No Stress Christmas Shopping Keeping The Spirit Alive

Black Friday and Cyber Monday, historically the busiest retail shopping day(s) of the year) are over. Were you one of the ones who braved the masses looking for bargains?If so, you’re braver than me, my day was spent relaxing, writing articles, walking my dog and enjoying the beauty of the crisp air. Most of my shopping is already done and I plan on enjoying the spirit of the season, to me that is much more important than material gifts.With that thought, and no matter how you spent your day, take a moment with me and relax, take a deep breath, hold it for a moment, then slowly let it flow out completely. As it does, imagine the cares and troubles of the day disappearing. Do that for a minute or two every day and your stress will be greatly reduced. Now, onto some shopping tips for the holidays.My belief is shopping as early as possible, and no, I don’t mean 5am the day after Thanksgiving, I mean before (or at a different time) than the multitudes invade the malls. A few weeks ago I made a list of gifts for this season, they weren’t extravagant, however they were nice and I expect they’ll be appreciated. Armed with this list I went to the mall on an evening I felt most of the public would be at home. This allowed me to shop without pushing and shoving, to easily find parking and also spy a number of bargains before they were sold out for the season.NOTE: Your Christmas list is an important ingredient, not only will it keep your budget in line, it will save you wandering the store waiting for gift inspiration to visit.While some days are a diamond, others a stone, I always try to be polite. By doing so, not only am I participating in the Christmas spirit, I’m also communicating the fact I’m friendly, in turn I attract friendly people. Take a moment, wherever you are, whomever you’re with to say thank you and smile. It will be appreciated and bring a touch of warmth to your soul.Manage your debt. While this isn’t an article about credit cards, PLEASE use your plastic with care, otherwise January will bring a level of stress that will take the magic out of the memories.Personally I DO NOT use credit cards for my purchases. I try (sometimes better than others) to live debt free, it allows me not to have the stress of bill collectors calling and making the credit card companies wealthy. When I find something I simply MUST have, but can’t afford it, instead of plastic, I place it on layaway. Since I shop early, this gives me ample time to pay as my budget allows.The Internet is no longer in its infancy, and while there are still problems in cyberspace, consider doing at least some of your shopping online. With the click of a mouse you can compare prices, browse photos, read reviews and order with convenience. How do I avoid using credit cards here? I use my bank card, other times a cash card, and often Paypal. A good friend of mine works for one of the major televised shopping networks; while sometimes they contain a good measure of hype, other times you can find a real bargain. Take a look, but don’t make impulsive purchases.TIP: Staying within your budget, buy a few extra gifts, such as chocolate or scented candles (not fruitcake again!) for unexpected guests or friends who stop by.Use the catalogs, most (if not all) of the greatest companies on the planet have dynamic websites where you can order from their catalog. But do it early, even the largest companies will experience the Christmas rush. Consider paying a bit extra for gift wrapping which will save you time on this end.Don’t forget teachers, doctors, office mates, the mailman, etc. While it’s not expected, it is VERY much appreciated when you remember them with a small keepsake. Years ago my mother and father made a practice of giving simple gifts to the waitresses at their local restaurant. Believe me; they received excellent service all year long.Christmas is a time for giving, but that doesn’t necessarily mean just your money, give of your time, your heart and your spirit. By doing so, not only will you avoid the stress of the bill collector, you’ll be building memories to last a lifetime.

The Economics of Valentine’s Day

Could Cupid be the economic stimulus that we sorely need this year?Ok, I exaggerate slightly, but judging by this past holiday season’s dismal performance, Valentine’s Day might just be the panacea for our socio-economic woes.The Christmas shopping season began with a mediocre Black Friday shopping experience as shoppers vacillated between spending during the festive season, and saving their hard-earned cash for a rainy day. No doubt as the new, more streamlined and fledgling economy cautiously emerged from the wreckage generated over the past year, it has become apparent that shoppers are still hesitant to plunge headlong into the wild-spending patterns that characterized previous Christmas shopping periods. Indeed, many stores extended their discounts till even after the new year, in order to capture those consumers who held out for the cheapest deals. But what’s clear was the this time around, Christmas shopping didn’t even come close to the 69.9 million shopping orders placed around the same time in 2008, nor did it reflect that just a year before, $12.8 billion worth of goods and services were ordered and consumed by Canadian households.But what about Valentine’s Day?It’s timed conveniently enough that the gloom of the Christmas season doesn’t sour it over too much. And although it’s technically only been half a year since the recession “ended” in 2009, it is really our first occasion to celebrate under the auspices of a recognized holiday this year. It affords us the opportunity to celebrate love and relationships, and also revel in the excitement of the cheery predictions made for the new year and the new decade to come, helping us reverse some of that negativity.For this Valentine’s Day, many pundits predict a definite upswing in consumer spending. While it may not match Christmas madness in sheer volume, it should at least (just this once) beat it in terms of shopping enthusiasm and optimism. Projections for this year augur that although couples may spend less on one another, overall spending per capita will increase. Extrapolating from American data, Canadians are expected to spend about nearly $103 per capita this Valentine’s season. Data from Stats Canada tells us that businesses collected nearly $1 billion in sales from chocolate-induced madness, sold approximately $312 million – or a whopping 18.6 million litres – of sparkling wines, and more than 13.7 million stems of roses each year. Of course, not all of that was spent in February, but one could easily reason that Valentine’s day could claim a significant portion of these spendings.Moreover, with the Canadian dollar coming up to parity with the U.S. dollar this year, predictions abound that Canadian consumers will take advantage of crowdsourced, comparison and cross-border shopping engines in order to find the best deals to spend their money on. Hopefully a spending resurgence can be revived through the use of these ingenious online tools for Valentine’s Day preparations, and if popularized by the shopping drive for V-Day, for a vastly convenienced shopping experience in the time after as well.We may not share that kind of fiscal insanity this year (maybe next year), but any bit of productive spending will help buoy the consumer-driven economy that we have. Perhaps the cheer and bonhomie of this festive season will tide us over the bad times and remind us of the good ones again. After all, just like in relationships, so in real life – shouldn’t we be making the most of every opportunity that comes our way?

Should You Wait Until Black Friday?

I must admit that I am guilty of shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. While not a true trooper (I don’t spend the night), I do wake up super early and try to hit the stores shortly after they open. Basically this means that those $100 computers will be out of reach for me. But there are other deals to be had.The real question is whether it is worth waiting in line for the cheap computers, otherwise known as “doorbusters”. These doorbusters are deals that are too good to be true and are only available in limited quantities.Before the explosion of the internet and eBay in particular, regular folks actually had a chance at getting one of these good deals. After all, people in line were getting something for themselves. But now online auctioneers are out in droves on Black Friday. Getting a great deal on the Friday after Thanksgiving. If they can get a good deal and resell at a profit then why not wait in line?So what does that mean to the rest of us? Should we just give up or should we try and brave the crowds? What I have found is that the big ticket items with the biggest discounts are sold out quickly. But items of lesser value are more readily available later into the day. I usually find some great prices on technology media like memory cards, mini dv tapes, cd’s , dvd’s, and the like. Deals on clothing, and non-technology items are also easier to find.A little prep work goes a long way in getting what you want. Making a list ahead of time of the stores you want to visit, and the items that you plan to buy from each store is essential. Also deciding the order in which you will visit stores will help keep the morning organized and running smoothly – this is especially key if you are shopping with other people as they will have their own list of priorities.One little known secret is that many online retailers also try to get in on the hype and offer their own sales. So if you would rather shop from the comfort of home then hit the internet running and you may find a few steals while everyone else is at the mall. And this is even before Cyber Monday.As for me, I honestly enjoy the spirit of comraderie and competition that I find in the wee hours of the morning on the busiest of all shopping days. And the best part is heading out for a hot breakfast after we are completely tuckered out.

What is the Meaning of Black Friday?

The Meaning of Black Friday in the United States has been used in numerous themes, dating back the 19th hundreds, where it was related to the financial disaster in 1869. The earliest uses of the word to represent the day after Thanksgiving comes from or references Philadelphia and refers to the arduous traffic on that day, even though most modern uses of the expression apply instead to it as the start of the period in which retail merchants are in the black.The expression Black Friday started to receive wider publicity about 1975, as displayed by a pair of newspaper articles from Nov 29th, 1975, both of which were datelined Philadelphia.Black Friday is not an official break, but many workers have the day off except for those employed in the retail sector, which boosts the quantity of probable purchasers. It is additionally the name that has been provided to many disastrous events, while it appears that terrible things take place fairly frequently on Fridays. Considering that Thanksgiving falls on the 4th Thursday in Nov in the United States, Black Friday takes place amid the Twenty-third and the Twenty-ninth of November.The regional media regularly will cover the event, referring to how early the bargain hunters began lining up at various shops and providing video and pictures of the customers standing in file and subsequently leaving with their acquired articles. Some conceive this policy originated from a concern that rivals will cut prices, and customers may comparison shop. Similar to Black Friday, Cyber Monday is frequently mistakenly expressed to be the busiest shopping day of the calendar year for on-line purchasers, even though in truth a number of days following the holiday buying period are busier. The intensified capacity of customers purchasing non discounted things causes Black Friday to be profitable for retail merchants notwithstanding they do not receive much gain on intensely marked down goods.Whilst it is not a forecaster of all-inclusive holiday season transactions, the meaning of Black Friday is an influential financial yard stick of individual’s readiness to spend throughout the holidays.

Black Friday – Shop at Wal-Mart and Best Buy Or Invest?

Consumers are out in full force today, on ‘Black Friday’, looking for great deals at retail stores. Stores like Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy – all opening at the earliest hours of the morning to get accommodate us eager shoppers. Driving routes and schedules are planned out, hitting all the stores with deals and stocking up for the holidays. Electronics, toys, trinkets, and other consumer items will be purchased in huge quantities. Headlines will show that retailers have had either a great day (On target for the year! It’s going to be a GREAT holiday season! Recession officially over!), or a bad day (Spending is down this year! Recession is not over!).The question for me today was – could the money I might spend today on Black Friday be put to a better use for me and my family’s future by investing in something of real intrinsic value, instead of just another consumer item? I’ve had this question after the barrage of television commercials, print ads, and countless retailer catalogs shipped to my home, begging me to be a consumer today. Last year, I definitely went out and shopped on Black Friday – deals everywhere. At a minimum, I bought a DVD player that had a six-slot platter so I wouldn’t have to get up and change the DVD’s all the time. Now over the last year without even realizing it, the conditioning of my mind has changed. I’ve spent a lot of time getting more educated about money and accumulating wealth. I’ve learned so much about the intrinsic value of money, how our dollar is different than real money, and how much more important it is for me to invest in my own future than in frivolous items such as a six-slot DVD player. Education has come from reading, listening, and watching varied resources about money, our economy, the value of our dollar, and investing in precious metals such as gold and silver.I sought out education because I was feeling more and more caught up in the ‘work hard earn more spend more’ cycle of life. You always hear the expression ‘I got a raise but it’s gone already’ and I have proven over 25+ years of working that it is true – the more you earn, the more you spend. So I’ve learned that in order to earn more, it’s can’t be the mindset of ‘work harder and earn more’, but the mindset of how much of what you earn that you keep, and ultimately what you do with it to help you earn more through investing. And I’m seeing more and more that the ‘what I do with it’ is what keeps evolving.A great example of this evolution is buying retail coffee every day. For several years, I have left the house each morning, work or not, and purchased a coffee and a food item. We’ve all heard of the supposed ‘latte factor’ – where you take all your latte money and save it instead – but honestly that never changed or inspired me to do anything about retail coffee. I’ve wanted to stop, tried to stop, but it was part of my daily routine that I have enjoyed for years.Recently as an experiment to try and change the way I look at money, I started putting away money every day – 2 dollars each to mason jars marked for Savings, Investing, and Tithing. Over the period of a month or so without even realizing it, my mind has changed how it thinks about money. Suddenly, finding 6 dollars to put into my jars first thing every morning became a habit – and fun. But I’ve also evolved in how I looked at buying coffee. I’ve slowly gone from driving 10 minutes to Pete’s (because they have better coffee and scones) and spending 6.60 each day, to going closer to home at Starbucks and spending 6.45 each day, to just the Starbucks coffee for 4.35 each day and eat something at home, to finally making my own coffee and eating at home for a fraction of the cost. Consequently, I’ve increased the amount I put away to savings, investing, and tithing, up to 4 dollars each day for each jar – up from 6 to 12 dollars a day! And I am happy about it – It has been a great evolution of my mindset AND I’m no longer making Peet’s or Starbucks rich! I’m investing in myself, my family, and for the future!So getting back to Black Friday, the buzz around shopping today made me realize how much my thinking has evolved for the better. For weeks the price of gold has been rising. It’s been all over the news and blogs and pundits. Today it took a fall and it was 30.00 dollars cheaper than it was yesterday. Taking notice (those are the prices I now check first thing in the morning), I shopped online for a good investment, found it, and used my money to acquire an asset that will only increase in its intrinsic value. I approached spending money today completely differently from last year. I bought something of real value to support my future and something I can feel good about – something I cannot say purchasing the six-slot DVD player from last year’s Black Friday shopping experience.

Shopping and Birding in Miami

South Florida and Miami in particular is a magnet that draws shoppers from South & Central America and the Caribbean. It seems as if at every neighborhood in the city there is a mall and there is variety in the malls. There are strip malls, regular malls, outlet malls. Shopping in Miami is year round but seems to reach a fever pitch on the 3rd Friday in November which is the day immediately after the American Thanksgiving holiday. Known as Black Friday because the hordes of shoppers are expected to drive retailers into the black (profit). Black Friday is a day of deep discounts that marks the start of the Christmas shopping season. At some malls shopping starts at midnight, while at others the shopping begins at 5am. As soon as the stores open the hordes descend.South Florida is also a magnet for migratory and Neotropical birds. Located along the Atlantic Flyway, Florida is in the pathway of birds migrating from their summer breeding grounds in northern and central U.S.A. to their winter grounds in Central or South America and the Caribbean. For some species Florida is their winter home. An abundance of ponds, lakes and waterways means that Florida is especially good for waterbirds.This dual magnetic force means that during Thanksgiving you can combine two passions; shopping and birding. Or husbands can accompany wives to the mall and while the wife shops the husband indulges in some bird watching. Dolphin Mall located on NW 12th Street off the Florida Turnpike is a good location. The Mall has a huge selection of stores with a wide variety of items. The mall also has two ponds along 12th Street next to the mall parking lot. Among the birds that can be seen in those ponds are Anhingas, Coots, Grey Herons and Snowy Egrets.At other malls, the desire to introduce greenery into an asphalt and concrete jungle has resulted in trees around and within parking lots. These trees have in turn attracted various bird species. So simply wandering the parking lots gives you the opportunity to see different species of birds.Even if you do not go near the malls on Black Friday, it is easy to indulge in bird watching in South Florida. The numerous lakes and ponds in residential areas attract birdlife particularly waterfowl. Among the most easily seen Florida waterfowl are Double-crested Cormorant, Pied-billed Grebe, Common Moorhen, Green (Green-backed) Heron and the most common waterfowl found in Florida’s suburban areas, Muscovy Ducks. The Intracoastal Waterway and other canals along the highways and roads are also good locations for spotting avian life and it is easy to stop at an attractive spot. For the more dedicated birdwatcher South Florida has numerous state and national parks.So when next you are planning a trip to South Florida, remember, you can combine shopping and bird watching.

Black Friday A Coming

The biggest shopping day of the year is just 3 days away. To self proclaimed shopaholics, like myself, this day is Christmas. The day we look forward to all year. The day where everything is on sale. Oh, Happy Day!The point is if you are planing on going out on this mad day in hopes of finding most of your Christmas gifts, there are some pointers I can give you.

Do Not Sleep In – The early bird definitely gets the worm on this day. Most people are up and out of the house before dawn. Most stores are opening up especially early. Don’t think you can sleep until 11:00 and still be able to find those Manalos for 50%. They will be gone before the 7 0’clock hour.

Have You Game Face On – You can’t be a wuss and think that you have a fighting chance amongst the bargain shoppers on this day. People will elbow, kick, pinch, anything it takes to get that last Tickle Me Elmo. Be aggressive. When you see an item you want, keep a tight hold on it.

Do Not Leave Your Basket Unattended – I have had several items disappear out of my shopping basket when I’ve turned around to get another item. It will happen, Folks. People aren’t generally nice on this day.

Have Your Lists Ready – Make out your gift list before going to the store. Most stores would have put out a sales paper in the Sunday paper. Decide what you want to get the night before and make a list. Know what you want before entering the store. There is no time when you get there to try and make up your mind. By time you do, everything will be gone.

Do Not Stop To Socialize – So, you see someone in the store that you haven’t seen since high school. I know it is great to see them and you want to brag about how great your life is now that you got the braces off and lost twenty pounds. Suffice to say, now isn’t the time to do that. You have a job to do, and things to buy. Stop quickly and get the phone number; save it for after the sales.

Avoid The Layaway Lines – If you can, try to avoid the layaway lines. You will find yourself in one the entire day and miss out all the good stuff in other stores. Plus, I’ve heard more than a few horror stories where items were missing or hard to find when time came to pickup your layaway order. If it can’t be avoided this shopping season, this is something to keep in mind for next year. Try to save a little a month just for this day.
Just follow these few tips and you day will go smoothly. Well, as smooth as can be expected. For more tips like these check out my blog The Shopping Diva. Happy Shopping!

Using Credit Cards to Get More Out of Black Friday Sales

For many people, Black Friday shopping is a ritual. They start on Thanksgiving by getting the circulars that are advertising the sales that will be offered Friday morning. Many people then set up a plan to camp out at those stores, sometimes in freezing temperatures, so they can be the first in line when it comes time to shop and get the limited specials.There is a better, and warmer way to get in on great holiday sales. Use your credit cards.Learn What Your Credit Card OffersMany credit card companies have seasonal specials of their own hoping you will make your holiday purchases on their cards. Take a little time out today to log on to your credit card company website and look for any of the specials they are advertising. You may find a list of stores they are working with to offer something a little extra on your Black Friday shopping. Perhaps they will offer double or triple points or cash back for the purchases you make with your card through select stores.Find the Black Friday DealsNext you need to do a little research to find out what Black Friday deals are out there for you to take advantage of. Make a list of the ones that you are most interested in. Now see if any of those stores are also companies that your credit card company is offering a special savings with. This way you can double or triple up on rewards when it’s time to buy.Start ShoppingOne thing you need to remember when it comes to Black Friday sales is that they start at the crack of early. Generally they begin at 12:01 A.M. on Friday morning, so you need to stay up late (or get up real early) to make sure you can get in on the online deals before they are sold out.Cyber MondayJust in case you don’t get all the shopping you had hoped to done on Black Friday, there is also Cyber Monday shopping. The Monday after Black Friday has become the biggest day for Internet sales of the year and many companies will be offering special sales this day as well.

Holiday Shopping in a Tough Economy

In today’s tight economy, more consumers than ever are looking for alternative ways to stretch their Christmas shopping dollar. The key to saving money when shopping retail is to find the deals in advance and stick to your budget. With proper planning, you won’t be tempted to pay full price for any of your gifts.The early arrival of Black Friday this year offers consumers more time for holiday budget planning. It seems that the traditional day after Thanksgiving mega-deal day, has been turned into an entire season. Some stores started as early as Halloween with their ‘Black Friday’ savings.Along with Black Friday, shoppers can also look forward to Cyber Monday online shopping deals. Many websites list stores and their Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals for your convenience. When ordering online, many payment screens have a space to input a coupon code for additional savings. Many times, you can quickly pop onto a coupon forum website and find a valid coupon code. I did this recently when making airline reservations and ended up with an additional 10 percent savings. These same coupon sites also have printable coupons for in-store shopping trips.An additional way to save is to consider handmade or low cost gifts. With a little creativity and planning ahead, inexpensive gifts can become classic favorites.Small gifts for babysitters, gift exchanges, neighbors, and friends at work could include the following:Ornaments. Whether you make them or purchase them, ornaments are a perfect gift. Most women love new decorations for their tree, and the person who receives this gift will think of you every year when trimming the tree.Recipe Cards. A sweet personalized gift, you can use pretty recipe cards and write five or six of your favorite recipes on them. Leave the rest blank so they can be filled out by the receiver of the gift. Fabric and craft stores generally have decorative recipe cards and matching boxes for one or two dollars each.This gift can also be presented with one or more of the recipes (such as cookies or fudge) wrapped in a tin.Calendars. Target and other stores have cute calendars and planners in their dollar bins during this time of year. They are very attractive and practicalGift Baskets. Gift baskets are a perfect way to be both creative and personal. If your friend likes golf, put together a small basket using golf balls, tees, and a few homemade club covers. If they knit, give them a new pair of needles along with a few skeins of yarn. Another inexpensive gift basket for a couple could include two coffee mugs along with some hot cocoa or decorative tea.Other Gifts that could be given to family members or close friends:Quilts or throw blankets. If you like to sew, blankets are the perfect gift, especially for young people who have recently moved out on their own.Decorative pictures or framed photos. Use your computer and decorative fonts to print out motivational or meaningful quotes, poetry, or Bible scriptures and frame them. Frame favorite photos and give them as gifts to grandparents, aunts, or uncles.Aprons, potholders, or placemats. Depending on your sewing skills, these can be quick and inexpensive presents for loved ones who love to cook.There are many more, but these should spark your imagination. Christmas shouldn’t be something that you later regret because of overspending. This holiday season, make it a memorable, meaningful and stress free time.

Black Friday vs Cyber Monday

It was Thanksgiving evening, the turkey was almost done and I was looking at all the ‘Black Friday’ ads in my local newspaper. Not exactly what the pilgrims and Indians had in mind but there I was none the less. Best Buy’s ad caught my eye as they were having a special on a Western Digital External Hard Drive, 250 GB, for only $69.99. These things often sell for over $175 so I was impressed. I needed one to not only back up my web site,, but I could also use it for my families digital pictures and my music collection. Best Buy opened at 5 a.m. on Friday morning and I decided I would try to get there when it opened and make my move on this external hard drive.5 A.M. – What Was I Thinking??So I get there a little after 5 a.m. and what did I find but a line all the way around the Best Buy store of customers just waiting to get in. I thought this is crazy, I got out of bed in the dark for this? I contemplated getting in line for a total of 10 seconds, but my warm bed at home was so inviting that I fled the scene for some more sleep!Moral Of This Story?You may be asking what is the moral of this story? Well, it was an interesting learning experience because what I found out was that many of the people waiting to get into Best Buy were only going to turn around and sell their merchandise on ebay. I did a search on ebay right after ‘Black Friday’ and much to my surprise there were a ton of my Western Digital hard drives up for auction. And the good news is they were only selling for around $85 due to the increased supply. So essentially I could buy my hard drive for $15 more than what Best Buy was selling it for and I had to stand in line for a total of ZERO seconds. Now I do have to pay for shipping which is around $10, but it is still a lot less than the average retail price. Try this technique next year; you may be as surprised as I was.What Is ‘Cyber Monday’?Also, the Monday after Thanksgiving is now referred to as ‘Cyber Monday’ and is said to be one of the biggest online shopping days of the year as folks go back to work and use their “Free Time” to do some shopping on their computer. What I discovered was online retailers really picking up on this ‘Cyber Monday’ idea and have some amazing deals on their web site for one day only. Best, for example had some great online coupons and deals for flat screen TV’s and digital cameras. Also, I noticed that Lane had a 30% off coupon, a couple rare JCPenney coupons good for free shipping or 15% off, and there was an American Eagle Outfitters coupon good for 15% off, all of which were only available on Cyber Monday. I say next year sleep in on Thanksgiving weekend and do your shopping online in your PJ’s with a cup of coffee. Not only will you avoid the long lines and crowded parking lots but you may be amazed by the savings and coupons online retailers are handing out.© 2007, Kyle James