A Financial Education Event
     

Give to our Heroes and Heroes at Home This Holiday

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What does Giving Tuesday do for our Heroes? Here’s a recap of our last tour season.

Heroes at Home completed their 26th event on 17 bases in 4 countries when they blew into Pensacola Naval Air Station like a storm—actually, the Tropical Storm Gordon. The Heroes at Home speaker team barely made it to Florida ahead of cancelled
flights and delays to stay at Pensacola Naval Air Station and provide free financial education to the Airmen, Sailors and Marines stationed at that base. The morning of this free event, the base was closed, due to the storm to “all non-essential personnel.” But since financial readiness equals military readiness, the Heroes at Home event was deemed an essential event and it’s speakers were given Distinguished Visitor status.

In the military, a service member must maintain financial health or they could lose their security clearance. If a military member has excessive debt or other money issues, they could be a target for compromised security and they are kindly asked to leave the military since they cannot hold their security clearance. This is one of the many reasons financial education is so very important to our young military members.

Our audience consisted primarily of Airmen who were going through Combat Systems Officer Training, to become Electronic Warfare Officers and Navigators. Since flying was cancelled, we had almost all the students present from the CSO course and they were enthusiastic and engaged with the program. The audience was almost all servicemembers in uniform and they primarily ranged in age from 23-25. They seemed eager to begin their military careers financially healthy.  They were released to come to our program during the duty day because of the importance given to financial education by the Command. They left excited and with autographed copies of 200 books for the 200 servicemembers present. Many expressed gratitude for our sponsors and our speaking team who weathered a near hurricane to provide this essential education.

Our four top level speakers trained the audience in budgeting, how to purchase a vehicle without excessive debt, how to plan for retirement, how to build savings, and other special financial programs only available to military audiences.

Thanks to donors like you, this program was executed flawlessly, and was the 26thand final event at 17 bases in 4 countries. This was also the conclusion of a very successful 2017-2018 Heroes at Home world tour.

Later that night, we were staying on base when the storm gained force, the entire base population lost power and we were in the dark for many hours. But once the lights came on at 1:30 AM, we were back on track to get home that day.  We could see how valuable our time had been at Pensacola. Many thanks to donors like you for helping to sponsor this event and for making a difference in the lives of our young servicemembers.

Many Easy Ways to Contribute

  • Amazon Smile – Sign up to support Heroes at Home, 501(c)(3) at amazon smile. From that point on, every time you shop at amazon, year round, just click on the amazon smile link and our Heroes benefit. Don’t worry, we won’t see how much you purchase, so we won’t spoil any holiday secrets!
  • Giving Tuesday on Facebook – On Tuesday, December 3, Facebook will match your donations, so please donate today!
  • Heroes Come First – If you are military, veteran, first responder, medical professional, educator or clergy, then you qualify for up to $2000+ in a cash back check when you buy, sell or refi. Plus, Heroes at Home benefits when you use our link.

For more information on Heroes at Home or to make a donation, go to www.heroesathome.org

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thankful Traditions

The Kay family photo for Woman’s Day magazine.

Back when my co-host of The Money Millhouse was just a little girl with a big smile, we created memories through holiday traditions.

One of the things I discovered is that not every “savings” can be measured in dollars and cents. One of the things we emphasized in our family is the saving of memories. Our Thankful Tree was featured in a Woman’s Day magazine one year. It took two photographers 8 rolls of film and four hours to get one 3 x 5 photo in the magazine. Joshua was missing for one roll of film and we didn’t notice until we saw him making faces from behind the photographers and we asked, “What are you doing back there?”

The tip we gave is how we’ve stayed in touch with family and friends during this holiday. On November 1st, we made a Thankful Tree on poster board and put it on our wall or front door. The tree was bare because the leaves that we made out of construction paper have not yet been gathered. The leaves have the person’s name on them and say, “Papa is thankful for _________.” But we left the tree bare at the beginning of the season to teach the children how barren our lives are without the giving of thanks.

We made and sent the leaves to friends and family around the world along with a self-addressed envelope. When these envelopes came back, the children got excited as they took turns opening them. At dinner that night, we read the leaf and give thanks along with those who are thankful and put the leaf on our tree. By Thanksgiving Day, we had a tree full of thanks. We carefully saved the leaves in an envelope marked by the year and kept all in our Thanksgiving decoration box. Each year, we read the leaves from past years.

We never know when this year’s leaf might be someone’s last, or which family might have a new leaf on next year’s tree. So we give thanks.  These days, we gather “thankful comments” from facebook, email and twitter, but the point is we are connecting with friends and family in a meaningful way.

This holiday, what are YOU thankful for?  Besides our health and our family, we are thankful for two weddings this year, healthy grandchildren, and the chance to be together during the holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ellie Kay

 

Avoiding Last Minute Christmas Panic!

So….here’s this year’s Christmas photo, which was mailed the day after Thanksgiving. On Black Friday, I also got all my shopping done and was on my way to a simple holiday–no last minute panic, no stress–just a simple life. Then last week, somehow, I got rooked into having “some work” done in our kitchen that was “a three day job.” I stressed that, with all the college kids coming home for the holidays, I didn’t want my house in a mess. NOW, with most of my kids home and 6 inches of snow on the ground that completely shut down our desert California town, I have A MESS OF A HOUSE WITH AN INCOMPLETED KITCHEN! Workers can’t drive in snow. No holiday baking so far, no traditional truffles, nothing but a sense of panic that there’s too much to do and not enough time!

Whether you’re still shopping for last minute gifts, prepping your cards, cooking for the big meal or cleaning the house, you can avoid the associated expense and stress that comes with last minute panic by becoming proactive and purposeful in the midst of your panic. Here are some tips to attack the anxiety before it attacks you.

  • Simplify – It’s been a tough year economically with the housing market, rising prices, increased unemployment and an uncertain financial future. It’s the ideal time to simplify the holidays by taking a deep breath and thinking about what you do have rather than what you don’t have. I believe that each of us has two kinds of attitudes within us: there is a minimalist as well as a materialist in each of us. It’s time to tap into the minimalist and give the materialist less power in your life. The holidays are all about friends and family, they’re really not about spending yourself into oblivion or stressing the small stuff.

  • Strategize – At the root of most of our last minute anxiety is a basic lack of control. In order to separate emotional panic from the plan, take charge by implementing a specific strategy for these last two days.
    1. Step One: Take ten minutes to write down what you have left to do (gifts, grocery shopping, cards, baking, cleaning, etc). Maybe you don’t really have as much to do as you thought and that, in and of itself, will help eliminate stress.
    2. Step Two: Go back over your list and mark the items as optional or mandatory (do you really have to paint the bathroom before the guests arrive?—optional; do you really have to change the sheets in the guest room before your mother-in-law arrives?—mandatory; do you have to bake those three step chocolate truffles or can you get them at the local bakery?–optional)
    3. Step Three: Take the optional items and place them on the bottom of the list. If you get to them—fine, if you don’t fine. This takes off TONS of pressure

  • Stash the Cash – It’s soooo hard to really stay on budget with only days before Christmas. One tried-and-true way our family has been able to stay on a last minute budget is to get the budget remainder in cash and divide it into specially marked envelopes, for example, “food” and “gifts.” When I’m in the grocery store, I take the food budget envelope and it serves as a visual reminder of what I have left. On one hand, it keeps me from splurging on some treats if I’m running out of cash but on the other hand, it can also allow me to splurge (guilt free) on certain products if I realize that I have money leftover!
  • Split the Efforts – This may come as a news flash but… you don’t have to do everything in order for it to get done right! This is not the time to be Miss Polly Perfectionist. In this step, we need to delegate responsibilities. Assign tasks to different family members and cut your work in half. In fact, I use this time as an opportunity to teach our teens the value of a dollar. I let them go to the store for me and get the items on my list, asking them to find the best deals. If they are not certain, then they text me the options (what teen doesn’t love to text?) I text them back some suggestions and in the process they are learning to evaluate a good deal and a bad deal.
  • Separate – It’s highly likely that you’re going to be charging some last minute expenses on your credit cards. But don’t let those purchases hurt your FICO (Fair Isaac Credit Score) by charging more than 50% on any one card. Check your credit card limits as well as your balances online or by phone and then make certain that you charge on the card that is lowest proportionally. Even if you are able to pay off these credit card bills next month, charges of more than 50% of the available limit on any given card can hurt your FICO. So be strategic by separating those purchases and saving your credit score.
  • SAVE – It used to be that Black Friday was just a day, this year it’s an entire season. It’s truly a buyer’s market amongst retailers and there are last minute deals to be had, especially electronics and clothing. But what if you don’t have time to go and battle the crowds at the store? There’s an easier way to give last minute gifts that simplifies your time, saves you money and keeps you on budget.
    1. Gift certificates (online and physical cards) – If you want to send an online gift certificate to someone, it’s as easy as pointing and clicking. They’ll receive notification in their in-box that you’ve bought them a gift certificate and you can follow up with an e-card alerting them that the notification they will receive from the retailer is not spam. For some great options, go to restaurant.com for discounts on eating out or check out potential deals at fatwallet.com. For a review of codes that can give you a better deal, go to couponcabin.com or dealhunting.com.
    2. Gifts of Time – Some of the most memorable gifts I’ve ever received are gifts of time. One girlfriend gifted me with a certificate good for lunch at my favorite bistro. My kids have given me handmade “coupons” that are good for doing the dishes, cleaning the living room, babysitting a younger sibling or not back talking me for a week (hey, I’m happy for a day). You could write out your own coupon and give the recipient a card that says, “This card entitles you to dinner and a movie” or “This card can be redeemed for a night out on the town while we babysit your teething twins.” This can be FUN!
  • Share – I’m all about multitasking and getting the most out of my efforts as well as my money. Now is the perfect time to give to charity in a way that also benefits you financially with your taxes. This year, given the current economy and the great material needs in communities why not consider giving the “gift” of a donation in someone’s name? You could make a donation to the local food pantry, a homeless shelter or a scholarship fund for underprivileged kids. Look over your list of people and consider making a donation in their name instead of giving them a material gift. You don’t have to tell them the amount of the gift and you can make one donation in the names of several people—thereby giving an amount that allows you stay within your budget. Furthermore, this kind of gift could be tax-deductible and help you (if you itemize) on your taxes as well. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Merry Christmas!
Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert
www.elliekay.com

ABC News Now – Frugal Holiday Tips Starting NOW

Here’s the link to my major media appearance on ABC News Now “Good Money” where we talked about frugal holidays. View the winning tips entries from Summer who lives in Springfield, OR; Sasha Payne and from Ann in Charlotte, North Carolina. Each of these frugal tipsters got a complimentary copy of my book, The Little Book of Big Savings, just for sharing their tips.

It’s no surprise that everyone racks up massive debt during the holidays, but I say the time to start saving and preparing is now! Buying early is the key to holiday savings. Set a holiday spending plan, make your list, scour the sales and mark off items purchased. By the time the holidays get here, you could have most of your gifts already bought and consequently have minimal credit card charges.

There are 2 areas we can save the most money: gift giving and the food. First, shopping for clothes: I think they are going to be a common gift item as families need practical gifts to recover from the recession year. The next time you’re shopping clearance racks at your favorite clothing store in the mall, don’t let the wrong size on the rack become a deterrent to saving. First, ask the sales associate to check the back for your size. Many stories do not put all their clearance items out front. Secondly, if they do not have your size, ask them to check another store, give you the sale price and ship it free. More and more stores are starting to offer this service in order to compete with online retailers.
The second area is food and it’s important to look out for how much you spend on groceries for the holidays. Don’t settle for just one kind of savings at the grocery store. Instead learn to add “layers” of savings such as store sales, coupons, double coupons, cash off your next shopping trip, store coupons and more. One place to go is http://www.couponmom.com/ to see what items are on sale with a coupon in your neighborhood. According to the USDA cost of food at home in 2008, the average family of 4 spends $7,968/year on food and by following these tips can spend in the thrifty category of only $4,068/year.
Thanks for your tip entries and keep posted for our next contest where you can win a book and have your tip or question featured on national television, too!
Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert

Answers for Debt Free Holidays- Ellie on ABC NEWS NOW

Yes, you can have the answers to debt free holidays by clicking onto my recent appearance on ABC NEWS NOW – GOOD MONEY SHOW
Plus, three of you won including Bev, from Steinbech, Manitoba, Canada; Linda from Mt. Pleasant, IL and Joe, from Panama City, FL. You will receive a complimentary copy of The Little Book of Big Savings!
Here’s the essential steps to save this holiday season!
Be Specific – Set aside a specific “cash” budget–don’t use credit cards unless you know you can pay them at the month’s end.
Simplify – Gifts don’t need to be elaborate, especially during a recession. Think “practical” for friends and family who have been hit by the recession and consider giving gift cards that they can use to purchase essentials like food and clothing. At www.AmericanExpress.com/gift you will find the only 100% gift, 0% fee universal gift card on the market. Write down the card number after you buy it and if you lose it or it’s stolen, just call American Express for a replacement.
Strategize – Decide which gifts you’ll purchase and match them with sale ads for Black Friday. or Cyber Monday. Check off the items on your list and make note of any special limitations (i.e. ‘price only effective for three hours, limit two ipods per person, etc.). Prioritize the stores you’ll shop according to limitations and values.
Split it! Follow the old “divide and conquer” rule when shopping on Black Friday by going with a friend or your spouse. If there are multiple purchase discounts, you can split it and take advantage. You might also have a “two for one” special and share the savings.
Stick to Your Guns– Be aware that you may be tempted to keep buying even when you’ve already conquered your list. Marketers are good at placing irresistible bargains eye catching places.
Steal it! – Be sure to save some money in your budget for the after-Holiday sales. You can oftentimes get non-perishable gifts for next year’s list at anywhere from 50% to 75% off retail.
Happy Shopping!
Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Last Minute Holiday Deals For $8 or Less (Even Free)!

Hey Guys!

I just wanted to post some last minute deal ideas that will expire soon:

  • $2 Gifts — Get $25 restaurant gift certificates for only $2! Put your friend or family member’s zip code into the site and see which participating restaurants will give you a $25 gift certificate for a mere two bucks!
  • $8 Zhu Zhu Pets — Walmart is flying in Zhu zhu pets on 747s all around the country THIS WEEK. If you’ve been waiting, then call your local store to see when their “event” starts and send your teenager to wait in line!
  • FREE Gifts — In this last minute rush, you’ve probably already been given new gifts that just aren’t “you.” Maybe you got a silver chafing dish that fits your best friend’s personality and hospitality skills better than your own. The National Retail Federation says that 20% more people are regifting this year than last year. If it looks new, then gift it!
  • FREE Gifts — Maybe you are at the flat end of your budget and have nothing to give. You always have gifts of service. Create a gift card in your area of expertise. If you’re a stylist, offer free hair cuts to your friends. If you love to cook, give a gift card for three dinners for your neighbors. If you are a mechanic, change the oil of your out of work football buddy for free. Your gift of time may be someone’s else’s essential provision!

Happy Holidays!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

http://www.elliekay.com/

Gift Cards and the New Card Act

Christmas past, Christmas present and Christmas future! I love looking back at holiday pix when my babies were babies, that’s part of the fun of the season.

Recently, I was on ABC NEWS, talking about the fact that for the past three Christmas seasons, the present at the top of most people’s list is the gift card. While recent surveys indicate that people love to give and get gift cards, this year, gift cards are not just for those who are short on time or scrambling for ideas. In a post recession economy, gift cards can help some families make ends meet for months to come. This year, there’s good news for those in the market for gift cards, the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act enacted last year has imposed new restrictions on gift cards so they are more consumer friendly.

Understanding the new CARD Act rules will help you make the best selection when purchasing gift cards. First of all, there are different kinds of gift cards, so it’s important to know the options and how to you decide which card to buy. There are basically two kinds of gift cards and they each have had their advantages as well as drawbacks. The credit card or bank issued cards have the advantage that they can be used almost anywhere, but traditionally, they’ve been racked with fees, including a hefty purchase fee. The other kind of card is a retailer card, which may not have the fees attached, but the obvious disadvantage is that they can only be used at a specific retailer.

Billions Lost in Christmas Past

Over the past several years there have been billions of dollars lost each year. Consumer have lost out because of expiration dates on cards, fees that can deteriorate their worth, and lost or misplaced cards. Plus, some businesses went under and the customer who had not yet finished using their card was out of luck.

CARD Act is Helping With Christmas Present



The CARD Act changed the scene on behalf of the consumer when it comes to gift cards in several ways. For example, gift cards sold after Aug 22, 2010, can’t expire in less than five years. The law also bars issuers from charging an inactivity fee unless the card has been dormant for at least 12 months. In the past, some gift card issuers deducted inactivity fees after only 30 days. Issuers are also barred from charging a fee to replace a lost or stolen card.

Even though these restrictions can do away with a lot of unpleasant surprises, it’s not all smooth sailing, there are still some drawbacks that people should be aware of. The first area is purchase fees. If you decide to give someone a gift card from a credit card or bank, then you need to expect to pay more than the face value of the card. All eight of the general purpose cards included in Bankrate.com’s annual gift card survey charge between $3.95 and $6.95.

Why do credit card and bank issuers charge these fees? What kinds of services do they pay for?



They do pay for a variety of services, including the infrastructure that allows gift card holders to check their balances online. To contrast that with retail cards, none of the 46 retailers and restaurants in the Bankrate survey charge a purchase fee for their gift cards. Some retailers go even further, offering customers a gift or discount with the gift card purchase.



Beware the Ghost of Christmas Future

There are still areas where you should consider the future in purchasing your gift card. While the CARD Act restricts inactivity fees it doesn’t eliminate them. Consumers who allow them to languish for a year or longer could still get hit with fees, which are typically subtracted from the value of the card. Most of the general purpose cards in the Bankrate survey charge a $2.50 per month inactivity fee if the card isn’t used after 12 consecutive months. But this is primarily true for the credit card and bank based cards, not for retailers and restaurants.

Isn’t there suppose to be full disclosure at the point of sale for any kind of gift card and how do you decipher these disclosures, they can be really confusing?



All of these disclosures, as mandated by the CARD act are now suppose to be on the back of the gift card itself. The info is supposed to include fees, expiration dates, and a toll free number. In July, though, Congress agreed to extend the disclosure deadline until Jan 31, 2011 for gift cards produced before April 1st. So this holiday season consumers won’t get in on that part of the good deal. This is because Congress granted a reprieve. You would think it would be a good idea, especially during the holidays, to have full disclosure for the consumer. But the gift card industry would have had to destroy 100 million gift cards, which might have had a negative trickle down effect for the industry, and would have also made it virtually impossible for card manufacturer’s to meet retailers’ order in time for the holidays. So be aware of the fact that the cards you buy this holiday may have some outdated information on them. You can find the correct information through websites that the retailer will give you as well as signage and advertisements.

Ellie Kay

“America’s Family Financial Expert” (R)

The Gift of Communication – Christmas Gifts that Keep Giving

In my series on “Gifts that Keep on Giving” I’m reminded of my college daughter, Bunny, and the fun we had staying at the Drake hotel in Chicago on a business trip. I really miss seeing her and today’s gift is perfect for her and her friends, it’s the “gift of communication.” When she was little, she talked non stop and now that she’s grown, she still love to chat whenever possible!

In my work with families who are on a budget, I have found that many have had to rethink their cell phone plan. In an effort to pay the bills, they may have had to cancel a cell phone plan or in some cases, they don’t have the credit to establish that service. In my quest to find a great communication alternative, I came across a cool new partnership in prepaid plans. This year, if you want to give the gift of communication to a family who is on a budget or a struggling college student, you can do so through a prepaid phone from Boost and Virgin Mobile as well as prepaid mobile broadband with Virgin Mobile’s Broadband2Go plans.

This is a partnership that is easy for me to talk about because it really benefits people who are on a budget. Let’s face it, those who need to limit their expenses, still need the ability to have a cell phone or connect to the internet. Whether you are happily employed or unemployed, it’s important to be able to pursue work situations through the use of a cell phone and through broadband connectivity.

Prepaid cell phones:



I think that prepaid cell phones are perfect for those who might not otherwise be able to afford or have the credit to qualify for a contract plan. I’ve also found they are a good option for families who have members who routinely go over their traditional cell phone limits, sometimes costing their parents lots of dollars in extra charges each month. (Ahem, not that this has ever happened to the Kay family! All I will say is: the leaves were raked and the laundry was folded by penitent teens for the several weeks.)



Prepaid plans from companies like Boost and Virgin Mobile were created for consumers such as college students who want to be able to afford freedom and independence on a budget. However, economics aside, cell phone plans such as the Virgin Mobile $25 Beyond Talk plan or the Boost Mobile $50 Unlimited plan keep both students and their parents happy. Parents appreciate being able to keep in contact with their kids, especially if there’s an emergency. On the other hand, students, many of whom spend little time in their dorm rooms or apartments, like the flexibility and convenience of not having check if they’ve gone over their monthly allotted minutes.

Prepaid Mobile Broadband:

Another great gift of communication involves giving the gift of connectivity! Whether you are searching for a job, or the best price on a new pair of jeans, you need to be connected. Virgin Mobile’s Broadband2Go plans offer unlimited 3G, nationwide internet access for $40 a month with no contract. The Virgin Mobile MiFi device allows up 5 wireless enabled devices to connect at one time, so college roommates can share their gift all year long & divide the costs among themselves.

When you are selecting your gifts this year, be purposeful and try to give a gift that will keep on giving the whole year through. And Bunny, keep on calling, I love to hear how those finals are coming along!



Merry Christmas!


Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert ®


Half-Priced Holiday: Christmas on a Budget

With so many people unemployed or underemployed this year, it’s easy to ask the question: Is it possible for consumers to emerge debt free this season, and how can they do that? This is a great question to ask, and I believe that the key is to simplify your holidays by developing a strategy for your purchases and executing that plan throughout the entire season rather than waiting until the last minute. We have seven children and have seen our finances run the full gamut of possibilities. When we were first married, we were essentially paupers and didn’t even have enough money for groceries for a few weeks. Now, we’re debt free in every area, but we still want to be purposeful with our money. So my plan works whether you’re flush in cash or your cash has been flushed!

Joshua gave Jonathan cars he painted with whiteout. The only problem: they were Jonathan’s cars to begin with.

Once you’ve decided to develop a Christmas spending strategy, you may be wondering where to begin. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you shop to save:

 

SpecificSet aside a specific “cash” budget—don’t use credit cards unless you know you can pay them at the month’s end.

Simplify – Gifts don’t need to be elaborate, especially during a recession. Think “practical” for friends and family who have been hit by the recession and consider giving gift cards that they can use to purchase essentials like food and clothing. These can still be customized to be more personal but the practical aspect of this gift can be more far reaching than any other gift and it’s better than cash.

Strategize Decide which gifts you’ll purchase and match them with seasonal sale ads.  Check off the items on your list and make note of any special limitations (i.e. ‘price only effective for three hours, limit two Ipods per person, etc.). Prioritize the stores you’ll shop according to limitations and values.

Split It – Follow the old “divide and conquer” rule when shopping holiday sales by going with a friend or your spouse. If there are multiple purchase discounts, you can split it and take advantage. You might also have a “two for one” special and share the savings.

Stick to Your Guns – Be aware that you may be tempted to keep buying even when you’ve already conquered your list. Marketers are good at placing irresistible bargains in eye catching places. Remember the main rule of the shopping season:  You can go broke saving money.

Steal It – Be sure to save some money in your budget for the after-Holiday sales. You can often get non-perishable gifts for next year’s list at anywhere from 50 to 75 percent off retail.

Since financial stressors are the number one source of arguments in most homes, getting a grip on holiday spending and trying to keep it on a budget makes sense.  You may be wondering how to get other family members on board because sometimes you aren’t the one overspending—it’s your kids or spouse.

Having a plan and sticking to it not only simplifies your holidays, it can simplify your life. The recession is a good excuse to restructure the way you do the holidays, and it’s a good idea to have a family meeting. Set up a fun night with hot chocolate & marshmallows and everyone’s favorite holiday dessert. Then explain that with so many people hurting financially around the world, you are thinking that it’s a good ime to focus on the gifts of love that we can give and receive during this time of year. After you outline your holiday spending plan, ask everyone to contribute their ideas as to how they can stay on budget but still show their appreciation and value for the people in your world. We’ve done this with our children, and you’d be amazed at the creative ideas they initiate that also save us money!

Black Friday: Fact or Fiction?

The Kay Family, Christmas on the Move, 1995

The Kay family has been waking at the crack of dawn the Friday after Thanksgiving for almost two decades in order to save as much as 50% on our Christmas purchases. But does all that hot chocolate and bleary-eyed effort really pay off? There is a lot of misinformation about this retailers’ dream day, so I’d like to set the record straight on what is fact and what is fiction regarding this special day.

  • Black Friday sales begin on Black Friday.

FICTION:  It seems that the holiday sales begin earlier and earlier each year. We are used to almost bypassing Thanksgiving as a holiday and decorations go out in stores even before Halloween is over. While some stores like, JC Penneys have issued press releases that they will “honor Thanksgiving as a family day” and not open until 6:00 AM on Friday, other stores aren’t sharing the sentiment. For example, some big sales will start on Thanksgiving day, including stores like Sears, Wal-Mart and K-Mart; you’ll find them at Bradsdeals or BlackFriday So if you need an excuse to get away from your annoying sister-in-law and walk off some of that turkey, you may want to do some shopping on Thanksgiving.

  • Getting a store credit card to get a discount will hurt your FICO score & you should never use any credit  card for purchases.

FACT: Every time you open a line of credit, or there’s an inquiry about your credit you run the risk of getting a hit on your Fair Isaac Credit Score, or FICO. So trying to receive that extra 20% off all your purchases and then closing down the account in a couple of months is usually a very bad idea. It’s especially bad if you’re going to buy a new car or a home in the next several months. Plus, if you are someone who is prone to run up your credit cards and not pay off the balance each month, then you’re in for a double whammy. Your best friend may tell you she does this all the time to get the discounts, and all she’s telling you is that she also gets hit on credit score. Give her the facts, and help a sister out!

When it comes to using a credit card, you are are often better off using credit if you know you can pay the balance at the next billing cycle. It will help you in a dispute with an online vendor and can help you earn rewards points to buy other gifts. Check out LowCards for the rewards and cash back conus you might get. Some credit cards have their own extended warranties if you buy that item (think electronics) with the card. They’ll take a one year warranty and double it. Go to Credit.com to find out the details on what your card is offering.

  • Price Matching Doesn’t Apply on Black Friday

FICTION:  Wal-Mart has offered to match competitor’s ads for years, and this year is no exception. Last year, Best Buy, Amazon, and Home Depot got in on the price comping, and this year you can expect even more including
Target.  So bring in the ads to these various stores to get the good deals (some stores will even match online offers), and save those receipts as well. Because if you have an elite credit card, including  or some offered by Citi and Visa, they will offer a price-protection feature where they will refund you the difference if you find a lower price for the item you’ve bought. For example,the  Chase Freedom card refunds up to $500 per eligible purchase and up to $3500 per calendar year and is valid 90 days after purchase.

Black Friday is not the busiest shopping day of the year.

FACT:   According to the International Council of Shopping Centers the busiest shopping day of the year is actually the Saturday before Dec. 25. In fact, only 35% of respondents plan on shopping on BF—which is more good news for you. It won’t be as crowded as you thought!

  • They give away products for free on Black Friday

FICTION: Yeah, right. You may have been dipping into the cider a bit early if you really believe there are free door busters on Black Friday. The most you will get is some cheesy little ornament worth $2.99 given to the first 100 customers. This also means that sleeping outside the store to get something you think is free.

  • The Best prices of the year are found on Black Friday

FACT: Sorta. There is no doubt that some items will never be cheaper than on Black Friday, but other items may be part of a large retailer’s push to get those Saturday-before-Christmas shoppers and may cut their Black Friday prices. You can use a cool tool at Decide.com to help you figure out whether you should buy that item now or later. It uses data to help you decide the best time to buy a certain product.

  • Black Friday deals are worth sleeping on the curb to get

FICTION:  If you really love the great outdoors and want to sleep under the starts to get one of the 3 HDTV deals that Best Buy is offering in your city, then knock yourself out. But really, this year there are more BF deals available online and in the store as well. For example, this year Kohl’s is offering its online shoppers all early bird deals on Nov 21 and all day on Thanksgiving!  So unless you just have a whole lot of free time on your hands, I’d pass on the sleepover.

  • Be careful before you buy because you may not be able to get a full refund on some of your Black Friday purchases

FACT: Retailers sometimes tighten their return policies during the holidays.  I remember one year I got 35% less than what I paid for a camera because of restocking fees that Best Buy charged me. Not fun. Other stores may only give you an in-store refund, so you are locked into spending your refund at that store. So be sure you know the store’s refund policy before you slap down the dough.

  • There are special, “secret” deals online that are not in the circulars.

FACT:   In recent years, on Thanksgiving Day, retailers like Best Buy, Target, and Wal-Mart have advertised extra Black Friday deals that were not listed in their circulars. These “secret” deals are only found online or with the store’s app, so the trick is to find them early so you’ll know about them when you arrive at the store on Friday. Get the Dealnews app to find new listings.

Myth: Cyber Monday offers the same caliber deals online as Black Friday in-store sales. For those of you who’d rather fully digest your Thanksgiving meal and not stand in line starting at 3 a.m. on Black Friday, we understand. Shopping for the best deals can be exhausting, but if you wait until Cyber Monday you may be missing out on some of the highest markdowns of the holiday season.

Happy Savings!

Ellie Kay

 

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