Monthly Archives: November 2014

10 Sneaky Online Shopping Tricks For Scoring Major Discounts

This is part of a series on smart shopping. Click to read the companion pieces: 15 Ways To Avoid Holiday Debt, Buyer Beware: 4 Black Friday Pitfalls To Avoid and 6 Holiday Airfare Tips For Last-Minute Shoppers.

These days online retailers are equipped with a litany of schemes to score big with shoppers. But savvy deal hunters can strike back and nab discounts with tricks of their own. Hereâ??s how.

1. Escape the dynamic pricing trap

Dynamic pricing is a strategy online retailers use to offer different prices to different customers based on demand, market factors and each userâ??s browsing and spending patterns. This technique has become more sophisticated now that websites can track your internet surfing and gain an intimate knowledge of your online behavior. Retailers use this data to determine your price point, which means when you go to purchase a product, you may see a higher price than someone with different spending habits using a different computer.

The best way to avoid getting charged a higher price is to erase your browserâ??s cookies and log out of your account. You can also try using your browserâ??s version of a â??privateâ? or â??incognitoâ? window, so cookies arenâ??t saved during your search.

2. Leave items in your cart

Log in to your account, place your desired items in the cart and then just let it sit. Retailers want to close the deal, so theyâ??ll find ways to draw you back. In a few days you may get an email with a coupon or an offer for a better price. According to, you need to have an account with the retailerâ??s site and be logged in when you leave your cart. It wonâ??t work for every website, but they tested this â??coupon trickâ? and found 17 online stores that offer coupon codes days later to entice you to complete your purchase. That list includes the websites of Bed Bath & Beyond Bed Bath & Beyond, Dickâ??s Sporting Goods, JC Penney JC Penney, Macyâ??s, Office Max, Williams-Sonoma and more.

3. Search for coupons

If youâ??re not getting coupon codes from the abandoned-cart strategy, check out popular coupon sites like, and

4. Connect over social media

Follow retailers on Twitter Twitter. Friend them on Facebook. Why? Because they often reward their social media followers with exclusive coupons or early access to major sales.

5. Sign up for email alerts 

Companies often send coupons to those on their email list. Some of these offers are single-use offers. If you sign up with multiple email addresses, you can rack up multiple unique coupon codes. Also, many stores such as Kohlâ??s or West Elm offer you a coupon for 10% off just for joining their mailing list.

Donâ??t just sign up with your favorite stores â?? do so with their competitors too. That way you can compare deals and ask for price matching.

To keep your inbox organized, set up a filter that sends all promotional emails to a separate folder. The advantages are one, youâ??ve got all of your coupons in one place allowing you to compare deals between stores and two, you can quickly spot sale trends over time. Iâ??ve done this and have noticed that stores like to send out screaming subject lines about â??one-time-only deals,â? but when I scroll down in the folder, I see that theyâ??ve announced identical deals every other month. Suddenly, that one-time deal doesnâ??t feel so urgent anymore.

6. Call customer service â?? they can sometimes extend expired coupons

Sometimes you donâ??t need to buy anything when that coupon code lands in your email. But then weeks later, once that coupon has expired, you realize that youâ??re in need of that expensive gadget and that coupon code would have save you a fortune. Fret not! Companies want you to buy, and if you call their customer service line, they may just honor that coupon code. Iâ??ve tried this multiple times. Itâ??s not sure thing, but about one out of three times this strategy has worked.

7. Compare in-store prices with online prices

Prices in the store and online donâ??t always match. Now that weâ??re all armed with smart phones, itâ??s easy to compare the product in your hand with its online price. And if youâ??re shopping online, sometimes itâ??s as easy as a phone call to your local retailer to find out the store price.

8. Compare online prices between retailers

Sites like, and Google Google Shopping allow you to compare prices between stores with a few taps of your keyboard.

9. Use multiple coupon codes strategically

If an online retailer lets you to use multiple coupon codes at checkout, use the codes in the right order to get the most savings. For example, if you have one coupon code for 20% off your purchase and another for $15 off your purchase, use the 20% off code first. That will apply the 20% discount to the full price of the product earning you a deeper discount.

10. Check to see if you can get price-drop refunds

Say you make a purchase and then notice days later that the price has dropped. Some stores will issue you a refund for the price difference if you contact them within a certain number of days. For items sold and shipped by Amazon, contact the company within seven calendar days of the delivery date and they will refund you the price difference, reports Business Insider. You can monitor Amazon price changes at Certain credit cards also offer price protection. That is, if the price dips within a certain amount of time from your purchase, theyâ??ll refund the difference. Find out if your credit card comes with this perk here.

Deborah Jian Lee is a journalist, radio producer and author of a forthcoming book about progressive evangelicals (Beacon Press). Follow her @deborahjianlee. Visit her website

Why Affluent Women Love Building Wealth — But Loathe Investing

By Shana Lebowitz

This post originally appeared on LearnVest.

By now, itâ??s old news that women exhibit certain traits that make them more successful investors than men, like the fact that they view investing on a long-term timeline and arenâ??t quick to trade based on market whims.

On the flip side, other studies have shown that many women are timid about investing, either because of their risk-averse nature or simply because they tend to leave those kinds of decisions to their partners or other family membersâ??even when they know they can do more to grow their nest eggs.

Unfortunately, this is a troubling paradox that doesnâ??t seem to be resolving itself: New research reveals that even though women are proud of their hard-earned paychecks, they are still leaving a lot of the responsibility for growing that money in the hands of others.

The study, sponsored by Wells Fargo, looked at the financial habits of nearly 2,000 affluent American women (those with at least $250,000 in household investable assets) between the ages of 40 and 79.


More than 90% of women said they enjoyed making money and watching it grow, and two-thirds of these women said theyâ??d accumulated most of their wealth through investments and the stock marketâ??yet just 46% said they were responsible for choosing and managing their householdâ??s investment accounts. Among married women, that number dipped to 34%.

What Type of Child Care Can You Afford?

If you’re looking for

quality child care, you know it can be a time-consuming, overwhelming process.

While there are

many competent child care services and professionals, there are also many subpar ones

as well â?? and they’re all expensive. For instance, a 2013 report from Child

Care Aware of America found that in 38

states and the District of Columbia, it costs more than 10 percent of a

two-parent familyâ??s median income to have a baby in day care for 36 hours a week.

So if you’re trying

to decide who to leave your children with â?? a baby sitter, a

day care or a nanny â?? here’s an estimate of what you might pay for each, as

well as what you’ll get for your money.

A baby sitter. This arrangement that can work out beautifully. For

instance, Tanya Walton, a health care marketing communications professional in

Miami, is a stepmom to a 14-year-old and 17-year-old and has two young sons, age

5 and 6. “We’ve been lucky to have teenagers live across the street from

us who have been great baby sitters,” she says.

On the other hand, you

can easily find stories online of baby sitters run amok. For instance, in Toms

River, New Jersey, this summer, local media reported that a mother returned

from work to find her 2-year-old son crying in a soiled diaper. The baby sitter

had evidently been drinking heavily and passed out next to the toddler.

How much does it cost?, a site that helps

parents find baby sitters and nannies, releases an annual survey of baby-sitting

costs. In 2014, the national average is $14.97 an hour for one child, $17.12 an

hour for two children and $18.27 per hour for three.

More to consider. Walton,

who pays her sitters $10 an hour, loves that they are in such close

proximity. That can be a plus.

But, of course, you should

vet your baby sitter as much as possible.

Walton, who has used just about every caregiving service available,

including day care and a nanny service offered through her employer, says when

she hires a nonprofessional to baby-sit, it’s always someone who comes recommended by friends and family. Sometimes neighbors baby-sit, Walton says, adding

that she has a demanding work schedule involving early morning and evening


If you’re planning to hire someone

you don’t know, find out what other parents think about the sitter, including

whether they feel the person is dependable, says Johnny Castro, program coordinator for the child development department

at Brookhaven College in Farmers Branch, Texas. “Always be aware that word

of mouth goes a long way,” he says.

Day care. While day care is expensive, it’s often considerably cheaper

than hiring a full-time nanny or baby sitter. Still, as with baby-sitting, you’ll want to choose your child’s day care carefully. In 2007, a survey of over 1,000

children and their families by the National Institute of Child Health and

Human Development found that most day care centers are “fair” or

“poor.” Less than 10 percent of the nation’s day care centers provided what was considered high-quality care.

And while you might reason that spending more money means you’ll get better and safer care, thatâ??s not necessarily true, Castro

says. “Cost doesn’t guarantee quality,” he

warns. “Pop-in visits and really looking at what the program or caregiver

is doing is the peace of mind that parents need.”

Along those lines, Sandra Saucedo Scott, professor

of child development and teacher preparation at Eastfield College in Mesquite,

Texas, says, “I would highly recommend checking with the National

Association for the Education of Young Children website for a list of

NAEYC-accredited child care centers in their area, because these child care

centers have one of the highest standards in the nation.”

How much does it cost? The

cost of day care varies so much from state to state that it’s difficult to estimate

what you’ll pay. But generally, as your child gets older and more

self-sufficient, the price will decrease. For instance, in Massachusetts, the

nation’s most expensive state for infant child care, according to the 2013

report from Child Care Aware of America, it costs an average of $16,430 a year

to have an infant in a day care. Parents of a 4-year-old in Massachusetts will spend

$12,176 a year, on average. By the time that 4-year-old is in school, the average child care cost drops to $4,378, partly because more

time is spent in school, not in day care.

Fewer Chinese graduates enrolling in US

The number of Chinese students enrolling in US graduate schools fell for the first time in at least a decade, according to a report from the US Council of Graduate Schools published on Wednesday.

The 1 percent drop in first-time enrollments of graduate students from China in 2014 “affects a relatively large number of students since Chinese students constitute 33 percent of total enrollmentof international graduate students in the US”, the council said.

The decline was offset by a large jump in first-time enrollments of students from India, which rose 27 percent in 2014 on top of a 40 per cent rise in 2013. First-time enrollment of students from Brazil increased 91 per cent this year after a 17 percent increase in 2013, the report said. Enrollment from South Korea and Taiwan declined 7 percent and 8 percent respectively in 2014.

Read MoreThe case for a liberal arts education

Overall, first-time enrollments of international graduate students rose 8 per cent between 2013 and 2014, and total graduate enrollment rose by the same percentage.

Chinese education experts said the decline in Chinese enrollments, the first since the council began surveying international student numbers in 2004, may reflect the impact of China’s anti-corruption campaign, which has hit the personal wealth of government officials who previously used ill-gotten gains to finance overseas education.

Employment trends in China are also changing, with overseas graduates increasingly struggling to gain jobs that repay the substantial investment of a foreign education, recruitment experts say.

Read MoreTechnology spurs innovation in education: Expert

Beijing has been investing heavily in improving domestic graduate schools in recent years, which may also be keeping more students at home, according to education experts.

However, Xiong Bingqi, vice-president of the 21st Century Education Research Institute in Beijing, said the decline was the result of global graduate school trends.

“The main reason why fewer Chinese students are enrolled by American universities is the rising threshold for applications and the fact that there are more opportunities offered from other countries such as Australia, and in Europe,” he said. “Scholarships have always been a big issue for postgraduate students but now American schools are cutting scholarships. If schools in other countries offer big scholarships, it would affect the students’ interest in going to the US.”

More from the Financial Times:

Halliburton in talks to buy Baker Hughes

Twitter given junk bond rating by S&P

IBM’s Ginni Rometty admitted to Augusta

Chinese students have been a big driver of growth for US graduate schools in recent years. Last year that growth slowed to 5 percent after several years of double-digit rises.

Figures for overseas undergraduate students in US are due out next week from the US Institute of International Education.

The US Council of Graduate Schools said institutions representing about two-thirds of graduate degrees awarded to foreign students responded to its survey.

“I know some of my classmates in masters programs cannot find suitable jobs when they graduate from a two-year course here and they have to go back home,” state news agency Xinhua recently quoted one mainland student in the US as saying. “But at the same time, Chinese postgraduate education is also improving and postgraduate studies in Europe are also good. They have more choices.”

8 Santa-Approved Apps For Big Savings This Season

By Natasha Burton

This post originally appeared on LearnVest.

Menus. Stocking stuffers. Festive décor. Travel plans.

The to-do lists you’re already scribbling for the upcoming holiday season likely feel endless–not to mention packed with pricey items to purchase.

Fortunately, you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg–or even full price–to ensure your holidays are merry and bright this year.

That’s because we’ve rounded up the best money-saving apps out there to help ensure your seasonal spending doesn’t spiral out of control.

Vouched for by consumer savings pros, these free tools are easy to use and designed to keep you on budget–no matter what’s on your list.

holiday savings apps

An App for … Travel

Hotel Tonight Wouldn’t it be romantic to whisk your significant other away for a pre-holiday weekend getaway? Sure would–except you haven’t booked a room yet, let alone checked the property’s rates.

Luckily, there’s an app for that: Starting at 9 A.M. local time, Hotel Tonight releases unsold rooms from top-rated hotels–at incredibly low prices–that you can book for that very night or up to seven days in advance of your trip.

Decoding College Financial Aid Offers: 10 Things You Need To Know

According to student loan servicer Sallie Mae, nearly two-thirds of families (65%) used grants and scholarships to pay for college in 2013, up from 61% in 2012 and up from only half of families five years ago. What’s more, 49% of parents say they’re not regularly setting aside money to college savings, and 70% of those parents say the reason they’re not saving is because they can’t afford to. In other words: more and more families are counting on grants and scholarships to pay for college. This, in turn, means the letter determining where students go to school isn’t the letter of acceptance, but the letter that comes a week or two later, the one labeled “financial aid award.” Unfortunately, this letter is not as easy to read as the one that says, “accepted!” or “declined.” These are the ten most important things you need to know about decoding financial aid award letters. (To read the full article, click through here.)

What makes a recruiter reject your resume in seconds?

bad resume


Three-quarters of human resource professionals said it takes them less than five minutes to review a resume before deciding whether a job applicant makes it to the next round, according to a recent survey from the Society for Human Resource Management.

And that may be generous.

Five minutes sounded like an eternity to some of the recruiting managers who spoke to CNNMoney.

“I thought it would be a lot less. [Often] an initial screen takes 30 seconds,” said Doug Arms, a vice president at staffing firm Kelly Services.

So, basically, think Tinder for talent.

Hiring managers and recruiters say there are telltale signs that help them weed out candidates at first glance. These are the resumes that can make an applicant seem, among other things, careless, immature or just not worth pursuing relative to the competition.

And here’s the thing: Anyone, regardless of education or experience, can fall into these traps.

“I see it at every level for every type of job I’ve ever hired for,” said Alison Green, an HR consultant in the Washington, D.C., area who runs

Here are seven of the biggest resume killers that hiring pros say they see all the time:

1. Using a ridiculous email address: Your college friends may know exactly why is fitting for you, but recruiters and hiring managers may not be so amused.

“It just shoots your credibility,” Arms said.

2. Making spelling errors and grammatical mistakes: Time to admit it, your mother was right. “If you can’t be trusted to proof your resume, why should I trust you with details once you’re on the job?” Arms said.

3. Including crazy fonts, colors and other graphics: Creativity is desirable in many jobs. But resumes that look like art projects are not.

“Keep the document simple and clear. If it takes too long for us to figure out where people work and what they do, they won’t get too far,” said Maryanne Rainone, managing director of Heyman Associates in New York.

Related: These resume lies are whoppers

One exception might be candidates for graphic arts jobs. Yet even in these cases the place for displaying your design skills is not the resume itself, but rather the link to the site displaying your portfolio or attachments to your work.

4. Not using keywords: Terms particular to the job you want and the relevant skills you have should feature prominently on your resume and LinkedIn profile.

Pay attention to the words in the job description, Arms said. “Ask yourself first: ‘Do I satisfy the criteria?’ If so, is that reflected on your resume?”

Some employers use software to search for keywords when they are sorting through hundreds of applicants’ resumes. Recruiters also use keywords to find potential candidates through LinkedIn (LNKD, Tech30) and other sites.

Kelly Dingee, director of strategic recruiting at Staffing Advisors in Maryland, suggests thinking broadly about which words to use.

If she’s trying to recruit for a development officer position, for instance, she’ll search not just for that job title but for words like “philanthropy,” “fundraising” and “major gifts.”

5. Stating everything but your accomplishments: Listing your day-to-day responsibilities (e.g., managing a Web site, organizing conferences) in your current and past jobs won’t distinguish you from the pack.

Instead, hiring managers should be able to tell at first glance what you’ve accomplished (e.g., doubled sales, increased audience reach by 30%, negotiated the company’s biggest deal, etc.).

6. Writing too much: Writing a book is an impressive feat, but your resume shouldn’t read like one.

Recruiters won’t read paragraph after paragraph. They’d much prefer short, bulleted points.

7. Forgetting to include dates: The years that you worked at every job you held should be easily scannable.

Otherwise, “it looks like someone is trying to hide something,” Rainone said.

First Published: November 2, 2014: 9:34 AM ET