The Return of the Return of Layaway!

Last year we blogged about how a bad economy and the credit crunch were leading to “The Return of Layaway” in your favorite stores. This year, there’s a new twist.

Same lame economy, but now it’s an election year. I heard on the radio that Wal-Mart is worried that with politicians buying up every moment of commercial time, they won’t be able to do the kind of advertising they need to make a profit at the Holidays. So, one thing they are doing is improving their layaway program to get your attention.

So, in addition to starting the program much earlier this year…

Walmart will refund the $15 fee to open a layaway account after customers make their final payment, and it will no longer charge a cancellation fee to customers who fail to finish paying for the item.

Other stores like Kmart, Sears and Toys R Us are joining in the fun, too. You can read all about it here.

What do you think? Were you planning to use layaway this year? Would this tempt you to? Let us know. And have a fun, SAFE Labor Day weekend!


Apple Slams Samsung

Oh, Google Image Search. You never disappoint!

Apple vs. Samsung: it was the “patent trial of the century” and, last Friday, Apple won. Samsung has to fork over $1 billion, pending appeal.

The result is extremely complex and is, as of this writing, still being wrangled over in court. But the initial finding appears to be a whole lot of hurt for Samsung and a victory for Apple. The bigger question is, what does this mean for innovation and competition in the tech industry?

But the biggest question is, how does this affect ME? And, I guess, you too?

Some say it will force an industry with too many “me-too” copycats to dig deep and innovate in new and exciting ways, which would be good. Others say that many designers – often just one or two guys working in a garage – will be so afraid of lawsuits that they will choke up. And still others wonder how much change the consumer will accept. Specific example… what if you have to give up your Droid because it’s pinch-and-zoom function is too much like an iPhone?

Many people are seeing this situation as “Intellectual Property vs. Consumer Choice.”

What do you think?

Who is Really the Low Price Leader?

For me, the perception of paying less is what takes me to Wal-Mart. I feel like the noise, the crowd and the hassle are worth it if I am saving dough.

According to this article, though, those savings may be an illusion.

Target this month had lower prices than Wal-Mart for the first time since October, according to research conducted by Bloomberg Industries. The Minneapolis-based chain also led by its widest margin since the monthly study began two years ago. The study examined the gap in average price across a basket of 150 like items at stores within five miles of each other.

Apparently, the still-crappy economy has the two giants scrambling for customers, and the competition has heated up. Of course, there are other players, including Kmart and Amazon. Customer loyalty is up for grabs, and we will go wherever the prices lead us.

At any rate, Target is crowing, and Wal-Mart is saying “Yeah, but…” And it seems this whole competition  is for bragging rights, since we are talking about a savings of 46 cents per every hundred dollars!

What do you think? Target or Wal-Mart? Do you see a difference? Let us know…and have a great weekend!

Drought Brings Crops Down, Prices Up

How colorfully depressing!

On TV, radio and the web, it’s the background noise we have been hearing all summer: the big Midwest drought. Living in South Carolina, where it rains every day at 4pm sharp, it seems like somebody else’s problem. But my grocery bill tends to disagree. The biggest factor? CORN.

Corn — a crop that has been decimated by drought — is used as feed for beef and poultry; is manufactured into ethanol, a gasoline additive; and is cooked into corn syrup, a sweetener in everything from cereals to ketchup. And, of course, that doesn’t count corn’s simple uses, whether to be eaten alone or made into anything from chips to tortillas.  CBS Money Watch

Before the planting season, they were talking about a record crop. Now they say it will be down 12% from last year. So how does this affect your wallet? And what can you do about it?

  • Buy meat now: Before long, it will be cheaper for farmers to slaughter their livestock that to feed them. When that happens, meat process will shoot up.
  • $kip proce$$ed food$: they have a lot of high-fructo$e corn $yrup.
  • Buy fruit: The weather that is killing vegetables is good for fruit, so prices are lower.
  • Substitute. Oatmeal instead of processed cereal, fish instead of beef, foods with simple sugar instead of fructose, etc.
  • Eat locally: If you happen to live in an unaffected area, the local stuff should be cheaper.

So, have you seen the difference in your grocery bill? Do you have any other saving tips? Let us know!

Back to $chool $pending

Are we properly capturing the misery?

Are you feeling 15% richer now than last August? I hope so, because that’s how much more we are going to spend to send our kids back to school this fall.

This year, the average family with students from kindergarten to 12th grade is expected to spend $689 on back-to-school supplies, up from $604 last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Parents estimate they will spend an average of $246 on clothes, $218 on electronics, $129 on shoes and $95 on school supplies, such as notebooks, pencils and backpacks. Chicago Tribune

So, how do you avoid getting cleaned out at the register? Here are some tips…

Do your homework: make a list, plan your trip, and stick to it. Also, look around the house. Do you need to buy a pack of ten ink pens? Don’t you have 50 lying around the house? I know I do!

Save on supplies: Dollar store, baby! Of course, it’s not only dollars. Saving on headaches can be valuable too. Like, when the moms of XYZ Middle School prepare those grocery bags with precisely all  the supplies you kid will need? Costs more, but so easy!!

Clothing: This is going to depend on the kid, but what’s wrong with Good will? My sister had 2 boys, and bought ALL their clothes there because they just didn’t care. So, get some kids like that!

Wait on the season: By the time your kid needs each season’s wardrobe, those clothes will be on clearance. So, chill!

Online shopping: Online back to school shopping has increased 400% in the past few years, and now 40% of parents are doing it.

Compare prices: Prices for the exact same items are truly all over the place. Spend some time online and figure it out.

Computers and electronics: A good time to whip out that student ID, for extra savings.

So, that’s the 411 on back to school savings. There’s much more info at the original article, so check it out!  What do you think? Did we leave anything out? Got any tips to share?


11 Dumb Things Our Teens are Up To

Actually, one of the less dangerous things on the list!

A while back we did a post about Salvia and bath salts, two things kids have managed to turn into drugs. Now, another article has come along with a bunch more terrifying things today’s bored kids are getting up to.

The latest teen trends make the underage drinking games of yesterday look like child’s play. Here’s an inside peek at some of the dangerous things teenagers are doing today … and that they will never tell you about.

Here is the brief boildown…

11) Planking (see picture): Lots of injuries, at least one death.

10) Vodka Eyeballing: Pretty much what it sounds like. Could cause retinal scarring or blindness.

09) The Choking Game: Cutting off oxygen to the brain, then a rush of breath, causing a brief high.

08) Vodka Gummy Bears: Again, just what it sounds like.

07) Smoking Smarties: Seriously? Like smoking bath salts, I guess, but sweeter!

06) Alcohol Tampons: Yep. And it’s not just girls.

05) Distilling Purel into alcohol: They say to switch to the foamy kind.

04) Car Surfing (see picture): Thanks, Teen Wolf!

Jedi-level car surfing

03) Purple Drink: Sprite, Jolly Ranchers and codeine cough syrup. Yum!

02) Internet video chat room. Easy to access, anonymous and with barely any filtering or rules.

01) Bath Salts: Our old friend is still number 1!

What do these things have in common, other than making parents wet themselves in terror?  They are all about two clicks away on the internet. Which is not an argument for web censorship, but a suggestion that we all get familiar with our kids’ web habits. Food for thought!

Sweet Seasonal Savings!

They’ve always said that certain bargains happen at certain times of the year, and knowing when to buy can save you money. Take me for instance. Just bought a TV, either 5 months late, or 7 months early! Anyway, here are some tips from around the web, starting with August.

August: Swimsuits, up to half off (the prices, that is.)  Anything related to back-to-school, like book bags, computers, crappy dorm furniture, etc. And lawnmowers, which won’t be missed – amirite fellas?

January: Linens and Holiday leftovers. White sales are everywhere, so stock up on the sheets and towels. Also, Christmas gear. Here’s one I have learned: if you collect those dated Christmas tree ornaments, but don’t absolutely have to have a 2012 on the tree IN 2012, then wait until January and save 50%!

February: Furniture. Stores are clearing out for new spring models. Save 30-60%

March: TVs. The big Consumer Electronics show is in January. Buyers place their orders, and they land in stores in March. So the shabby old 1080p flatscreens have to go to make room for the shiny new 1080p flatscreens! Save 15%

March: Springtime shoes. They hit the shelves in January, now they got ta GO. Save 20-30%

April: Raincoats. Stores have to meet the demand for April Showers, then clear the shelves for May Flowers. Save 25%

April/May: Thrift Store finds. After Spring cleaning! Furniture, housewares, clothes, kids stuff, the whole bit.

May: Athletic Apparel and Shoes. I guess it’s finally warm enough to go outside and exercise. Save 30-60%

June/July: Wedding season – June for planners, July for stragglers! So, wedding gifts like dishes and home décor are 20-50% off. Also, it’s Fathers Day, so useful things (tools, gadgets) and useless things (tools, gadgets) are on sale.

September: Plants. The typical season change clearing of the shelves. Save 30-50%. I hear that the independent places have better discounts than the big box stores.

October: Blue Jeans. The back-to-school market has dried up, and what’s left has to go! Save 30-60%

November: Pajamas, etc.  Lord knows I give SOMEBODY on my Christmas list some pajamas. Last year, I think I gave out 4 sets. A new record!

December: Coats & Jackets. Stores don’t have the room to store these bulky items until next fall. Save 15-40%

That’s the scoop. So, watch your calendars, then get out there and save in a timely fashion. And have a great weekend!!


Now Hiring?

Has the downturn got you thinking about a career change? It does me, for REALZ. But which direction should you go? Where is the growth? Where is the need? And where is the satisfaction? has some ideas…

Each year, U.S. News compiles a list of the Best Careers based on the Labor Department’s employment projections. And this year, we continue to base our picks for the Best Jobs of 2012 on professions that should hire abundantly over the next several years. To better help you make a smart career choice, we’ve also started ranking our selections.

The short answer? Healthcare and computers. Here is their list for 2012…

10. Occupational Therapist : $48k-$102k. Over 36,000 needed in the next decade.

9. Computer Programmer: $40k-$114k. High job satisfaction, competitive salary, good prospects.

8. Physical Therapist: $53k-$107k. Field will grow by 40% over the next decade. You need a Master’s, though.

7. Computer Systems Analyst: $48k-$119k.

6. Web Developer: $43k-$119k. Over 65,000 positions are anticipated in the next 10 years.

5. Database Administrator: $41k-$115k. They used to call it “filing.” A critical position throughout business, but one that requires a lot of certifications.

4. Medical Assistant: $20k-$40k. No specific training is required, but the more you have, the better.

3. Pharmacist: $82k-$138k. LOTS of education required, but it pays off. The pharmacist at my CVS drives a SWEET Benz convertible. I’m just sayin’.

2. Software Developer: $54k-$87k. Like many of these tech jobs, you have to be constantly keeping up with evolving technology.

1. Registered Nurse: $44k-$95k. Over 700,000 positions will need filling in the coming decade.

So, are you or someone you know in any of these fields? Do you agree that these are Top 10 material? Let us know!


Will You Miss Them When They’re Gone?

These brands, that is. Face it, even in the best of times, things change, and brands die. And these are hardly the best of times. So analysts are looking into their crystal balls to see who is on their way out.

Each year, 24/7 Wall St. identifies 10 important American brands that we predict will disappear within a year. This year’s list reflects the brutally competitive nature of certain industries and the reason why companies cannot afford to fall behind in efficiency, innovation or financing.  24/7 Wall

Companies get hurt by bad management, big losses, a shrinking market…the list goes on and on. So who is on deathwatch for 2012?

  • Research In Motion: the BlackBerry guys. No shocker.
  • Pacific Sunwear: ran out of dough
  • Avon: fierce competition, bad management
  • MetroPCS: Wireless carrier I have never heard of!
  • Oakland Raiders: will be around, but probably NOT around Oakland!
  • one of those websites everybody talks about but few visit.
  • Suzuki: getting pushed out of small, cheap car market by Hyundai
  • Current TV: see
  • Talbot’s: hurt by recession, competition from Ann Taylor and Limited
  • American Airlines: rash of mergers in the airline biz, and AA got left behind.

There are several on this list you probably don’t care about. But please don’t tell my wife about Talbot’s! And I’m not sure if it’s still America without Avon!

What do you think? Will you miss any of these brands? Let us know. And have a great weekend!