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This Week In Your Wallet: Deal Magic

Jean Chatzky  |  November 20, 2018

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving! I hit the mall this weekend and found it more crowded than I've seen it in months. The reason became clear in the very first store.

Retailers have launched their holiday sales well before the holiday. I actually wasn’t there to do holiday damage, rather to get a birthday gift for a friend and a pair of snow boots for my daughter (on which we scored 30 percent off at Cole Haan, plus an extra 10 percent for giving them an email address).

If you’re looking to make the most of Black Friday and the days that follow, our friend Edgar Dworsky at Consumer World pulled together his list of Top 10 Tips that include a reminder that not all Black Friday deals are actually steals. Use a price checker, he suggests, like the one at Consumer World or camelcamelcamel.com to separate the good from the bad. He, too, points out that getting a jump on holiday shopping can pay off. The good news: You’ll have more time this year than last. Why? Experts say you no longer have to brine the turkey.

Just Say No

If you do hit the stores over the next couple of days — or weeks — one thing you should say no to are the offers for store credit cards. According to a new survey from credit cards.com, about half of all Americans have impulsively acquiesced when offered a discount in exchange for adding another piece of plastic to their wallets. Here are two good reasons to say nay: The interest rates on these cards are absurdly high — they’re in the mid-20 percent range on average. (Just to put that in perspective, carrying a $2,000 balance will cost you $500 over the course of a year.) And, the act of signing up can ding your credit score as much as 10 points, which (if it moves you from, say, a good credit tier to a fair credit tier) could translate to hundreds or thousands of dollars in interest on loans that you really care about, like a mortgage or auto loan.

On the other hand, here’s a new financial services provider that we’ve got our eye on: Zero Financial. (Although, as the New York Times’ Ron Lieber notes, while there are good reasons to get excited by this offering, there are just as many to remain, in his words, “intensely skeptical.”) Here’s the deal: Zero proposes to be a one-stop shop for your banking needs. It combines a checking account (Zero Checking) and a credit card (Zerocard) that acts like a cash-back debit card. The service cuts you off if you don’t have enough money to make a purchase, meaning no overdrafts and no going into debt. And there’s a cash back rewards program. (Zero is making money on transactions, in case you’re wondering.) Folks who spend $100,000 or more a year get 3 percent back on everything, at $50,000 you get 2 percent back, at $25,000 1.5 percent and below that 1 percent. Should you make the switch? Lieber says for now he’s taking a wait-and-see approach. We’re with him on that.

Magic And Manners

The magic of the holidays seems to be kept alive by two things: the spirit of giving, and children. Their excitement around this time of year is contagious and it puts pressure on parents to not disappoint. But it’s important that your child understands that they aren’t going to get everything they want this holiday season, nor will they be in love with every gift they get. For tips on how to manage their manners and expectations this holiday season, keep reading here.


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