th6 150x150 Want some extra Amazon buying power?If you’re ordering any holiday gifts from Amazon, this week’s giveaway will boost your budget somewhat.

Specifically: I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift card, and doing so earlier than usual to allow for on-time shipping. The drawing will be on Saturday evening instead of Tuesday evening.

Rather than mail the card I’ll simply e-mail the code for the scrip. Those with Amazon Prime memberships could order gifts as late as Monday and have them delivered in time for wrapping on Christmas Eve.

(That is, if the requested items are in stock, you procrastinator.)


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th4 150x150 13 ways to use unwanted gift cards.Wise Bread recently posted an article called “What can I do with the gift cards I don’t want?” Sounds like a flawed premise, right? Who wouldn’t want a gift card?

Not so, according to writer Holly Johnson.

“You might end up with a gift card to a store or restaurant you unquestionably dislike,” she says.

“Even worse, you might get an inexpensive gift card to a place where nothing is cheap — like a $10 gift card to a restaurant where entrees start at $19.”

She suggested half a dozen ways to deal. I’ll see her those six, and raise her another seven.


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th3 150x150 A life altering holiday gift.Not everyone is ready for a book about personal finance, even if it’s desperately needed. Some potential recipients believe they’ll figure things out for themselves. Some don’t believe that the economy will ever really work for folks like them. Some know they’re taking the last train to Brokesville but are frankly enjoying the trip too much to consider getting off at the next station.

That doesn’t mean you can’t give the gift of personal finance. It just means you need to be thoughtful about how you do it, including picking a time when the person is in a receptive frame of mind.

Which might not be on Dec. 25. But it also might be, which is why I’m once again offering a list of books to consider gifting.


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th1 A look back (and forward) at credit.What was the best card of 2014? According to two reputable sources, it was the Citi Double Cash Back.

Both NerdWallet and Cardratings.com praise the card’s unique conceit: Consumers get 1 percent cash-back on the items they buy and an additional 1 percent cash-back when they pay off the card.

“It’s the first (and, so far, only) card on the market that provides a lucrative incentive to make monthly payments in full,” notes Lindsay Konsko of NerdWallet, who calls the card “a game-changing product.”

Citi also is putting EMV chips in all of its consumer and student credit cards, making them safer than the typical magstripes. Other card issuers are putting EMV in some of their products, and apparently EMV chips for debit cards are also on the way.


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th1 150x150 Unfamiliar area code? Its probably a scam.Unless you’re really lucky you’ve probably gotten spam/scam calls, often robotic ones. The smart money is on refusing to pick up the phone if it displays an unfamiliar area code (especially a toll-free one).

But if you have friends or family in places like Detroit (313), Houston (713) or Fort Lauderdale (954), you might pick up.

Those three cities are three of the top 10 area codes used by spam callers, according to a company called Whitepages. The others are:


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2015 Wall Calendar 257x350 1 220x300 Giveaway: 2015 Tundra calendar.I know you guys like Chad Carpenter’s “Tundra” comics, because the response is quite enthusiastic whenever I give away one of his books.

And why not? His is one of the fastest-growing comic strips on the planet — and the third-fastest on Jupiter, according to his home page.

So here’s a gift for the person who has everything: a 2015 “Tundra” calendar, signed (and doodled!) by the author.

Just think: an entire year of silliness hanging on your kitchen, office or workplace wall. That is, unless you decide to make it one of your holiday presents.

My personal favorite is the August illustration, which features a TSA agent looking askance at a porcupine. Caption: “I’ll opt for the pat-down.”


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The bonus turkey.

th The bonus turkey.If you’re still seeing good prices on Meleagris gallopavo in your local supermarket, buy an extra one. In fact, buy the biggest one your freezer can hold.

Here’s why.

Last month we bought a bonus 20-pounder, i.e., one not for Thanksgiving. After DF cooked it on the Weber we wound up with 18 pounds of meat and more than a quart of broth for future soup or gravy.

We gave ourselves extra Frugal Points for skimming the cooled fat off the top and freezing it for future sautéing purposes, and for picking tiny bits of meat off the boiled-down carcass. Hey, we got enough for three turkey salad sandwiches – and we ate them that week, because we weren’t sick of the bird yet.

That’s because it was the week before Thanksgiving and we hadn’t already undergone an unending series of turkey leftovers, hot turkey sandwiches, creamed turkey, turkey soup and turkey surprise. Those 18 pounds of bonus turkey went first into quart-sized canning jars and then into the pressure canner.


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th 1 A simple way to save $159k.Credit card use is on the rise, according to the recent “State of Credit” report from Experian. But there’s a group of consumers who are bucking that trend: millennials, of whom increasing numbers are eschewing credit in favor of debit.

Problem.

Using debit and cash means you’re essentially opting out of the credit reporting system. Without a healthy credit score, you’ll likely pay more than you should for insurance and for auto or mortgage loans.

How much more? An average of $159,464 in extra interest paid over your lifetime, according to Credit.com’s Lifetime Cost of Debt Calculator.


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th2 Change that changes lives.It was a good year for found money: a $20 bill, two fivers, a singleton, 13 quarters, 47 dimes, 15 nickels and 216 pennies, plus a ngwee from Zambia. (You find the most interesting specie in Coinstar machines.)  

That $41.86 will become a $50 donation to the Alaska Food Bank. As my 8-year-old nephew and I stacked and wrapped the coins, I pointed out that while it’s fun to find a $20 bill even the pennies add up over time. I’d be writing about this, I said, and maybe it would remind them that dimes add up to dollars.  

“Maybe it will remind them to pick money up,” he said. “Or not to drop it.”


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th3 300x300 Return of the three conference swag box.A couple of weeks ago I gave away a box of swag obtained at conferences in New Orleans, Austin and Kansas City, Mo. At the time I promised a second giveaway of other such items.

I misspoke myself. But I did it for you!

Specifically, the folks at the Swagbucks rewards program stepped in and offered to give away a $50 e-gift card. Couldn’t down a chance for a reader to gain a $50 advantage on this year’s holiday shopping (or for a gift for themselves), so I put the second box on hold.

(The $50 prize is still up for grabs: You have until Dec. 5 to enter. Do it now, while you’re thinking about it.)

That second box o’ oddities is the subject of this week’s giveaway. Among the items included are:


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th6 300x300 Black Friday 2014, done very quickly. Our Black Friday has come and gone, a reprise of last year’s experience at the loneliest drugstore in the world: Two of the stores we visited were practically tomblike.

The third, Play It Again Sports, held the possibility of new skis for DF at 50 percent off. However, it also held googols of optimistic winter sports enthusiasts (we have maybe a quarter-inch of snow on the ground) and determined-looking hockey parents. We backed off quickly due to our shared Claus-trophobia.

But at the other two? We walked in, bought what we wanted and walked back out. No pushing and shoving, no pepper spray and no buying things we didn’t need.

(Well, I did buy one thing I don’t need. More on that in a minute.)

That’s the kind of Black Friday I prefer, especially since a study from NerdWallet bears out what a lot of us already suspected: that those BF “deals” often aren’t as good as they’re made out to be.


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th1 150x150 Whose Christmas costs more? When it comes to paying off holiday debts, who finishes last? If you guessed “low-income shoppers,” you guessed wrong.

According to a study from the NerdWallet personal finance site, the middle class takes longer than anyone else to finish paying for its Christmas celebrations.

People who earn from $50k to $75k take an average of 2.6 months to finish paying for holiday expenses. Compare that to folks who earn $50k or less and take an average of two months.

“Those who spend more in an effort to ‘keep up’ end up paying the price later,” says Matthew Ong, senior retail analyst at NerdWallet.

“Middle-class households could end up in a risky position this holiday season if they have ample credit to make purchases but incomes too thin to comfortably pay the bills later.”


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