The Holidays Are About the Fa La La, Not the Moo La La

This year, we’ll collectively fork out $465 billion on holiday spending. Of all that cash, about 43% is spent on travel, and another 41% on gifts. Saving in those two areas alone can really help make a difference in your wallet.

A few things the airlines don’t want you to know

When you figure that Americans will spend more than $6 million on air travel during the holiday season, the costs can seem unavoidable. But if you follow a few simple rules, you could save hundreds.

  • Avoid buying a ticket for the Friday before Christmas
  • Fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Sundays on off-peak hours
  • Search tickets for one passenger at a time—airlines tend to jack up the prices when you buy for more than one.
  • Clear your browser history, or search incognito. The more airlines learn about you, the more they learn about where your spending habits are and the more they can skew the prices based on what they know about you.

Online hacks that’ll help save your wallet

It’s a digital world. And that makes shopping a whole lot easier, but it also opens up the opportunity for huge savings.

  • Take Honey for example. It’s a Google Chrome extension that tests every coupon code available, so you don’t have to.
  • Amazon Prime is only $99/yr, and it currently gives you free shipping on a ton of things listed on the site—which has some of the most competitive prices already.
  • Deal Squad is a site that checks to make sure you’re getting the best price available—you just cut and paste the URL of the item you’re watching.

Go for thoughtful, not pricey

Putting more thought into a gift means you can spend a little less. Say your coworker loves elephants—buy him the elephant socks you know he’d never buy for himself. Same goes with magazine subscriptions. If your dad loves boating, get him a boating magazine—it’s a gift that keeps giving, year-round. Or you can gift what you’re good at—get crafty. Yeah, pecan pie bakers, we’re looking at you. Even if you’ve never tried out a DIY, it’s worth a visit to Pinterest for some inspiration. Sometimes a meaningful gift goes a lot further than one with a high price tag.

Charities need your time, not just your cash

You can give charity a hand without breaking the bank—just give some of your time. And it’s a great way to spend time with your friends and family too. You could volunteer as a group at a food shelter or soup kitchen—or you can look for local opportunities on Volunteermatch.

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Ally Bank

 

At $67, is Amazon Prime Worth the Price?

© Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
© Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Today, Amazon.com Inc. will offer a one-year Prime membership at a one-third discount. Should you go for it?

To celebrate its Emmy-winning show “Transparent,” Amazon  will offer a one-year Prime membership — regularly priced at $99 — for $67. This one-day deal is available to new members, who can sign up by going to Amazon.com/TransparentPrime. “We are thrilled to celebrate Transparent with our customers by offering a Prime discount,” said Michael Paull, Vice President of Digital Video for Amazon.

Those without a Prime membership are likely wondering whether they should jump on this lower price. To figure that out, first, it’s important to understand what the perks of Prime are. These include: two-day free shipping on thousands of items, as well as free same-day delivery for people in certain zip codes; unlimited streaming of thousands of TV shows and movies; free access to more than one million songs via Amazon Music; unlimited photo storage and 5G of free storage for videos and other files; and free access to roughly 500,000 Kindle titles.

Even at $99, experts say it’s often a good bet.

“It’s a very attractive offer,” says Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, a vice president and principal analyst with Forrester Research — who notes that Prime membership offers a lot of perks, in addition to the fact that Amazon typically offers a “good value on its merchandise.” (Indeed, an analysis done last year by Savings.com of roughly 1,500 new products priced at $10 and up found that about half of the time, Amazon did, in fact, have the best price — a compelling number considering that it compared Amazon’s prices to those of 5,000 other retailers). The Prime membership can be particularly worth it if everyone in your household shares it, adds Mulpuru-Kodali.

Of course, it’s only worth it if you use the features — and for most customers, the free shipping is the main consideration, says Britanny Carter, an industry analyst with IBISWorld. Prime membership gives you free two-day shipping, free same-day delivery for some items over $35 in 14 cities (you usually have to order these items by noon), as well as one-day shipping starting at $2.99.

“It’s the market-leading option for diffusing the cost of shipping if you order a lot of items, says And Keith Anderson, the vice president of strategy & insights for e-commerce data analytics firm Profitero.

But remember: Amazon gives non-Prime members free shipping on orders with at least $35 of qualifying merchandise; and a la carte shipping is pretty reasonable. This all means that Amazon Prime’s shipping benefits are particularly worth it to those who want fast shipping and make at least one or two purchases each month that are under $35, says Carter. For those who shop less than once a month on Amazon, make larger purchases, and typically don’t need rush items, the proposition isn’t as compelling, she adds — especially since many e-commerce merchants now offer free shipping.

The music, movie and book offerings are an added bonus, says Carter, but may not satisfy die-hard music, TV and movie buffs or die-hard readers. The free-with-Prime music library has over a million songs with plenty of A-list artists on tap including Daft Punk, Blake Shelton, The Lumineers, Bruce Springsteen and Madonna. But music buffs may want to go with one of the streaming options with more significant offerings like Spotify, which has more than 30 million songs for a cost of $9.99 a month without ads or is free with ads.

Amazon’s free streaming TV and movie library has plenty of options — including popular shows like “Downton Abbey” and “Boardwalk Empire” — and they’re adding both new and original content frequently, says Anderson. Still, Carter says that most customers prefer Netflix, which has more and better options and starts at just $7.99 a month. Furthermore, new television streaming options get introduced all the time now — and for affordable prices.

And the Kindle book options don’t always include new releases and other titles you might want, so avid readers may be disappointed.

The unlimited photo storage and 5G of other free storage is a newer offering, but Carter points out that it too is icing on the cake. “There are so many other alternatives,” she says — and at very reasonable prices.

Still, those looking for affordable, fast shipping on reasonably priced merchandise — and a slew of other perks like free music, books, movies, TV and photo storage — should consider Amazon Prime. “For many people, it’s a good value,” says Anderson.

But if you do decide a Prime membership is right for you, beware of the psychological pull that comes with Prime. Studies show that Prime members are less likely than non-Prime members to shop around, and they spend significantly more on the site. “You need to be mindful of buying more than you otherwise would because it’s so easy to do,” says Anderson.

Plus, don’t overpay for the benefits Prime. If you’re a student, you can get free two-day shipping for free for six months when you sign up for Amazon Student, and then upgrade to Prime for half off after that.

Written by Catey Hill of MarketWatch

(Source: MarketWatch)