December is a month filled with hundreds of sales, but what most shoppers don't know is that the best sales of the month don't begin until after Christmas. December 26 is when retailers begin to frantically discount the items they couldn't sell earlier in the month.
For consumers, After Christmas sales mean deep discounts on the stuff you want to buy. We combed through some of 2012's best post-Christmas promotions to uncover which of this year's After Christmas sales will be worth your time, and what kind of discounts can you expect. In fact, last year we posted 7% more Editors' Choice after-Christmas sales than we did in 2011; we're hoping that number will only increase for 2013.
After Christmas Sales Will Start Before Christmas
Before you even think about the sales, it's important to know that, like Black Friday (which has essentially taken over Thanksgiving), we expect to see after-Christmas sales starting earlier than usual. And while it might seem crazy, given their name, After Christmas sales actually start before Christmas itself.
In fact, last year we saw sales labeled as "After Christmas" that went live as early as December 24. This year we expect sales to start within the same timeframe; and since Christmas Eve falls on a Tuesday, we wouldn't be surprised to see a few branded sales begin as early as Monday, December 23.
It's also worth noting that this year December 26 falls on a Thursday, when many people might be at work. As such, retailers will have to work harder to get consumers' attention. As such, this year we expect to see catchy sales headlines and discount offers come straight to in our inboxes. And while tactics will generate awareness, they may not offer the best deals. So naturally we recommend keeping a focus on the items you actually want or need. ( Continue… )
Do you tip your sanitation workers or mail carriers? How about the barista working the holiday shift? The issue of holiday tipping has left many folks wondering how big (or small) a tip to leave (or not leave) as part of the yearly ritual of playing Santa. To get a handle on holiday tipping etiquette, we talked to a few experts and found out that by following a few simple guidelines, you can spread extra holiday cheer to the folks with whom you interact every day without going broke.
DON'T: Tip Outside Your Budget
If you're smart enough to have a line item in your budget for the holiday gifts you buy, then you can also set aside a dollar amount that represents your total tipping pool. Michael Fazio, co-founder of Abigail Michaels Concierge and author of Concierge Confidential says, "Ask yourself if you have $500 or $5,000, and work backward from there."
RECOMMENDED: Can you manage your money? A personal finance quiz.
DO: Create a Tipping Tier
During the course of the year, different service professionals receive different tip percentages. But for holiday gifts, Fazio suggests reflecting on whether some service professionals deserve a little more than others. He recommends weighing the value of workers who come through for you when it really matters, like a maitre d' at a swank restaurant who always gets you a choice table for business dinners. In such cases a holiday tip of $250 is not out of the question, Fazio says. ( Continue… )
Would you pay $6 upfront to earn $10,000 more over a lifetime?
Since the return is astronomical – better than 30 percent a year – chances are you would cough up the money. But thousands upon thousands of low-income high school seniors in the 1990s did not. As a result, they're earning less money today than they might have.
That's the premise of an intriguing new study by Harvard economist Amanda Pallais looking at high schoolers who took the ACT, a college-entrance exam. It's a useful reminder of how small mistakes in one's financial life can have a big impact.
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Prior to 1997, the ACT allowed students to send their test scores to three colleges for free. In the fall of 1997, it expanded that to four colleges for free. Not surprisingly, the share of test-takers sending four reports soared from 3 percent for the class of 1996 to 74 percent for the class of 2000. The intriguing thing is what low-income students (from families with an annual household income of less than $40,000 did with that fourth report).
They widened their college search, according to Dr. Pallais’s study. Some of them sent it to a less competitive school than their other picks, a "safety" school that would improve their chance at admission. More typically, they sent their scores to a more competitive school than their other picks.
Sending scores to an extra school encouraged many to apply and allowed them to get admitted to a more competitive college. Low-income ACT-takers in the high school class of 1998 attended colleges where the average ACT scores of incoming students were 0.26 points higher than the schools attended by the previous year's test-takers, who typically sent out scores to only three schools. For the class of 1999, the advantage was 0.24 ACT points. (Interestingly, middle- and high-income students attended slightly less-competitive colleges after the fourth score report became free.)
Even that small advantage should mean an extra $10,000 in earnings over the low-income student's lifetime, according to previous studies and Pallais's estimates. For the other low-income students who sent the extra score to a safety school, the benefit would be much higher if that school proved to be the difference between attending college and starting a job. Studies suggest that just two years of higher education add an average $173,350 in lifetime earnings.
So why didn't students in 1996 (prior to the change to four free scores) pony up the extra $6 to send out an extra score? The simplest explanation is that they didn't know better, Pallais says. Instead they used the three free reports as a signal that applying to three schools was the recommended number. Small mistake. Big consequences.
Such errors aren't limited to 17-year-olds. Too often in our financial lives, we make small mistakes that cost us thousands of dollars over the long run. We apply for Social Security too early. We invest without a plan. We don't pay $300 for professional advice because, well, it's $300. (Years ago, I visited a financial planner who suggested something that should save me $800 a year in taxes in retirement.)
When it comes to saving and investment, find your optimal solution. If you don't know it, ask. Saving $6 can be a costly mistake.
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The last weekend before Christmas is a heady, anxious time for shoppers. The so-called "Super Saturday" sales that occur during this time offer one last chance to score a deal on that perfect present. Unfortunately, the pressure to put gifts under the tree leaves many shoppers at retailers' mercy, and the merchants are much less inclined to offer big discounts.
But fear not, frantic gifters! There are still discounts to be had for those of you in a bind. Thus, we've combed through the DealNews archives in order to fill you in on what to expect from (and how to make the most of) these pre-Christmas sales.
Clothing Deals: Better After Christmas, But Look for Free Christmas Delivery
With Thanksgiving coming so late in the year, the shorter Christmas shopping season is bound to make some folks nervous enough to forget their bargain-hunting basics. As we've already mentioned, the lack of time means there's a real danger of making purchases you'll later regret. Two categories that are especially ripe for this kind of panic purchasing during Super Saturday sales are clothing and home goods.
Over the past two years, we've consistently seen a large number of apparel deals in the last weekend before Christmas. However, fashion-seekers would do well to shop these sales carefully, as they rarely yield decent savings. For example, last year only 17% of the apparel deals we listed the weekend before Christmas were hot enough to be considered Editors' Choice since we had seen better discounts in the weeks before, and most certainly after. ( Continue… )
Around the holidays, retailers love handing out gift cards almost as much as we love getting them. You can earn free gift cards by making all kinds of purchases, including buying gift cards! With that in mind, we've rounded up some more awesome gift card-related freebies. Be sure to bookmark this page and check back often, as we'll be adding still more gift card freebies as we come across them.
Applebee's: Buy $50 in gift cards, get a $10 gift card for free
Bonefish Grill: Buy $100 in gift cards, get a $20 gift card for free
NEW Boston Market: Buy $25 in gift cards, get a $5 gift card for free
NEW Buca di Beppo: Buy $50 in gift cards, get a $15 gift card for free
Buffalo Wild Wings: Buy $25 in gift cards and get a free Mystery Gift Card worth at least $5 ( Continue… )
That's right, we said upside down Christmas tree. While the inverted holiday decor was widely introduced several decades ago as a marketing gimmick so that customers could view Christmas decor without the tree itself taking up too much floor space, we mostly became aware of its existence last week when we found a sale on the trees at Home Depot. And apparently, the upside down trend has caught on because it saves space and keeps delicate decorations out of the way of children and pets.
That's all well and good we suppose, but how does one approach the display of an upside down tree? As it turns out, you can actually hang it from the ceiling, assuming you select a style that doesn't have a base built in at the bottom (which is technically the top of the tree, but we digress); this Kurt Adler 5-foot tree ($113.39 with pickup, a low by $1), for example, can sit on the floor, while this Vickerman 42" tree ($151.53 with $5.99 s&h, a low by $72) must be secured to the ceiling. Styles like the latter usually come with equipment to anchor the tree, but even if yours doesn't include such tools, you can brace it to the ceiling yourself. It goes without saying that fastening an entire tree to the ceiling is definitely a 2-person job.
Traditionally, a star or angel is placed at the top of the tree, but in this case, it would probably get lost up there amongst all the bushy branches. In the example above, the owners still fastened it to the tip, but we suggest just using star-shaped LED lights to string around the tree instead so you can still pay homage to tradition and make your tree "shine out brightly" at the same time. We also like the idea of decorating with items that dangle, but make sure you don't hang anything sharp at eye-level — an ill-placed icicle could be catastrophic.
Readers, what do you think? Would you ever buy and use an upside down Christmas tree? Do you have experience with this quirky holiday decor? If so, how have you decorated it? Take our poll.
Paula Kerrigan is an assistant editor for Dealnews.com, where this article first appeared: http://dealnews.com/features/POLL-Would-You-Buy-An-Upside-Down-Christmas-Tree-/927762.html
Tis the season for holiday gift guides! So many folks have put out a gift guide this year that we had to give you a guide to the gift guides. Leather Superman pants aside, none of these sites have the data to prove that anybody really wants the stuff on these lists. Not so for DealNews; we crunched the numbers to find the most-searched for and most-clicked on items on our site. As a result, we know exactly what you and your loved ones want from Santa this year.
Below, we've rounded up the season's 12 hottest gifts. And while in many cases, we believe that there may be cheaper alternatives that make for a wiser gift, we won't deny the allure of getting someone exactly what they want at Christmas. So if you're totally stuck on what to buy this year, this list is the perfect place to start. Happy shopping!
Apple iPad Air / iPad mini
If you're shocked that iPads are an in-demand gift this year, then thanks for reading, Mr. Gates! You'd have to really hate Apple products to turn down a new iPad on Christmas morning. The iPad Air might be the new kid on Apple's block, but we've seen several short-lived discounts on this current-gen tablet, usually in the form of a bundled gift card. That said, savvy shoppers should keep an eye on the 4th-generation iPad: we've seen new 16GB WiFi models for as little as $360.
The iPad mini with Retina may be a snazzy step up from the first generation, but if you want a smaller iPad, you should really grab the older mini. New units of the previous-gen iPad mini have sunk to around $250, whereas the iPad mini with Retina still starts at $399. ( Continue… )
The holidays are upon us and the next few days will decide whether you'll be handing out gifts or frantically searching for fruit cake come Christmas morning. To help you avoid the latter scenario, we've rounded up cut-off dates for Christmas delivery at some of today's most popular retailers. Just remember to pad your order by a few days to ensure your packages don't get tangled by winter storms or other unforeseen delays.
Please note: All times listed below are ET.
Christmas Shipping Deadlines
|Store||Standard Delivery||Expedited Delivery|
|6pm||December 17 at 4 pm||December 19 at 4 pm|
|Abercrombie & Fitch||December 19 at 12 pm||December 22 at 12 pm|
|Amazon||December 21 at 11:59 pm||December 23 at 11:59pm|
Varies by product and customization:|
Macs, iPhones: December 18
iPads: December 16
iPods: December 18
Varies by product and customization:|
Macs, iPhones: December 22
iPads: December 18
iPods: December 22
|Athleta||December 19 at 11:59 pm||December 23 at 3 pm|
|Banana Republic||December 19 at 11:59 pm||December 23 at 3 pm|
December 20 at 3 pm|
Appliances & TVs: December 17 at 11:59 pm
|Bloomingdales||December 21 at 11:59 pm||December 22 at 5 pm|
|Eddie Bauer||December 21 at 1 am||December 22 at 1 am|
|GameStop||December 18||December 23|
|Gap||December 19 at 11:59 pm||December 23 at 3 pm|
|Home Depot||December 16 at 12 pm||December 22 at 12 pm|
|Kmart||December 21 at 5 pm||varies by product|
|Kohl's||December 19 at 11:59 pm||December 20 at 11: 59 pm|
|Lowe's||December 20 at 12 pm||N/A|
|Macy's||December 21 at 11:59 pm||December 22 at 5 pm|
|Newegg||December 16 at 12 pm||December 23 at 12 pm|
|Nordstrom||December 21||December 23 at 3 pm (select items)|
|Petco||December 18 at 3 pm||December 20 at 3 pm|
|Piperlime||December 19 at 11:59 pm||December 23 at 3 pm|
|REI||December 13 at 12 pm||December 21 at 12 pm|
|Sears||December 21 at 5 pm||varies by product|
|Sephora||December 19 at 2:59 am||N/A|
|Victoria's Secret||December 16 at 5 pm||December 23 at 5 pm|
Site-to-Store: December 23 at 12 pm
Louis Ramirez is a senior features writer for Dealnews.com, where this article first appeared: http://dealnews.com/features/christmas-shipping-deadlines/
When it comes to holiday spending, we're all about making the most of our budget — and that means more than just getting great deals on wish list items. It's all too easy to go overboard with the holiday spirit, financially speaking, and while you might be acutely aware of how much you're spending per person, you might be unthinkingly dropping cash left and right on hidden holiday costs like wrapping paper and party gifts.
No one wants to play Scrooge, but giving yourself the gift of debt is like getting coal in your own stocking. To avoid the burden of overspending this holiday, we recommend taking a look at these eight expenditures that offer wiggle room for extra savings.
Skip the Wrapping Paper
The EPA estimates that Americans throw away 25% more trash than usual during the holiday season, and much of that is wrapping paper. Spending money on high-end wrapping paper not only means you're tossing money into the trash, but you're also growing your local landfill. It's hard to find reliable estimates on how much Americans spend per household on wrapping paper, but with gift wrapping options typically priced between $3 and $13 per roll, it's easy to see how the costs add up. Add gift bags and tissue paper to the mix, and you might be looking at $100 or more just to wrap presents for a family of four.
To preserve the fun of unwrapping gifts from Santa, Julia "Bargain Babe" Scott suggests a dozen alternatives to wrapping paper on her blog, MintLife. These ideas run the gamut from using old cookbooks and children's books, to simple brown paper bags with one phrase written over and over. "Tis the Season to Be Green" sounds about right. ( Continue… )
When you're on a budget, it's easy to think that a vacation is a luxury you can't afford. But as we've mentioned before, taking a trip doesn't need to cost you an arm and a leg. From super cheap cruises that send travelers around the Mediterranean for just $449 per person, to a flight sale that brings the Sunshine State within reach, these are the best travel deals of the week.
RECOMMENDED: Travel cheap: nine ways to save on air travel
United Airlines Roundtrip Flights to California
Price: From $107.80
Lowest By: $27
Expires: December 15
Is It Worth It?: While last week's sale from United featured a cheaper base price for tickets, this deal still offers the second-lowest rates we've seen all year for flights to California on United. That means it's still a prime time to pay a visit to the Sunshine State. Break out the SoCal attire (or wine country guide books, if the holidays have left you desperate for a drink), and get packing.
Click on "United.com" in the main paragraph to see this sale; all taxes are included. This price is valid on flights departing from Los Angeles, CA, (LAX) to San Francisco, CA, (SFO) on December 25. Blackout dates may apply. Book this travel deal by December 15 for travel through January 31, 2014.
3-Night Royal Caribbean Bahamas Cruise for 2
Vendor: AmericanExpress Travel
Price: From $292
Lowest By: $110
Expires: December 31
Is It Worth It?: The first of three very good cruise sales in our roundup, this Royal Caribbean deal offers a short jaunt in the warm waters of the Bahamas for anyone weary of the harsh winter chill. You can book happily too, knowing that it's the third-cheapest 3-night Bahamas cruise we've seen from Royal Caribbean this year. Enjoy the ocean view room that comes with this deal, or check out AmericanExpress Travel'sBahamas cruise sale, with prices starting at $169 per person.
This roundtrip cruise departs from Miami, FL, on January 10, 2014 and includes stops in CocoCay and Nassau, Bahamas. Some restrictions may apply; fees, government taxes, and fuel supplements are additional. ( Continue… )