Take a pass on price matching
Price-matching programs for holiday gifts generally aren't worth the hassle, said Beth Pinsker Gladstone at Reuters. This season, a number of big retailers and payment processors, including Amazon, Best Buy, and PayPal, are offering price-matching guarantees, which allow customers to get a refund, typically within 30 days, if the price of an earlier purchase falls or is lower elsewhere. But while the policy is a "nice public-relations feature," the process "is often too onerous to make it worth a consumer's time." The trouble is the fine print. PayPal's price-matching promotion, which applies to purchases made through Dec. 31, excludes "closeouts, doorbusters, one-day sales, jewelry, perishables, boats, animals, and a host of other items." Different retailers also have different restrictions on what is needed to qualify, whether it's a print ad or an online screenshot. "Price matching is a wonderful deal," said analyst Michael Pachter, "but most of us are too lazy to deal with it."
Giving your teen a credit card
If you think your teen is ready for a credit card, there are a few ways to keep his spending from spiraling out of control, said Scott J. Wilson in the Los Angeles Times. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling recommends linking your teen's card to your own, so you can monitor activity. Once a month, sit down and go over the bill together, and make sure to detail how much interest can accrue if the bill is not paid off. Finally, "resist the urge to bail out teenagers who spend too much." Counsel them on their options for repayment, whether it's getting a job or cutting back on spending, and consider calling a credit counselor if necessary.
Shopping for retail stocks
Holiday shopping is the perfect opportunity to scout retail stocks, said Jeff Macke at Yahoo. Keep an eye out for good customer service, which tends to indicate a well-run company. The "important point here is expectations." The standard at Walmart may be different than at Saks Fifth Avenue, but a good company will always slightly exceed expectations. Smart companies also work hard at luring customers back for repeat visits. Look for stores that hand out coupons and discount cards. Finally, compare the store experience to the retailer's website. "A company firing on all cylinders will have the same prices, offerings, and general 'feel' on their website as they do at their stores."
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