The holiday season can be full of surprises: unexpected gifts and guests, chance encounters with old friends, and maybe even an important question with a sparkling ring attached. Not every holiday surprise is a good one and when it comes to spending, unanticipated fees and charges are especially unwelcome.
The chaos of the holiday season can leave anyone feeling unorganized and vulnerable to the unexpected. To avoid being unpleasantly surprised by your credit card bill come January, take heed of these 10 holiday shopping gotchas.
1. Store card discounts.
You may be tempted to take advantage of an extra 10-15% discount by opening a new store card. However, these cards have low credit limits and high interest rates, a combination that can prove dangerous to your credit score if not carefully managed. Ultimately, it’s best to avoid these cards unless you shop with the store frequently and can commit to paying off balances in full each month. Instead, stick to one credit card that provides cash back or miles and earn rewards faster.
2. Gift card restrictions.
Several doorbusters and Black Friday deals were accompanied by store gift cards, but these gift cards aren’t what they seem. They’re more like coupons, which means they can skirt the Card Act’s rules about certain restrictions and expiration dates. Instead of tucking these away for a rainy day, use them to offset the cost of gifts remaining on your holiday shopping list.
3. Refund limitations.
Getting a refund for an item you no longer want can get painful fast if you don’t know the store’s return policy. You may miss the return window since some stores have different return timeframes for specific products, namely electronics and contract cell phones. You may also get saddled with a merchandise credit instead of a refund, which will be a big disappointment if you don’t shop at the store often. In this case, you have the option of exchanging your gift card for cash using GiftCardGranny.com, or re-gifting it if youâre feeling especially generous!
4. Extended warranties.
Extended warranties are typically offered for electronics and appliance purchases and are often considered by cautious consumers who want to protect their investment. These warranties are also money makers for retailers who keep 50 percent or more of the cost for themselves. The manufacturer’s warranty is typically sufficient, plus most major credit cards offer extended coverage when you make the entire purchase on the card. For more information on these policies, consult Consumer Reports’ detailed guide.
5. Restocking fees.
Sure, you were thrilled about your new laptop purchase a couple weeks ago, but now you’re feeling buyer’s remorse or perhaps finding it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles you expected. Returning it may mean you receive less back than what you paid because of restocking fees, which are typically around 15 percent of the purchase price when it comes to electronics. To avoid restocking fees, read the fine print before you make your purchase. Otherwise, read the return policy and keep gadgets in their original packaging. Stores like Sears will waive restocking fees on unused consumer electronics if they’re returned in the original box and contain all the accessories and instructions.
6. Free shipping minimums.
Free shipping offers are everywhere this holiday season, but increasingly merchants are requiring minimum order thresholds of $50, $75 and even over $100 before you get free delivery. If you have to spend more to qualify for free shipping then it’s not free. Avoid adding more items to your online cart by holding off until the retailer promises free shipping on all orders. You can take advantage of such promotions on December 18th, this year’s Free Shipping Day, when hundreds of retailers waive minimum order requirements, offer extra discounts and guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve.
7. Return shipping charges.
Ordering online is quick and simple, but it could become costly if you don’t read return policies. Especially if you need to send something back, you may be facing a return shipping fee. Always review the company’s website for return policies and inquire if online order can be returned to a local brick and mortar store at no charge. You can also open a live chat with customer service to learn what your other options may be, or to request return shipping fees be waived. You’ll never know ’til you try!
8. “Buy more, save more” promotions.
The phrase “buy more, save more!” has likely flashed across your computer screen or greeted you at store entrances more than once this holiday season. Instead of offering 20-percent off your purchase, retailers have increasingly promoted tiered savings, like $10 off $50, $20 off $100 or $30 off $150 in an effort to boost purchase orders. Though $30 in savings seems like a better value than just $10, often the discount in each deal is the same. Don’t be tricked by this clever marketing strategy and enjoy whatever savings your budgeted spending gets you!
9. Surprise gifts.
After carefully planning your gift budget, nothing throws off your spending like an unexpected gift that you need to reciprocate. Factor this possibility into your budget now and have some inexpensive, ready-made gifts available for that moment. Holiday beverage or treat mixes, ceramic travel mugs or even an old fashioned plate of homemade cookies should do the trick.
10. Layaway cancellation.
Stores like Walmart and Toys ‘R Us had advertised free layaway programs this year by waiving start up fees. However, most stores still carry a $10 or $15 cancellation penalty, a detail often overlooked by shoppers mesmerized by program headlines. Before you open a layaway account, read the fine print and make sure you can make necessary payments in full before the end date to dodge the cancellation fine.
Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc., who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. For more information, visit AndreaWoroch.com or follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.
xDroid Takes The Fun Of Video Racing Games Into The Real World
Want something that brings the thrill of racing video games into the real world? It’s here and it is called xDroid. At last the best features of RC cars and racing video games come together. You can race, drift, jump, play with friends and even code your own games. And you get to control everything from your smartphone.
xDroid brings the best parts of video game racing to the real world. You can play demolition derby, capture the flag and much more. It uses three main elements to work its magic: The mobile gaming app, the xDroid car and the xPoint.
The xDroid is a 1:16 scale hobby-grade smartphone-controlled car, but if you already own an RC car, you can use your own by upgrading it with an xCore. The xPoints are basically small interactive checkpoints that you can position along the route. These will let you collect bonuses, earn scores, and get power-ups. The app has the games, acts as a controller and also a social platform.
I don’t know about you, but I have often dreamed of a Mario Kart type game that I could play in the real world with RC cars. xDroid makes it possible to play this and other video game type racing games.
I can see people really getting into this to the point where it becomes a real sport. The system seems like it has everything you need to play and create good games right out of the gate. You can check out the Kickstarter for more info. This is going to be fun.
Equipment and Supplies Necessary For A Hunting Trip
Hunters can not head out on a hunting trip without first gathering the necessary equipment and supplies. They won’t be able to take down the prey without having the means to do so, and they can’t keep themselves safe without the right gear. Bringing the right equipment and supplies out hunting will be the difference between a successful trip and an unsuccessful one.
Rifle or Bow
There is one main piece of equipment a hunter needs, and that is their weapon. It’s difficult to take an animal down without the proper weapon to do so. The season in which you’re hunting plays a major role in determining whether you should take a rifle or bow. A bow is often the preferred hunting method because it’s quieter and the arrows can be reused time and time again. Shops like James River Archery offer the latest technology in hunting equipment, including the Micro Hex Hunting Stabilizer.
Hunters are meant to wear something orange, typically a hat or vest, in an effort to protect themselves. They may want to stay camouflaged and hidden from whatever animals they’re hunting, but they need to let other hunters in the area know they’re there as well. Seeing a bright orange color from a distance will let others know not to shoot in that direction. It’s a simple safety precaution that must be taken by every hunter.
Warm, Yet Protective Clothes and Boots
Hunting gear includes clothing and shoes. A hunter’s outfit must keep them warm no matter what temperature they’re in, especially since many tend to head out in the early morning hours when it’s still chilly. The outfit should also help protect the hunter, providing extra layers to keep the weather and insects and critters, from doing any harm. Both an inner and outer layer should be worn along with weatherproof and all-terrain boots that are comfortable for long treks through the wood.
Animals can often smell humans in the area without needing to see them. If they can tell that a person is nearby they’re more likely to wander off in the opposite direction. Using a scent-blocker on the clothing worn can help keep a person’s scent at bay so no prey knows they’re nearby. A more attractive scent can be used to attract the animal, such as doe urine to bring more bucks to the area thinking a female is near. Hunters will use different foods and scents depending on the type of animal they’re hunting. While deer enjoy eating corn and peas, rabbits will come to an apple cider scent or apples.
No one should ever head out hunting without first obtaining the proper license. There are only a certain number of game a person can tag and bring in to have processed and used for meat. People can face serious fines if found hunting without a license, so it’s better to start off each season with an updated version. Hunting and fishing licenses can often be obtained online or from a store that sells hunting gear. Hunting big game requires people to apply and be selected before they can continue.
The right equipment and supplies need to be worn and brought along on a hunting excursion. Without them, the venture would not be successful. Certain rules and requirements have been made for hunting for a reason, so all hunters will be safe and protected while they’re out in the wilderness.
From Smoke To Vapor: Is It For You?
Over the past few years, vaping has become incredibly popular. It’s proven to be a very strong competitor to traditional smoking, leading lots of people to ditch cigarettes in favor of vaping.
People are making that choice for several reasons. If you’re thinking about making the switch yourself, you may find it a little strange to think that you can just drop cigarettes in favor of vaping, and certainly the transition will take some adjusting. But in time, you may find that the advantages of changing will be easy to see, and they’ll give you plenty of reason to stay with vaping.
You Can Choose Your Product
Generally speaking, a cigarette is a cigarette. The flavor is the same, the nicotine content is the same, and even the appearance does not vary dramatically from brand to brand. About the only distinction is the carton, which spends most of its time in your pocket or purse anyway.
With vaping, you can mix things up a little bit. You can find vape and ejuice deals that will let you try any of a number of different flavors and levels of nicotine, all without spending hours digging through stores. They can range from the tame to the extreme, and if you don’t like them, you can change them.
Your vaporizer itself also reflects your personality. Because vapers use the same device for months or even years, they work hard to avoid designs that cramp their style and push them back to cigarettes.
It’s Smoking Without The Smoke
Clearly, vaping is not nearly as intrusive as smoking. The vapor does not carry the distinctive odor of cigarette smoke, making it far less unpleasant to those around you. The vapor doesn’t discolor clothing or leave your vehicle permeated with an almost-indestructible odor.
Vaping is based on water vapor instead of acrid smoke. It isn’t intrusive to those around you; it doesn’t burn their eyes or leave them coughing and sneezing anytime you’re around. And it’s short-lived, dissipating quickly into the air around you while still giving you that smoking look.
Vaping Is Safer & Cleaner
A fundamental component of a cigarette is the combustion. A tiny but incredibly hot area of tobacco converting to ash dangles delicately at the very end of the cigarette, ready to fall loose or to be dropped with the entire cigarette. Over the years, there have been countless cases of injuries and deaths from these small points of ignition, along with equally innumerable cases of damaged clothing, furniture, carpet, and other valuables that were on the receiving end of a dropped or falling cigarette.
Cigarette smoke also discolors your teeth, your clothing, your paint–you name it. It also leaves behind messy cigarette butts that clog storm sewers, fill trash cans, and create a fire hazard both in buildings and in the outdoors.
There is a lot of appeal to nicotine. Smokers enjoy the feeling they get from nicotine, but smoking has always been problematic in terms of its risks as a fire hazard as well as the unpopular and unpleasant impacts of the smoker on those around them who are not smoking.
Vaping eliminates both the fire danger and the troublesome smoke, allowing the vaper to enjoy nicotine without creating such an imposition on those around them. These benefits are the driving force between the growing popularity of vaping, and they suggest the trend will continue.