Including links to more than 80 unusual and unusually thrifty gift ideas, along with money lessons from “The Simpsons” and money lessons for irresponsible 20-somethings, smart financial moves to make for the holidays and dumb financial moves that’ll make you fat.
1 incredibly simple suggestion guaranteed to save money on Christmas shopping. What’s the suggestion? Wait until December 26 to buy stuff:
Instead of shopping for the next three weeks, slow down and enjoy the holidays. Shop for presents on the day after Christmas, taking advantage of all of the post-Christmas sales… Not having Christmas presents under the tree on Dec. 25 might sound like something Scrooge would do, but think of all of the deals you’ll get the next day.
3 new ways to save on gas. You could ride a bike. Or you could try one of these ways to save—which are have actually been around for a while, but are sorta new-ish—including:
Loyalty rewards at supermarkets
How it works: Shoppers with the supermarket’s loyalty card are eligible for discounted gas – usually about five to 10 cents cheaper than nearby filling stations. Then it gets a little complicated: Customers can earn deeper discounts by spending more money in the store. The more they spend, the deeper the discount.
4 tips when donating old toys to charity. First, clear the decision to donate or not with the boss (your kids). Then, after you’ve gotten all the signatures and affidavits taken care of to avoid tears and tantrums and proclamations of “But I still wanted to play with that!”, you should take a few steps in order to get a tax deduction, such as:
The key to claiming your donations is to make sure you get a receipt with a value written on it. If the charity asks you to estimate the property’s worth on your own, the Salvation Army’s valuation guide can help you.
5-ish tips for getting good deals on wine. The parties will be merrier if you can afford more merriment, with the help of steps such as:
Buy in bulk. Many grocery stores offer discounts if you buy several bottles at once. Safeway, for example, gives shoppers 10% off if they buy at least six bottles. Combining this with the 30% discount I mentioned above, you can buy a $20 wine for $12.60 — or a $40 wine for $25.21. (I’m using Safeway as an example because that’s our local supermarket and I know their policies.)
5 reasons to ignore online sales. One big reason is the snowball effect, in which one item in your shopping cart begets another, and another, and … you get the idea:
When you do score a discount, it often just leads to more spending. If you’ve ever impulsively bought a muffin to go with your coffee, or surprised yourself by buying a whole new outfit when you meant to get only a shirt, then you will understand why research shows that shopping leads to more shopping.
5 ways to deal with problems switching between cable and satellite TV. For example, many consumers who are sick of monthly bills of $40, $50, $70 and up per month are surprised to hear that there are cheaper options in most parts of the country:
Comcast offers Basic 1 service for $10 to $15 a month for Channels 2 to 23. Add a free set-top box, and get seven more channels. Viewers who want the local channels in HD must pay $7 more a month for an HD receiver.
5 tips for finding post-Black Friday tech deals. For one thing, take advantage of the legwork done by bargain-hunting geeks the world over:
Rely on the Kindness of Bargain Fiends
You may not have the time, expertise or inclination to obsessively sniff out the deepest discounts, but you can benefit from the hard work of those who do. TechBargains, DealCatcher and Slickdeals all list limited-time deals in a bevy of categories — markdowns, coupons, cheap or free shipping and more. Google can also help: if you’re planning to buy a Dell PC, for instance, search for a phrase such as “Dell coupon” or “Dell discount.”
5 financial moves that’ll make you fat. People in debt are far more likely to be overweight, so when you look at it one way, going into debt is like going into an ice cream shop—several times a day:
Writing in the BMC Public Health journal, German researchers determined that 25% of the 949 people in the study who were in debt were also obese, while only 11% of the 8,318 remaining participants were tipping the scales. Researchers suggested that being in debt increases stress and could affect weight by limiting access to leisure activities, reducing the amount of money available for healthful food and possibly also increasing the likelihood that a person will eat for comfort.
5 most profitable drugs that never cure you of anything. While it takes some pretty smart scientists to create a drug that cures a disease or addiction, the smarter product in a pure business sense is a drug that merely treats symptoms—and that unlike a cure can taken indefinitely—including:
Lipitor (2009 gross revenue: $7.5 billion): Designed to lower cholesterol, Lipitor uses statins to decrease LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels and increase HDL cholesterol levels. Studies indicate that high cholesterol increases one’s chance for heart disease, the leading health problem in the U.S.
5 frugal Christmas gift ideas that save money. Be careful here—because while your intentions may be good, the message implicitly sent with a gift of, say, canning supplies may be judgmental, along the lines of You’re spending way too much money on fast food and processed snacks so here’s a nudge in the healthier, thriftier, altogether better direction:
Canning your own food is a great way to save money. But more importantly, I think, is how much you learn about the art and science of food preservation. If you have a friend or family member who is interested in learning how to can their own food, why not help them get set up with supplies?
5 tips on good gift-giving. Everybody likes cash, right? Well, not everybody …
Know when to give cash and gift cards.
Cash is right for doormen, house cleaners, the trash crew and other service workers — and almost certainly wrong for your girlfriend. Carefully chosen gift cards may delight a picky teen or a teacher who has enough apple-shaped mugs.
5 gifts from the 99-cent store. Here’s another list of gifts to file under the category: DO NOT GIVE TO GIRLFRIEND. Like:
Chip clips, 99 cents
Keep your junk food fresh with these handy gadgets. My mother would have you believe clothespins will do the job just fine, but these clips are stronger and aesthetically appealing. They’ve got grooved edges for a tight lock, as well as a magnet that lets you stick them to your fridge when you’re not using them.
6 types of sellers who don’t have to disclose home’s flaws. Normally, sellers are obligated to come clean about the fact that the basement gets water during heavy rains or that the roof is 25 years old. But buyers should be careful when dealing with sellers that are exempt from these stipulations, such as:
Investment and Relocation Company Sellers. Many states exempt the sellers of homes that are owned by companies, rather than by human beings, from the full gamut of required disclosures. The rationale is that the company never lived in the house, so it has no way to really know all the ins and outs of the property.
6 tips for finding a good mechanic who won’t break the bank. There’s a very strong argument to be made for picking a local small-time mechanic over a dealership:
With a local mechanic, you’ll often get more personalized service as well as lower prices, and will be able to have much closer contact with the mechanic who is actually doing the work on your car.
Moreover, because local mechanics rely on a good reputation and positive word-of-mouth to bring in new customers, there’s a much bigger incentive for them to perform quality services and gain your trust.
7 great gift ideas for kids that aren’t just more stuff. The key is to think experience and quality time rather than more gadgets and plastic toys for the pile. For instance:
Make something together. A gift that was a hit with one particular 3-year-old: a few cookie cutters, a couple of colors of sprinkles, a mini-apron and a few tubes of Pillsbury cookie dough. Then add a cookie baking session with grandma and serve.
7 money tips for twenty-somethings. It’s a decade when you get to be irresponsible. The only problem is that if you’re too irresponsible, you pay for that irresponsibility well into your 30s and 40s. So try to be smart, by, for example:
Pay off your highest interest-rate debt first. Hint: It’s not always the debt with the highest balance. The debt with the highest interest rate is probably the credit card you ran up on bar tabs and that Spring Break trip in the final year of school. Pay that off first.
7 smart money moves for the holidays. Stop paying the bills wracked up by your irresponsible twenty-something child. Also, consider:
Negotiate a gift truce among adults.
“Lose the guilt on how much you might not spend this year,” says Elaine Scoggins, a financial planner in Seattle. “It’s a rough year for lots of people.”
And she adds: “Think about how few of last year’s holiday gifts are now really valued by you, your family or your friends. Can you even remember what you gave? What you received?”
That’s exactly what happens in the 1997 episode, “Worst Episode Ever,” when Comic Book Guy gets some competition in the form of Coolsville Comics & Toys, run by a hipster named Milo (Jack Black). Not only is Milo much easier on the eyes, he treats his customers better and his business soars.
8 tips for dealing with difficult relatives over the holidays. Remember the point above about implicit judgment? Well, you can come off as judgmental (and you probably are) simply in the way you start a conversation:
Think about how topics that seem innocuous to you might upset someone else. You may think you’re showing a polite interest, but some questions will rub a person the wrong way: “So do you have a boyfriend yet?” “When are you two going to get married/start a family?” “Didn’t you give up smoking?” “Can you afford that?” “When are you going to get a real job?”
10 top retailers for customer service. Neither Comic Book Guy’s shop nor Comcast made the list. What’s interesting is that the majority of the top ten (in alphabetical order below) are NOT primarily brick-and-mortar operations:
• Kohl’s Department Stores
• Lands’ End
10 ways to get someone a great gift for under $5. It’s a little late to get started on this one, but maybe next year?
Grow something. If you are good at gardening why not grow something from seed to give as a gift? You could grow a herb garden, for example, or a plant that your gift recipient will love.
10 great possibilities for Christmas gifts for teachers. Here’s one way to ensure they’re awake when your kid arrives at school:
Just about everyone loves coffee, and teachers are no exception. My friend Nancy loved the coupon book she received for the local coffee shop. A coffee gift card is also a hit, and a bag of a gourmet blend is nice for the teacher’s lounge.
10 gift ideas from the Depression era. Again, a little late to get started on this one, but maybe next year? Or never?
A Block of Cheese
Hard cheese is much more difficult to make than soft-cheese, but that’s one of the things that makes it such a great gift. Since you should age the cheese for 60 days or more, the recipient will know you began thinking about their gift, and making it, months before Christmas. One thing that makes a bad gift bad is lack of thought, which is usually because it’s also a last-minute gift. A block of homemade, cheddar cheese can’t be last-minute.
10 commandments of wealth and happiness. And the Lord sayeth: “Thou shalt be frugal – but not miserly.
Finding ways to save is important, but avoiding deprivation is just as important. In short, diets suck.
Whether they’re food-related or money-related, if they leave you feeling deprived and unhappy, they’re not going to work.
14 great toys that don’t make noise. In the words of the Grinch: “The NOISE, NOISE, NOISE!” Here’s a toy—and the words toy and great are being used loosely—that doesn’t make a sound, and that potentially doesn’t even require a partner to play with:
Deck of cards, $1.25. Teach them Solitaire.
14 Christmas gifts that make a difference. Everyone has to eat, right? And the fresher and healthier the better:
Community-supported agriculture. If money is no object, buy that special someone a CSA share. He’ll eat fresh produce from late spring until early fall, and you’ll be helping a local farmer stay in business. Go to this U.S. Department of Agriculture site and scroll down to “Find a CSA farm.”