Shopping Column


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 Shopping 
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4 Tips for Effectively Using Layaway

layawayOne of the Christmas traditions making a comeback since the recession has been layaway. The idea behind layaway is that you can reserve an expensive item now, and make payments on it for a few weeks. Once you have paid off the item, you can take it home.

Layaway allows you to make sure that  your get the items you want (vital during the holiday shopping season), without breaking the budget — or turning to high-interest credit cards to make the purchase. If you want to make the most of layaway this holiday season, here are 4 tips to consider:

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 Shopping 
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Holiday Price Match Policies of Target, Walmart and Best Buy

Target Shopping CartsLooking to save both time and money this holiday season? (I know, who isn’t?)

If you are in the habit of searching the ads every week and then stopping by several stores to buy the best deals for the kids’ presents, think again. Keep searching the ads, but then use the power of price matching to simplify your life. Only go to one store, but get the benefit of the sales offered at all of the other brick and mortar stores (and at some stores, online retailers) by using price matching.

Today, we’ll cover the regular and special holiday price matching policies of three of the largest retailers in the US. Hopefully, one of these policies can save you a bunch of money!

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 Family, Shopping 
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Predicting 5 of the Hottest Toys for the Holidays 2012

Mattel MONSTER HIGH Series: Robecca SteamEvery year, it seems as though there are a few toys that everyone just goes crazy for. And, once these toys are identified, they fly off the shelves. They are hard to find — and may even sell out. And, if you do find them for sale, you might have to pay a huge price for the ability to make your child smile on Christmas morning.

Spotting which items are likely to be hot can be a little difficult, and what ends up causing a real furor can be hard to pinpoint. However, there are some indications that a toy might become suddenly hot:

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 Shopping 
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Foursquare & American Express Cardmember Specials Promotion

Foursquare PinsLate last year, I wrote about how American Express & Foursquare teamed up for a spend $10, get a $10 statement credit promotion. I was already using Foursquare, I already had an American Express TrueEarnings Costco Card, so it was a simple matter of syncing my card to my Foursquare to take advantage of the promotion. Once I checked into an eligible location, there was a button to “load” the promotion and then I was credit a statement credit of $10 once the transaction hit my American Express account.

So imagine my surprise the other day when I checked into my favorite local Pho place and saw another promotion. This time it was a $5 statement credit on a $10+ purchase. One click later, I was going to get $5 off just for checking in on Foursquare. So if you haven’t linked the two together yet, I recommend doing it because you never know when you’ll get a few bucks off for doing nothing differently.

American Express doesn’t share any sensitive financial information with Foursquare, they link together using unique identifiers (not your card number obviously), and I’ve been a fan so far.

(Photo: nanpalmero)

 Shopping 
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Amazon Sales Tax Expanding

Amazon Internet sales taxName the top three reasons you shop on Amazon. Chances are one of the them has to do with sales tax because Amazon doesn’t have to collect sales tax when shipping to the majority of the states in the Union. Amazon isn’t against collecting sales tax, it just doesn’t like the added overhead of doing it piecemeal. They’re a proponent of an internet sales tax, administered at the federal level, and it’s something that I think makes sense (if you’re going to collect sales tax… which I don’t like!).

By law, Amazon collects sales tax in the states where it has a physical presence – usually offices or a distribution center. In recent years, that has extended to states in which they have an “agent” – such as New York. They’ve made some agreements with other states to delay collection in return for some concessions. It’s really a hodgepodge solution and one they probably hate.

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 Shopping 
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2012 Sales Tax Holiday Scheduled Dates

ShoppingIt’s nice to be able to avoid sales taxes sometimes. It’s a common gimmick amongst car dealers and some furniture stores to get you in the door: “We’ll pay your sales tax!”

But there are some states that actually offer holidays on sales tax. Even though it means a reduction in revenue for the states, they still line up for the sales tax holidays because consumers love them. The idea is that a sales tax holiday can encourage shopping and boost the economy in the state — and maybe even draw consumers from neighboring states to do a little shopping.

Some states don’t even charge sales tax at all. If you live in Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, or Oregon, you already know that there’s no sales tax. And in Pennsylvania, you don’t have to worry about sales tax on clothing.

Here are a list of states with upcoming sales tax holidays. Check to see if your state is on the list. You can follow the links for more information:
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 Shopping 
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AmazonLocal Selling $10 Amazon.com Gift Cards for $5

This deal has ended.

I don’t usually write about these types of deals but this one seems a little too good to pass up. We buy a ton of stuff from Amazon.com and so anytime there’s a deal like this (similar to the Living Social deal last year), I snap it up.

The deal is simple – visit this link, and you can buy one $10 Amazon.com gift card for $5. They’ll ask you for your local area, to sign you up to their local program, and ask you to log into your Amazon.com account. From there, you can pay with one of your associated credit cards or enter a new one.

Each account can only buy one so I purchased one for me and one for my wife. They also check credit card numbers, so you’ll need to use a unique credit for each gift card but you can add the gift card to a single account. It’s a limited time offer and as of this printing, 230,983 had been purchased.

Not a bad deal, too bad they don’t appear to have a referral program! :)

 Shopping 
4
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Are Those Goods Counterfeit, or “Real”?

Scary Thomas the Tank engine knock-offs at the Shanghai ZooEvery year, millions of dollars’ worth of counterfeit goods are brought into the United States and sold to unsuspecting — and even suspecting — consumers looking for a good deal. Often, the counterfeit items are expensive, but not as expensive as buying the “real thing.” It seems as though you are getting a good deal, when really you are getting a knock-off.

For some people, that isn’t too big of a deal. After all, it looks like a high-end designer item, but it doesn’t come with the same price tag. However, some counterfeit items can cause real problems. According to CNN Money, here are the top 10 fakes coming into the U.S.:
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