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Getting the latest in cutting-edge consumer electronics doesn’t mean you have to pay full price -- especially not these days.
Electronics sales fell 10% in March compared with last year, according to the National Retail Federation. The drop was just the latest in an eight-month-long string of year-over-year sales declines that has forced many retailers to slash prices in order to clear their shelves, says Larry Chiagouris, a marketing professor at Pace University’s Lubin School of Business in New York City.
But hunting down deals for gadgets is much more in
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volved than finding a sale on chicken at the supermarket. Electronics retailers tend to carefully control their sales rather than blanket shoppers with storewide 20%-off coupons, he says. Consumers are also more particular about what they're looking for than they are with other purchases. (They aren’t just searching for a computer, for example, but an HP laptop with a 15-inch screen and a 160GB hard drive.) “The category is such a sophisticated one that people cut to the chase and look for the lowest price on the exact item they want,” says Chiagouris.
The best place to start that search: online deal-hunting sites that focus on finding the latest sales and price cuts on consumer electronics.
Here are four sites that SmartMoney put to the test:

1. Dealnews.com

DealNews.com continuously posts updates with the latest in in-store and online sales, coupons and deals, says Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis for the Consumer Electronics Association, an industry group. (Click on the “tech” button at the top of the page to hide deals from other retail categories.) Users can sort deals by the time they were posted, by category or by “hotness” to see what other visitors are checking out.
Not sure how the sale stacks up? The DealWatch feature tracks prices in popular gadget categories and forecasts future sales. Check out the coupon feed to narrow your focus to the latest online codes and printout coupons. (Follow DealNews.com on Twitter here.)

Sample deal: Save 10% on Dell (DELL) Inspiron Mini 12 notebooks by using coupon code 4TZ9XWDLSKXZSM at checkout. Offer expires April 30.
2. CNET’s Shopper.com

Think of this site as one-stop shopping. Not only do users have access to extensive reviews (both by CNET's expert reviewers and other users), but it also helps them hunt down the best price, says Chiagouris. Comb the listings of the latest sales and coupons and use the site’s price-comparison feature to find the best deals on a specific model. Sign up to receive an email newsletter of the best sales and coupons that the site turns up on popular items.

Sample deal: Amazon.com (AMZN) currently has the Canon (CAJ) PowerShot SD880 for $245 -- a discount of $55 off its regular price. You’ll save 18%. (No end date listed.)
3. PriceSpider.com 
This gadget-focused site offers up-to-the-minute price comparisons. Enter the specific gadget you want, and you’ll also see the median and lowest prices over recent months. Check the deals section for the discounts that other users have found, and vote for your favorites to push them higher in the listings. If the discounts you see still aren’t deep enough, set a price alert to be notified via email when a store lowers the price to the level you want. (Not all price-comparison search engines are created equal. For more of our favorites, click here.)

Sample deal: The lowest price for a Samsung LN52A650 52-inch LCD television set (regularly $2,700) was $1,800 at Fry’s. The store had dropped its price by nearly 34% just days earlier. You’ll save 31%.
4. Woot.com

Woot posts just one item per day, but its prices are typically the best around, says Koenig. A new item goes up at midnight Central Time, and is available for 24 hours or until it sells out, whichever comes first. (Follow deals on Twitter here.) Many of the offerings are discontinued or overstock electronics. Recent deals include a Pentax Optio E60 digital camera ($80 compared to B&H’s $115), a fourth-generation Apple (AAPL) 8GB iPod Nano ($100 compared to J&R Music’s $140) and a Philips 1080p DVD player ($30 compared to NewEgg.com’s $60). You’ll also occasionally see home beer-making kits, Star Wars bobble-heads and other off-the-beaten-path finds.

Sample deal: Friday’s item was the Digital Concepts AC/DC Battery Charger for $10 (plus $5 shipping). BuyDig.com sells the same device for $24 (shipping is free). You’ll save 37%.
(Looking for more coupons? View our list of all-around favorites here. We also have lists for parents and for savings on groceries.)
SMARTMONEY ® Layout and look and feel of SmartMoney.com are trademarks of SmartMoney, a joint venture between Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and Hearst SM Partnership. © 1995 - 2009 SmartMoney. All Rights Reserved.


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This is a guest post from Erin, who writes about frugal food at $5 Dinners.
When gas prices were soaring in the summer of 2008, my family was scrambling to find ways to save money. We could not reduce the prices at the gas pumps, we were locked into the lowest interest rate on our mortgage, and our budget was maxed out. I knew the only way we could continue without running into the red each month was to reduce the line item marked Grocery — but I didn’t know how exactly to go about doing that.
At that same time, I d
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iscovered the world of personal-finance blogs and frugality blogs. It was through these blogs that I found myself a “job”. It wasn’t a job that earned our family any income; it was a job that involved spending less of the income that my husband worked so hard to earn. My new job? Grocery store savings expert!
My new grocery-shopping techniques allowed me to save over $100 the first month, and close to $200 the second month. Our monthly grocery budget dropped from around $500 to $300. (And sometimes less!) Here are the steps I took to save at the supermarket:

  • Get a store loyalty card. Sign up for a card that will help you save money each week at the store (and maybe even earn money back, like with the CVS Extra Care Bucks card.)


  • Study your store’s circular. Look through your grocery store’s weekly circular to see what is on sale. Products on the front page are called “loss leaders” and are priced very low to entice you into the store, where you will then purchase the loss leaders, but other items as well. Loss leader prices are typically the lowest prices of the season, so it is worth buying extra items if you know that you will use them. For example: If boneless skinless chicken breasts are on sale for $1.77/lb (regularly $5.49/lb), it is worth purchasing 5-6 packages to freeze for use in the coming weeks.


  • Make a meal plan and a shopping list. After studying your grocery store circular, plan a few meals using the products that are on sale that week. (If you need extra help with this, my $5 Dinners blog has a feature called the bargain meal of the week, where different contributors from all over the country post a recipe based on their grocery-store circular.) Create a shopping list based on your meal plan and what you already have in your cupboards. Do not buy anything that is not on your list. You didn’t need it when you were at home creating your list, and you don’t need it when you are standing in the store — even if you think you need it.


  • Look for marked-down proteins. Watch for meats, chicken, pork and fish that are on sale. Or, better yet, marked down for “quick sale”. These products can be used right away or frozen for future use. A vacuum sealer or food saver system is a worthy investment if you aim to get the very best prices on protein sources.


  • Buy your produce on sale. Purchase produce that is on sale that week. This is often based on what type of produce is in season. This will not only help your pocketbook, but it will also help you explore new foods and experiment in the kitchen.


  • Clip coupons from the newspaper or print them from online. “But they don’t make coupons for the products that I buy,” you might say. Do you purchase toothpaste, deodorant and shampoo? I hope so! All of these products can be purchased with a coupon. I don’t remember the last time I paid for toothpaste. When name-brand toothpastes go on sale for $1, you can match a $.50 coupon that doubles to $1 (if your store doubles) to get the toothpaste for free.


  • Consider digital coupons. If you’re not up to the paper-and-scissors task of couponing, then load your store loyalty cards with electronic coupons. Shortcuts.com, Cellfire, P&G eSaver, and Upromise are four websites that allow you to save money electronically on a wide variety of products. Sign up at each website and the coupons will be deducted automatically from your receipts. Upromise electronic coupons are deposited back into a college savings account you can set up for your children.


  • Resist the displays. Purchase items from the top or bottom shelf, as opposed to the ones at eye level. Manufacturers pay a premium to have their products displayed at eye level, which translates to higher prices for those products! Look above and below for other products that might be similar to what you are looking for. Walk past the large displays for holiday/seasonal items or the cardboard displays that jump out at you as you round from one aisle to the next.


  • Leave the kids at home. Shopping with the kids makes it difficult to focus on your shopping list, your coupons and your mission: To get in and out as quickly as possible, saving the most money possible! Leave the kids at home.  There’s something to be said for shopping at 10pm! [J.D.'s note: I love to shop late at night. Kris and I used to do that when we were younger.]


  • Make it a game. Challenge yourself to save $5 one week, $10 more dollars the next week, $20 more the following week, and so on. Before you know it, your grocery bill could be half of what it once was!


With a little time, planning and extra effort, saving money at the grocery store can be both fun and rewarding.  By utilizing these techniques and becoming a “professional” grocery shopper, I prevented our family from running into the red during the months when our budget was just about stretched to its limits. Happy saving!
For more on this subject, check out how to save money on groceries at Five Cent Nickel.
---Related Articles at Get Rich Slowly:


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People are selling their used books at unprecedented rates. For instance, used-book buyer Powell's Books says it hasn't experienced this amount of business before.
"The Portland, Ore.-based company has bought used books from customers for more than 30 years, but said Wednesday that it has never matched the volume it has seen in the past six months,"
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mp;id=9644528">The Associated Press reports. Its online business has been particularly brisk since it began offering cash for books through PayPal.
Cash is good, particularly if you're unemployed or don't have an emergency fund.
What's the best way to sell your old books? Pinyo at Moolanomy compared numerous online options. The best news for starving students: Compared with regular books, used textbooks go for a lot.
The best part about Pinyo's "Where to sell used books and textbooks" is that it contains a substantial list of book-buying sites. One of them, Amazon, doesn't buy your used books, but provides a venue for selling to others. The other sites buy directly from the sellers. (The comments at his post are also helpful.)
Amazon had the best prices for sellers when Pinyo checked. Note: The prices aren't etched in stone. He added, "Lastly, there are other factors not included in this study -- i.e., shipping costs (some offer free shipping), payment options and promptness, customer service, etc."
Other options to consider:

  • Visit your local used-book store to see what kind of price you'll get.

  • Trade for other books through one of the book-swap sites Pinyo mentions.

  • Donate them to libraries or thrift stores.

Related reading:
Simple ways to make college cheaper
10 ways to save money on books
Another alternative to pricy textbooks: Buy overseas
10 things you shouldn't buy new
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This post comes from Paul Michael at partner blog Wise Bread.
How are you doing with your money? Do you have everything under control, or are you spending a little more than you should?
Well, if you'd like to blow even more of your money, this list will help you empty your bank account in half the time you usually do. Enjoy. 

  1. Read More
    />Gamble in Vegas. Sure, some people get lucky. But most of us blow a wad and leave feeling like reckless morons.

  2. Spend your spare time surfing the bargain sites. It doesn't matter if you don't actually need anything. You'll find something to buy.

  3. Shop hungry. It's amazing how much extra food you'll throw in your cart.

  4. Draw more money out of the ATM than you need. If you get $20, you'll spend $20. If you get $40, it will disappear just as quickly.

  5. Become an impulse buyer. See something in a shop window, grab it immediately and worry about the cost later.

  6. Pay bills late. That will eat up some serious cash in the form of late fees and interest rate hikes, and sometimes will damage your credit rating.

  7. Lend money to people who won't pay you back, even when they say it will be different this time.

  8. Don't shop around. The first place you look is almost certainly not the best price available.

  9. Don't buy online. Those High Street retailers have lots of extra overhead, and they pass it on to you by marking up products.

  10. Go to a state fair or carnival and buy lunch from a concession stand for your family: $8 for a hot dog, $4 for a can of Coke. Multiply by number of family members.

  11. Feed $1 bills into those crane machines that tempt you with stuffed animals. You may get lucky, but only after you've paid twice what the crappy toy is worth.

  12. Buy complete albums instead of cherry-picking the songs you want from a music download site. (Unless, of course, you always buy albums that are 100% brilliant from beginning to end.)

  13. Never double-check your measurements on a DIY project. You'll make at least one big mistake and have to buy another round of materials.

  14. Forget to take back movie rentals on time. Red Box may be only a buck a night, but rent two and leave them behind the sofa, and that can add up quickly.

  15. That goes for library books, or any other type of rental that fines tardiness.

  16. Buy food, throw it in the back of the fridge or in the vegetable crisper and forget about it. Then, a few weeks later, you can throw it away. Cash in the trash.

  17. Become completely disorganized and forgetful. You have no idea how quickly you'll spend money if you are buying things that you already have, or can't find the library books that were due three months ago.

  18. Ignore special offers and coupons. Why pay $3 for an item when you can just as easily pay $5?

  19. Take your car in for an oil change and proceed to get every single recommended repair. I just took my car in for an oil change; they wanted to change all four brake pads. Little did they know my car has a warning light that tells me when my brake pads need replacing. I also have a mechanic for a father-in-law.

  20. And speaking of oil changes, get yours done every 3,000 miles. True, modern engines and synthetic oils mean most vehicles can do 5,000 to 7,000 miles between changes, but so what.

  21. Use credit cards without paying off the balance in full each month. You will rack up some delicious interest.

  22. Fly first class. You'll get to your destination at the same time as the folks a few rows behind you, but you'll pay substantially more for some legroom and a nicer meal.

  23. Never read a contract. Ever. You will later be taken by surprise with all sorts of fees and penalties. And legally, you signed on the dotted line so you're obligated to pay them all -- or in some cases, like a secured loan, lose your house.

  24. Buy an extended warranty, especially on a car. Most of the time, you'll be paying a huge percentage of the cost of the item and when it comes time to make a claim you'll be battling with legal eagles who will do anything to make sure you don't get any money.

  25. Don't take advantage of your company's 401(k) match, because another great way to waste money is to decline free money.

  26. Buy a monthly gym membership, work out once, then sit at home for the next year and watch TV.

  27. Buy in bulk stuff you'll never be able to use or consume before the sell-by-date.

  28. Smoke. If you go through one pack per day, you'll literally burn more than $2,000 per year.

  29. Walk past the perfectly functional coffee machine at home, drive to work and pick up a grande half-caf, double-mocha-vanilla-chai-peppermint cream coffee from Starbucks or any other "premium" coffee chain. That's an easy way to blow up to $5 on something that should cost you only pennies.

  30. Buy books, DVDs and CDs at bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble. Last time I checked, the regular price for a new DVD averaged $25 to $30 in one of those stores. Even when they're on sale, they're more expensive than the same copy at Target.

  31. Throw away your leftovers. Whether they're from a home-cooked meal or from dining out, just put them in the fridge covered in cling wrap and then pop them in the garbage a week later.

  32. Buy bottled water. It's dollars for a bottle, pennies from the faucet. And let's not forget the environmental costs of bottled water either.

  33. Use 411 instead of (800) GOOG-411. The first costs you a hefty fee each time you dial, the second is free. Both offer the same service.

  34. Buy the high-octane gas. Modern computer-controlled cars will alter ignition and timing profiles to allow the use of low-grade gas, but why bother taking advantage of that?

  35. Purchase bags of baby carrots. In actuality, they're large carrots shaped into smaller, bite-sized pieces, but you're way too busy to cut carrots to size.

  36. Don't take the time to read street signs. I got myself a lovely $25 parking ticket recently because I thought the road was meter-free. It wasn't. The meters had been replaced by one parking fee booth about 20 feet down the road.

  37. Oh, and why not speed as well? You'll get a big fine and a few points on your license just to get somewhere a few minutes quicker.

  38. Rent from Blockbuster instead of RedBox -- $4 vs. $1 per night. And never remember to return it so you get charged a big fat fee to keep the disc.

  39. Never monitor your bank account(s). That way, you can occasionally overdraw an account and get charged a lovely big fee.

  40. Don't take care of your teeth, and avoid dental checkups and cleanings. You'll save a little money at first, but worry not: The dentist's fees will come pouring in when your mouth looks and smells like the inside of a garbage dump.

  41. Don't haggle. Whether it's a small bag of apples at a farmers market or the purchase of a new home, just accept the first price and call it good.

  42. Play the lottery. Sure, there's a roughly 1-in-120 million chance you could bag the jackpot, but it's a slim chance. Even the odds of winning just a lousy $10 are about 1 in 35. Imagine closing your eyes and picking one white ball out of a bag containing 34 red balls. Yep, doubtful.

  43. Never question a dubious charge or bill. If in doubt, let the restaurant, grocery store, cable company, phone company or any other mega-corporation keep the money. They need it for all the lawsuits.

  44. Buy brand-name everything. Yes, many of the store-brand products are repackaged brand names at lower prices, but why pay less?

  45. Buy a new car. It loses about 20% of its value the second you drive it off the lot.

  46. Don't turn off the lights or appliances. Keep them all going, even when you're out of the house. That should push your electricity bill way up.

  47. Don't read Wise Bread or our personal-finance book. But as you're reading this, maybe you will end up saving some money today.

Don't worry. Follow the rest of the advice here and you can soon spend way more than you need to.
Related reading at Wise Bread:
Can't afford a home alarm system? You probably already have one
Ultimate credit card guide: How to use credit wisely
How to buy better poultry
18
by Aaron Hu
Wintertime is a perfect time for a wedding. Peace on earth and good will toward men reigns, and it’s the best time to get cozy with your loved one. If you plan poorly, however, you could end up with a wedding right out of “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” This article will help you plan a winter wedding that won’t have your guests asking, “What’s this?”
First of all, let’s talk about favors. Winter has so many symbols that it’s easy to find some that are right for you. Silver snowflakes add a charming touch, as do tiny
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tealights–the light within the darkness.You could do your own take on the tradition of having the guests ring a bell for the couple to kiss, and put strings of jingle bells on the table instead. Wedding guests always love this activity, and the jingle bells will provide a personal touch that they will love even more.
Music is an important part of the wedding, but even more so for the reception. Along with regular music for your dancing pleasure, slip in a few holiday tunes. “Let it Snow” is a classic, as is “Jingle Bell Rock”. Perhaps your first dance can be a slow dance to something like “Baby It’s Cold outside”. Your guests will dance the night away, inspired by the Christmas spirit.
For the wedding itself, you can start the theme off with the bride’s dress. There are very beautiful wedding dresses available with a winter theme; some are adorned with faux fur or include a tasteful stole. Or you could have the bridesmaids wear dresses that reflect the theme; perhaps a snowflake pattern or even snowman hair ornaments would work. These ideas would be subtle yet stylish enough to make the theme functional.
The bride could make a grand entrance in a horse drawn sleigh, with her bridesmaids and family riding with her. The groom could ride in on a single horse for his debut. After the ceremony, the reception could be held in an ice hotel (it’s warmer than you think!) or at an ice skating rink. Invite the guests to dress up in Victorian costume–there’s nothing like having a large group reenacting a scene straight out of a Victorian postcard!
Decorations for this type of event are easy. Twinkling lights would be beautiful along the walls, with silver streamers to reflect the light. The tables can be covered with tablecloths that have holly or ivy on them. Fake snow can be sprinkled on the table, and gifts can be put into a large sled. Your guests will be thrilled with the decor! Make it a party for them. Hire someone to play Santa and ask them what they want for Christmas. This will keep the kids happy, make the parents grateful, and give your day a little less stress. You can also get carolers to regale your guests with holiday songs, either during the wedding or during the reception. Imagine the looks on your guests’ faces when you walk in to a sung version of “Here Comes the Bride”, done, perhaps, by a local children’s choir.
Last but not least,the food can reflect your theme. Serve winter favorites like Irish coffee and mulled wine to your guests. Have something for the kids too, like mulled cider and hot chocolate. As far as food, anything goes. A roast turkey would be great; a roast goose would be even better. And for dessert, try a lovely flaming plum pudding.
A winter wedding is an opportunity to show your style and individuality. Make sure you plan and communicate with each other in order to make it work. With this type of foresight, you can have a wedding that will be unforgettable.

About the Author:
If you are looking for Winter Wedding Favors or Christmas Party Favors, we invite you to visit mrsweddingfavors where you will find a great selection of these and many other wedding favors and wedding accessories. With us you will find the Best Prices on the web plus we offer Free Shipping.




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by Jaylen Derell
IF you haven’t got much money, we’ll still be able to provide a low-cost house for you. If you don’t have any money for an apartment, the perfect solution for you is to rent one of our apartments or studios. Corporate housing or long term rentals are also available on our list of services. You’ll be offered for rent fully furnished rentals in the downtown core.
We are also ready to help you with the Section 8 program. the Section 8 program will be available only if your income is below the limit. That income level varies state to state and
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is usally indexed to an Area Median Income.
Only 50% from it’s value will be paid if you rent or buy in apartment.
This program is a Federal controlled one. This program is controlled by the federal government and by the Department of Housing. You must remember though that it is locally managed by the different state organizations and agencies that help designate certain apartment rentals as being Section 8 apartments.
For this program, you will pay only what you will be able to pay So for example if you are only making $2,000 a month you may only have to pay 25-35% of your monhtly income which in this example would be $500 or $700 a month. Because of the fact that every state is self-rulled, you may pay even less than 20-25%. The key though is that you can actually look for a rental for $1,000 a month and you only pay $500, the federal government pays the other 1/2, $500 and you can still live in the $1,000 rental unit.
Fair Market Rent must be the concept you’ll be keeping in mind for ever. You must know that every area has it’s own fair market rent value.
There can be very long wait lists for Section 8 Apartments so you need to call your local agency early to find out which units are available and if there is a waiting list. Call now you Section 8 area representative and apply as soon as possible, so you won’t have to wait lots of months -because of the already existing pending list- in order to move in your new low-cost home.

About the Author:
Writer: Jaylen Derell, proud writer for Low Income Apartments websites. The one article he takes the most pride in is Low Income Apartments.




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by Agneta Ullman
So you have decided to sell your house, and you are looking for a real estate agent to represent you. Here are just a few suggestions of a few things you may want to know about your agent before contracting with them. The number of years on the job is only one factor…
Being the listing agent means that you could, theoretically, just list the property on the MLS and a few high traffic web sites, and then just wait to get contacted by potential buyers and their agents. And that is all… In that case you could as well list the property yourself for a flat fee
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and save thousands on commissions.
How many properties has you agent sold? Was he/she the sellers agent, or the buyers agent? How many properties were sold at, or near, the asking price when agent acted as sellers agent? That is an important question. Some agents will prompt you to reduce the price substantially when negotiating with the buyer. That can mean you lose a lot of money, but it is a quick sale and fast commissions for the agent.
Some agents have a challenge negotiating with the buyers agent. Some do not have the skill, or the confidence to act on your behalf and get the best price for you. In a transaction involving a substantial amount of money you will want someone skilled and knowledgeable about bargaining and negotiating.
Besides listing your property on the MLS, what are other marketing plans? Advertisements? Open houses? What?
Is your potential agent available seven days a week? Amazingly, some agents do not work, nor return calls on the weekends. Weekends tend to be the busiest time in real estate… What will be the average respons time? This can be crusial not only when a new potential buyer makes contact, but also during negotiations when time is of the essense due to contract expirations.
The personality of your agent is another important factor. A pessimistic, slow, unmotivated agent could kill your deal. Look for someone who is enthusiastic, willing to put in some effort, someone with a positive sunny disposition.
Don’t rush selecting your agent. You will be working with this person for many months, and canceling a contract may be difficult and or, costly. Take the time to know you have chosen a competent, positive agent that you will like working with.

About the Author:
Looking to do a MLS Flat Fee Florida or to do a By Owner MLS




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Summer vacation season may be over, but fall travel promises to be a better deal for bargain-hunting consumers.
Americans scrimped on summer vacations, spending just $300 on average, according to Quicken Online, which compiled spending data from the more than 1.3 million consumers who use its financial-management program.
Leisure travel cutbacks have hurt the industry, but it’s the decline in business travel that’s forcing hotels to slash their rates this fall, says Gabe Saglie, a spokesman for travel booking site Travelzoo (
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TZOO/">TZOO). Companies typically plan for conventions and other off-site events a year in advance, and as we approach the anniversary of 2008’s market crash, many hotels are finding themselves with a surplus of vacant rooms.
Now, the recession’s effect is being compounded by the usual fall slowdown as kids return to school. To offset the loss, many hotels in popular vacation destinations are cutting rates by as much as 50%. Here are five fall destinations worth considering:
New York
Wall Street’s woes have pushed hotel prices in the Big Apple down 29% compared with last fall, according to data from travel-booking site Expedia (EXP). “That’s the biggest drop I’ve ever seen [for the city] in 30 years of covering travel,” says Chris McGinnis, a spokesman for Expedia. The Park Central New York Hotel is now offering a 20% discount when you book a stay of five nights or more, lowering weekday rates for a room with a king-size bed from $349 to $279. Visitors will also find plenty of deals on attractions, particularly Broadway shows – where prices have fallen by as much as 50%. (For tips to snag those theater deals, click here.)

Sample deal: Three-star Murray Hill East Hotel is offering travelers who book through Orbitz a 25% discount on a stay through Sept. 30. Rates regularly start at $164 a night.
Las Vegas
A big convention destination, Las Vegas has been hard hit by cutbacks in business travel. In May, Gov. Jim Gibbons said that roughly 400 convention cancellations made thus far in 2009 would cost the city $100 million in hotel income. “Until they see business travel pick up, they’ll focus on getting the leisure traveler with rock-bottom rates,” Saglie says. Some properties have lowered rates by as much as 70%, he says. The Mirage, where rates now start at $77 a night, is offering an additional 10% discount to travelers who book through the casino’s web site. The offer is good for stays before Jan. 31, 2010. (For more tips to save on casino travel, click here.)

Sample deal: At MGM Grand, book a stay sometime between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24, and get a third night free. Rates start at $79 a night.
San Francisco
Weather-wise, fall is the best time to visit San Francisco, says McGinnis, who lives there. “In the summer, there’s fog; in the winter, rain,” he says. Now, prices are favorable for travelers, with the average room rate down 21%, compared with last fall. For example, Campton Place San Francisco is offering a third night free for stays before Dec. 31. Rates start at $270.

Sample deal: Four-star Hotel Nikko San Francisco is now offering its rooms at a 30% discount on Expedia, dropping the weekend rate for a room with a king-size bed from $433 to $303.
Orlando
Travel to this family destination typically drops off in the fall, but this year rates have tumbled another 20% or so, Saglie says. Some of the best deals can be found at family-friendly properties and those with close ties to nearby theme parks. Through Dec. 17, Nickelodeon Family Suites is offering a third night free and a $50 credit toward the resort’s amenities, which include a water park, spa and 4-D movie theater. (For tips to save on theme park tickets themselves, click here.)
The catch: Florida’s hurricane season lasts through November, so consider inexpensive travel insurance.

Sample deal: Participating Marriott Vacation Club resorts are offering one free night when you book two, or two nights free when you book three. (Use promo code BOG when reserving.) Rates start at $119. Promotion ends Jan. 31, 2010.
Maui
Hawaii has taken a double hit as cash-strapped business and leisure travelers have opted for destinations closer to home. Traditionally, the Big Island is the place to find deals, but this fall, pricier areas like Maui are slashing rates by an average of 15% compared to last year, McGinnis says. For example, the Four Seasons Resort Maui cut its post Labor Day rates from $495 to $395 per night, a savings of 20%. “It’s a slower season, so airfares are cheap, too,” he says. Alaska Airlines (ALK) recently offered one-way fares for roughly $150 from Portland, Ore., and Seattle.

Sample deal: At the four-star Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, get a third night free for stays before Dec. 25. Nightly rates start at $260.
SMARTMONEY ® Layout and look and feel of SmartMoney.com are trademarks of SmartMoney, a joint venture between Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and Hearst SM Partnership. © 1995 - 2009 SmartMoney. All Rights Reserved.



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Ann Minch is mad as hell and she's not going to take it anymore.
Like many, she has seen the interest rate on her credit card jacked up (in her case, to 30%), even though she made all the payments on time, wasn't over her limit and didn't in any way violate Bank of America's rules. She had been making the minimum payment on her account for years, about $130 a month.
After trying, and failing, to get the interest rate reduced, she has, in her words "fired the first shot in the debtors' revolution" by refusing to pay another cent of her $5,943.34 debt unless Bank of America r
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eturns the interest rate to its previous level, 12.99%. She has staked out her position in this YouTube video, which has circulated widely on the Internet and has been viewed more than 150,000 times.
Minch calls the credit card companies "evil, thieving bastards," which, she says, "have reaped ungodly profits in your behemoth casino scams, then lost -- only to turn around and usurp the wealth of this great nation by the outright rape and pillage of middle-class Americans whose sweat and toil built it." She adds, "Every last one of you should be rotting in prison."
Arthur Delaney of The Huffington Post did an interview with Minch, who is 46 and lives in Red Bluff, Calif. She recently lost her job as a mental health case manager. She notes in her video that she has nothing to lose, since she doesn't own a home and has no assets, but a plunge in her credit score could hurt her job search.
Ed Mierzwinski, program director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, told Delany that credit card lenders had better be paying attention.
"Historically, powerful and arrogant corporations, often protected by lazy regulators, have ignored consumer complaints -- now social media tools are leveling the playing field for victimized consumers," Mierzwinski wrote in an email to the Huffington Post. "The old web 1.0 mybanksucks.com sites that no one found are being replaced with real-time viral outrage that will require big business to start treating consumers more fairly or pay the price."
We can only hope.
Jason Steele at Ask Mr. Credit Card applauds Minch's decision to close her accounts at Bank of America. He also likes her use of social media to plead her case with the company's executives once appealing through normal channels failed.
But, he thinks she is misguided and that her viral protest will have no impact. Using some of the $5,000 in savings she withdrew from her account to pay off the debt, or doing a balance transfer, would have been much more responsible, he says.
"Acting in an irresponsible and financially self-destructive way is a terrible strategy," he said. "Encouraging others to follow her is morally wrong. The bank will survive her default, but she will be financially ruined."
What do you think? Is Minch engaging in a courageous act of civil disobedience or is she just being foolish? What should consumers do about credit card company practices they consider unfair, especially if they can't pay off their debt immediately?
Related reading:
The big lie about credit card debt
Credit card rates, fees marching up
Is your credit card issuer unfair?
19
More corporations are recognizing that there's plenty of good will to be had if they extend a helping hand to the unemployed. Plus they're building customer loyalty and boosting sales.
Is this a win-win?
The latest offers of assistance come from the chains owned by the Sears Holdings Corp. -- Kmart and Sears.
Kmart is offering a Smart Assist savings card to those who've signed up for unemployme
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nt benefits in Michigan, the state with the highest unemployment rate, according to Financial Times. (Kmart was born in Michigan and headquartered there until it joined up with Sears in 2005.) The card provides a 20% discount on regularly priced private-label food and drugstore items and is good for up to six months.
Before you use the card, make sure you comparison shop. You might find a better deal somewhere else. But overall this seems like a win-win. Douglas McIntyre wrote at our sister blog, Top Stocks, that "Kmart has probably lost many of its customers completely and believes that the new incentives will bring these people back." But, he adds, "Sears and Kmart get a gold star for outstanding behavior."
Sears, the nation's biggest seller of appliances, is testing a one-month program nationwide for Sears customers who are laid off after making a big purchase. To be eligible, the Chicago Tribune reports:

  • You must spend at least $399 on appliances at Sears between July 6 and Aug. 1.

  • You must charge it on a Sears card issued by Citibank.

  • The Sears Web site says that "if you lose your full-time job after 60 days and up to one year from date of purchase, one-twelfth of your entire purchase price will be credited to your account each month until you are back at work or your appliance is paid off."

The Chicago Tribune added, "The full debt will be forgiven for customers who find themselves jobless for more than a year, and they will be able to keep the appliance."
Win-win? This program may be the tipping point for buying a new appliance you don't really need. The frugal approach would be not to spring for a new appliance until the old one gives out and/or you've saved up cash for the replacement.
Among other help for the jobless mentioned by Financial Times:

  • Pfizer will give free prescription drugs for up to a year to people who've lost their job in 2009, don't have prescription drug coverage, and were taking a Pfizer product for at least three months before their job disappeared. The offer covers more than 70 Pfizer medications, including Viagra. Catherine Holahan explained here at Smart Spending, "Customers are more likely to stay loyal to Pfizer's name-brand drugs if they can continue taking their medications at the company's expense when they can't afford it and not need to take cheaper generic drugs or go without."

  • This next offer has fewer conditions attached: Spartan Stores Inc., which owns 99 Michigan grocery stores and supplies several hundred independent grocers, is helping General Motors workers who were laid off due to plant closures. Progressive Grocer says:



In early June, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Spartan provided 850 Michigan Proud bar-coded cards offering a 10% discount on groceries and 3% on fuel now through July 12, 2009, to the UAW Region 1D office for distribution to the auto workers affected by the (GM metal fabricating) plant closure for use at any D&W Fresh Market, Family Fare, Felpausch, Glen's Markets, Glen's Fresh Marketplace or VG's Michigan location. (Other locals have been included.)

  • This one sounds downright neighborly: Green Hills, a family-owned grocery store in Syracuse, N.Y., is offering 10% off on weekly shopping orders from loyalty-card customers who are unemployed. Customers can re-enroll in the program every four weeks, Syracuse.com reported, adding: "During the Great Depression, the store extended credit to customers so they could feed their families, according to Heather Hawkins, whose family owns the business."

Related reading:
Can free Viagra ease the pain of the recession?
Here's help to find the best deals on prescriptions
Lose your job, get a refund
The new marketing trend: Job-loss protection
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