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.”

read more

th 13 Giveaway: $50 gift card, sponsored by Swagbucks.Fun fact: During the holiday season, the lowest price for toys is about 10 days before Christmas.

Funner fact: You can get a $50 head start on your toy-buying (or anything-else-buying) if you win this week’s giveaway.

The Swagbucks rewards site has offered to award one lucky reader his or her choice of a $50 e-gift card from the Rewards Store. It’s quite the lineup of cards for restaurants, electronics emporia, retaurants, entertainment and other categories (including my personal favorite, Amazon).

This giveaway is a little different: You must be a member of Swagbucks and earn at least 50 points between now and 7 p.m. PST Friday, Dec. 5. Instead of entering up to five different ways, leave one comment with your Swagbucks user name.

read more

th5 150x150 Are thieves targeting your new car?Probably not, according to Choosing a red car won’t mean higher insurance rates, either.

These are just two pervasive myths out there, according to the insurance-quote site. While new cars certainly do get stolen, professional thieves are much more likely to steal older models and part them out, and color is not considered when companies determine rates.

“I hope no one passed up the red Miata they really wanted because they thought the insurance would be more expensive,” says Amy Danise, editorial director of

read more

th How to spend less on Christmas 2014.Planning to do any Amazon shopping this holiday season? Have I got tips for you.

10 Amazon Shopping Tricks to Save You Tons of Money,” over on the page, actually features 10 categories, some of which have more than one tip involved. For example, did you know that Prime members get a half-hour head start on Lightning Deals?

That a tool called PriceJump will compare Amazon tags to those of 5,000 other online merchants? That Amazon-specific sites will do the best-price legwork for you? Or that if you haven’t spent quite enough to get free shipping a site like will find the 39-cent bolt or 79-cent cup hook that will push you over the $35 threshold?

read more

th1 150x150 Get free retirement info on Nov. 18.Just a heads-up to remind you about the Retiree Next Door Tweetcast that takes place tomorrow.

I’ll be one of the two dozen or so PF wonks involved in the hour-long event, which is being hosted by and certified financial planner Jeff Rose.

read more

th4 5 reasons procrastinators are screwed at Christmas.Every year we see some kind of commercial about last-minute holiday shopping. Often it’s the stereotypical dude rushing through the store on Dec. 24 (because apparently all men are clueless bumblers when it comes to the holidays).

Oh, you’re all out of Appropriate Gifts? I’m sure my wife/kids/parents will LOVE a set of car air fresheners or this mega-hot salsa collection!

No doubt these commercials sell lot of, well, whatever the sponsor is trying to sell.

We also see humorous essays about parents trying to get that season’s Must-Have Toy, or folks scrambling to track down the one thing that spouse/partner truly wanted. Usually the item is found on eBay or Craigslist at a vastly inflated price – but hey, it’s Christmas, right?

The stress, disappointment and overpayment are so preventable. All it takes is just a little bit of planning. Just a tiny bit. Those who don’t plan are likely to have their pockets picked every 25th of December — and they may lose out in other ways, too.

read more