Money Matters - Simplified


What Gives With Gift Cards?

With the days until Christmas dwindling, more and more of us will be drawn to the gift card. It's quick to purchase, doesn't require wrapping, allows the recipient to choose something he or she really likes, and is one-size-fits-all -- no embarrassing bodily measurements required. That's definitely a compelling list of perks. But don't let the convenience blind you to its potential faults. Get the real scoop on the gift card and whether you should buy or stay away.

The Dos and Don'ts of Regifting

C'mon, stop being such a Goody Two-shoes. Everybody's doing it. Well, maybe not everyone, but according to a recent Harris Interactive survey, more than half of us admit to regifting -- that is, passing off unwanted gifts as if they were being bestowed for the very first time.

Stay Away From Rebates

Retailers, desperate to boost sales this holiday season, are resorting to more and more sales gimmicks, including the ever-tempting rebate offer. But like most sales gimmicks, this one may prove to be more flash than cash back to the customer. Before you fall for a rebate offer, make sure you know a whole lot more than just the after-rebate price.

A $78,100 Christmas

Do you have $78,100 on hand? That's what it would cost this year to purchase the "12 days of Christmas" gifts mentioned in the popular carol. Buying just one of each item listed would still cost a pretty penny: $19,507. (OK, a lot of pretty pennies.)

Profit From Holiday Credit

Even the most fastidious money managers can appreciate a little financial relief around the holidays -- a special discount, a cash rebate, or a free teddy bear dressed up like one of Santa's elves. These little perks pop up around the holidays more often than glittering lawn deer as inducements to get busy holiday shoppers to sign up for credit cards and special financing offers.

Seeing the Light on Black Friday

You sure you want to go shopping this weekend? It's a madhouse out there.

I know, some of you just love this time of year. The crowds, the excitement, and the bargains are all compelling reasons to get yourself out of bed at 0-dark-thirty and get to your local retail supercenter in time to get a parking space and (maybe, hopefully) beat the worst of the crowds.

Buy Smart for the Holidays

You wouldn't buy a new car, or maybe even a new toaster, without doing oodles of research to make sure you're getting a good and reliable product for the money. Use that same consumer savvy this holiday season to make sure you're giving gifts that work and last.

Black Friday: Targeting the "Wow" Factor

Those of us who follow retail are dying to know what some companies' plans are to make this holiday season -- one that's expected to be a challenging one at best, given concerns about consumer spending -- a success. Last week, I spoke to a spokeswoman for Target (NYSE: TGT) to find out what the cheap-chic retailer has in store for customers.

Christmas Shopping Made Easy

In 1970, my cousin Betty gave me Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bayou Country" for Christmas. You couldn't do much better than that for a teenager. But it was easy to do much worse -- another gift was an album by the Archies, which was not on my list for Santa.

Skip the Mall and Shop Online

With gas prices steadily rising (oh, for the days when $2 per gallon seemed preposterous!), more of us are expected to ditch the mall in favor of our mouse this holiday season. Internet shopping enthusiasts, in addition to saving money on gas, love the fact that they can shop around the clock, cost-compare at several stores in a matter of seconds, determine whether an item is in stock without schlepping to the store, and avoid long lines.