money. If you’re up for a splurge, amazonfoliages.com sells an extremely real-looking, prelit, 9-foot artificial Austrian pine — with tons of branches and needles — for $962.
But before you plunk down your money, ask these questions:
- Is the tree prelit? Some 90 percent of artificial trees are, and this saves you a lot of time.
- Are there enough lightbulbs on the tree? A high-quality tree includes about 700 smaller lights or 300 larger lights.
- What is the warranty on the tree? Obviously, the longer, the better.
Even the most convincing fake tree can’t give you that only-in-the-forest pine smell. And for traditionalists, only the real deal, which can cost between $15 and $150, evokes the ghosts of Christmases long past.
When you’re shopping, try to look at the trees under good light. Brown needles and bugs are deal-breakers. Ask when the tree was cut; the longer it sits around out of the ground, the sooner it dies. Also find out its height and width — you don’t want the top of your tree scraping the ceiling.
While you can certainly pick up a tree in the 7-Eleven parking lot, Internet orders have been growing at more than 25 percent a year. Internet purchasers avoid the hassle of wedging a 6- or 7-foot beast into their car. Plus, they often have a bigger selection of trees to choose from. (For instance, from Cupkie Christmas Village, you can choose between 7-foot white pines, balsam firs, Colorado blue spruces and more, for $79 to $91, including shipping.)
Even better: A mail-ordered tree is likely to be fresher than one you buy in a lot. They’re shipped right after they’re cut, rather than sitting on a spot for days or weeks. The downside is that you can’t touch or see the tree in person. Also, because of shipping restrictions, you may be limited to trees that are no taller than seven feet.
By Emily Shartin, Globe Correspondent, for The Boston Globe
Edgar Dworsky would like to update the rules on gift-giving etiquette.
“I think Emily Post should have a new etiquette rule that says every gift-giver should put a gift receipt in the box,” says the Somerville consumer advocate.
Because even though gift-givers mean well, there are still some people who are going to want to bring gifts back to the store this holiday season: A recent Consumer Reports poll shows that 16 percent of consumers plan on returning some of the gifts they will receive.
While many retailers offer a longer period to make returns around the holidays, the process still tends to become more difficult without some kind of receipt. “If you don’t have a receipt, many stores won’t give you your money back,” says consumer affairs specialist Jennifer Litwin. “You have to just hope for the best.”
Toys “R” Us, for example, states that it won’t accept any returns without a receipt. Other stores, such as Sears, may accept the return but only offer a merchandise credit for the lowest price the item has sold for.
But even if you have a receipt, you may still be in for some surprises at the return counter. In recent years, many stores, such as Best Buy and Target, have begun charging “restocking fees” for returns on items such as camcorders and digital cameras.
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Even people with great insurance from their jobs spend a lot out of pocket on health-care costs–about $655 a year, according to the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit health-care research group. Instead of running to the ER with a sprained ankle or sore throat (an average routine ER visit costs $302), head to a walk-in clinic at CVS, Target, or Walgreens. Visits are usually less than $60, so you save up to $242. Also, check out healthgrades.com, which estimates regional prices for procedures from gastric bypass to angioplasty, then negotiate with either your doctor or the hospital’s billing department–yes, really!
You can even try negotiating the price of an office visit. According to a recent study by The Harris Poll, in 61 percent of cases, patients got the discount they asked for. To save on extras, ask for an itemized list for the procedure ahead of time, says Lankford. Those crutches that cost $250 on your bill may only set you back $75 at a medical supply store. You save $175.
The week before Christmas, retailers start discounting decorations, wrapping, and seasonal candy up to 25 percent because they get nervous about postholiday leftovers, says Terry Adams, coauthor of The Bargain Hunter’s and Smart Consumer’s Field Guide.
Since the average American household spends $129 on these items alone, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), you save about $32.
Another way to save big: Don’t buy yourself any presents. The NRF estimates that the average shopper spent about $90 on self-gifts while holiday shopping in 2004. You save $90.
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Watch Twin Cities Live on ABC in Minneapolis where I talk about the best and worst in holiday gift returns this year. Many new return policies this year. Some stores are more lenient, while others are making their return policies more vague. If you need to make returns you won’t want to miss this show
This holiday season has been the first in years to have decent return policies across the board—well almost. If you’ve been wondering how long you have to return your holiday presents, policies have changed somewhat this year—more favorable to customers.
In an aggressive bid to win loyal shoppers, stores have pulled all the stops when it comes to returns this season.
BIGGEST TRENDS THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
- Vague return policies—need to really read the policy carefully, and even then, you may be missing some of the facts (Ex: Target and Victoria’s Secret).
- Returns at store/department manager’s discretion: this policy hasn’t been in place for more than a decade
- Receipts not crucial in many stores (Target, Macy’s)
- Extended time for returns; now 90-120 (Target- 90 days) days instead of 14-30, with the exception of electronics/games (14 days the norm, and restocking fees after that)
- Stores are not locking into return policies—Policies are changing all the time—even after the holidays, allowing flexibility for the stores; a wait and see approach. Good and bad.
- Tracking the number of returns—Wal-Mart, Target—could hurt your chances for a refund.
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I recently shared my tips for the best and cheapest way to ship anything in the week right before Christmas. Shipping prices are going up and comparison shopping shipping prices is getting more confusing. I will help you learn the tricks to last minute shipping and saving money throughout the year. Shipping prices are expected to go up by 5-10% in this next year.
THE BEST DEALS AND WAYS TO PAY FOR THEM WITHOUT GOING BROKE
Retailers are preparing themselves for cautious spending this holiday season, and are stocking their stores with lower inventory this year. Here’s what you need to know about Black Friday and the remainder of the holiday season.
HOTTEST TRENDS THIS YEAR
- Time-saving necessities like small ticket, $20 gadgets and accessories (Target kitchen accessories under $10)
- Packaged, large quantity toys great value (Wal-Mart has 100 toys for $100, like Barbies and action toys)
- Video games, Wii, Nintendo $20 off at K-Mart—this will hurt the big electronic store sales at places like Best Buy, who are not offering these discounts on such popular items; big box discount stores competing with electronic stores because people are still spending on the electronic games for their children
- Luring repeat shoppers, stores are offering gift cards (Toys R Us offering $10 gift cards if you spend $75 or more, Target $10 off $100 on future purchases, JC Penney)
- Clothing deals will be on necessities, rather than on luxuries–Old Navy discounting winter coats (as inexpensive as $15), jeans ($10 for kids), fleece sweatshirts ($5)
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Earning some extra cash after the holidays is a must for many of us, either because our financial situation isn’t looking very good or because we have to pay off the creditors for the gifts we bought during the holiday season. Here are some ways to earn quick cash right from your own home!
SELL YOUR GOLD
We all have jewelry we don’t really wear anymore. Maybe you should consider selling the gold ones. The price of gold, unlike other commodities, has gone up dramatically in the past few years. There are 2 ways to determine value when selling gold:
- How much does the gold weigh?
- How intricate is the design, and how old/rare is the piece?
HOW TO SELL GOLD:
- Try an auction house first, and set a reserve so you don’t sell below market value. If a piece is valuable, try a large national auction house such as Sotheby’s and let them walk you through the process of selling . . . easy to do.
- Get an independent appraisal from a reputable jeweler so you know how much gold you have and any other qualities that might make it sellable.
Don’t run to the nearest retailer or pawn shop to make a quick sale. You will be getting a wholesale price, at best. Beware of posting gold on eBay or other websites that sell a huge variety of things from sellers we don’t know, at random prices. Realize that most buyers today care more about weight than about age or intricacy of pattern. Most buyers of real gold want to see it or know that the seller is reputable. Best bet: a local auction house. For example, for Minnesota: Luther Auction House in St. Paul. (612-424-4654, 2556 7th Avenue East, St. Paul, MN 55109). Local auction houses have traffic and buyers willing to buy.
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As featured in BNet Business Network.
Holiday season shopping is underway, and with all the deals and “steals” how can you be the smartest shopper in this down economy? This season is expected to be the worst in 20 years. Some of the biggest trends this season, good and bad include:
- Increase in Online Shopping: Online shopping is expected to rise 33% this season, due to time and shipping savings this season. Online retailers are making it easier to shop for and return items purchased online by offering free shipping, easy returns and customer reviews. Rise in matching prices online. Online sales will decrease because returns are expected to be high. Watch out for privacy policies and sharing your personal information online.
- Decrease in Credit Card Spending: Store and bank credit cards are lowering credit card limits. Department stores like Nordstrom and Target are expecting to do a bigger credit card business due to penalties, limits and interest rates being charged by banks, but overall, spending on cards will be less. $30 fees will be charged if you go over the limit, in many cases.
- Stricter Return Policies: Keep your receipts and gift receipt, but ask about quick sale adjustments in advance of the holidays to get the best overall prices. Without a gift receipt most stores are giving refunds only to the gift giver.
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As featured on ABC7 Chicago.
Many of us think that the really good deals on our favorite items come after a holiday is over. But according to the National Retail Federation, the time leading right up to the holidays is when you can get the very best discounts…retailers want to create sales to generate revenue, and use targeted marketing campaigns to lure in shoppers. Many of us think, for example, the price of jewelry must go up before Valentine’s Day, but it’s just the opposite.
Best time of year to get deepest discounts on electronics and appliances is when models change over—typically, every 6 months. When models change over you can get floor models deeply discounted or promotional pricing on new items. In July, big sales in refrigerators—more rebates, because more heat breaks down refrigeration that month. Save money year-round on energy-saving appliances that cut down on utility bills. Typically, in February, March and November there are promotions. But best day for discounts on electronics is the day after Thanksgiving.
For bargains, don’t shop department stores, except during the holiday season when packaging gets dated quickly. The specialty boutiques offer substantial discounts on discontinued products, particularly in July, when new colors introduced, but great time to look for the classics. Specialty stores (Ulta and Sephora) offer rewards programs for free makeup. You can save you a lot if you spend more than $50 on makeup.
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