5 Ways to Save on Your Christmas Shopping

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Dear Rich Lifer,

With two of the biggest shopping days of the year behind us, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it might seem like there are no more deals to be had.

However, malls and retailers know this is just the beginning of the holiday shopping season.

According to Sensormatic Solutions, 8 out of the 10 busiest days for in-store foot traffic this year will take place in December:

  1. Black Friday, November 29
  2. December 21, the last Saturday before Christmas
  3. December 26, the day after Christmas
  4. December 14, two Saturdays before Christmas
  5. November 30, the Saturday after Black Friday
  6. December 22, the last Sunday before Christmas
  7. December 23, the Monday before Christmas
  8. December 28, the Saturday after Christmas
  9. December 27, the Friday after Christmas
  10. December 7, the first Saturday in December

Sensormatic based this list on stats collected from previous years showing peak in-store traffic periods.

Although mall and in-store foot traffic is declining overall in America, this is expected to be a big year for holiday spending.

The annual Deloitte holiday survey predicts spending will grow by 4.5% to 5%, and top $1.1trillion.

But with in-store shopping shifting to online, it’s more important than ever to know how to score the best deals wherever you shop.

To help you out, I compiled a short list of some of my favorite online and in-store shopping apps. I’ve mentioned a few of these before, in various issues, but with the Holidays rapidly approaching, I want you to have the best ones all in one place.

These are a mix of internet browser extensions (aka plug-ins or add-ons) and apps for your smartphone or tablet.

If you’ve never heard of browser extensions before, don’t worry. They’re easy to use. You simply go to the listed website, click “install” on the add-on, and it will automatically be added in your internet browser.

The next time you’re shopping online, the extension will pop up and work its magic. The best part is all these apps and extensions are free, and can save you a bundle.

Here are my top five shopping apps to save you money this holiday season:

Honey

Gone are the days of clipping coupons. The Honey browser extension literally automates couponing for you.

Once you add the Honey extension to your internet browser, whenever you check out at any online retailer, say Amazon.com or Walmart.com, Honey will scour the internet for digital coupons and automatically apply them to your order.

With the click of a button you can save yourself the hassle of searching coupon sites and having to type in confusing coupon codes. Honey also will send you alerts for price drops.

It can provide you with price histories on items in your digital shopping cart and tell you whether to buy now, or hold out for a better deal later.

Fakespot

The Wall Street Journal recently published a story exposing fake online reviews.

According to the story, more than one third of online reviews on major websites, including those on Amazon.com, Walmart, and Sephora, are fake, meaning they are generated by robots or people paid to write them.

If you’re worried about buying something with an overhyped review, Fakespot.com’s browser extension will help.

Fakespot flags both reviews and products it suspects are bogus and grades product reviews to help you avoid being duped by fake 4- and 5-star reviews.

The app also summarizes the most helpful reviews, which can save you a ton of time if you’ve waited until the last minute to get your Christmas shopping done.

PriceBlink

If you like to price shop online, then you’ll love PriceBlink. Instead of opening up multiple browser tabs with different retailers, you install PriceBlink and visit one major retail website.

For example, say you shop at Amazon.com, a yellow bar will pop up from PriceBlink, you click on “Compare Prices” and you’ll get a list of prices for that same item at other stores.

The browser extension checks prices at 11,000 stores. Because there’s no PriceBlink mobile app, if you want to quickly price shop in-store, you can use the app ShopSavvy. Or, use the Amazon and eBay apps.

When you tap the camera icon in any one of these apps then point your phone at an item’s barcode, the app will find competing prices.

Rakuten

Formerly known as eBates, Rakuten is an app and browser extension that allows you to earn cash back on your purchases.

How it works: once installed, you shop as you normally would online and you’ll earn cash back on qualifying purchases at more than 3,500 stores.

Once you’ve collected at least $5 in rewards, Rakuten will send you a check in the mail. You’ll receive a check quarterly with whatever cashback rewards you’ve earned.

If you choose to take your earnings as a gift card instead, you can earn more rewards faster. You can also link your credit card to the smartphone app and score cash back on certain in-store purchases, plus 5 percent cash back on meals at more than 10,000 participating restaurants.

RetailMeNot

Next time you head out shopping, add the RetailMeNot app to your phone. The app supports a wide selection of stores and food chains. The app supplies barcodes to be scanned at the register with your order.

Simply search for the retail store you’re shopping at and see if there are any coupons or sales. Similar to Rakuten, you can earn cash-back offers both in-store and online.

It doesn’t matter if it’s Black Friday or the last Saturday before Christmas, with these five apps and extensions installed, you can score the best deal no matter what time of year.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

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ATTENTION: One Thing All Retirees Need

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It’s well known that when we’re in the workforce, we need vacations. Vacations can lower your blood pressure, increase your creativity, recharge, and prevent burnout from the day-to-day responsibilities at work.

Yet America is the No-Vacation Nation…

Research found that 47% of Americans didn’t take all of their vacation time in 2017, and 21% left more than five vacation days on the table. 

You might think that after you retire taking time off would no longer be important since retirement is like a permanent stay-at-home vacation.

No so.

Life gets in the way…

You may no longer have to get up to an alarm clock or deal with the stress of commuting to work. But you still have responsibilities, such as paying bills and maintaining your home.

Look at this way:

We’re living longer and retiring earlier and hope to have 25+ years of retirement. That’s about 9,000 days. Do you want to be doing the same thing on Day 2,632 that you did on Day 33?

Probably not.

Breaking Your Routine

It makes sense then, why you need an occasional break from your routine.

We fall into a rut, even when retired. Your day might go like this:

You get up the same time every morning, make coffee, read the newspaper, and check your email. Then you take the dog for walk, have lunch, and do household chores. Next thing it’s dinner time. A few hours watching TV and off to bed.

The following morning you do it all over again.

Sure, you might go to the gym or your volunteer job a few times a week. But it’s pretty much the same… day after day. 

Sitting on the beach while sipping one of those fancy drinks with little umbrellas sticking out of the glass can do wonders for gaining a refreshed perspective on life.

The same can be said for playing golf, fishing, or skiing in a country you’ve never visited. Your brain will get a dose of dopamine, the chemical associated with pleasure. In other words, you’ll feel good.

Meanwhile, you’ll have a freedom from obligations since you won’t be worrying about the weeds in the flower bed or the windows that need cleaning.

Also, boredom is one of the main reasons for the record-high divorce rate for the 50+ age group.

So spending time with your significant other while away from your routine can deepen the relationship and makes for lifelong memories.

There’s an even bigger reason to take a vacation from retirement…

Loneliness Is Deadly

When working, you likely had many social interactions, friends, and acquaintances. But now that you’re retired, those connections might be distant memories and you feel isolated.

According to the American Psychological Association, more than 42 million Americans say they’re lonely. And Census Bureau data indicate that that number will surge since more than a quarter of the population lives alone and nearly half of the population is unmarried.

Some health care professionals see this not only as a pending public health hazard, but an epidemic of increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Loneliness can even be more dangerous to your health than obesity.

Moreover, data from the Harvard Aging Brain Study was used to compare self-reported loneliness with the amount of amyloid, a protein that plays a key role in memory levels, in the brain.

The results as published in JAMA Psychiatry were that 32% of the participants who were identified as lonely tested positive for high amyloid levels — a warning sign for Alzheimer’s disease.

A few days without human contact aren’t going to throw your health into a tailspin. But weeks, months, and decades of loneliness can surely have a negative impact on your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing.

On the other hand, a vacation gives you the opportunity to break the isolationism, interact with others, and restore a sense of identity.

From the Ordinary to the Extraordinary

The kind of vacation you take in retirement can vary widely.

For instance, you can visit grandchildren or friends across the country without spending a ton of money. Or travel to other cities or states to check out places to relocate.

If money isn’t a big concern, you can stay at a five-star wellness resort or take a cruise to just about anywhere.

Yet if you want something out of the ordinary, consider volunteer travel…

Volunteer travel opportunities generally run about the same price as a traditional vacation since the sponsoring organization requests a contribution to its cause. However, you go to places that tourists rarely see.

Habitat for Humanity is one of the organizations that sponsor such trips in the U.S. and abroad. Many are to poor, developing or third-world countries. So don’t expect the creature comforts you’re used to at home. There may be decaying infrastructure, such as washed out highways and questionable toilet facilities.

But you’ll make a difference in the local community and gain friends along the way.

You could also expand your mind by going on a learning expedition. One resource for these types of trips is Road Scholar, which has 1,000s adventures in the U.S. and in countries from Albania to Zimbabwe. 

A recent listing is to Mexico to witness the gray whale migration.

If you are more of the thrill-seeking type, why not learn a sport that you just never had time for? Sailing, snorkeling, skydiving may be on your bucket list. So if not now… when?

For example, CrewSeekers International posts available crewing positions from around the world. Many don’t require experience, only a good attitude and willingness to learn.

Want to take your skiing to the next level? Well, now you have the time…

Bumps for Boomers is a program meant to teach older folks how to handle moguls and powder. You’ve worked for decades and looked forward to a long and healthy retirement. But that doesn’t mean you’ve retired from living. Stretch your mind and imagination by breaking the routine.

Let retirement take a vacation… 

Strive to do different things, such as learning new languages and customs, tasting new foods, and meeting new and interesting people. Take a lot of pictures, share them with others, and cherish the memories.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

The post ATTENTION: One Thing All Retirees Need appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Credit Card “DECLINED” Notice — And 3 Stocks So It Never Happens Again

This post Credit Card “DECLINED” Notice — And 3 Stocks So It Never Happens Again appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

“Sorry, your card was declined.”

What the….!?!?

I was at the hospital cafeteria picking up some food for my little man who broke his arm this weekend. And for some reason my card wouldn’t go through. Was I really out of money?

The holidays can be stressful trying to make sure you cross everyone off on your shopping list. And then if you throw in some unexpected expenses like a trip to the emergency room, the stress can affect your finances!

Thankfully in my case, I just used the wrong pin for my debit card. But the experience made me think about how many families are spending money on holiday shopping this season.

More importantly, I started thinking about how you as an investor can protect your wealth and start cashing in on this year’s holiday spending.

Today, I want to show you three reasons why holiday shopping should be stronger than ever this year. And then we’ll take a look at three different ways to play this profitable trend.

So let’s get started!

Consumers Have More Reasons to Spend

Over the past year, we’ve talked a lot about the American “wealth effect.” Thanks to a strong job market, people have more money to spend, driving retail sales higher.

But in addition to that ongoing force, there are three additional reasons why shopping should be especially strong this year.

The first is tied to another trend we’ve been watching: the decline in oil prices.

Extra supplies of oil have been hitting the market driving oil prices lower. This means gasoline prices have also been dropping. And with less money being spent at the pump, consumers have more money left from every single paycheck. That money will come in handy when it’s time to buy those last minute holiday gifts!

A second reason shopping should pick up is low credit card debt.

Heading into the holiday season, consumers have been carrying lower credit card balances. That’s a smart financial move to keep from paying those awful credit card interest rates.

But knowing human nature, many shoppers will opt to spend more during this season, even if it means taking advantage of those credit limits. With more room to spend money on credit, we can expect to see higher holiday sales this year.

One final reason shopping should pick up this year is thanks to less inflation.

Inflation levels have been low over the past several years. And for us as shoppers, that means our money will go farther. I don’t know about you, but if I can still buy great gifts without paying unreasonable prices, I’ll definitely be in more of a buying mood.

Add these three drivers together, and it’s clear that this is going to be a season with plenty of spending here in the U.S.

But how do we take advantage of all of this spending?

I’m glad you asked!

Three Areas for Investors to Cash in on Spending

An obvious answer to how we profit from higher spending is by owning retail stocks.

But in today’s volatile market, you have to be very discerning with what you buy. After all, while retailers have reported strong revenues, some retail stocks have been moving lower alongside the broad market.

That gives us a chance to buy at a discount. But you’ll want to make sure you’re buying shares of companies poised to do very well this year.

Here are some great areas to start shopping for investment opportunities.

Maybe I’m biased because I have three teenage daughters. But I’ve been watching athletic apparel companies very closely this year. Stocks like Under Armour (UAA), Lululemon Athletica (LULU) and Columbia Sportswear (COLM) should be in great shape to move higher as sales beat expectations and investors jump in.

In some cases (like with LULU), the market pullback has given you a great opportunity to buy stocks that are growing, while paying a discount price. (Who doesn’t like a discount during the holidays!)

A second retail area to keep tabs on is the restaurant industry. Some of my favorite memories with my family have taken place going out to eat together. And with the culture in America getting busier — coupled with extra money to spend — it’s natural for more families to go out to eat.

A few attractive stocks in this area include Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG), Cracker Barrel (CBRL) and Brinker International (EAT). When you hear Chipotle, you might think about the E. coli issues that they’ve had in the past. But the company has made headway in preventing issues like this from coming up again. And Chipotle’s commitment to fresh organic food should attract more socially conscious diners over time.

A final retail area to keep tabs on is the discount retail category. I’m talking about big stores that offer great deals like Walmart Stores (WMT), BJ’s Wholesale Club (BJ) and Costco (COST).

Even though consumers have more money to spend, there are still many shoppers (myself included) who want to make every dollar stretch. Stores that are famous for offering good products at discount prices will continue to grow revenue this holiday season.

And heck, you can probably make a profit from Costco based solely on the fact that I shop for our family of 9 there every week!

So there you have it… Three ways to profit from higher holiday spending in 2018.

I hope you’re enjoying this holiday season and remembering that while building our wealth is important, cash is only a tool to help us have more of an ability to focus on the things that really matter — like friends, family, and helping those that are less fortunate than ourselves.

Happy Holidays!

Here’s to growing and protecting your wealth!

Zach Scheidt

Zach Scheidt
Editor, The Daily Edge
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