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Best Buy 'blue shirt' Jamessa Cooper (right) helps customer Amin Ahmed exchange a XBOX 360 core system for a XBOX 360 premium system. A new version of the XBox could mean dramatic price cuts on the older system by net month. (John Nordell/Staff/File)

Xbox may drop to $99 by late May

By Jeff SomogyiContributor / 04.21.13

According to various tech sites, Microsoft will announce its next-gen Xbox gaming console on May 21. As with any new electronic doodad, the Internet is all abuzz with rumors about it. Will it require an always-on Internet connection? Will it play Blu-ray? Will it cost $500? Answers: Maybe!

But since we're deal-sniffing detectives, the most interesting rumor for us is a tangential one that was first floated by Paul Thurrott of Supersite for Windows. He claims that upon the release of the next console, the current Xbox is going to plummet in price to $99.

A $99 Xbox Would Threaten a Ton of Media Devices

Firstly, a $100 Xbox would put the present day console on par price-wise with the open-source, Kickstarter upstart OUYA. Could the OUYA, a console based around the Android platform, compete with a console that's just as inexpensive, but already has a catalog of thousands of games? Further, there are rumors that Valve is also going to release a cheap, set-top video game system called Steam Box. With a $99 Xbox, their marketplace would become a whole lot more difficult to enter.

Secondly, think about what a cheap Xbox would do to the content streaming, set-top box market. The Xbox would be priced in-line with the Apple TV and the latest, highest-end Roku, although in order to access streaming content (like HuluNetflix, Amazon Prime, and a bunch of sports channels and extras), a user would have to either purchase an Xbox LIVE subscription (priced around $40 for one year, if you get a deal) or pay a monthly fee that some have suggested will be required with the updated consoles. That said, despite that additional fee, you'd get Xbox's streaming functionality plus the ability to play DVDs and video games.

Yes, consumers who are already invested in the Apple ecosphere will opt for Apple TV, but for those who are new to the whole experience and looking for the best bang for their buck, a $99 Xbox looks mighty attractive. However, people who don't want or need to play video games or DVDs may turn to Roku or Apple TV as cheaper options since they don't require a LIVE-like subscription.

Regardless of speculation, our recommendation to anyone looking to buy an Xbox 360, Roku, Apple TV, or OUYA should probably wait until May 21. At that point, we should have a more clear idea of what Microsoft is planning to do. It's not that long to wait, and if you do, you might end up saving money or purchasing a better product for your cash.

A vegetable garden in New Paltz, N.Y. Before you get gardening, check out these deals on gloves, shears, rakes, and other tools. (Lee Reich/AP/File)

Going green, saving green: Deals on 10 essential gardening tools

By Tom BarlowContirbutor / 04.20.13

In early spring, there's nothing quite like getting one's hands dirty, planting flowers, fruits, and vegetables to mark the beginning of the season. Even if you're a gardening newbie, your foray into the fields (or onto your fire escape, if you're a city dweller), can be a breeze provided you equip yourself with 10 essential gardening tools.


Before you get down and dirty, you'll want a trusty pair of gardening gloves to protect your hands. Leather gloves are certainly durable, but tend to stiffen and contract when they get wet and then dry out. Gloves made of new composites and man-made leather last longer and offer better protection. Check out the G&F Florist Plus Gardening Gloves Set (from $13.79 with free shipping, a low by $1). You actually get two pairs with this order: a water-, oil-, and slip- resistant pair with high abrasion protection in breathable spandex and synthetic leather, and a second pair of mud gloves.

Pruning Shears

One of the gardening challenges many folks face is not from plants that won't grow, but those that won't stop growing when they reach their ideal size. This is where a good pair of pruning shears will come in handy. Whether you choose bypass shears (which work like scissors) or anvil shears (which have a pinching function) both can cut branches up to 3/4" in diameter. Just look for pruning sheers made with fully hardened steel, which can be resharpened, and a non-stick blade coating. The Fiskars 9124 Professional Bypass Pruners ($19.21 with free shipping, a low by $2) features adjustable blade tension that gives the user increased control over desired cutting force and precision. And since this is 2013, shears also come in left-handed models. The Felco F9 Left Handed 5-1/4" Bypass Pruners ($47.99 with $4.99 s&h, a low by $1) will make a difference for left-handed gardeners!

Lopping Shears

Unlike pruning shears, lopping shears are longer-handled and designed to cut larger branches up to 1 1/4" in diameter. They too come in bypass and anvil configurations, the former featuring a hooked blade to hold the branch in place so it doesn't slip away while being cut. Longer handles increase leverage and make for cleaner cuts, which can make a difference in the health of your plants. The Gilmour 25 AT Gear-Driven Anvil Lopping Shears ($27.99 with free shipping, a low by $13) have a 1 1/4" diameter capacity, use gears to triple the force of the cut, and have telescoping aluminum handles to extend the tool's reach.

Bow Saw

To tame even larger limbs, you'll need a bow saw: a simple C-shaped saw with a blade that spans the open end of the "C." You could spring for a chain saw if you have a lot of timber to cut, but for occasional use this tool is the ticket. Look for a hardened carbon steel blade for long life, and keep it oiled between uses to reduce rusting. The Fiskars 7031 30" Bow Saw ($15.92 with free shipping, a low by $3) boasts an aforementioned hardened carbon steel blade, a lightweight tubular steel frame, and comes with a lifetime warranty.


With the exception of the rock, the trowel is one of the most primitive tools and useful for planting, weeding, and generally moving dirt around while on your hands and knees. And unlike the rock, the scoop is sometimes marked with a scale to aid in planting seeds at a specific depth. A narrow trowel is good for planting bulbs; a wider model is suitable for digging holes for plants. When picking out a trowel, look for good steel and a comfortable handle, as this tool will probably be with you for a lifetime. The Shanghai Worth Garden Products Green Thumb Carbon Steel Trowel ($7.15 with free shipping, a low by $2) has a durable carbon-steel blade and a resin ergonomic grip.

Hand or Whisk Rake

The hand rake is the small version of the fan rake and is used to move soil and chase down weeds. It combs through soil like your fingers do through hair. Look for a rake with steel tines ("teeth") that spring back completely when spread, and a handle that fits your grip. The Lewis Lifetime Tools WHR-6 Yard Butler Whisk Rake ($14.99 with free in-store pickup, a low by $3) has a durable, all-steel construction, a cushioned grip, and at 18", extends your reach to maximize efficiency. It also carries a lifetime warranty.

Bow Rake

If you'd rather not spend time tending to your garden on all fours, the bow rake is an important tool. Gardeners use it to move soil, spread mulch, and pull out weeds. Look for a model with a sturdy steel head and 12 to 14 tines to do maximum work with minimum effort. Also make sure the handle is long enough to extend your reach comfortably. The True Temper American 14-Tine Bow Rake ($11.99 with $4.95 s&h, a low by $1) features a welded head with a 54" ash handle.


When it comes to digging a hole, nothing beats a round-point shovel. Look for one made of forged steel for better strength; stainless steel is pretty, but not necessary if you simply keep your shovel dry between uses. A longer handle gives you more leverage, and the common wood handle should last a lifetime if you treat it with linseed oil occasionally. Fiberglass handles are lighter option if you're willing to spend a little more. The Fiskars Long Handle Digging Shovel ($29.97 with free shipping, a low by $1) has an all-steel construction, pre-sharpened blade, and the teardrop-shaped shaft provides ergonomic comfort and control during use.


A flat-end spade is the right tool for planting larger objects. It allows for digging deep, narrow holes. Wider models move more soil, but result in heavier loads; if you don't want to do much heavy lifting, consider a narrow-bladed spade. Make sure the spade handle is comfortable in your gloved hand, and invest in one with a non-stick coating, which minimizes dirt clinging to the blade. The Truper Tru Tough 30" Garden Spade ($17.15 with $4.95 s&h, a low by $4) has a heavy-gauge steel blade and a lacquered handle with d-grip for balance and control.

Scuffle or Stirrup Hoe

This lesser-known tool is brilliant for keeping your garden weed-free with minimal effort. The bottom of the hollow rectangular blade, shaped like a stirrup, slips beneath the surface when used in a push-pull action, cutting young weeds off at the waist. Look for a stirrup hoe with a steel blade (rather than aluminum) for an extended tool shed life. The Ace Scuffle Stirrup Hoe ($20.99 with free in-store pickup, a low by $3) has a 1" double-edged blade and a hardwood handle.

These 10 gardening tools may each last a lifetime, so shop wisely. The result of your smart shopping and diligent labor could result in something delicious, fragrant, and beautiful. Certainly that's worth a modest investment in gardening tools.

Tom Barlow is a contributor to, where this article first appeared. 

Tax day freebies for April 15, 2013 include complimentary Arby's curly fries, with a printable coupon. (Courtesy of Arby's )

Tax Day freebies: Curly fries, Cinnabon, and document shredding

By Alison BarrettaContributor / 04.15.13

April 15. You see the date (surrounded by a frantic red circle) on your office calendar, and begin to experience a small twinge of dread. The ides of April — the cruelest month — is Tax Day in the United States. Whether you've waited until the last minute to crunch last year's numbers, or have already filed and found out that you owe the government money, then April 15 may be a day that you want over as soon as possible.

But it's not all bad! Several establishments realize this is a stressful time, and in an attempt to soothe the nerves of cash-strapped citizens nationwide, a number of merchants are offering goods and services at no cost. Gratis. Complimentary. Free! And nothing beats free, especially on Tax Day!

Below, we've rounded up the top Tax Day freebies that have already been released. Unless noted, these promotions take place on April 15 only. Keep in mind that we'll be updating this list as we get closer to the big day and more offers appear.


Freebie: For the third straight year, the fast food chain is offering emotionally- and financially-taxed Americans a delicious freebie on Tax Day. Arby's is serving up patrons a choice of a free value-sized order of Curly Fries or a small order of Potato Cakes via this printable coupon. Not only is it a nice treat, it's also a great way to save some dough on lunch or dinner.

Panda Express

Freebie: Last year's Tax Day fell on April 17, but that doesn't seem to stop Panda Express from offering its freebie on April 17 of this year, too. On the Wednesday after Tax Day, present this coupon (either printed or via mobile phone) for a free Samurai Surf & Turf entree. Try this brand new meal without having to dish out any cash.


Freebie: Feeling bitter about filing? (Paltry return? Writing a check to Uncle Sam?) Then head to your nearest Cinnabon and nab two Cinnabon Bites for free. It'll sweeten up your day without emptying your wallet.


Freebie: Food isn't the only type of freebie you can get on Tax Day! After poring over every last detail of those tax returns, your mind and body need a rest. Bring this printable coupon to your nearest participating HydroMassage location for a free HydroMassage Experience. If you already have plans, don't worry — this offer is valid until April 19.

Office Depot

Freebie: It's always helpful to keep copies of your tax return. (You'll need to cough 'em up if you plan on applying for a mortgage, for example.) Keep the 2012 tax year on file by going to Office Depot and receiving a free black and white copy of your tax return (up to 25 pages, single-sided). Or if you need to dispose of some sensitive information, Office Depot also provides free document shredding (up to 5 lbs.). Offers expire May 1.

Updated: Other Great Freebies for Tax Day (or Otherwise)

  • Schlotzsky's: The Original small sandwich for free with the purchase of a 32-oz. drink and chips (4/15 only)
  • 7-Eleven: Medium Slurpee for free when you text "Slurp7" to "711711" (ends 4/30)
  • The Melting Pot: Buy one portion of cheese fondue, get a second one for free (ends 4/11)
  • Subway: Buy one 6" sandwich before 9 am, get a second one for free (ends 4/30)
  • Chili's: Free appetizer or dessert when you "like" its Facebook page (ends 4/15)
  • AMC Theaters: Free small popcorn (4/12 to 4/15)
  • Great American Cookies: Free birthday cake cookie (4/15 only)
  • Pinkberry: Free Pinkberrygreek yogurt from 11 am to 2 pm every Wednesday (ends 4/24)

While there are plenty of freebies already available, we will most certainly unearth more offers as we get closer to April 15. Make sure to bookmark this page and check back often for all the latest freebie deals!

Alison Barretta is a senior editor for, where this article first appeared. 

Point and shoot digital cameras have been dropping in price for quite some time, with some going for less than $40, Ramirez doubts they can get much cheaper. (Businesswire/File)

Five electronics that won't get any cheaper

By Louis RamirezContributor / 04.13.13

Google's Nexus 7 is fast approaching its 1-year anniversary, and not surprisingly, the Internet is obsessed with rumors of its replacement. According to Reuters, Google's follow-up will be thinner, provide better battery life, and most importantly, it'll be cheaper than its predecessor. In fact, the new tablet could be up to $50 cheaper than the original Nexus 7.

While we love the idea of a $149 Android tablet, this price point could mean little-to-no discount on Google's next tablet. Because really, how much cheaper can a tablet of that caliber possibly get without the manufacturer going belly up? A $149 price point would place the Nexus 7 alongside a handful of other items that have seemingly hit their own deal plateaus.

Over the past two years, we've noticed how several types of electronics have stubbornly refused to get any cheaper. Naturally, new tech releases will periodically appear at high retail prices, but our data suggests that as far as rock-bottom deals go, we have likely already seen the cheapest feasible prices on devices within these five categories. (Unless otherwise noted, prices are referring to all-time lows, not averages.)

32" and 42" 1080p LCD HDTVs

Last September, deals on 32" 1080p LCD HDTVs hit rock bottom at $169. Since then, these TVs have remained at or slightly above that magic $169 price point. The same can be said of 42" 1080p HDTVs, which bottomed out at $189 in 2011 and $180 in 2012.

Could we see even lower prices on these sizes? Perhaps, but we feel that $169 for a 32" and $180 for a 42" is about as good as it gets for a long time to come. As a result, we're now seeing great deals on 55" and 60" HDTVs, as retailers try to make 55" TVs the new entry-level model and unseat 42" sets.

Point-and-Shoot Cameras

Point-and-shoot cameras have been declining in price (and relevance) for quite some time. Smartphones are mostly to blame, as casual photographers turn to their mobile phones to instantly upload photos to Facebook and Instagram. To entice shoppers, retailers have discounted digital cameras across the board. For instance, last November we spotted a 12-megapixel Kodak EasyShare camera for $37. Although we haven't seen a repeat of this deal, we doubt we'll see 12MP cameras for much less anytime in the near future.

Blu-ray Disc Players

Initially expensive, Blu-ray players have drastically plummeted in price since their debut. In fact, you can now buy one for just $35. Those with built-in WiFi tend to cost a bit more, at $45. If you compare them to current prices on standard DVD players, it's plausible that both variations might get a little cheaper. However, chances are that the difference will be slight, as Blu-ray players are very close to hitting their deal plateau.

Budget Laptops

For the past two years, the lowest-of-the-low prices on budget laptops (15" notebooks with any dual-core processor) haven't changed. In fact, in 2011 the best deal for such a configuration was $180, whereas in 2012 the best deal came in at $179. Needless to say, there's no room for further discounting below that point, as prices on these no-frills systems have hit rock bottom.

Budget Tablets From Major Brands

Amazon revolutionized the tablet market when it became the first company to offer a mainstream Android tablet for just below $200. However, because the Kindle is sold at cost, deals for Amazon's tablet remain scarce. (Instead of dollar-off discounts, the Kindle sees more promotions where it's bundled with a gift card.) Likewise, if the next-generation Google Nexus 7 is sold at $149 (or even $99 as CNET reports), chances are high we won't see any deals on new units until Black Friday, when at best we might see some bundle offers.

So while we — and presumably budget-conscious consumers — welcome the idea of a $99 or $149 mainstream tablet, don't be surprised if it doesn't get much cheaper than that. Of course, with these other deal categories, the starting prices are generally much higher than the prices we quoted; in order to find that 32" 1080 HDTV for less than $200, for example, you'll want to set up an email alert so you'll be notified as soon as we post a deal to the site.

Louis Ramirez is a senior feature writer for, where this article first appeared. 

Laptops and desktops equipped with Windows 8. Windows 8 sales have been a bit of a disappointment, meaning discounts on laptops and software bundles. (VIZIO/PRNewsFoto/File)

Laptop sales: Windows 8's loss is your gain

By Louis RamirezContributor / 04.06.13

Despite Microsoft's best efforts, it seems that Windows 8 isn't meeting expectations. According to research firm Net Applications, Microsoft's latest OS hasn't even been able to match sales of Vista (which, if you recall, was a major fail for the company). Making matters worse, Microsoft has a long line of unhappy manufacturers — including HP, ASUS, Fujitsu, and Samsung — upset with Windows 8's failure to revitalize an already-sluggish PC market.

In response, Microsoft is discounting Windows 8 licenses to its original equipment manufacturing (OEM) partners; licensing fees have fallen from $120 to just $30. And while the discount is intended to help move 11" ultraportables, our deal data suggests that the cut — in addition to the low adoption rate — is affecting prices on all Ivy Bridge Windows 8 systems, including mainstream 15" configurations.

Windows 8 Drops Ivy Bridge Laptops to Better-Than-Black Friday Prices

Although Intel debuted its Ivy Bridge line of processors only 10 months ago, our deals suggest that Windows 8's troubles are prematurely driving prices down on systems sporting these CPUs. In fact, just last month we saw a 15" Ivy Bridge laptop sell for an all-time low of $299. The laptop, which was equipped with 6GB of RAM and a 750GB hard drive, was a full $100 under our best Black Friday deal.

Conversely, laptops with previous-gen Sandy Bridge CPUs and Windows 7 didn't see such swift price cuts over the same time period; when Sandy Bridge-based laptops hit their 10-month mark, mainstream 15" Core i5-based laptops had dropped to $400 — a 34% discount from their debut price. By comparison, after 10 months on the market, today's mainstream 15" Windows 8 Core i5 Ivy Bridge-based laptops have fallen 46% from their debut price, to a rock-bottom $299.

In addition to a poor reception to the OS, there are still plenty of flavors of Windows on the market, a factor which may be contributing to a lag in current Windows 8 sales. In fact, some of our own readers have expressed seeking out older systems just to avoid Windows 8. This hesitation to adopt — and adapt — to the touchscreen-happy UI of Windows 8 may also explain why we're seeing such steep discounts on Windows 8-equipped Ivy Bridge laptops.

Buy Now, or Look for Bundles Later

Rumors indicate that Microsoft has an update to Windows 8 in store for August. Codenamed Windows Blue, the refresh will add new features and more customization options. It's possible that when it debuts, we might even see further deals and discounts on Windows 8 Ivy Bridge systems especially since Windows Blue is set to launch just as back-to-school sales are in full swing. While we don't think rock-bottom prices will drop much from their current low of $299, savvy shoppers might be able to score a laptop bundle this summer, as is typical with many back-to-school laptop deals.

If you don't want to wait that long to buy a Windows 8 deal, we recommend looking for mainstream 15" configurations priced at around $299. For a larger 17" Windows 8 Ivy Bridge-equipped desktop replacement, we've seen prices fall to as low as $400 on several occasions in recent months. And if you decide to bump up the specs on that 17" system to include a high-end i7 CPU (which will likely come with more RAM and storage), you can expect to pay about $600. 

Louis Ramirez is a Senior Feature Writer for, in which this article first appeared. 

An Apple iPad, left, and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Duesseldorf, Germany. Apple is supposedl updating the iPad in April, which would mean significant price cuts on the older version from resellers like MacMall and Best Buy. (Sascha Schuermann/dapd/AP/File)

The best and worst things to buy in April

By Lindsay Sakraida and Louis RamirezContributors / 03.31.13

April is here, and if you're stuck indoors waiting out showers that will bring May flowers, consider it a blessing: You'll have an excuse to devote more time to shopping around for the best deals online!

In an effort to guide you towards savvy purchases, we dug through the dealnews archives from years past to see what goods are, well, good to buy in April, and what you should hold off on purchasing. From early spring apparel sales to aggressive iPad prices, here's what's in store this month for the smart shopper.

Kindle Fire HD at All-Time Low Price Points

Many industry analysts assume that Amazon's Kindle Fire HD tablets are priced near the manufacturing cost, which would mean that Amazon doesn't make much money, if any, from the sales. Likely as a result, we typically haven't seen large or frequent discounts on these tablets. However, last month Amazon announced that it would cut prices on its entire fleet of 8.9" Fire HD Special Offers tablets. Prices now start at $269 for the base 16GB Wifi version, and although we've seen that particular model for less before, in general, each model is now at or near the lowest price we've seen — making it a good time to give the Fire HD a try.

Skip the Canon T5i and Opt for a T4i Deal

Canon recently announced the newest model in its EOS Rebel line, the T5i, but it appears to offer minimal updates to the previous-generation T4i. The major difference between the two comes down to price: Since the T4i is no longer the latest model, it will see discounts that make it at least $340 less than the T5i. In fact, last month we saw the body and kit lens bundle fall to its best-ever price of $560, and we expect to see that price (or a better one) again in the coming weeks.

Mid-Season Clothing Sales Coming to a Retailer Near You

The general rule to dressing yourself in deals is to wait about two months after a new season of apparel hits stores before cashing in on sizable discounts. Many retailers began debuting their spring merchandise in February, placing April at about the 2-month mark. Look closely at the discounts though: a spring clothing sale that takes 30% to 40% off is likely a mid-season promotion; for discounts of 50% off or more, wait until May.

I Spy iPad Deals

Supposedly Apple will be updating the iPad this month, which means that the fourth generation iDevice that was released in October 2012 will start to see significant price cuts from resellers like MacMall, Fry's Electronics, and Best Buy. Moreover, Apple-refurbished iPad 4s will also drop in price, at which point you'd do well to keep an eye on both the Apple Store and its mysterious eBay site; we've noticed that the eBay store will occasionally offer prices lower than what Apple charges directly, while still being reconditioned by the manufacturer with a full 1-year warranty. However, as far as getting a deal on the brand new model, our data suggests that we won't see a deal on the latest iPad until at least one month after it's released, at which point you could save as much as $59.

Jump Start Your Mother's Day Shopping

If you're thinking about buying some baubles for Mother's Day, then start looking now. We still find and list deals, coupons, and sales for jewelry in May, but often times we see slightly higher final prices on styles right before the holiday. This is especially true of online jewelry retailers.

Get Your Fill of Tax Day Freebies

There are few people in this world who don't appreciate getting something for free, and luckily, one of the most popular days for restaurants to offer something gratis takes place in April: Tax Day. Fast food and nationwide chains in particular will offer some sort of freebie on April 16, and if the offers are anything like last year, then you should be on the lookout for opportunities to get a free cup of coffee, free breakfast foods, or free side orders or desserts with the purchase of an entrée. We also found Office Depot's promotion last year, in which the store amusingly offered to shred 5 lbs. of documents for free, an enticing option.

Wait Until Black Friday to Upgrade Your Vacuum

Many sources suggest buying a new vacuum cleaner in the spring, and as ideal and motivating as that may sound, according to our archives, there are almost twice as many deals on these handy home appliances in October and November. Moreover, the quality of the deals will be better in the fall as well, as we typically see a higher number of Editors' Choice discounts in particular. So make do with your cleaner for now and upgrade in a few months time instead.

Put Off a Mattress Purchase Until Memorial Day

May is generally a good time to find a deal on a new mattress, and indeed for the past two years the sales we saw on mattresses received deeper discounts in May over April. Therefore, it's important to keep in mind that any discounts you see this month could very likely get even steeper if you wait until May, specifically around Memorial Day weekend when department stores roll out holiday-related promotions. Not quite ready for a new mattress? Last year we saw excellent discounts on mattresses around Black Friday and Cyber Monday as well, so you'll have another opportunity to cash in on strong deals later in the year.

Deals on Big-Screen HDTVs Near or Below Black Friday Prices

If you're looking to upgrade to a big-screen HDTV, there's never been a better time. 60", 55", and 55" 3D TVs are at or very near all-time lows.

55" 3D LCD HDTVs, for instance, hit all-time lows last month, with prices starting at $747 — that's $3 under February's best price. Likewise, 55" (non-3D) name-brand LCD HDTVs hit their second-lowest price of the past 12 months and deals started at $688. That's a $51 difference from our all-time low during Black Friday! Lastly, 60" LCD HDTVs bottomed out at $698 in March, which is just $10 shy of the size category's best price set back in Black Friday.

Core i5 Ivy Bridge Laptop Prices Hit Rock Bottom

Sales of new Windows 8 laptops are bad. So bad that Microsoft is offering OEMs discounts of up to 20% on licenses for Windows 8 (and Office). While those discounts are generally for ultraportables, our deal archives show they're also affecting prices of mainstream 15" Ivy Bridge laptops. For instance, just last month we saw a 15.6" Acer Aspire with 6GB of RAM and a 750GB hard drive go for an unprecedented $299. That's the lowest price we've seen for any Ivy Bridge system. It's also $41 under our February mention, which at the time was also an all-time low. While we doubt we'll see such significant price drops in April, we predict this $299 price will become the new norm as it makes its way to touchscreen Windows 8 laptops.

Lindsay Sakraida and Louis Ramirez are contributors to, where this article first appeared. 

Kevin Olson adds color to a snow sculpture by spraying Kool-Aid onto it in front of his house on John Street in Champaign, Ill., last week. Olson and his son Erick, an artist, finished the sculpture, modeled the after iconic Easter candy shapes of Peeps and a chocolate rabbit, on Tuesday night. (John Dixon/The News-Gazette/AP/File)

Easter by the numbers: How many Peeps will we eat?

By Lou CarzoloContirbutor / 03.31.13

With no disrespect meant whatsoever, Easter makes for some heavy cognitive dissonance. One the one hand, millions of Christians worldwide will mark the death and resurrection of Jesus. And on the other, you've got chocolate bunnies and jelly beans galore.

And as with any other occasion on our calendars, Easter marks yet another holiday made for spending, and consuming copious quantities of chocolate. This year, the National Retail Federation estimates that the average celebrant will spend approximately $145.13 on candy, decor, apparel, and food. And after conducting our own Easter egg hunt for stats, we've got other numbers on tap regarding this Spring holiday.

So whether you're hiding eggs in the backyard or planning a big family brunch, here's the rundown on stats, spending, and trivia surrounding this holiday that dates back to the 4th century. Read on, and fist bump that hippity-hoppity Easter Bunny as he's passing by.

Easter Garb: $25.91 Per Person

The NRF tells us that much of this spending will be done on behalf of the kiddos, in the form of bright new outfits. And as the song "Easter Parade" hints, you can bet that some ladies will spend money on a new Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it. But hey, guys get into the act, too. There are quite a few pictures on Jezebel from the 2011 Easter Parade in NYC, and we saw all manner of headgear from psuedo-flower pot puppy caps to frosting-pink TV-shaped boxes adorned with none other than rabbit ears.

Sweet Tooth Spending: $20.66 Per Person

Americans love their candy holidays: Halloween, Valentine's Day, Christmas, and 80% Cacao Chocolate Day (which is every day for this writer). While Valentine's tends to be a time for truffles and gift-box candy, it's jelly beans and chocolate bunnies that reign supreme come Easter Time. But as you might expect, there's some debate about the best way to consume a chocolate bunny. The folks at Statistic Brain, citing figures from the National Confectioner's Association, tell us that 3 in 4 Americans (76%) think choco-rabbits should be eaten ears first. And when you think about it, biting just about anywhere else constitutes cruelty to candy animals.

Peeps Made Per Day: 4.2 Million

If Christmas has the inedible, incredible fruitcake, then Easter has the Peep, a bizarre bit of culinary mystery food that seems both cool and, yes, cruel to eat. (These are baby chicks, people!) The factory that makes Peeps is cranking out enough of these sugar birdies in a year to circle the Earth twice, according to Business News Daily. By the way, it took 27 hours to create one Peeps marshmallow chick in 1953. Today, thanks to advances in technology, it takes six minutes. Also back in 1953, it took about 45 seconds to eat a Peep. Today, thanks to advances in the American appetite for strange junk food, it takes about six seconds.

Easter Jelly Beans Confectioned: 16 Billion

This one also comes to us from Statistic Brain, and it's a daunting, daunting number. We don't know how America's confectioners keep count. But here's how it breaks down: This are 2.3 jelly beans for every man, woman, and child on Planet Earth. Who knew a little orb of candy-coated sugar could prove such an Easter enticement? Variety-wise, the folks at Jelly Belly make their beans in 50 different flavors, including Cream Soda, Tangerine, Green Apple, and Root Beer. As for myself, I'm growing more worried each year that Jelly Belly will come out with a Christmas Fruitcake jelly bean, one that has the same chewing-on-a-tire consistency as the real thing.

An Easter Brunch for the Family: $45.26

Enough with junk food! The NRF estimates that spending on items for an Easter meal will cost about $45 range. What's fascinating is how much Easter grub varies from culture to culture, family to family. In my Italian-American family, Easter meant lasagna, chicken cutlets, meatballs, and little nougat candies called "torrone," which is Italian for "tower." (Here is a great recipe from Martha Stewart.) In a Polish household, the favorites include kielbasa, ham, and babka (a slightly sweet yeast bread). Among Mexican families, you might find fried plantains, nodal (a flat-leafed cactus), or shrimp covered with a traditional sauce called pippin, made with spices and pumpkin seeds. Yum!

Oldest Official Easter Parade: 137 Years Old

It's said that Irving Berlin took a really long time to write "Easter Parade" — about 15 years, on and off — and by the time the song became a hit in the 1930s, the parade tradition in the U.S. was already decades old. The first official parade dates to 1876, the year officials in Atlantic City, N.J. kicked off their promenade, hoping to draw crowds from Philadelphia's Centennial Exposition. But truth be told, the tradition was taken from New York City, which had its own Easter parades going (sort of) years before. New York City's Easter parades actually began by accident, in the mid-1800s, when well-heeled church patrons leaving services would stroll along 5th Avenue in their finery. Atlantic City's parade on the Boardwalk this year hardly seems a big deal; sadly, there's barely any mention of it anywhere online. But given all the city suffered in 2012, it seems as good a time as any to attend and wish the city a comeback season.

Oldest Wrapped Chocolate Easter Egg: 56 Years Old

Yup, that's right. While there's no way of counting how many Easter eggs will be dyed in how many nations, there's one egg that simply refuses to die: the one Judith Bowen, a 73-year-old from Wootton, Beds, England bought at age 17 for her mother. The full story recently appeared in the New York Daily News, and talks about how Bowen found the still-unopened, gold-wrapping covered egg at her mother's home after she had passed away in 2006. We're betting the shelf life of this egg has long since expired, too.

And so as Easter arrives, it's a good time for both reflection and celebration. No matter how you celebrate the holiday (and even if you don't), we can all look forward to it as a milestone for the beginning of spring. It's been too cold for too long in many parts of the U.S., yet no matter what the thermometer says on Easter Sunday, here's hoping it leaves a warm feeling in your heart.

Lou Carzolo is a contributor to, where this article first appeared.

Examples of 'Understanding Taxes' graphic design posters hang in the halls of the US Internal Revenue Service building in Washington, DC last year. (Ann Hermes/Staff/File)

Tax time is near. Seven commonly overlooked deductions.

By Lou CarzoloContributor / 03.30.13

When it comes to taxes, there's no such thing as "perfect," unless you're looking at a perfect storm. And we've got one this week, as millions of tax payers — and the overworked accountants representing them — deal with the combined effects of a late-starting tax season, the Passover holiday this week, and Easter Sunday on March 31 all a mere two weeks before the ever-dreaded April 15 filing deadline. Makes you want to go out and buy the Easter Bunny a tax-deferred annuity, eh?

But before you throw your copy of Turbo Tax into a turbo-charged blender, remember that the I.R.S. tax code is full of little-known (yet legal) deductions you could and should utilize. To learn more about these caveats, dealnews spoke with Don Zidik, a CPA at McGladrey LLP in Boston, MA. Zidik, who is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, was happy to help us out with seven solid pointers and commonly overlooked tax deductions.

Closing Time: The Real Estate Tax Deduction

If you purchased or sold real estate in 2012, one overlooked deduction may be the real estate taxes paid at closing. That said, be careful how the numbers line up: "You'll need to review your settlement statement to see if you'd been credited with paying real estate tax that needed to be prorated through the closing date," Zidik says. "Likewise, you may also need to reduce your real estate tax deduction if a portion of the real estate tax had been credited to the other party in the sale."

Miles Ahead: Mileage Related to Medical or Charitable Reasons

People who might otherwise count every mile when it comes to work-related travel often skip this deduction because they're not aware it exists. Do make sure you check the respective rates, though, which vary. "The medical mileage rate is 23 cents per mile, and the charitable mileage rate is 14 cents per mile," Zidik says.

Your Tax Lesson Plan: Unreimbursed Classroom Expenses for Teachers

While teachers won't hit the jackpot with this deduction, it certainly pays: Federal law allows teachers to deduct up to $250 of unreimbursed classroom expenses. "This deduction is taken as a deduction before you determine adjusted gross income," Zidik says. And for all teachers who fail to take this elementary deduction, please see me after class.

Expenses That Pay Off: Non-Employee Compensation from Form 1099-MISC

If you received one of these 1099s from 2012, that opens the door to deductions you can take as a consultant or non-employee. "This [deduction] is especially important if this type of income is subject to self-employment taxes," Zidik says. That said, those who derive a majority of their income via 1099-MISC statements need to be careful, as the I.R.S. scrutinizes such tax returns more carefully when deciding who to audit. Use your head and save receipts and keep accurate records for everything you deduct.

The Silver Dollar Playbook: Use Gambling Losses to Offset Big Winnings

If you can prove you lost money gambling, you won't have to pat any tax on your winnings, so long as your losses are equivalent, Zidik says. Of course, that means you really lost as much as you won, which should be a sobering thought.

Returns and Investments: Fees on Your Investment Managed Account

If you have an investment managed account, review your statements and supplementary information with your 1099 to see if you paid any investment management fees or margin interest, Zidik says. Of course, you may need the help of a great CPA to spot all this out. "Investment fees and other miscellaneous deductions are only deductible for those expenses that exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income," he notes. Margin interest is also limited to net investment income, but you can carry it forward to future years. "There are also limitations if you received any tax-exempt income such as municipal bond interest. Expenses need to be allocated between taxable and tax-exempt income." In other words, no double dipping!

Medicare Money: Premium Deductions

Medicated deductions apply if you or someone you know received Social Security benefits in 2012. In that case, the applicable Medicare premiums may be deductible. "This is one overlooked deduction," Zidik says, adding that the Medicare premiums fall under the category of deductible medical expenses. That said, remember that they must exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.

Tax time is never pleasant, but nabbing a few extra deductions where you didn't expect them can make it a little more digestible. That said, remember to take great care when calling in those deductions. Be honest, because audits can and do happen, especially for those who are self-employed or file a Schedule C on their tax returns.

Note: Special thanks to Shirley Twillman at the AICPA for making this interview possible.

Lou Carzolo is a contributor to, where this article first appeared. 

A customer with the Scan It! Mobile app on his iPhone shows a coupon for Tostitos chips while shopping at a Stop and Shop supermarket in Braintree, Mass., in 2011. A recent study suggests groceries can get customers to walk more aisles of their stores and, thus, spend more money if they get coupons or other deals on their smartphones. (Adam Hunger/Reuters/File)

Grocery stores use smartphone deals to spur sales

By Naomi ManninoGuest blogger / 03.28.13

It's a commonly held belief amongst grocery store chains that the further a shopper walks into a store, the more likely it is that he or she will spend more money. But as it turns out, most shoppers actually end up covering less than half the area of an average grocery store, which equates to approximately 1,400 feet (or one-fifth of a mile, for you fitness buffs). So even though you may feel as if you're pushing your cart down aisles for hours, stores actually still aim to get us to walk around evenmore — and our own smartphones may be helping them accomplish this end.

According to a recent report published by the American Marketing Association, in-store coupons and deals sent to a consumer's smartphone can encourage them to walk around more — and in turn, spend more. The AMA study, conducted by Professor Sam Hui of the NYU Stern School of Business, used radio frequency identification (RFID) tracking to conduct a field experiment examining consumers' in-store travel and unplanned spending.

Shoppers in the study were sent mobile promotions while shopping (which a regular consumer might receive through a location-based app like FourSquare or a store-specific app), and the group found that the "walking theory" is true. The experiment showed that consumers, on average, spent $13.83 when they were sent a coupon that was for a product near their planned path, but a mobile coupon requiring shoppers to walk outsideof their planned path increased unplanned spending to $21.29. In general, walking an additional 55 feet in a grocery store increases unplanned spending by about $1, while strategically promoting three different product categories via mobile promotion may increase unplanned spending by more than 16%.

And while the study deals largely with mobile promotions and the opportunity they provide for real-time enticement for shoppers, the more traditional format of printed weekly flyers is designed to draw shoppers into specific areas of a store — outside of their usual path — in a similar fashion. ( Continue… )

A customer checks out the ready made food section at a grocery store in Cincinnati. A number of studies suggest that men have been shouldering more household duties, like grocery shopping, over the past few decades. (Al Behrman/AP/File)

Bringing home the bacon: More men doing the grocery shopping.

By Lou CarzoloContirbutor / 03.24.13

Almost 500 years after John Donne proclaimed that no man is an island, it can now be said that some men have a man aisle — a sign of the grocery-shopping times that illustrates how roles have shifted in 21st century families. This month, the National Retail Federation's Stores Magazine even reports that there's a change afoot in who's doing the shopping, though this shift first came to light via 2010 U.S. Census figures, which revealed 20% of fathers with preschool-aged children and working wives were the primary caregivers at home.

Yet, if the media needed more tangible proof, it found it in a somewhat silly place: the corner of a New York City grocery store dedicated to manly goods, and dubbed "The Man Isle" [sic] by the operators of Westside Market NYC. Media outlets such as the New York Post and Los Angeles Times couldn't get enough, though a closer look reveals that this "man aisle" is more marketing gimmick than manly substance. Check out the store photos posted by Business Insider and you'll see what we mean: Doritos? Ramen noodles? Teriyaki beef jerky? Hmmm. Could this really be the "caveman aisle" instead? ( Continue… )

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