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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th2 150x147 The most wanted Christmas gift? Cash.Shocking, huh? Filthy lucre was the favorite holiday gift among those surveyed by the Ebates cash-back shopping site

At 39 percent of the vote, it blew away a few categories that surprised me: tablets (15 percent), smartphones (12 percent), tickets to an event/destination (10 percent), televisions (7 percent).

Maybe the majority of respondents don’t have relatives wealthy enough to pony up enough for a new e-gift or a weekend in the Bahamas. Still, they seemed hopeful that somebody would send a few dollars their way.

Or maybe they’re having trouble making it in the current economy (recovery? what recovery?) and even a $50 bill in a Christmas card would give them a little breathing room.


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th7 Need a job? Go west, or at least midwest. Got a recently graduated kid parked in his old room because jobs aren’t available? Maybe he needs to expand his horizons.

Specifically, your kid might consider living and working in North Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota or Wyoming. Those are the top five of the “Best states for young people,” according to a new study from MoneyRates.com.

The Dakotas? Iowa? Maybe they’re not as sexy as New York or L.A., but they’re hiring.


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The frugal state fair.

th7 The frugal state fair.The county or state fair is one of the biggest money pits in the world. These places exist to part you from your cash, whether it’s for food or rides (or both).

A partial solution: Be a judge at the chili cook-off. I promise you won’t want to eat another bite for the rest of the day, or possibly until the next afternoon.

It’s not that the chili and salsas were bad. Quite the opposite: All were good and most were excellent. But after you’ve had 70 or 80 spoons’ worth, with bites of tortillas and sips of water in between, you simply can’t face any other comestibles.

You might also be averse to any carnival rides that move faster than the average baby can crawl. At the end of the day I did manage one ride, the “1,000 Nights” – a large platform that rotates clockwise, very high and very fast. By the time the first full rotation had ended, I was second-guessing that decision out loud.


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s0660153 sc7 300x300 Want a $50 Staples card?I must have been one of the nerdiest kids in Cumberland County, NJ, because I looked forward to the first day of school.

The first hint was the mid-August appearance of school supplies at Woolworth’s, Mr. Big, Diskay and other stores in the small city closest to our rural township. While the other kids shrieked and grabbed their throats in despair, I secretly  loved the sight of all that notebook paper waiting to be filled with words.

Back when the Earth was still cooling, “school supplies” mostly meant a blue three-ring binder (but only if last year’s was completely kaput), yellow No. 2 pencils (no pens until at least fifth grade), wide-ruled paper and maybe, if you were lucky, a big pink eraser. We made bookcovers out of brown grocery bags. Only the teacher had crayons and Magic Markers.

If eight-year-old me had seen the box of school supplies Staples shipped last week, the sensory overload might have put me in the emergency room.

A composition book with a leaf-and-ladybug design in pale pink and orange. Refillable mechanical pencils made just for small children, i.e., with “break-resistant” lead. Two-pocket folders with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle motifs. A clipboard with an oh-so-cuuute of a beagle puppy. th5 150x150 Want a $50 Staples card?

Three-by-five-inch lined journals in bright florals and random, boldly colored patterns. Erasers that look like lipsticks, complete to the plastic top — and in patterns that match the journals. Pencils in patterns that match both the erasers and the journals, and a Spongebob Squarepants pencil sharpener to ready them for writing.

Want some of this for yourself? Or anything else Staples sells? Enter this week’s giveaway.


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