Holiday Shopping Season: It’s the Best of Times, It’s the Worst of Times

My favorite (and least favorite) time of the year has arrived. I enjoy the holidays because of the extra time with family, the break from work, and the occasion to slow down and give thanks. However, I don’t enjoy the endless stream of Black Friday ads, which now apparently lasts an entire week, and the Cyber Monday ads that follow which also now last a week.

However, Black Friday does provide an opportunity to exercise frugality by scoring a few deals early and retreating home for Thanksgiving left overs. Look for a post on that very subject early next week.

The Frugal Roundup

Need some help with your Christmas shopping list? Peter provides a huge list of 75 frugal gifts to give this Christmas season. Sticking with the frugal theme, here’s 25 Christmas gift ideas under $25.

Now for the hardest part, controlling the impulse to buy yourself a present!

If you decide to venture out next Friday, check out Julia’s post on the best Black Friday 2010 deals.

So much for stocking up on over-the-counter medicine using our medical flex card. According to this article, flexible and health savings account changes for 2011, we’ll no longer be able to buy OTC medicines using FSA money. Nice. (Update: Someone in the HR world corrected me here. Apparently, you will still be able to purchase OTC meds using your FSA funds, but a doctor’s prescription is now required. Still don’t like the change).

Ever wondered what it would take to save a third of your income?

Guess what’s happened to the average food portion sizes over the last twenty years?

Baker shares his thoughts on couples and money and tackles that age-old question: should couples have separate or joint finances. A nice bonus interview with Corey from included.

I am not keen on the idea of making failure impossible for high school students and issuing an incomplete instead. After all, when students get in the real world they have to meet real deadlines. Bosses don’t generally allow “incompletes.”

Ron is about to release what promises to be a timely read for anyone looking for a job, or looking to switch jobs. The Inner View of Your Interview is a look inside the mind of the job interviewer.

After recently cleaning out my closet I’ve discovered I need to replenish my wardrobe. Fortunately, I ran across Jeremy’s post on maximizing your wardrobe.

It’s that time of year. Time to sell off a few lousy investments to offset gains in other areas (or create a little tax deduction). Beware the wash sale rule for investment losses.

Are Student Loans Good Debt? Student loan debt is out of control. It seems like every day I read a story about someone struggling to repay over $100,000 in student loans, which makes you wonder if college is overrated. After all, there are still a few high paying jobs with no college degree requirement.

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  1. I don’t shop in the latest days, most of the things that can stay longer are purchased 2-3 weeks prior to the holidays. Then we just take milk, bread, stuff like this. We’ve made it a habit to keep it low, since we don’t have kids and were passed the age. No tree, no presents, none of this. We eat together and enjoy the time together. This is what helps us save money and spend when it really matters.

  2. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are built on the same faulty premise that advertizers use all year long: “Buy More, Save More.” For example.

    A family had decided they want to buy a new HDTV. They budget $600 tops, which will buy a nice, brand-name 42 inch LCD. Perfect. Then along comes these two big “SALES” and they see the add where they can buy a 50 inch TV for just $799! Wow, so much more TV for a mere $199 more! They figure bigger is better, and WHAT A DEAL! So they overstretch their previous budget to buy more than what they orginally decided they need. And while in the store waiting for 2 hours in line to get the TV, they see DEALS DEALS DEALS on all sorts of other merchandise and shop just to keep from getting bored and buy extra stuff to placate the screaming kids.

    By the time they go home, they’ve overspent their budget and have more “stuff” that will go down in price in 6 months anyway. Even online with no lines, you still get suckered with the ads to buy more than you need because of all the DEALS! Ever notice how the cheapest prices are on the worst pieces of junk too? The cheap TV or computer is the one that lasts 3 years then goes belly-up. Time to go buy another Black Friday DEAL!

    So…long story short. Save money by setting a budget and shop at a time when the frenzy has died down Folks, the reality is that merchants plan these sales with one thought in mind: Make consumer spend as much money as possible. There are highly specialized marketers who have made their life goal separating you from your money. If you want to play their game and expect to win…well, good luck. I’ll be at home playing with my kids, making cookies, and avoiding the traffic.

  3. I agree with Ramona.

    The best way to save 100% during Black Friday and Black Monday is to not give in to the attendant madness — buy nothing instead. If you must spend, spend time with your kids, your family, and your friends. Also, spend some time helping others less fortunate.

    Instead of using Thanksgiving and Christmas as a reason and a season to shop for the ultimate “score”, use it as a reason and season to bring joy to your family, your friends, or (dare I say) a downtrodden stranger. Give the most precious gift of all — your time.

  4. November 27th is Small Business Saturday. If you must shop, consider shopping at locally owned stores. I read that only about 15% of a purchase from a big box store is put back into your local economy, whereas about 45% from a local owned small business is. You can also look online for a lot of small businesses or individuals who have great things to sell, like my daughter! She and her 10 year old son make and sell gourmet wine jelly. She is getting her shopping cart set up for the holidays as she has been selling only locally, but her customers wanted her to ship for Christmas. Go check it out!

    I got really ticked off the other day when I saw a sign saying that K-Mart is open ON Thanksgiving. REALLY? and I bet other store are too. Wonderful family time?

  5. Yes, you can still get OTC drugs but you will need a doctor’s script. Now you have to think ahead to get a prescription for cold medication the next time you visit the doctor. I think the new rules are a major pain.

  6. I totally agree about the shopping this time of year. Great for the kids, but everything else is overkill. Just give me some of Mom’s cooking and a few memories with the family.

  7. Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays are good opportunities to buy some cheap things. But if those things are necessary for you to have. Don’t fall into the cheap price trap and buy things cheaper that you don’t actually need.

  8. Thanks for the mention Jason. I really want to discuss the topic of student debt with as many young people as possible. Too often do I receive emails from readers that are stuck with a $50,000 education bill for a degree they don’t plan on using.

  9. Thanks for the heads up on the health care changes. I’ve adjusted what I’m socking away in my FSA accordingly. I’m not a fan of having to see a doc and pay a $15 copay in order to receive a slip of paper so I can purchase OTC necessities pre-tax. How does this new rule actually help people?