Getting an education in this day and age is more expensive than it has ever been, and the increases are not just restricted to Canada and the United States, it’s a global phenomenon. Students in the Britain have just been dealt a devastating financial blow, in that the government has just increased the price of tuition twofold. Prospective British students are now wondering if getting a post-secondary education is even an option for them. American students face a similar fate and pay some of the highest tuition fees in the world. Canadian universities are teeming with American students because even with the exorbitant out-of-country fees that students pay, they are still receiving significant savings than if they were to try and go to a state school at home. So while students are bouncing around the globe, trying to get the most bang for their financial buck, their debt is increasing rapidly.
Here in Canada, the average post-secondary school student has a debt load of $28,000, and what it is so troubling about that is that this amount is only representative of their bachelor’s degree. Because of the bleak employment environment, students are forced to return to school to pursue Master’s degrees to ensure that they have the qualifications necessary to go after the careers they want. The current cumulative amount owed to the Canadian government is hovering around $15 billion and the amount is significantly higher on the provincial level. Students will often seek financial in the form of private loans such as bank loans and credit cards. Just to put this into context, the loans that are owed to the Canadian federal government increase each day by approximately $1 million per day! It doesn’t take a Wall Street economist to know that those numbers simply aren’t sustainable.
Though it is estimated that Canadian tuition has increases almost three and a half times in the last twenty-five years, it isn’t just tuition hikes that that are causing students to go deep into debt. The cost of living has also increases significantly, and the minimum wage in most parts of the country have no kept up. In British Columbia where the cost of living is the highest, the minimum wage was the second lowest in the country up until a year and a half ago. With rent averages being somewhere in the range of $1000 per month, it’s near impossible for a college student to put themselves through school as well as afford to pay their bills.
What also must be taken into consideration is the fact that most students who make the decision to pursue a post-secondary education are not financially sound in the first place. Families struggle now more than ever to maintain their own households, let alone taking on the financial weight of a college student. This unfortunate fact is prohibitive enough that many high school students opt to enter the work force immediately rather than go to school. While they may gain some financial experience in doing so, they end up plateauing early in their careers because they don’t have the credentials to move up in the workplace.
When students do manage to get through university, the debt on the other end is crippling. Student loan payments are often high, and it can take on average, ten years to pay off their debt load. There is little incentive for a student to finish school when they have to spend the first ten years of their new careers slaving away to pay off their student loan debt. This has a trickle down effect on the rest of the economic picture. Students who are forced to spend most of their money on debt are not able to put their money elsewhere in the economy like the housing market and consumer goods. This is of course good news for the credit card companies who make their millions off of consumers who can’t afford to pay their credit card bills, however, it’s horrendous news for the Canadian economy.
It’s the summer, and despite the fact that the weather is probably fabulous where you’re living, it’s hard not to resist taking off when so many parts of the world are having their best weather also! I’m actually taking off myself in a couple of weeks to Europe and I’ll be gone for the entire month of August. It’s not exactly the smartest time of year to go because the London Olympics are on, but a dear friend of mine is getting married and duty calls. Now we all know that vacations aren’t cheap, and when you live on the equivalent of an administrative assistants salary, like myself, you have to be very careful with your pennies. I spend the better part of the year saving up for all of my vacations (yes when I say all, I really do mean all, I try and take several in a year!). But I also like coming home with a little bit of money in my pocket so I don’t feel totally destitute when I’m away, so I’m always looking for ways that I can save while I’m actually on vacation. Everyone has their own ways, but I’ve got a few up my sleeve that have served me pretty well in the past.
I always create a budget for when I’m away! Always, always, ALWAYS! Most people just like to throw caution to the wind, toss it all on the credit card, and then pay it off later. I don’t exactly have that luxury, so I always map out the absolute top of what I can spend and then I give myself a healthy little buffer so if I do happen to go over, it’s not going to put me in the poorhouse. While I’m putting my budget together, I’m also making a list of all of my expenditures. This year, most of my traveling is going to be done in cities, and I know some of the sites that I want to see, and what they will cost me. I’ve also thoroughly researched what it will cost to eat and how much I want to spend on buying trinkets for myself and friends, so I won’t be in the dark when I get there and start seeing the prices of things.
When it comes to spending, I almost always use a credit card that I have preloaded. This is not to be confused with a pre-paid credit card, that’s a little different. I will actually put a large chunk of money on credit card (so my card will be at a surplus) and as I spend on it, it will already be paid off, until it comes back down to zero, at which point, I won’t spend any more! I avoid carrying cash around as much as possible. I realize that it restricts you from spending, however, the risk of losing it, or having it stolen, is far too high for me to be carrying around large wads of it.
Creating a meal plan is one of the best ways to steer away from runaway costs. Eating can be really expensive, so if you cap yourself at either a certain amount per meal, or better yet, per day, you won’t be worrying about crazy food costs. Another way to circumnavigate food costs is of course to buy your breakfasts and snacks from local grocery stores, rather than eating out. All of these are great ways to keep money from flying out of your hands while on vacation!
It seems like every time I open up some sort of financial publication, whether it’s Forbes, or the Economist, everyone is talking about the same thing over and over again; The debt crisis. And while economists and financiers are spinning complicated explanations for the current economic climate, at the end of the day, it all seems to boil down to the same thing, people seem to completely lack self-control when it comes to their spending. When I think back to my childhood, I have vivid memories of my two working parents arguing about money (or the lack of it). It was often because someone had gone out and spent a bunch of money that the family just didn’t have, and the credit cards were taking the brunt of bad spending habits. I didn’t have the best example, and even I struggled with my credit card demons in my early twenties. But luckily, I’ve since wised up, and realized that I couldn’t expect anyone to take care of me financially so I needed to get a grip before I ended up way over my head.
What is worrisome is that the generations that are coming up through this debt crisis don’t seem to be picking up on all of the mistakes their parents have made. They are the ‘me’ generation, and if they want something, they’re not willing to sacrifice to get it. It’s all about instant gratification, and they don’t seem to be taking any responsibility for their financial irresponsibility. Finance is something that should be discussed at home when children are very young. It can start with something as simple as teaching them how to manage their allowance, ensuring that they don’t spend everything they earn, and showing them the importance of saving. Unfortunately, many kids and young adults aren’t getting those lessons at home, and because finance isn’t something that is taught on a mandatory basis in schools, once high school seniors go off to college, they spend to their hearts content with little or no regard for what down the road looks like financially. So here are a few hard lessons that I’ve taken with me throughout my adulthood that have helped me to put a lid on my financial woes.
1) Get some self control
This sounds like a simple, flippant way of telling someone to just get a grip, but in all seriousness, you are your worst enemy when it comes to financial irresponsibility! You can’t have everything you want, you’re not four years old anymore, so you have to be realistic about spending. If you’re putting your bills on the back burner even once to make some luxury purchase like new clothes or a vacation, you’re making a massive mistake. Throwing that vacation on a credit card doesn’t mean that you deserve it! Work and earn it, everyone else in the world has to!
2) Grab hold of your financial future
Look, no one is going to take care of you in your old age, so unless you want to be working until you’re 95 years old, you have to start squirreling money away to ensure that you don’t have to live like a pauper. Some people take their financial plans to an institution, but I sort of feel like financial planners are more interested in expanding their portfolio, rather than helping you diversify yours. Don’t be afraid to do some homework, in fact, I encourage it. It’s your money, and you should be the one deciding what to do with it.
These are just two tips that I’ve lived by for the last five years and they’ve served me well. Don’t let your spending get away from you, take control and invest in your own future!
I’ve had my own car for the last eleven years, and because I live in a city where the transit system is less than stellar on its best days, having my own wheels is essential for me to get around. It saves me on time, and because it shortens my commute, it also saves me money, but I’ve noticed an increasing number of car share programs, and it’s peaked my interest.
I ran into my neighbours in the hallway one afternoon, each with an armful of shopping bags, a futon and some boxes. I knew that they didn’t have a car because I’d given them rides in the past, so I asked them how on earth they managed all this on their bicycles! They told me they were avid users of a program called Zipcar.
I’d seen Zipcar around town almost every day, marked by the unmistakable bright green sticker emblazoned on the side of every car. Whoever does the marketing for this company knows what they’re doing, because everyone knows who they are, which means if you have any reservations about the authenticity of the business, they are 100% legit, and probably the best in the biz.
So how does it work? Well, it’s very simple. You go to Zipcar.com, there are several plans to choose from to provide the ultimate in flexibility. There’s a casual annual option, where for a low fee, and a low hourly rate, you can use a car on a casual basis. This option is perfect for students who use a car to run errands every now and then. Or maybe you’re a busy Project Coordinator, who’s constantly on the go, and if so, there’s a plan that offers a reasonable monthly rate. All plans included fuel, 200 free kilometers and insurance in one neat little package. Hourly rates run from $8.75 to $7.44, and at such a fantastic rate, buying a car would be futile for any college student! My car costs me about $300 a month to run if I calculate in car insurance, gas and any repairs it might need. If you were simply using Zipcar to run the odd errand, owning a car is something that you would never have to worry about!
The world economy is much like a living being and like all life the economy evolves and business models evolve with it. Plainly speaking, if you are still running a three stool hot dog stand in downtown Atlanta after 20 years and have not been able to add a forth stool, there are many things that you are doing wrong. One of the worst thing you can do is to think that the strategies and tactics that you used 20 years ago will still work today. The rapid global spread of the Internet and new digital technologies has literally cleared the playing field and allowed even the smallest entrepreneur can be widely successful in just a few years. The “dot.com” bubble of the 1990´s gave us the first hints of what was to come and the development of Web 2.0 Marketing gave new business a great number of new tools that can be used to smooth your path while you are navigating this new business model.
There are so many ways to make money on the Internet that it would take several volumes to describe them all. The fact is that anyone with a computer and Internet connection should never be unemployed. If you are intelligent enough to cut and paste or type there are jobs available on such websites as Odesk.com and GetaFreelancer.com. These sites do not charge a sign up and offer a great number of resources to help you improve your portfolio. If you like either working for large companies on a contract basis or being totally independent, these are great places to start. Many professionals began as writers or web designers and now own SEO or Web Development companies with dozens of employees. If you are an entrepreneur you can open a merchant site and sell products targeted to a specific demographic. If you are not an SEO/Web Development/Information Tech expert you will need to pay professionals to design and promote your website, driving traffic to you. Many people begin as eBay merchants, allowing their resources to grow with little money out of pocket. Using companies in Asia to find low priced products is an excellent way to save money.
Finally there is multilevel marketing. There are a great number of variants of this technique but the best combines using a merchant website, a digital store front, to sell marketing programs. These systems are usually set up in the “pyramid” style, allowing members to share in the profits of everyone that they recruit. The problem with this tactic is that the way that it is sold seems to indicate that anyone can sit on their sofa at home and become a millionaire in just a few months, with little work. These programs, in many cases, actually do work but they also require a significant amount of work from the user. People do not automatically visit websites and like any business you will get out of it only what you put into it. There are many people who have made millions doing this but the first couple of years saw them working 18-20 hour days to build their network.
We are going in a different direction. Our new format will deal with businesses at all levels. We will present news and commentary from both the business world and the political world as it relates to the business community.
The last several years in the business world has been somewhat like the old Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times”. American business owners had enjoyed rapid growth during the Clinton Administration and even a few years after. Decisions made in Washington however soon caught up with the economy and several bubbles burst at the same time. The interesting thing about this is that the United States has seen this exact same thing happen many times. The Internet bubble was an excellent example of this phenomenon, both in what can happen and the fact that we learn little when it does. We can trace these fluctuations back nearly a century, to the Great Depression, and they will continue to happen. The trick is, if you want to be really successful in business, to understand these fluctuations and use them to your advantage. Most accounting careers teach this basic principle during the first year of study. Ride the bottom of the wave all the way to near the crest and then bail out.
The economy is on the rebound, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and if the current policies remain in effect the economy could be back to pre-2000 levels or even slightly better. The problem for many businesses, especially small businesses is that the costs of investment increase in direct proportion to the rise in economic indicators. Most people think that the best way to keep pace is to watch business news and to follow the crowd when new trends start to appear. The problem is however that the more people that do this, the higher the likelihood that an artificial bubble will be created and artificial bubbles always collapse, leaving investors sad and broke. Following these trends can make an entrepreneur great gobs of money in a short period of time but only if they are smart and disciplined enough to know when to get out.
There is one thing we can learn from bubbles that can earn a great deal of money. The fact that the Internet bubble burst did not mean that the internet was dead or that investing in Internet sites would never be profitable. Anyone smart enough to hold their money until after the bubble burst and then began building Internet businesses would have been very wealthy by now. The same applies to the housing bubble. Buying new homes three years ago would have enabled you to buy at the lowest price in years with the absolute guarantee that the value of your investment will increase within a decade at most. None of these “bubbles” destroy the industries involved. They force a restructuring and the value of investments in the industry will drop significantly. It is during this restructuring phase that is the best time to start a business.
This blog will have a number of different approaches to being successful in business. It will also have a great deal of political commentary dealing with the relationship between government and the business community. Understanding political dynamics is vital to being successful in business simply because everything that Congress and State Legislatures and Assemblies do affects businesses bottom lines in one way or another. The current national debate about both heath care and taxes are excellent examples of how deeply politics affects the business community. We encourage readers of both the Progressive and Conservative movements to take part in this blog. The commentary will be written from a Progressive/Liberal perspective but if any reader disagrees with either our facts or our conclusions, we encourage you to start a debate on the issues.
When the weather starts to turn warm, most of us think about shopping for spring and summer fashions. But the real deals are on other items that traditionally go on sale and are deep discounted in the month of March.
For your refrigerator and pantry, frozen food and strawberries are good deals. Strawberries come into peak season in Florida, Mexico and California and will be discounted about 25% from the off-season when the berries are harder to find. Tropical fruit like mangos, which can cost as much as $3 a piece, can be found this month for $1.50 to $2 each. If you’ve never tried a mango, use it wherever you would use peaches – on ice cream, in smoothies, or just for snacking. Veggie lovers will enjoy deals this month on asparagus and artichokes. Prices will drop about 30% in March.
March is National Frozen Food Month. While you might not find any greeting cards celebrating this, your store’s freezer aisle will feature 2 for 1 deals, larger sizes and bulk buys.
If you have a green thumb, house plants like African Violets and primroses are on sale for 10%-15% off in March. Plants will tend to be larger as well. If you like your flowers in a vase, cut tulips and daffodils are good buys as well.
To help get ready for Spring Vacation, you can get great deals on luggage in March. You can also pick up summer shoes at 15% – 20% off. And as New Year’s resolutions start to wane, health clubs will start running specials to get you bikini-ready. Wellness Week is March 19-25, so you may find all kinds of specials on spa services, massages, fitness classes and other pampering treatments. If you’re a picture-taker, digital cameras are on sale now as well, along with televisions. These make great gifts for Father’s Day and graduations coming up in Mary and June.
There are some deals out there for college students this Valentine’s Day. Get a tgreat for your sweetie, and save yourself some cash too!
Ahhh… flowers, the classic gift. Have them delivered by 1-800-Flowers. Use the discount code Studentrate15 to save 15% now through the end of February. Click here.
Save on anything you can imagine by signing up for Amazon StudentThis new program for students gives you Amazon Prime shipping benefits. The membership is usually $79 a year, but this deal gives it to you for just $39/year after a FREE six-month trial. Benefits include unlimited free two-day shipping with no minimum order size. You can also upgrade to one-day shipping for $3.99 per item. To sign up here all you have to do is provide the name of your school and major.
Perfumania is offering students Valentine’s discounts on fragrances.
You can get 20% off sitewide plus free shipping with no minimum using discount code VDAY14. Discount code BLM15 gets you 15% off all orders and free shipping.
If you’re looking for something sparkly for your valentine, MyJewelryBox.com has a deal for 20% off plus Free shipping for orders over $150. Use the discount code Studentrate20.
StudentRate is giving away an iPad2. To enter, join StudentRate (it’s free) and then become a fan of the StudentRate Facebook page. The drawing for the iPad takes place when they reach 30,000 fans, so pass this onto your friends too.
You can’t put a price on love – but you can spend your money wisely when it comes to gifts for your Valentine. If you’re on a college student budget, here are some ideas to say I love you without breaking the bank.
Bottled Up – Decorate an empty jar (peanut butter, pickle, etc.). You can use permanent markers, paint or glue on a label or stickers. Cut out a number of small paper hearts (25, 50, 100… whatever you can think of) and write one reason you love your bf/gf on each heart.
Up in the Air – Using the same idea, write notes with reasons you love your significant other, or favorite memories together and put them inside balloons that you gather up into a bouquet or hide throughout the room. Put a needle in a Valentine card.
Timeline of Love – If you have been together for awhile, gather pictures of the two of you and put them in a frame in chronological order.
Love Songs – Burn a CD with “your songs.”
Dining In – Make a special dinner more special by making up a dinner menu to put on your bf/gf’s plate. Give each dish a loving name like “Meatloaf of Love” and “Loving Spoonfuls of Chocolate Mousse.” Name your restaurant on the top of the menu with your names, “Bob and Sue’s Café Amour.”
Steamy Love – Write a love note on his or her bathroom mirror with a bar of soap. Or steal his or her phone and download “your song” as a new ringtone. Then call her and surprise her. Free.
Covered in Love – Make homemade chocolate-covered strawberries: 1) Melt a package of chocolate chips in a double boiler and add a half teaspoon of vegetable oil, or very slowly melt chocolate in the microwave. 2) Remove chocolate from heat and quickly dip the strawberries into the chocolate; 3) Place on wax paper and refrigerate for several hours until chocolate is firm.
Flowers on the Cheap – Grocery store florists are usually half the price of traditional florists. You can save even more if you order two weeks or more in advance and pay up front.
Sweet Dreams – Decorate a pillow case, or a set of them with fabric paint.
Love by the Case – Dollardays.com, an online wholesaler, has some great inexpensive Valentines gifts. You may not need a case of 144 balloons (unless you want something for a classroom of kids), but some of their items like coffee mugs come in 1-3 pieces per case.
Surprisingly, teachers pay for much of the supplies and extras they use in the classroom. If you are a student, you can start now to collect items that you can use when you land that first teaching job.
To help stretch dollars, here are some discounts to help:
Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts, has a Teacher Rewards Discount Card that entitles teachers 15% off every purchase. It can be used in stores and online
The Barnes & Noble Educator Program gives teachers 20% off the publisher’s list price on all purchases for classroom use. On special Educator Appreciation Days, they offer 25% off. Sign up to get notices and for email offers on their website.
Discount School Supply carries everything a teacher needs in a classroom at some of the lowest prices. You can sign up for weekly emails with special offers that are not advertised.
Teacher eBooks offers a Deal of the Day on downloadable books. Since all materials download instantly adter payment, you don’t pay for shipping either.
Recycling. Repurposing. Upcycling. Whatever you call it, finding new uses for old stuff is good for the environment and your budget. If you are a student, there are a number of ways you can get in on the “use it again” movement.
Books, books and more books. Some online schools have begun using print-on-demand or online materials that you can read with an eReader, but chances are you will still have stacks of books by the end of your college career. You may want to keep some that you can use as reference when you are employed in your field. For the others, you have several options. You can sell them back to the bookstore where you bought them, to a local bookstore or online. If your books are no longer being used, you can donate them to libraries. For personal reading, you can swap with other budget-conscious readers on BookCrossing, BookMooch or PaperBackSwap. And then there are some other creative ways to use old books. You can gut a book and use the cover to protect your eReader. Hollow the pages out and use it to hide valuables or keys. You can stack books up and glue them together to make a coffee table or bookshelf.
Bricks and boards. Use leftover construction materials or items from a demolition to make furniture. A door makes a great desktop. Stack bricks up on either side to support it. Or use storage crates or boxes as the supports.
Message board. Use an old mattress springs set as a oversize message center.
Magnets. If you have a box of old jewelry or buttons, you can make pretty magnets to use on the board, your fridge or other metal surface. Buy sheets of magnet material at a craft or office supply store and glue bits and pieces to make magnet art.
Cord organizer. If you have a jumble of cords behind your desk, you can use a paper towel nor toilet paper roll to keep them tangle-free and hidden. You can also slice them into different widths to use as drawer organizers.
T-shirt quilt. Old t-shirts with logos or graphics can be sewn together to make a blanket or quilt. You can do it yourself or find services that will do it for you.
Book covers. Use old road maps (that you don’t need now that we have MapQuest and GPS) to keep your books in good shape so you can resell them.
Notepads. Use the magnets that businesses give away to make a magnetic notepad for your desk or fridge. Attach a sticky note pad. You can also cut magnets up – glue a piece to a clothespin and use it to hold notes.
Shelves. You can make a shelf from an old ladder. If it’s an extension ladder, mount it horizontally on the wall. A step ladder makes a fun vertical shelf – actually two – when you separate it into half.
Pencil Holder. Find a vintage straw dispense – the vertical ones – and use it to hold pens and pencils.
You may have heard of January “White Sales” which refers to traditionally lower prices on sheets and towels at this time each year. But there are a lot more things on sale as well as retailers clear out their inventory before the tax accountants go to work. Winter clothes, especially outerwear is on sale from 40% to 70%, along with winter sleepwear, pajamas and slippers, to make way for spring fashion. The electronics sales from the holiday are being continued into January, with 25% to 35% price reductions on televisions, especially big-screen sets, and digital cameras.
Skin care products and cosmetics are also on sale this time of year. You will also find leftover gift with purchase deals from the holidays, and some retailers are offering larger size products for the price of smaller ones. January is usually the only time makeup is discounted, so stock up now.
Citrus fruits including grapefruit and oranges reach their peak in January. Any stock leftover from Christmas sales will be offered at half price. Blueberries are in prime season in South America in January, so expect to find them on sale as well.
Here are your student deals for the week of January 9. 2012
Like StudentRate on Facebook and enter to win an iPad2. Winner will be picked when the page gets 30,000 fans, so get your friends involved too.
If you’re into surfing, get 10% off your surf gear and surfing lifestyle order from Swell. with this deal. Shop at Swell.com for your surf gear and surfing lifestyle! Enter the code SRSW10at checkout.
Take 25% off your first fashion purchase on Shop344.com. Enter code 344WELCOME at checkout.
Fish and chips, West End plays and more world-class museums than you would possibly make time for in just one visit; London is more than just the royals. Arrive in the morning and get started right away. Flights from $761. Book Now.
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On the heels of a college acceptance letter, another piece of mail is likely to arrive in your mailbox – an offer to open a credit card account. Away from the watchful eye of parents, and usually short on cash, college students have been targeted by credit card companies as easy marks.
The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, introduced in 2009, has helped lessen the assault on naïve freshman who have not had previous credit card responsibility, and may not know what to expect. The law requires colleges to educate students about managing credit cards and debt. IT also limits what banks may do to market cards to anyone age 18 to 21. It also has specific restrictions for marketing credit cards to college students. Prior to the Credit Card Act, it was very easy for a student to get a credit card without any credit history or ability to make payments. The new law requires applicants to show proof of employment or other ways that they can pay off their debts before they can open an account. Students can still get credit cards, but they will need a co-signer if they are under 21 years old.
Credit card companies had been notorious for setting up shop in student centers, enticing students with gifts and freebies and putting on a hard sell to get them to apply for cards as soon as they enter college. Now, students cannot be required to fill out applications on the spot in order to get the freebies that are offered.
Of course, some students may be responsible enough to use credit cards. Many student discount programs are tied to the use of credit or debit cards. If you do decide to open a credit card account, there are several things you should keep in mind.
1) Credit card debt and late payments can affect your ability to make major purchases (such as cars and homes) far into the future. Employers and landlords may conduct credit checks that help determine your eligibility.
2) Late payments can trigger a hike in the interest rate your credit card charges. Credit card companies run routine credit checks, so even if your payments to ABC Co. have been on time, late payments to XYZ Co. may raise your rate across the board. These are called default penalties.
3) Low interest rates that entice you to apply usually disappear after a period of time. The card you signed up for with no annual fee and 0% interest can begin charging you prime rate and a fee in as little as 30 days.
4) Some credit card companies charge inactivity fees if you don’t use your card for a certain period of time.
5) Late fees can be anywhere from 10% of the missed payment to a flat rate of $50. And if you go over your credit limit, you may be charged another over-limit fee.
The best advice before you open a credit card account is to read the fine print. Know what your are getting and be honest with yourself about whether you can truly afford the convenience of carrying a card, and the debt that goes with it.
It’s gift giving time. That means it’s also gift returning time! Any retail accountant will tell you, returns have cost stores about $17 billion last year in receiving, assessing, repairing, reboxing, restocking and reselling returned products. And it’s predicted to be ever higher this year. That’s why retailers may have strict return policies and restrictions. According to Consumer Reports, the most returned gifts are clothing at 70%, toys at 16% and consumer electronics at 14%. So the best advice about returns is to avoid giving these items unless you know exactly what the recipient wants. If you are on the receiving end of something you really can’t use and don’t want, here are some guidelines to help you get through the return line.
Don’t Open That Box
If you know an item is something you don’t want, don’t open the package. Retailers are more likely to take an item back if it still looks brand new and untouched. Some stores may charge a restocking fee or consider the item damaged if the box has been torn open.
Try It On First
Even if you think a piece of clothing will fit, don’t take the tag off until you try it on. And make sure that when you do, you are in front of a mirror and are wearing clothes that are appropriate. For example, don’t try on a coat with a t-shirt underneath if you know you will be wearing it to ski with layers of sweaters and scarves.
Know the Policy
Every store sets its own return policy. It’s a good idea to review it before you stand in line at the returns counter. Many retailers such as Barnes and Noble have return policies online. They may also be printed on the receipt. If nothing else, take a moment to read the poster or sign at the front of the return line.
Take a Trade
If you don’t have a receipt, you may have trouble getting a refund. If the item went on sale after it was purchased, you will almost always be reimbursed the lower price. If you can’t get money for your item, ask if you can get store credit or make an even exchange.
Watch for Deadlines
Again, every retailer is different. Many have a deadline for how long after a purchase they will accept a return or exchange. While you may not want to stand in line the day after Christmas, you probably want to return that unwanted item before the new year.
If you haven’t done your Christmas shopping yet, this is the weekend. It’s also the weekend for ordering online. While there are no online classes for smart holiday shopping, you can do some studying on your own.
If you’re shopping Amazon.com, take note of the shipping information on each item. You can also look on the site’s Shipping Page for guidelines on Christmas shopping and cutoff dates for ordering. Although the site says that Monday, December 19 is the last date to order items and get them by Christmas for standard rates, be sure to look at each item you are ordering. Many vendors have additional restrictions that will hold up your package.
For the truly last-minute shopper, Amazon offers a gift-giving alternative that allows you to wait until Christmas Day to send your gift using their new feature that allows you to buy an item that will be delivered later, with an email that will go to the recipient’s mailbox immediately. You can also print a gift card right from your computer to present on Christmas Day.
EBay is offering expedited shipping, but it will cost you.
Daily Deals on eBay offering several items each day at a deep discount plus free shipping. On one day this week I found a Barnes & Noble Kindle Nook for $74.99, just minutes after I saw a television commercial saying that $99 was the lowest price available. Each Daily Deal has a countdown clock so you know when the deal expires.
eBay’s Last Minute Deals page lists items that are guaranteed for delivery by December 24. These last minute deals are in every category and price points.
Other retailers including The Gap and Old Navy are also offering free shipping, but check the fine print — there is often a minimum dollar purchase to qualify, anywhere from $15 to $50.
Before you go home for the holidays, there is one very important thing to do that will put cash in your pocket. Now that you have finished with “What is Accounting 101″, sell that book! In fact, sell all your books! Online book selling is an easy way to get rid of your textbooks and can give you a good chunk of spending change. Plus – you can earn money to buy your books for the next semester.
But – timing is everything. Get those books listed as soon after the semester ends as possible. Otherwise, if professors change their course outlines and books, you may not be able to get rid of them. The best months for book sales are August, September, January and February. That means you should get things ready in December to have January cash.
The first thing you need to do is find out how much your books are worth. The major book buy-back websites have a simple method to do this.To get a dollar figure for each book, enter the ISBN number of the book. This is the 10- or 13-digit number, usually starting with 978, found on the lower left corner of the back outside cover. If you can’t find the ISBN, there may be a SKU number you can use. Be sure you have entered in the correct information including author, publisher, publication date and edition number. Competition between online book buyers/sellers is fairly brisk, so it’s a good idea to check more than one site. Amazon, eCampus and Alibris are three of the most popular website that have been in business the longest.
If you are listing your book for sale, and the site accommodates photos, be sure you take a picture. Set your book on a solid color neutral surface and snap a pic. It doesn’t have to be a professional quality photo, just make sure it’s clear, and there aren’t other things in the photo.
To make sure you don’t get your books returned to you by an unhappy customer, get them in as good a shape as possible. Erase any marks you can. Remove stickers – you can do this by holding a hair dryer over the sticker to melt the adhesive and then slowly pulling the sticker off. Clean the cover with a paper towel and window cleaner and wipe it dry.
Always ship your books as soon as you get an ok from the website or an order from a customer, within 24 hours. Make sure you pack the book well. You can find book mailers at office supply stores and UPS shops. Wrap the book in a plastic grocery bag to protect it from moisture during shipping. And pad the corners so they don’t get crushed. You can buy and print postage and a label on your printer from USPS.com or take your books to the post office or UPS Store.