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  • Are Black Friday Rebates Worth the Hassle?

    By Louis DeNicola,

    Read the small print on Black Friday offers for 2013 and you'll find that some of the low prices reflect mail-in rebates (MIRs). The rebate process can be a bit of a pain, and too many consumers seduced by the potential savings never realize the lower price. One widely cited academic study from 2003 reported that shoppers never got around to redeeming about 6 in 10 consumer electronics rebates. An industry consultant quoted in The Wall Street Journal in 2006 put the number for all rebates at 4 in 10. Regardless whether those redemption rates hold true today, they call into question the value of a Black Friday offer that hinges on a mail-in rebate.

    Related: Thanksgiving Dinner: Comparing the Cost of Cooking, Takeout, and Dining Out

    Laptop Computer

    Making a habit of checking prices for the same product at a variety of stores may net you a deal that doesn't require a rebate. Take, for example, a Black Friday offer for a KitchenAid Classic Plus Stand Mixer, which

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  • 5 Free Black Friday Apps

    By Louis DeNicola,

    It's that time of year when holiday decorations start showing up in shops and homes and wish lists are getting longer. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday rapidly approaching, the savviest shoppers are already using Black Friday apps on their smartphones to keep an eye on the deals.

    According to CNN Money, Black Friday weekend set a new record in 2012 with sales hitting more than $59 billion over the four days. This year as always, the plethora of ads shoved in your face during the weeks leading up to Black Friday makes it hard to find the best deals. To help you out, we checked several Black Friday apps that have been updated and released for 2013, many of which accompany websites. Use these Black Friday apps to stay abreast of the latest deals and add items to a saved shopping list while you're out and about. When you return home, log on to the site for easier viewing.

    Related: Holiday airline fees comparison

    App App Price Barcode Reader
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  • Where to Find Holiday Cards for Less

    By Raechel Conover,

    As holiday decorations go up indoors and out and Christmas songs begin looping through stores and on the radio, folks are pulling out address books and sending holiday cards to friends and family. If you're still hunting for that perfect card and don't want to spend a bundle, check out the information below. We compared prices for cheap holiday cards at several online and offline sources.

    Related: Which carrier has the cheapest holiday shipping?

    Opt for making your own holiday cards this year to save money.

    Holiday E-cards. As expected, holiday e-cards are the cheapest cards around. You can even get inexpensive designs with personal messages from for free. More complex e-cards will cost you, however. Paperless Post lets you design electronic cards, add your own photos, and pick a liner for the electronic envelope. E-cards from Paperless Post cost anywhere from 20 to 80 cents apiece and can be sent by uploading your address book. Venerable card maker Hallmark offers an interesting twist on

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  • PetSmart Vs. Petco: Which is the Better Value?

    By Louis DeNicola,

    Pet owners often describe their animals as members of the family. Like doting parents, we happily open our pocketbooks for food, toys, haircuts, and other expenses. Americans spend more than $60 billion per year on pets, according to a government survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A good chunk of that goes to the two large pet store chains, PetSmart and Petco. conducted a side-by-side comparison of their prices, services, loyalty programs, and ecommerce platforms to find out which store offers the best value for pet owners on a budget.

    Related: Pet-Friendly Airlines and Other Tips for Flying with Fido

    Does Petco or Petsmart offer a better deal?

    Pricing. A comparison of items ranging from leashes to a 20-gallon aquarium found that 7 out of 10 were cheaper at Petco, which sometimes offered the same item for more than 20 percent less than PetSmart. Both pet stores also offer services, such as grooming and training. For these, as well, Petco advertised better

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  • Thanksgiving Dinner: Comparing the Cost of Cooking, Takeout, and Dining Out

    By Emily Lugg,

    Related: Cheapest holiday shipping: FedEx, UPS, or the Post Office?

    Thanksgiving is a time for friends and families to gather, share a big meal, and reflect on their blessings. Along with that comes the expectation of a full-on turkey dinner, not to mention the stress associated with planning, doing, and expense.

    Related: Walmart's Made in the USA vs. imports: checking out the goods
    Related: What can you get for free on your birthday

    So consider the alternatives. Instead of preparing a meal from scratch, you can carry out from a restaurant or grocery, dine at a commercial eatery, or organize a potluck. We can't decide for you which will be the least taxing, but we figured out which will be easiest on your wallet. (Spoiler alert: A home-cooked meal for eight rings up the highest tab at $13.20/person compared with $9/person when dining out.)

    More from Cheapism:
    Best cheap cookware reviews
    Comparing ultra-cheap cell phone plans

    For more

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  • Comparing Ultra Cheap Cell Phone Carriers

    By Louis DeNicola,

    We identified three ultra-cheap mobile phone carriers that might appeal to anyone eager to escape the burden of costly phone bills. Some plans even start at $0.00 (yes, that's zero) a month. Oh, and there are no contracts or early termination fees to worry about. Compare that to the mobile phone fees at the big four carriers and you'll find hundreds, if not thousands, in savings to be had. And while these carriers don't tack on abstract "administrative" fees, the taxman always cometh.

    How can a company offer free, or very cheap, cell phone service? By being a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). MVNOs buy the right to transmit data, text, and calls from larger carriers at wholesale prices and then sell the services to customers. This means users get the same coverage and service as they would from the primary provider but because the MVNOs don't have to build and maintain the network infrastructure the savings are passed on to customers. New

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  • Walmart's Made in the USA Vs. Imports: Checking Out the Goods

    By Raechel Conover,

    With all the buzz about Walmart's new "Made in the USA" campaign, we were intrigued. Is this just a marketing ploy, or is Walmart now carrying more American-made products to help revive domestic manufacturing and create more jobs, as it claims? We also wondered how locally-sourced products compare in price and quality to the imports.

    We sent a researcher into a local Walmart to scope out the goods. She bought and tested several items made in the USA against the closest imported match she could find. Here is what we learned.

    Related: Walmart vs. Target vs. Kmart showdown

    Prices. The items sampled included socks, towels, skillets, light bulbs, and kitchen mats. The total cost of the American-made merchandise hit $57.50 compared with $55.46 for the imports, a difference of $2.04. The socks, skillet, and light bulbs produced in the States were cheaper than the imported versions.

    Typical Walmart in-store marketing.

    Marketing In-Store and Online. The marketing for Walmart's

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  • What Are the Best Stores for Low-Cost Maternity Clothes?

    By Louis DeNicola,

    Related: Best inexpensive baby cribs

    Related: What baby gear can you safely reuse to save money?

    Parenthood comes with a variety of new expenses. Some are to be expected and others seem to come out of nowhere. Maternity clothing is one that's easy to anticipate and needn't make a huge dent in the baby budget., which makes recommendations based on reviews from consumers and experts, has highlighted three stores that offer casual outfits for less than $40.

    Related: Best low-price car seat recommendations

    Garb that accommodates a growing belly ranges in style and price, but no matter how much you spend, you should feel comfortable and unrestricted by your new wardrobe. If you're uncertain what maternity clothes you need, consult a handy checklist like this one from BabyCenter. Try to be strategic about what you buy new and see if you can find other essentials around the house. Search your partner's closet, for example --

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  • Which States Have the Lowest Average Income?

    By Louis DeNicola,

    Related: Short on cash? skip the holidays

    Related: 10 defensive shopping tactics

    Some people are lucky enough to have a job that's not tied to a location, but many move across state borders in hopes of finding more rewarding opportunities. Other wage earners relocate to be nearer family or friends, for school, or just for a welcome change. Regardless of the reason, the decision to settle down somewhere new can affect your financial prospects.

    Using data supplied by the University of New Mexico's Bureau of Business and Economic Research, we zeroed in on the 10 states with the lowest average per capita income in 2012. We then searched for additional data that would provide useful context. (Try this comparison calculator to get an idea of the cost of living in select metropolitan areas.)

    Related: Thanksgiving dinner: comparing the cost of cooking, takeout, and dining out

    Unemployment rates by state for 2012, courtesy of the federal

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  • Pet-Friendly Airlines and Other Tips for Flying with Fido

    By Louis DeNicola,

    Whether you're buying a plane ticket for the upcoming holidays or moving to another part of the country, traveling with pets adds an extra layer of complexity and expense. Our recent report on airline fees notes that the cost of flying with a pet ranges from $75 to $175. Fees aside, which Flying with pets adds another dimension of complexity to air-travel. enjoy a reputation for being pet-friendly? And what can you do to make the experience pleasant for all concerned?

    Air travel with pets, usually dogs and cats, takes two forms: The pet travels onboard in a crate near the owner's feet or it flies cargo in the hold.

    Related: A complete guide to airline fees

    Pets On Board. Airlines have little direct interaction with pets in the cabin because owners are responsible throughout the flight and the animal must remain crated at all times. Still, some airlines are considered more hospitable than others.

    We queried a small cohort of people who have flown with pets and heard positive comments about JetBlue Airways

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