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Shopping

In 2006, I was receiving about five deliveries a week from online shopping orders. What can I say? I was an online shopaholic.

Amazon Prime was only a year old at the time, and I became tired of hoarding filler items in order to qualify for the $25 free shipping minimum. To me, receiving free two-day shipping on most Amazon items for $79 a year was a bargain. It was that “happy medium” between instant gratification and having to drive to a brick and mortar store, hoping an item was there, and waiting in line for checkout.

Since then, Amazon Prime has grown to more than just free two-day shipping.

Amazon Prime Membership

The standard Amazon Prime Membership is $99 per year and includes:

  • FREE Two-Day Shipping on tens of millions of items
  • Prime Music. Unlimited, ad-free access to millions of songs and thousands of playlists and stations with Prime Music
  • Prime Video. Instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows with Prime Video
  • Amazon Drive. Free unlimited photo storage
  • Prime Reading. Read unlimited books, magazines, and more on any device with Prime Reading
  • Twitch Prime. Ad-free Twitch viewing with free in-game loot and a free channel subscription every 30 days.

Most of my friends and family members who have Amazon Prime don’t take advantage of all the features or fail to understand all the features that are available. If you are looking for a Netflix alternative, the Prime Membership pays for itself. Plus, it comes with additional benefits — if you want to listen to ad-free music or read a book every now and then, you get that, too.

Let’s take a look at each feature.

Free Two-Day/Expedited Shipping

Two-day shipping charges for most items without a Prime Membership usually start at $6 a shipment. However, an Amazon Prime membership includes many shipping benefits in addition to just getting free two-day shipping.  Here are the other shipping benefits listed on Amazon’s website:

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FREE same-day delivery is also available in many metropolitan areas, an added value of about $32 or more for shipping costs. (I got this number by estimating Fedex same day costs for a one pound shipment in the same zip code).

Many of those metropolitan areas also offer Prime Now, which offers FREE 2-hour delivery. If you only need two or three items from the supermarket or drugstore, the convenience of Prime Now may be worth the small tip to the delivery guy when you consider the time and gas saved.

Prime Music

Prime Music includes over two million ad-free and on-demand songs in the Amazon library. As of 2014, Pandora had about 1.5 million songs in their library. Currently, Pandora One is priced at $4.99 a month. Amazon’s functionality and catalog (which you’ll access for free with Prime membership) is very competitive with Pandora One’s ad-free offerings.

Prime Video

Prime Video includes award-winning Amazon Originals, exclusive streaming rights to many TV series, and thousands of other movies and TV shows. In 2016, Amazon’s original series were nominated for 16 Emmy Awards, so these are quality shows and movies that can directly compete with Netflix, HBO, and Showtime’s catalogs.

In addition, you can concurrently watch Prime Video on up to three devices (as opposed to Netflix’s Standard Plan, which includes two devices). You can also download Prime Videos for offline viewing on mobile devices for when you travel. The Netflix Standard Plan is $9.99 a month — compare that to Amazon Prime’s membership rate in terms of months, and it comes out to $8.25 a month for Prime Video (assuming you don’t utilize your membership for anything else).

Amazon Drive

You’ll get free unlimited photo storage with Prime Photos, and 5GB on Amazon Drive for personal video and document storage.

Google Photos is a direct competitor with Prime Photos, and is free for high-quality (lower resolution) images. If you would like to store your DSLR-quality images on Google Photos at maximum resolution, you will more than likely go over the 15GB of free storage limit provided with your Google account. You may have to upgrade to 100GB of Google Drive storage at $1.99 a month, which will allow you to store more DSLR-quality images on Google Photos at original resolution.

With your Amazon Prime membership, you can store an unlimited amount of DSLR-quality images on Prime Photos as long as your Prime Membership is active.

Prime Reading

Last month, Amazon launched a new Prime Reading program which grants you access to a catalog of over a thousand books, magazines, Kindle Singles, and more. Many of these books are available for purchase on the Kindle app for around $3.99 to $4.99.

Twitch Prime

Are you a gamer? Do you follow other gamers on Twitch? One of the lesser known features of a Prime Membership is Twitch Prime, which gives you ad-free viewing, a free channel subscription every 30 days, and free in-game goodies for some of the most popular games.

With the exception of the aesthetic Turbo Badge and Banner, Twitch Prime is identical to Twitch Turbo subscription ($8.99 a month). Even Twitch recommends considering cancelling your Turbo account if you subscribe to both!

Amazon Prime Value Calculator: Adding It All Up

Your favorite games, online shopping habits, music streaming preferences, and video streaming routines will vary from family to family and person to person. Because of this, estimating the value of an Amazon Prime membership can be a little difficult.

However, by comparing Amazon Prime features to competing services and subscriptions, we can determine the value of all of the benefits of an Amazon Prime membership with our handy Amazon Prime Value Calculator.

If the value of your services are over $99, then it is worth subscribing to Amazon Prime. Even if you intend to just use Prime Video or Twitch Prime, those features alone makes it worth subscribing.

Purchasing Your Amazon Prime Membership: Discounts

  • From now until Black Friday 2016, you can get a free trial of an Amazon Prime Membership for 30 days.
  • For the past few years, Amazon Prime Memberships have been discounted during the week of the Emmys to celebrate their nominations in the 67th and 68th Emmy Awards. In the past, this has been a steal at $67 (2015) and $68 (2016), respectively. I’m guessing that when Amazon Prime Originals get nominated again next year, you can expect a $69 discounted membership rate during next year’s 69th Emmys.
  • If you’re a qualifying student, the Prime Student membership gives you a free 6-month trial and

“After your 6-month trial ends, your Prime Student membership makes you eligible to receive 50% off Amazon Prime, including all Prime benefits, for up to four years or until you are no longer a student.“

Extra Amazon Prime Benefits: Tips, Tricks, & Tools

  • You get early access to some Lightning Deals.
  • Itching for Black Friday deals in the middle of the year? Amazon gives you exclusive discounts on Prime Day.
  • Amazon’s acquisition of Diapers.com lead to the creation of Amazon Family, which gives new moms and dads 20% off of diapers and more.
  • You can share select Prime Benefits and your digital content with up to two adults and four children using Amazon Households and Family Library.
  • Use Chrome extensions. There are two great Chrome browser extensions that can help with your Amazon shopping experience: Camelizer will search CamelCamelCamel.com for pricing trends for any Amazon item and Honey will search for any relevant coupon codes or less expensive sellers on Amazon.

Amazon Device Tips

  • If you own a Kindle, you already have access to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and Kindle First. Prime Reading will unlock more free content to read, but Kindle Unlimited may be worth it for you voracious readers out there.
  • If you own an Echo or Echo Dot, you can get an Echo plan subscription of Amazon Music Unlimited (only available for play on your Echo device) for $3.99 a month. Prime members get a full subscription at $7.99 a month.
  • Check here to see if your current Smart TV or internet connected media device supports Amazon Prime Video. Don’t have a compatible device? Purchase a Fire TV to start streaming your Prime Video content.
  • Going on a road trip? Download Prime Video movies for offline viewing on a Fire Tablet.

Summary

The Amazon Prime subscription is definitely worth the price for most people. Uamazon2sing the calculator, it only takes about nine shipments under $49 and occasional use of both Prime Music and Video to utilize a total value over the $99 membership price.

For those new to cord-cutting, Prime Video will help with the transition and will also give you alternatives like Prime Reading to get you away from the tube.

Content has shifted from tangible mediums, to digital files, to subscriptions, and now as a service.

Amazon clearly understands this shift and has aligned their Prime Membership as a freemium model. They offer free shipping to everyone on orders over $49, or orders that include $25 worth of books.

When you subscribe to Amazon Prime, you are subscribing to their first tier of freemium services listed above. This introduces you to the Amazon ecosystem. With the purchase of Amazon brand devices, this can further unlock new features and functionality of your Prime Membership. The final freemium tier are the additional subscription services of Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Music Unlimited.

Whether you are a music enthusiast, book nerd, couch potato, computer gamer, student, or new mom, Amazon Prime has something for everyone. With our tips, tricks, and Amazon Prime Value Calculator, you will definitely find out if it is worth it for you.

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Does your New Year usually start with a resolution to pay off all that debt you racked up during the holiday shopping season? If so, you’re certainly not alone. Holiday retail sales increased 3% in 2015, and many consumers carried that extra spending into the new year in the form of new debt.

The key to avoiding debt during the holiday season is pre-planning. Even now, with the holiday gifting rush approaching like a freight train, you’ve got time to prepare for the pinch. Here’s how:

1. Look at last year’s spending

To keep spending under control, you’ll need to make a budget. It can be hard to make a realistic holiday budget, though, unless you know what you’ve spent in the past. Without at least some idea of what you’ve spent in previous years, you’re stuck flying blind. So, now is a great time to pull out last year’s bank account statements and see what you spent on various holiday expenditures.

Write down a few of the major categories, such as decorations, food, party supplies, and gifts. Then, total up your approximate spending last year in each of these areas. These numbers will give you a realistic starting point for this year’s budget.

2. Make a Budget

Once you know what you spent last year, work on creating a budget for this year. Your budget can be as detailed or as vague as you prefer. That’s really a style issue.

For instance, you can budget a total amount for all gifts, or assign different budgets to your children, spouse, extended family members, friends, etc.

The key here is to leave some room for flexibility, and to be realistic. If you love giving gifts, don’t restrict yourself so much that you wind up just blowing your budget in the end. Instead, find other areas where you can cut back. Host one less party, or have a pitch-in so you spend less on food. That way, you can spend more on gifts.

Of course, part of keeping the budget realistic is to not budget more than you can actually afford. So you may need to look forward at your probable income and other expenses in the coming months. Figure out what you can free up, and create a budget that reflects what you can actually afford to spend.

For more guidance, check out our guide to creating a budget that works.

3. Set aside money each month

It’s never too early to start setting aside money for holiday spending. In fact, the earlier you start squirreling away, the easier it’ll be to save.

One option is to open a free checking or savings account. Then, have money automatically transferred into it each month from your paycheck. This makes savings painless and easier to handle.

Another route is to just create a budget category for holiday spending each month. You can let the money build up in your regular checking account (if you’re disciplined enough). Or you can start shopping early using this budget line item.

4. Start putting together wish lists

If you just started making gift lists (now that we’re in November), you’ve missed out on some serious potential savings. Next year, I would definitely recommend starting in October, or even September. Heck, you could even have your kids put together their wish lists as a summertime activity.

This is helpful for a couple of reasons. For one, starting early helps those you’re gifting — especially your kids — think more in-depth about what they’d actually like to receive for the holidays. It eliminates a lot of the whim ideas and temporary wants. Plus, it gives you more time to think about great (and affordable) gifts to give.

But if you are just getting started, no fear. Have your kids make a list today, and then make them revisit their ideas in a week or two. See if anything has changed. Ask family members to set up Amazon wish lists, so they can pick out various things as they think of them. And you can buy online, instead of trotting from store to store in the middle of the holiday rush.

Plus, with Amazon, you can wait until closer to Christmas to buy and then utilize free Prime two-day shipping. My favorite part? I buy and Prime ship everything to my parents’ house, so I don’t have to fly with all of the presents in my luggage. It saves me a LOT of money on baggage fees.

5. Shop early, shop often

Making gift lists early gives you more time to shop, as well, which means more time to take advantage of sales and specials. Start shopping as early as you can, and you’ll be able to take advantage of online and in-person sales for items on your wish lists.

One easy way to do this is to create your own lists for each person you’re gifting on Amazon. You can create private lists, too, but check them often to see if there are price changes on the items. When you see a decent price drop, snag that one right away.

If you shop using credit cards, you could also take advantage of the price change guarantees that many have. With some credit card companies, such as Discover and Chase, you get a price protection guarantee. This basically means that if you find the same item for a lower price after you purchase it on your credit card (within a certain timeframe), the company will reimburse you for the difference.

6. Order ahead for free shipping

Loads of online retailers offer free shipping these days, which can save you a lot of money. However, not all retailers’ “basic” free shipping includes a two-day transit time, like Amazon. With many retailers, you’ll need to allow for longer-term shipping of a few days or even a few weeks.

Shopping earlier gives you time to save on shipping because you can opt for slower, cheaper options. Waiting until the last minute could cost you big bucks in expedited shipping costs!

7. Choose the best rewards credit card

The goal, of course, is to keep from going into credit card debt that you can’t pay off during the holiday season. However, credit cards with great rewards can give you cash back, points, or retailer bonuses when you use them. Before you start serious holiday shopping, check out which credit cards have the rewards that will best suit your shopping habits.

For instance, the Discover it card offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases from Amazon each October through December. This can amount to some serious cash-back savings, if you do lots of your holiday shopping on Amazon.

Check out a variety of cash back cards to see which one will net you the biggest rewards on your holiday spending. Then, be sure to pay off the balance each month with that money you’ve been saving. Then, you don’t have to worry about carrying your debt into the new year.

8. Do some DIYing

Giving yourself time to gather up gifts can help you save in other ways. For instance, you can use that extra time to whip up some DIY gifts. Even if you’re not incredibly crafty, you can make presents for at least some of the people on your list. DIY projects are great options for saving money on gifts for extended family members, friends, and your kids’ teachers.

If you’re a more experienced DIYer, Pinterest is full of excellent ideas for in-depth projects. You can get ideas for all sorts of gifts, from clothes to quilts to woodworking projects. You’re sure to find something for everyone on your list. Many of these gifts are super thoughtful and time-consuming, but could also save you from holiday overspending.

9. Book travel at the right time

November and December can be the most expensive times to travel, since so many others have the same idea of being home for the holidays. When you book your travel can make a difference, though.

According to one news article, the best time to book Thanksgiving travel is a surprisingly-late October 31st. The best time to book Christmas travel? Near the end of November. You can also save up your travel rewards card points throughout the year to offset some of your travel expenses at the holiday season.

10. Buy decor, gift wrap, etc. ahead of time

Don’t wait until you’re wandering the aisles of Target midway through December to buy wrapping paper and tree trimmings. You can often get these items much cheaper before the holidays, at discount shops and local dollar stores. Another option is to check out craft stores. Large chains like Michael’s and Joann will start running sales on holiday decor and wrapping paper months before you’re ready to decorate.

While you’re at it, put a note in your calendar to shop for next year’s decor and gift wrap at end-of-season sales this year. It’s amazing how much you can save on Christmas tree decorations when you buy them just after the first of the year.

11. Cut back on your budget

If you utilize all of these tips, but are still having trouble meeting the holiday pinch, you may need to find ways to temporarily cut back on your budget. Consider instituting a meatless Monday, and kick your grocery savings into your holiday budget. Or give up your morning latte in favor of coffee brewed at home.

Cutting back on these small expenses for a few months can give you more wiggle room. You can then use that money to give back to those you love during the holiday season.

No matter how much, or how little, you plan to spend this holiday season, the keyword indeed seems to be that: plan. Putting a budget in place, making lists early, and shopping as far in advance as you can, will be a big difference in how much you spend. And, they can give you a leg up in your efforts to start 2017 in the black.

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The National Retail Federation has admitted defeat. Sales over the past holiday weekend dropped 11% over Thanksgiving weekend in 2013 according to the organization in a press release yesterday. The organization reversed course after being highly positive about the prospects for shopping leading up to the announcement of the estimated figures.

Shopping traffic for the weekend dropped 5% or 6%, depending on how you want to calculate it, compared to last year. The Federation tried to put a positive spin on the news.

I avoided shopping this weekend, from Thanksgiving day through today, the so-called Cyber Monday. Don’t get me wrong — there is much shopping I want to do before the holidays in December, but the excessive deal-wrangling this weekend just drives me away from wanting to pursue any shopping.

I’m not so much of a bargain hunter. I am interested in good deals, but most of the supposed bargains you see around Thanksgiving look good and sound good, but just aren’t all that good. And the details that are truly good, whatever that means, are almost always for items I wouldn’t want or don’t need.

For deal shoppers, the best time to buy is generally after Christmas, but there are a few obvious problems with that. First, it’s difficult to generalize. Overall, this might be true, but for any particular item, there’s no way to know. That’s why shoppers rely on Black Friday deal ads. They give shoppers some confidence, even if the resulting deal is not the most ideal price for any particular item. If you buy a gift using a Black Friday ad or Cyber Monday deal, you feel good about saving money, and for the human brain (but not your future self), that’s better than actually saving money.

The best method I’ve found for spotting good deals is CamelCamelCamel. This only applies if you have a specific item in mind, if that product is sold on Amazon.com, if Amazon.com generally offers the best price for that item among retailers, if you’re not on a tight time frame for making the purchase, and if you are willing to be a customer of Amazon.com. CamelCamelCamel is a website that tracks Amazon.com’s prices and can alert you whenever the price reaches a certain point. That price point could be one that you specify as your trigger, or it could be a price suggested by the CamelCamelCamel service using an algorithm that takes into the previous lowest price for the item.

The best thing about CamelCamelCamel is that it makes me wait. I’ve had items registered — it can work directly with your Amazon.com wish list if you want — for over a year, and suddenly, I’m alerted that an item, say a movie Blu Ray set, has reached my price point. The delay ensures I’m no longer under the influence of an impulse desire to purchase. Because if there’s something I want and need right away, and the cost is reasonable, I’m going to buy it right away rather than wait for a deal.

But if I know that, for example, the remastered Star Trek: The Next Generation season Blu Rays are eventually sold for more than a 60% discount off their initial sales price, usually within a year, I just set my price point trigger and wait.

And maybe more and more consumers are like me, bypassing the heavily advertised deals for more researched best prices. That could be one contributing factor to this year’s sharp decline in consumer activity over the traditionally biggest sales weekend of the year.

What role does the larger economy have? If people feel they are worse off financially, they might not plan on shopping as much this year as they did last year. If, however, people feel they are in a better financial position than they were last year, they could be less likely to pay attention to the holiday sales. In other words, you could use just about any state of the economy to justify both a strong and a weak holiday shopping season.

There might be some legitimacy to the idea that people feel better about the economy, which takes away from the desire to seek bargains at every opportunity. It’s clear that the recession in 2008 had long-lasting effects, not just in terms of employment, but in approach to life and money. Ideas like frugality, extreme saving, and supercharged planning for retirement became much more popular and legitimate than during times of stronger consumer confidence.

Throughout this period following the recession, I considered whether this was a permanent shift in approach along the lines of how the Great Depression affected an entire generation’s approach to money. The question was whether Millennials or Generation Y would be defined by the recession. My thought has always been that this is temporary, and I still think that is the case.

Perhaps this past weekend is the first indication that once Millennials feel more confident about their financial situation — and the lower gas prices may go a long way to reinforce that feeling today. Holiday sales are still driven by shoppers aged 18 to 34, so if this group is feeling better about the economy, this could be start of the generation’s shift away from conscious spending. It was fun (and successful) while it lasted.

The increase in confidence, whether it’s starting now or not, is going to have some profound effects. The value of assets — the stock market, real estate, etc. — will increase. Even if retailers continue to see problems throughout this year’s holiday season, the long-term prospect for sales are good. Confidence overflows into all areas of commerce, at least for some time. And during that time, shareholders benefit.

Workers feel confident about their employment prospects, so executives work harder to retain the best talent. Salaries increase. Disposable income increases. Prices also increase, but consumers handle it.

Another potential drawback that resulted in this year’s decrease in spending is the backlash surrounding the idea that retailers want to remain open on Thanksgiving Day. Retailers claim they are responding to customers’ demand to allow in-store shopping during the holiday, and there’s no doubt there are more than enough shoppers lined up during the holiday to give stores a reason to open. But employees are generally not happy. No one wants to be forced to work when the rest of the country is celebrating a holiday that supposedly focuses on time with family and friends.

And there are movements that encourage people to change their shopping behaviors during the holidays, whether’s it refusing to patronize stores that remain open on Thanksgiving, refusing to buy anything on Black Friday (also known as “Buy Nothing Day”), or encouraging shopping at family-owned local stores rather than large national and online retailers. These trends permeate Generation Y as much as or more than the desire to spend frugally. There’s no question that this disdain for large corporations, consumerist culture, and mass materialism has an effect on shopping attitudes for a good proportion of Millennial shoppers.

Did do any holiday shopping between Thursday and today? Was your approach different than last year’s? Are you spending more money for the holidays this year?

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For some reason, this year I’ve been bombarded more than any other year by advertisements for Black Friday deals. The marketing is coming from helpful people who just want to share the good news with their friends, people who are clearly paid to spread the messages, and retailers who simply want people to buy as much as possible so they can show a profit on their financial books this year.

Many of the “Black Friday deals” you hear about are not good bargains, they’re just marketed in a way to make people believe they are. Furthermore, even if an advertisement is a good deal for someone, it may not be a bargain for you. Here’s how to see past the dirty marketing tricks and determine where and how it’s worthwhile to spend your money this holiday season.

Be skeptical of every advertisement, even if it’s coming from a trusted source.

Dirty trick: companies use your friends and other trusted entities to convince you a deal is worthwhile.

When retailers or manufacturers pay the public to advertise for them, it changes the natural order of communication. If I were to ask you to share a deal I’m offering, let’s say it’s a notebook computer for $400, you might not think it’s such a great deal, and you’d be unlikely to share it. But if I offered the deal and said I’d pay you $25 for every sale you refer to me, you’d be more likely to share the deal. And why not? A few sales and you’d be able to buy the notebook computer for yourself.

Many people sharing their favorite deals have the promise of their own income as a motivating factor for sharing the deals. I’m no stranger to this; sales, while a small part of my business, contributed strongly to the value of that business, which eventually allowed me to sell that business and remove myself almost completely from the sales process. Eventually, those who share bad deals as if they’re good will eventually stop because they will, over time, not be seen as a trusted source. But there will always be others.

Being skeptical and always asking questions is the basis of one money system that will lead you to success in building wealth.

Price history and future.

Dirty trick: Advertisements make you think a price is good when it’s not.

One question you want to ask is whether the deal is a good price, not just based on history but on the future as well. Advertisements can make a price seem good when it is not by evoking an emotional response rather than providing the information you need to make a good decision.

On the whole, Black Friday ads published by reputable retailers do a good job of offering the lowest price for many items thus far, but what may be difficult to predict are price movements between Black Friday and the holidays. (This yeah, Hanukkah falls very close to, and even on, Thanksgiving, but that isn’t the case most years.) In many cases, Black Friday deals don’t look as good in hindsight, because depending on the items, prices continue to fall as retailers want to eliminate their inventory before the new year.

According to Consumer Reports, prices almost always fall after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The frenzy and hype surrounding these shopping events often cloud what is really happening with prices. The Wall Street Journal agrees.

Plan your shopping and stick to the plan.

Dirty trick: Advertisements encourage impulse decisions, and consumers spend more.

Most holiday shopping mistakes occur because it’s easy to make impulsive purchasing decisions. When a sale lasts just one day like Black Friday — or when a desired item is likely to run out of stock within hours of a store’s opening — the emotional frenzy takes over and rational decision-making loses. Maybe you can get a toaster oven for $15, but if you weren’t planning to give anyone a toaster oven and you have your own, you’re not saving $40, you’re spending $15. That’s not saving; that’s spending.

“Buy now while supplies last” is one message that successfully encourages shoppers to spend more than they otherwise would, in this case, with a sense of false urgency. And even if supplies don’t last (they might not with “doorbusters”) there will always be a roughly equivalent alternative.

Bargain culture has taken over the concept of holiday shopping. People look for deals just to be proud of their shopping savvy. But if it’s not on your list, it’s not a deal for you.

Deals help retailers clear inventory of discontinued items.

Dirty trick: Heavily discounted items are often worth less than nothing to the retailers.

Many of the Black Friday deals you’ll experience are able to be priced as they are because they are discontinued or old items. Technology moves quickly. One of Best Buy’s biggest deals in its Black Friday advertisement is for $100 off an iPad 2. This sounds like a great deal, and for someone, perhaps a kid, it might make a good gift. But the problem is that this version of the iPad is considered old technology. It won’t even run some of the more modern iPad applications. A year from now, the iPad 2 will seem positively ancient.

This particular iPad (the 16GB variety) isn’t technically discontinued, but its cousins are, and there have been three generations of iPads since the iPad 2 was introduced. In terms of technological advancement, it’s already ancient.

Many other technology products follow similar cycles. Many deeply discounted items in Black Friday ads have been out of date for a year or two. If buying a product that will continue to receive support from the manufacturer and will remain competitive in the marketplace for a good amount of time is important to you, there are two things that can happen. If you buy the deeply discounted item, you’ll be unhappy with the purchase earlier. Or, if you like the deal but want a more current version of the product, you will end up spending more money for the more up-to-date item.

How to shop for the holidays intelligently.

I’m tempted to completely ignore the holiday marketing season. For me, and for many other people, it’s a waste of time. Buy what you need or strongly want, maintain some discipline, and be done with it. As studies show, Black Friday isn’t the best time to buy most things in terms of price.

But there are some good resources that are worthwhile if you do have a fairly typical household where paying attention to actual, not purely marketing, bargains might help. The drawback of putting time into this endeavor is that it’s very easy to get sucked into the shopping frenzy and spend more money than you need to. The holiday season is terrible for long-term wealth building.

But if you must, there are a few essential resources.

  • Keep your eye on bfads.net, where you can find deals on just about everything that exists for the holiday season. This is just everything, so there’s no good indication of what might be a legitimate bargain and what won’t be. You need to use a critical eye.
  • Consumer Reports is simply the best in terms of editorial when it comes to holiday shopping. They are not as easily influenced by the retail industry, and the writers are willing to speak the truth. The magazine’s ratings are absolutely invaluable when it comes to making larger purchases, inside or outside the holiday season.
  • It’s best to remain skeptical when reading even the best blogs and websites with holiday deals, but you may want to start with SavingsLifestyle, FatWallet, and CNET.

What are your plans for holiday shopping this year?

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Money Systems That Lead to Success: Food Planning

by Luke Landes
Money System for Your Meals

The diner is a New Jersey staple of the restaurant industry. Once you sit down at a diner, you are presented with a thick menu, enumerating more dining options than you could possibly handle. If there’s any indication that having more choices makes the selection process more difficult, it’s the diner menu. The story of […]

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Rescheduling My Life: Grocery Delivery

by Luke Landes
Groceries

On Sunday, I decided to take another shot at improving my time management skills. For as long as I can remember, time management has never been my strength. Always drawn to activities I find exciting, sometimes my responsibilities suffered. I’ve been through a number of programs and read a number of books designed to improve […]

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Ebates Review

by Luke Landes

There is more to maximizing cash back than just using the right rewards credit cards. Many card issuers also offer marketplaces or online shopping portals where, if you use your appropriately branded credit card, you can earn 1 percent to 7 percent cash back or more. That’s in addition to the 1 percent to 5 percent cash back credit […]

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When Does It Make Sense to Pay More For Quality?

by Smithee

My brain is slowly re-wiring itself now that I’m finally free of credit card debt, and I’m wondering about things that I never seriously considered before. I remember many years ago talking with a friend who tried explaining to me that it made sense to spend $600 on a pair of shoes, if they were […]

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Curb Your Consumerism

by Kelly Whalen

This article is presented by Kelly Whalen, Consumerism Commentary staff writer. The temptation to spend money is everywhere, especially during the holidays. There is something magical about lights glowing, soft Christmas music playing everywhere, and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season that seems to make money fly right out of everyone’s wallet. Whether […]

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Outlet Malls – Great Buy or Money Drain?

by Jeff

When I was younger, my family and I would make the annual back-to-school pilgrimage to the outlet malls located in a city about 20 minutes from where we lived. As kids, we were always excited to go, because we knew the deals would make it much easier to persuade our parents to let us get […]

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