The retail industry treats Christmas as one big countdown. This year has been the worst yet: Black Friday seems to have lasted the entire month of November.

But right after Thanksgiving the real fun began: “Only 26 more shopping days until Christmas.”

I think it’s because as a nation, we love to be nagged. The phone company reminds us to call home on Mother’s Day. Florists fuss at you to buy flowers for Secretary’s Day. Jewelers warn men to buy bigger and better diamonds for each year’s anniversary.

Nagging works, too: The phone system is overwhelmed on the second Sunday in May. Administrative assistants smile as they load up the vases (even if they’re inwardly wishing they’d gotten gift cards, or raises). And wives all over America decide to hang in there for another year because the big lug actually remembered.

But this is not a cynical post about the commercialization of sentiment. Not this time, anyway. It’s about why “(however many) more days until Christmas” is too vague to be of any use.

That’s because it’s not a warning — it’s a snooze alarm.

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Some couples choose to go to one income: to have a baby, to go back to school, to start a business. For others the change is involuntary and terrifying: layoff, illness, a business going under.

Those who seek change have the option of preparing for it. Those who have change thrust upon them can only scramble to minimize the damage.

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I’m giving away $20 in Amazon scrip. I’m also changing the rules.

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Snow days.

Yesterday it snowed in Seattle. This happens rarely enough that folks panic when the first flake hits the ground. Buses run less often. The stores sell out of milk and ice melt. Driving becomes an adventure on Seattle’s famously sloping roadways. (I swear it really is possible to walk through the snow uphill both ways.)

On Saturday I’m heading up to Anchorage, Alaska for a month in the frozen north. Which today happens to be the glazed-over north: Freezing rain on top of snow turned streets into skating rinks and hilly streets into luge runs.

The thought made me cringe, which in turn made me realize I’ve become a total weenie after nine years of Lower 48 living.

When I moved from Alaska to Chicago in 2001, I actually missed winter. Ice and all.

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Rocio H. is the winner of the SaveUp 2010 swag bag. Thanks to all who entered. Rocio: I sent an e-mail asking for your mailing address. Please respond by noon Friday so that I can get the prize mailed before I go out of town.

This Friday’s giveaway involves a slight rule change. Stay tuned.

The prize is something that will come in handy on Cyber Monday. That’s all I’m saying.

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