A recent Travel Channel poll ranked Mexico as the number one destination for honeymooners, and not just for the year-round 80-degree weather and palm-lined beaches; Mexico is full of cultural, historical, and exotic places that draw visitors from around the world. Couple these qualities (no pun intended) with affordability, and you've got a recipe for a perfect honeymoon (add champagne as required). Whether you're after romance, or just a relaxing week at the beach, head to Mexico and indulge in some of the most affordable luxuries around.
Getting to your dream Mexican destination doesn't have to cost un ojo de la cara. We've found American Airlines roundtrip fares to Cancun starting at $300 (a low by $11; expires August 15). Unlike most international airports, Cancun International does not allow taxis to pick up arrivals, so make sure to book your airport transportation in advance. If you want a bit more flexibility in your itinerary, United Airlines is offering roundtrip flights to a wider array of destinations throughout Mexico for dollars more (from $307, a low by $5; expires August 15). Once you're back on terra firma, let the wooing begin!
Drop your bags in your beachside room and get ready to enjoy the honeymoon package for the duration of your all-inclusive 5-night stay for two at the Allegro Cozumel Hotel (from $540, a low by $28; expires August 18) on the island of Cozumel. Time to revel in a room upgrade, welcome flower arrangement, breakfast in bed, and a discount on massages. Throw in a couple of margaritas and you've got an unforgettable start to your lives together.
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Just across the Caribbean Sea and back on the mainland, you'll find the "South Beach" of Mexico: Playa del Carmen's trendy night scene gives couples the opportunity to really let their hair down. If you want to avail of the excitement but still be able to escape back to your own personal paradise, opt for a 5-night flight and hotel stay at the Grand Riviera Princess Resort & Spa (from $1,247.24, a low by $41; expires August 9) on the northeastern edge of the city. This resort hotel offers guests a choice of pools, restaurants, bars, and even a handy shuttle service downtown. ( Continue… )
Are you a chic but savvy shopper who loves quality goods and brand names, but refuses to spend an entire paycheck at high-end stores like Michael Kors and Coach? Fortunately for consumers like you, outlet stores for such luxury brands, like Last Call Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom Rack, and Saks Fifth Avenue OFF FIFTH, are rich in designer goods at deep discounts — and they're growing in numbers.
These outlet stores aren't just appealing to bargain shoppers, however. Business Insider explains how the upcoming sale of Saks Fifth Avenue to Hudson's Bay Co. (which owns Lord & Taylor) highlights the growing importance of outlet stores for the luxury retail giant. Saks OFF FIFTH currently operates 67 locations in 26 states — a significantly higher number than its 41 full-service stores — and has plans to open 25 more outlet stores in Canada.
Why Luxury Brands Are Opening More Outlet Stores
Even designer belts were tightened after 2008, when the recession caused a 10% slide in sales for big-name luxury retailers. According to Ellen Ruppel Shell's Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, factory outlets are the number-one tourist destination in the U.S. As such, it makes sense that luxury brands would want a piece of the $17 billion outlet store industry, especially after brands like Saks were forced to slash prices and offer discounts at their main stores.
Meanwhile, Nordstrom Rack locations — which sell 40% more than other Nordstrom stores — are slated to expand in number from 127 to 145 by the end of 2013. Neiman Marcus took its outlet store development a step further and in 2010 opened a new line of Last Call Studio outlet stores, which offer even lower prices.
While we typically think of these stores as brick-and-mortar only, some outlet stores make its wares readily available online; Last Call Neiman Marcus and Barneys Warehouse have their own e-commerce sites, for example, while others like Saks OFF FIFTH and Nordstrom Rack are in development. However, beyond their presence online, the expansion of physical retail outlet stores has increased the availability of discounted brand-name goods to an even larger number of consumers.
And even if there isn't an outlet near you yet, there may be one coming to a town nearby; the location of outlet stores is often determined by real estate overhead. A more remote location also means that retailers can save money on simpler displays, because there's less outside competition than there is in a mall; retailers also make additional revenue because they can sell a greater number of products within the outlet store space, and they can save in overhead by hiring a smaller staff. But there's another reason why outlets are often off the beaten path.
Separation of Shoppers
While Coach outlets have been profitable, accounting for 73% of the brand's sales, a recent Wall Street Journal article points out that "over-democratization" could hurt the brand's image: with wares readily available for less money at outlet stores, the exclusivity that luxury brands rely on is put in jeopardy. What's more, Coach just announced a recent round of layoffs, corporate restructuring, and re-branding as a lifestyle company, so it will be interesting to see what this means for its outlet store business.
Bloomberg Businessweek notes that to combat the over-democratization of brands, high-end retailers must rely on consumer differentiation, or the separating of shoppers based on what they will pay for brand-name goods. Because outlets are situated in suburbs or along major highways — away from cities and the brands' retail locations — outlet stores physically separate the demographic that is willing to pay full price at the flagship stores from those that instead are actively seeking deals on brand-name goods.
Out-of-the-way outlets also encourage shoppers to make a day of the excursion. If you've made a 45-minute trip to buy a Coach purse, why not see what the Michael Kors outlet and Saks OFF FIFTH have to offer?
Remember: You Often Get What You Pay For
Overall, this increase in the number of luxury outlet stores is good news for consumers: it means an increased ability to buy premium goods for less — sometimes. While outlets have come a long way from the 1930s (when the first factory outlets sold damaged or imperfect goods), many of the items you'll find at outlet stores aren't overstock or even last season's leftovers.
Instead, about 75% to 80% of Last Call and OFF FIFTH merchandise is made or purchased specifically for the outlet store. An anonymous luxury outlet store buyer told financial planning company Learnvest that many of the items purchased for outlets are of lesser quality than what you would find on the racks of the main stores. Most of these items are differentiated by specialty labels — the Brooks Brothers "346" line, for example.
If these items were never a part of the flagship store's inventory, that tag with the slashed "full price" doesn't mean much. This faux-sale price tactic has the potential to make shoppers think they are getting a better deal than they actually are thanks to artificially high "original" prices.
But in spite of some of these misleading tactics, the proliferation of luxury retailer outlet stores offers shoppers the opportunity to buy designer duds for less. But the trick is to still shop carefully and smartly. Readers, what do you think: Are luxury outlets a smart way to shop? Are you looking forward to more outlet stores in the near future? Let us know in the comments below.
Josie Rubio is a contributor to Dealnews.com, where this article first appeared.
With more than 43.5% of people accessing the internet via a mobile phone the pressure to have a new smartphone can be overwhelming. But at the same time there are still folks who want to own any old smartphone, whether it be something cheap or secondhand. This demographic makes for a lucrative arena in which selling off an older or obsolete smartphone can net a decent price.
Selling an Old Phone Could Pay for Your Next Upgrade
When consumers pay $199 for a brand new smartphone with a 2-year contract, they're actually forking over much less than the MSRP; without a contract, most unsubsidized smartphones cost $600 or more. But rather than charge its customers full price, wireless carriers supplement the cost of the newest smartphones in exchange for locking customers into contracts. The facts and figures behind the contract-subsidy model came to light recently when T-Mobile seceded from the Big 4 and opted to offer (mostly) untethered, contract-free service for new smartphones, and in some ways, this route can be more cost effective.
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Despite the benefits to a contract-free plan, subsidized phones and 2-year contracts remain the norm in the United States. And for this reason the resale value of most 2-year-old smartphones seems quite high compared to what the user initially paid. In many cases, smartphones are valued at about the same price point two years later; these phones do drop in value, like all electronics, but they depreciate from their full retail price, rather than their subsidized cost.
As such, an older smartphone could garner enough money on the resale market to cover the cost of upgrading to a newer smartphone. Of course, earning about $200 on the sale of a 2-year-old phone depends on a variety of factors. We turned to Edgar Navarro, owner of Cell Phone Repair in Chicago's North Center neighborhood, for some advice on how to maximize the trade-in value of an old phone to get a new smartphone for free. ( Continue… )
If you're like most HD television owners, chances are you haven't touched the video settings on your TV since the day you pulled it out of the box. But did you know that the default settings for most HDTVs are optimized for the glare of a showroom's fluorescent lighting?
If your living room isn't lit by a dozen fluorescent lights (and we hope it's not), then you'll want to calibrate your HDTV to get the best picture quality. Every TV has its own idiosyncrasies that are affected by the attributes of the room you place it in, specifically lighting and viewing distance; to get the most out of the latest technology, whether it be a standard set or something more fancy that sports 3D or 4K TV, then it's necessary to make some adjustments to your set's brightness, contrast, sharpness, and color.
Easy TV Calibration
As with most things in life, hiring a professional calibrator to fine tune your set is the simplest way to calibrate your TV. Just make sure that the professional is certified by either the Imaging Science Foundation or THX. While there are plenty of independent contractors to be found (at various price points), for $250, an ISF-certified technician from Best Buy's Geek Squad can calibrate two inputs.
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If you've just dropped a cool $1,000 or more on your new HDTV, the expense of hiring a pro may no doubt seem worth it. A professional calibrator will be able to correctly adjust your TV's temperature, as well as access the fine-tuning controls in its service menu — modifications beyond most laymen's capabilities.
Easy and Cheap TV Calibration
If you don't want to hire a professional to calibrate your TV, you can do so on your own without spending more than $5. The cheapest and easiest method of TV calibration just takes a few minutes and your own eyeballs. Knowing what to look for when tweaking your TV's picture and using some appropriately helpful materials, it's possible to make dramatic improvements without dropping a dime. We recommend THX Optimizer, which is a free on-screen calibration tool available on any DVD with the THX logo. Don't own a THX DVD? You could potentially borrow one from your local library for free, though some of the tests require special glasses that cost about $4.50 with free shipping. ( Continue… )
Plenty of savings vehicles help parents finance their child’s college education – and with student debt on the rise, those savings can minimize the financial burden when college graduates move into the working world. One of the most popular savings plans is a 529, which comes in two flavors that let you either prepay tuition or save for it in a tax-advantaged account.
One word of caution before contributing to a 529: Consider your own retirement needs. Many financial advisers recommend that parents first fund their own 401(k) retirement plans up to the point of their company’s match and contribute the maximum amount allowed to their individual retirement account (IRA). Then it’s time to save for your child’s college education.
Here’s how the two versions of the 529 work:
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529 college prepaid plan
The 529 college prepaid plan allows savers to purchase credit points for a university in their state at the current rate. This means that if tuition costs increase due to inflation or other factors, parents are protected from paying those higher rates. However, it’s important to note that with this prepaid plan, parents should be confident that their child will attend a particular school in their home state and know that the credits only cover tuition costs and mandatory fees. ( Continue… )
iOS 7 is on its way and with it may come the promise of new iPhone hardware. But while the rest of the tech world speculates on the next-gen iPhone, we here at dealnews are excited about the iPhone 5; if Apple sticks to tradition, then this highly rated smartphone could soon hit the bargain bin, giving consumers yet another excellent choice in the heated smartphone wars. So what price can you expect to pay for current iPhone models if Apple does indeed release a new iDevice this fall?
A Sub-$99 iPhone 5 Arriving Fall 2013
At last year's iPhone 5 announcement, Apple hit the kill switch on the iPhone 3GS while simultaneously slashing the price of the iPhone 4 to $0, and the iPhone 4S to $99 (both with a new 2-year service contract). Assuming there's a new iPhone announcement this fall, we can expect the iPhone 4 to reach the end of its tech life, the iPhone 4S to be reduced to $0, and the iPhone 5 to fall to $99.
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A $99 iPhone 5 would be an Editors' Choice-level deal. And even though we've already seen the iPhone 5 at this price before (back in July), it would become the new base price across the board; with all retailers offering the iPhone 5 for under $100, we expect to then see actual deals that would drop the price even further beneath the $100 mark. Considering the fact that analysts believe that the high-end smartphone boom is beginning to wane, this price-cutting trend is especially likely. As such, smartphone prices have peaked and are dropping, so we wouldn't be surprised to see a wealth of iPhone 5 deals from the likes of Fry's,Walmart, and Best Buy, all of which have undercut Apple's prices before. ( Continue… )
Stroll into any furniture store or tire shop and there’s a good chance the sales associate will try and peddle you their in-house financing card. Often times, it will be described as being “zero percent for six months” – sometimes, much longer.
If you’re in a financial rut, getting zero percent for six months on that new set of tires you desperately need sounds like a no-brainer. Pay no interest for a couple of years on that new living room set? You might jump at the chance.
But don’t – until you understand what you’re signing up for. It’s probably not a zero-percent credit card offer from a major bank, like JP Morgan Chase or Capital One, where you really do get zero percent on purchases, balance transfers, or both for 12 or 18 months. Typically, store credit cards offer something entirely different: zero percent deferred interest.
What that means is that the interest charges are deferred during the promotional period. The “no interest if paid in full” part means that if you pay off the entire purchase within the zero percent window, you won’t get charged interest. If you don’t pay it off, then you get charged the interest retroactively, going back all the way to the first day of the purchase. Even if you only have a dollar left to pay, the retailer can charge retroactive interest on the full original purchase price. ( Continue… )
We've all been there. It's pouring rain, and you're umbrella-less. Maybe you forgot your umbrella at home, or maybe you haven't purchased a new once since that last storm reduced your old (and favorite) umbrella to bits of shredded cloth and a broken post. Guess you'll have to duck into the nearest pharmacy or gas station to buy another cheap umbrella and just pray that a single gust of wind won't turn it inside out and render it useless... again.
Why do we keep buying the cheap umbrellas? It's presumably for the same reason we buy cheap sunglasses or gloves that barely keep our fingers warm. They will get scratched, broken, or most likely, lost in that vortex of the backseat of the car or left behind in a restaurant. We live in a disposable society for the most part, but there are some products that are still made to last, or at least have some sort of guarantee to give us peace of mind if we decide to fork over the cash for quality and durability. Umbrellas shouldn't be any different.
With hurricane season kicking into full gear, we've rounded up a few high-quality umbrellas that are actually guaranteed to last. Unless you're the type to lose belongings, a sturdy umbrella can actually save you money in the end. ( Continue… )
Where did the summer go? With August here and back-to-school sales in full swing, kids everywhere are sharing a collective sigh thinking about the end of summer fun. But it’s not too late to book a trip to fun-filled Florida and soak up the last of summer at theme parks in Orlando or a beach in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or the Keys. Start planning your getaway and check out these roundtrip fares to Florida on United Airlines (from $185.80, a low by $10; expires August 15).
Once you’re there, explore the Sunshine State with a car rental from Sixt, where you'll take 15% off (from $13.25 per day, a low by $53; expires August 15) and cash in on the third-lowest base rate we’ve seen from Sixt in the past 12 months.
Beauty and Adventure in Orlando
Orlando boasts myriad theme parks — most famously Walt Disney World and Epcot — but there’s truly something for everyone. Explore water parks such as Discovery Cove and Blizzard Beach, the marine life of Sea World, Florida’s swamp creatures at Gatorland, or out-of-this-world adventures with a visit to John F. Kennedy Space Center. No matter your itinerary, you can kick start your vacation with the excitement of booking a cheap Orlando-area hotel for as little as $26 per night. A Hotwire Mystery Hotel deal, you won't actually know the name of the property you'll be staying at until after you've booked. From there, plan your visit to nearby LEGOLAND where a single-day adult ticket is 30% off ($59, a low by $22; expires October 27). From there you can survey all of the park’s rides and activities from Island in the Sky, a 150-foot rotating platform, then take the kids to LEGOLAND Water Park where a wave pool, lazy river, tube and body slides, and an interactive play structure will keep them splashing about for hours on end. Deals for the whole family include a single-day child/senior ticket for $51, a single-day child/senior ticket with water park admission for $59, and a single-day adult ticket with water park admission for $67.
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After a day of family fun, return to poolside relaxation or take in the setting sun overlooking Lake Davenport with a 4-night stay in a villa at the Bahama Bay Resort & Spa (from $260, a low by $8; expires August 3). You'll be just minutes from theme parks and attractions and be saving: this promotion is the second-lowest rate we've seen this year for stays at this property. What's more, you'll score free parking and a room upgrade (meaning space for you and the kids!). The resort also boasts a children’s play area and basketball courts and fishing, which are the perfect places for the kids to get out all their energy pre- and post-theme park visits.
Dive Into Key Largo
Quite the opposite of Orlando, the Florida Keys boast an aura of "Ahh...." These islands have inspired everyone from literary great Ernest Hemingway (who called Key West home) to Old Hollywood, as it was setting for the 1948 film Key Largo. Book your hotel as Bogey and Bacall would — by phone — to reserve a stay at the Key Largo Resort (from $99, a low by $20; expires September 30). The resort, which just received a $12 million makeover has its own private beach, where you can relax while the kids go snorkeling and swimming with dolphins. ( Continue… )
The Apple iPod, introduced in 2001, may be the device most responsible for sparking the digital music era. And now, over a decade later, consumers have access to a wide variety of digital music made available by download through a variety of sources. However, three vendors in particular — Apple's own iTunes Music Store, Amazon, and Google Play — stand above the rest.
But despite this triumvirate of digital music stores backed by major international brands, only one truly dominates the market. And that is, of course, iTunes. According to data from the NPD Group, about 63% of all digital music sales occur through iTunes. That accounts for 8 out of 10, or 80%, of digital music shoppers — and that 80% is likely overpaying.
iTunes Dominates, But Amazon Is Cheaper
For many people, buying iTunes music is an act of convenience. However, through our daily deal hunting, we have discovered that Amazon more frequently offers discounts on MP3 downloads. Regardless, people are still overwhelmingly buying from iTunes, which rarely — if ever — slashes the price on its digital wares. Thus, we set out to see just how much the convenience of downloading music through the iTunes Music Store is costing consumers.
Over the course of four weeks, our staff noted the prices on a variety of singles and albums at iTunes,Amazon, and Google Play. Each week, we checked the prices of Billboard's top 20 singles and albums, as well as CMJ's top 20 albums (to account for indie offerings). The results of this research show that Amazon offers a better album price than iTunes 77.5% of the time. For shoppers who are primarily interested in Billboard's top albums, then Amazon music downloads are cheaper a whopping 84% of the time.
Albums That Are Up to 50% Less
Of course, there's a caveat; music from Amazon, as well as Google Play, is cheaper largely because both stores tend to offer albums that are just 50 cents less than iTunes, by default. For some people, this half-dollar difference is negligible and won't impact where they buy music online. ( Continue… )