Shopping 
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3 ways to avoid becoming a consumer victim during Black Friday shopping

Avoid becoming yet another victim of Black Friday shopping.It seems like such a good idea: spend a few hours on a day you’d otherwise just be sitting around in a turkey-induced stupor to knock out your holiday shopping at a fraction of what you’d normally pay.

Yes, Black Friday is billed as one of the biggest shopping days of the year, and has a reputation as the time to get the best deals on toys, clothes, electronics and everything else on your holiday shopping list.

But is Black Friday really such a good time to score deals? How much are you truly saving when you drop everything to try for a doorbuster?
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 Your Take 
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Your take: Does a high price make you think it’s better?

Do people love Dom Perignon because it tastes good, or because they think higher price, better quality?The other day I was shopping for some new earbuds online and I saw a Panasonic pair with 4 1/2 stars and tons of glowing reviews. I haven’t bought Panasonic anything in years, and the price was only $7, so I ignored the good reviews and looked elsewhere, finally settling on a well-reviewed but slightly more expensive pair from Sennheiser.

The pair I ended up with were ok, but I haven’t been blown away, so imagine my chagrin when I saw a very similar Panasonic pair win in a showdown of 40 different pairs of earbuds, many costing substantially more.
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 Shopping 
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Do e-gift cards sent on social media make good holiday gifts? Not always

Giving e-gift cards doesn't mean your gift can't be personalizedOver the last couple of decades, gift cards have become the gift of choice for many. It’s not hard to see why: They are convenient to give, and recipients often enjoy them more than a gift you’d pick out for them, since it allows them to get what they want.

Gift giving is even easier now, thanks to the fact that it’s possible to send e-gift cards through social media. Over the summer I sent an Amazon gift card to my brother-in-law via Facebook. It was a huge hit, since he loves shopping on Amazon, and we keep up with each other through Facebook. It was the perfect way to send him a birthday gift he could use. But Facebook isn’t the only social media gift source. Now Twitter has gotten into the act, allowing users to send Starbucks e-gift cards to other Twitter users.

But what do e-gift cards mean for etiquette? Do we run the risk of alienating friends and family by sending gifts through Facebook and Twitter?


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 Shopping 
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Free layaway: Is it a good deal?

Is free layaway actually a good deal?In the next few weeks, stores and online retailers will be bombarded with holiday shoppers. In an effort to encourage spending, some stores are offering free layaway programs.

Toys ‘R’ Us, for example, boasts, “No upfront fees!” on their website. And in August, Walmart introduced “free layaway with no opening fee,” according to a press release.


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 Shopping 
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Precise offers and the art of haggling

Specific offers might make haggling easierNegotiating prices is an important skill to have, and not just for those times when you visit countries where haggling over small purchases is common practice.

While most day-to-day purchases aren’t negotiable in this country in the same way they are in Latin America and Asia, most of the really significant ones are. In many cases, skillful haggling can knock thousands of dollars off the price of a car and tens of thousands off the price of a house, which can have long-lasting effects on your finances. And when you’re sitting down for an interview with a potential employer and talking salary, you’re really negotiating arguably the most important price out there: the price of your labor and, ultimately, your time.
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 Shopping 
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Before buying something on sale, know the flaw

Sales can be dangerousI promised myself I would never write a post about an airline travel experience because lots of journalists do it and it’s mostly really annoying. But promises are made to be broken, so here it goes.

When booking a last-minute flight recently, I went to pick out my seat and saw a whole row of plum front-of-the-plane seats still available. It almost felt like finding something on sale; instead of having to pay the “price” of booking early, or shell out extra money for an exit-row seat, I was getting the perks of being one of the first to exit the plane for free. Huzzah!

But after takeoff, I realized I’d picked a lemon.
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 Shopping 
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The Best Time to Buy Stuff

Have you noticed that certain things are just priced better at certain times of the year?  Seasonal sales and end of year inventories have led me to create a quarterly cheat sheet for shopping.  Now I can keep in mind the big purchases we may have to make and can look up the best months to start shopping.  This makes it much easier to tackle large purchases and I don’t feel like I lost out on easy savings. 

Here is my current annual shopping calendar broken down into quarters.

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 Frugal Living 
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Garage Sale Tips for Finding Hidden Gems

Garage Sale TodayA close friend, Tonia, has been trying to get me interested in garage sales for a couple of years now.  She swears that it is a ton of fun to spend her early Saturday mornings browsing through the sales around town.  I personally don’t want anything enough to wake up at 6am on a weekend to go after it, but her garage sale plans were detailed enough that I knew I should share.  Here are Tonia’s tips for finding exactly what you are looking for at garage sales.

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