With the first quarter of 2013 drawing to a close, February's retail numbers brought a surprise to many sectors. While analysts expected to see a continued dip in sales across the board — what with higher payroll taxes, sequestration, and rising gas prices — February actually saw a surprising increase in retail sales.
Retail sales jumped 1.1% in February, and even without factoring in expenses for gas, the industry saw a 0.6% increase. And despite the marginal increase, economists are pleasantly surprised that Americans are spending more on consumer goods like food and clothes.
A Bleak Start to 2013
Consumer spending in the beginning of this year was sluggish. Not only were retailers coming out of a holiday season where consumer spending was a huge disappointment, but thanks in part to higher gas prices, gridlock in Congress from the sequestration, and higher payroll taxes, consumers on average have had less disposable income to start out 2013. ( Continue… )
Want to get in shape? Do it while listening to your favorite workout mix and you might find exercising fun! Even mundane chores like mowing the lawn and swimming can be enhanced by listening to some favorite tunes. Thankfully we live in the age of the MP3 player and the smartphone, so we're able to tote along all our music easily. The only other piece of equipment we need for a portable concert is the proper headphones.
However, the portable audio market is packed with different types of headphones, many of which are designed for specific purposes. So before you buy, here are some guidelines to help you pick the perfect pair of headphones for an active lifestyle.
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Despite the amusing photo above, you're not going to want a pair of headphones that cover your ears like earmuffs, or ones the size of Oreos that rest on your ear while working out. These kinds of 'phones are made for stationary listening where sweat is not an issue. Instead, you'll want small earbuds or in-ear headphones. ( Continue… )
If you want to trade in, say, an old cell phone, you can weigh its estimated resale value from a host of electronics recycling programs. But the number of these services has recently shrunk. The ever-popular Gazelle last year changed the type of gadgets it accepts to focus almost exclusively on more profitable Apple products, and just two weeks ago, eBay shut down its Instant Sale program.
Launched in October 2010 and grown from the idea of "resell, reuse, recycle," eBay Instant Sale partnered with reputable third-party AllTechWholesale to resell electronics purchased directly from eBay customers. Instant Sale offered consumers immediate quotes and payments for their electronics, which seemed to compliment the site's reputation for auctions and buy-it-now sales. All in all, the service had made 4 million offers in the United States since 2011. But it would appear that eBay's recent rebranding efforts aimed at generating a "more simplified and personalized selling experience" have at least temporarily suspended the trade-in program. ( Continue… )
Given all the backlash JCPenney weathered over eliminating sales in favor of "everyday low prices" (a policy they've since rescinded), you could almost predict that the retail giant would have to do something risky and daring to win disgruntled shoppers back — something "fresh," if you will.
So here comes JCPenney looking for some retail love by way of collaboration with Canadian apparel brand Joe Fresh. The line officially hits stores Friday, but fashionistas are already taking notice — the tops and shorts include bold blasts of color and assertive patterns that walk the tightrope between preppy chic and hipster spark. And it's not the only collaboration JCPenney has planned for 2013 and beyond.
Yet if embattled JCPenney CEO Ron Johnson — who has seen share prices plunge 60% in the last year under his leadership — thinks collaborations can reinvigorate the chain, he might want to call his fellow suits over at Target. While the latest Prabal Gurung line has been wildly popular, such collaborations haven't always been slam dunks with consumers. Not even big names like Jason Wu, Marc Jacobs, and Oscar de la Renta could entice Target shoppers to buy during its Neiman March collection; they came, they saw, they ignored. Why? ( Continue… )
With the average consumer thousands of dollars in debt, it's easy to assume that very little short of a turbo-charged economic recovery will significantly improve someone's financial situation. But help could be available from an unlikely source: a credit card.
Eight of the largest credit card issuers allow you to transfer your auto loan balance to a credit card in order to score a lower interest rate. Seven of them enable transfers from mortgages, student loans, small business loans, home equity lines of credit, and more, according to a recent CardHub.com study. We’re not just talking about a marginally lower rate.
A number of cards offer interest-free introductory periods that last a year or more. If used strategically, these zero-percent balance transfer promotions?? could save you as much as $1,000 while expediting debt freedom. (Compare balance transfer credit cards at Card Hub.)
The first step is to identify your costliest debt.
Odds are your credit card will have the highest interest rate, in which case the best offer for you is clear: the Slate Card from Chase. The Slate Card comes with what’s known as a free balance-transfer offer. It gives you a zero percent introductory interest rate for 15 months without charging either an annual fee or a balance transfer fee. You can use a credit card calculator to gauge the Slate Card’s potential savings for you. For the average household with a roughly $6,700 balance, it could eliminate up to $1,250 in unnecessary fees and finance charges. ( Continue… )
Over the last decade in households across America, the compact florescent light bulb (CFL) has replaced many an incandescent bulb. And while consumers have had to make investments in such an energy-saving switch (of an average cost of $5 per bulb), most folks justify the upfront expense as Energy Star-qualified CFLs can save over $40 over their lifetimes in energy costs, and use about 75% less energy than cheap, traditional bulbs.
In addition to funny-shaped CFLs, LED bulbs too save on energy costs, though the public has been less keen on them, as price points for 40-watt bulbs begin around $20 a pop. But that may soon change as Cree, an LED chips and part maker, introduces a new line of low-cost LED light bulbs.
Already popular with owners of commercial and industrial buildings, Cree hopes that marketing its line of three new LED bulbs to consumers at affordable prices will spark a change in energy consumption behavior. The bulbs, to be sold at Home Depot, come in two output capacities — 40-watt and 60-watt — and are priced from $9.97 to $13.97. Even for the high-end 60-watt day light, that's a savings of at least $7 over other energy-efficient LED lights, which could additionally save energy-conscious consumers hundreds of dollars in electricity and cooling costs over a bulb's lifetime. Plus, all Cree's LED light bulbs come with a 10-year warranty.
And while there are other LED bulbs on the market that are priced to sell (Netherlands-based Lemnis Lighting sells a 200-lumen LED bulb for $5, as we've occasionally seen some notable discounts on more expensive options), there are few LED bulbs on the market with the same specs at as affordable consumer price points as Cree's.
We are all about investments in the environment and love long-term savings, and we're even more interested in saving money now. Cree's line of ultra cheap energy-efficient LED bulbs, while more expensive than incandescent and CFL lighting, fulfill all those requirements and just may be, as the company claimed in trademark, "the biggest thing since the light bulb." Will you make the switch to energy-efficient lighting? Is there enough long-term savings associated with switching to LED bulbs over CFL?
There are some of us who love grocery shopping. Comparing products side-by-side according to ingredients; smelling, prodding, and tapping the produce; analyzing the meat fat patterns before making a selection, and so on. But if you're the type of shopper who gets easily aggravated by time spent rolling a cart down crowded aisles, waiting in checkout lines, loading up the car, and then lugging your haul inside, you may want to send your significant other to the store instead — or you could just try out online grocery shopping.
Wouldn't it be ideal to get groceries from your favorite local supermarket, without ever having to leave the comfort of the couch? An ever-growing number of grocers know the aforementioned pains for shoppers, and are thus offering ways for customers to order their groceries online, sometimes for delivery, other times for pickup. The move from overly-lit grocery store aisles to the digital realm is both a time-saver and a peaceful alternative to the hassles of the supermarket. But is online grocery shopping for you? Here's a checklist to help you find out; if any of these apply to you and your lifestyle, then the service might be worth a test drive.
You Live in a Large City
More and more supermarkets are experimenting with allowing customers to place their orders online. For example, Peapod — owned by Royal Ahold, a large chain of stores that includes Stop & Shop and Giant, among others — offers grocery delivery in major metro areas, mostly on the East Coast, and it will expand to additional locations in 2013. The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company offers online grocery shopping for many of its A&P stores (after emerging from bankruptcy earlier this year) in the Northeast tri-state area, while Safeway — the fifth largest American supermarket chain — offers grocery delivery in markets nationwide under its own brand as well as its owned stores: Vons, Randalls, and Tom Thumb. ( Continue… )
March is here, and even though you may be planning to stay glued to the couch for all of March Madness, you'll also likely be doing a bit of spring shopping — especially if you're fond of online retailers like us! To help you save big, we've mined the extensive dealnews archives for sales, coupons, daily deals, and individual products from the past few years and to guide you in your quest to make the most savvy purchases this month.
Look for All-Time Low Prices on the PS3
Since Sony announced the long-awaited PlayStation 4 console just a week ago, it will soon be an excellent time to buy a PlayStation 3; in years past, prices on previous-generation consoles have dropped by 60% to 64% once the newer models were released. However, keep in mind that Sony didn't announce a concrete release date for the PS4, and many believe details about preordering and price won't come until E3 in June, which together means that PS3 deals might come in at a trickle rather than a flood. If they drop the full 64%, that would put the 160GB PS3 model at as low as $144. Right now PlayStation 3 250GB bundles are priced at least $50 under the lowest price we could find.
Treat Yourself with Chocolate
Did you not get the sweets you hoped for on Valentine's Day? Well luckily you can peruse high-end chocolate shops for any lingering V-day treats. As always after a holiday, themed sweets go on sale and any treats that haven't been gobbled up will see discounts of up to 50% off. Look to stores like Godiva and the gift section of department stores for decadent ways to treat yourself on a budget.
Skip the Lingerie
You may think that immediately after the most romantic day of the year, you'd see huge discounts on lingerie, but although we do indeed see some price cuts, it's not really the best time to buy underthings. Instead, around June is when Victoria's Secret unveils its famed Semi-Annual Sale, and last year around the same time, we also saw excellent markdowns from a plethora of other retailers like aerie by American Eagle, Frederick's of Hollywood, Macy's, Soma Intimates, and Figleaves. That said, summer deals also paled in comparison to the October to December stretch, which saw numerous Editors' Choice offers from many of these same vendors. ( Continue… )
The challenges of tax season are upon us, and if there’s one thing that novice and experienced taxpayers alike have to learn and relearn every year, it’s that lots of people want your money. The federal government, state and local governments, certified public accountants (CPAs), and the tax preparer advertising on TV all want a piece of the pie. By getting organized early and following these expert tips as April 15 approaches, you’ll avoid the rush and, in all likelihood, a lot of money.
Financial institutions had until Jan. 31 to send out W-2s and 1099s in the mail, so you should have received the necessary forms by now. If you find that they are missing, contact your employer to find out why they haven't been mailed and make sure that they are being sent to the correct address.
- Tax tip: Save money by filing sooner than your friends
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In this first stage of tax season, take advantage of early bird deals that will disappear as the crunch date approaches. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can cash in on free or heavily discounted deals as tax-prep companies hope to front-load some of the rush to make space for more customers come tax day. ( Continue… )
Securing the best deal on a new cell phone plan is far from straightforward, and you're forgiven for getting the impression that carriers are deliberately making it complicated. Once you've decided what device you want, you still have to decide which carrier to sign up with, at which point you may wonder whether it makes sense to get a subsidized phone through a 2-year contract, or if the pay-as-you-go option is better for your needs. Then, of course, there's the question of coverage (some providers have better service in different areas), as well as the pricing tiers for a talk, text, and data plan.
Before you throw your hands up in defeat and re-up with the same carrier for another two years because it's easy, take some time to compare the costs and potential savings of all the carrier options. You just might find the best cell phone plan for you.
Unlocked vs. Subsidized
The first decision in deciding on a smartphone and carrier is likely to be dictated by your budget. While carriers offer the hottest new phones at enticing subsidized prices, they do so in order to encourage folks to sign up for a commitment that entails high penalty fees for early termination.
If you have the upfront cash available, then it will make more economic sense to buy a new unlocked phone for a few hundred dollars, rather than getting it more cheaply by locking yourself into a 2-year contract. That's because, over the life of that contract, most people end up paying more than they would by buying an unlocked phone at the outset and choosing a reasonable monthly prepaid or pay-as-you-go plan. ( Continue… )