Archive for the ‘Christmas/New Year's’ Category

Wes Moss: Seek good health, wealth in new year

Certified financial planner Wes Moss provides personal finance advice and accessible investment strategies. His guest post appears here weekly.

Wes Moss hosts 'Money Matters' Sunday mornings on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Wes Moss hosts 'Money Matters' Sunday mornings on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Like many of you, I spent some of the holiday season traveling to see and spend time with family. That’s easier said than done when it involves three small children age 5 and under.

Between airplane delays, crowded parking lots and long rental car lines, I ended up this past week in snow-covered Michigan, stuck in a house with my in-laws (God bless them), where every family member took turns with a stomach bug, in addition to a double ear infection for my 11-month-old. How relaxing!

As the children and adults finally recovered, it reminded me of a study from the University of Michigan I read earlier in the year about the importance of health in our quest for financial stability. Here are some staggering statistics that tell the story:

– Mean net …

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3 affordable sparkling wines to stand-in for champagne

Looking for a cheap champagne to ring in the New Year?

Maybe you shouldn’t bother.

If you want to save some cash, but still have a great-tasting toast, try the many sparkling wines that  prove worthy alternatives to champagne. (Also consider grower-producer Champagne, says AJC wine guru Gil Kulers.)

The following three sparkling wines are among the highest rated for taste and price:

Gruet Blanc De Noirs, $16 – A sparkling wine for New Mexico with a blend of fruity flavors.

Gloria Ferrer Blanc De Noirs, $22 – This smooth sparkling wine hails from California and features lots of  ripe fruit flavors.

Freixenet Cordon Negro Extra Dry, $12: From Spain, Cordon Negro Extra Dry was introduced in 1990 to meet demand for a premium sparkling wine that was a bit sweeter than Brut. It is a much loved light, simple cava.

What is filling your glass this New Year’s Eve?

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– Nedra Rhone, for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog

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For holiday returns it pays to know the rules

How many gifts have you opened today? How many do you plan to actually keep?

Not only is Dec. 26 the day for shopping post-holiday sales, it is also the day many people will return the presents they don’t want. From gift cards to ugly sweaters, retailers will be ringing in returns as they ring up sales.

Just be sure you know the rules of returns, as many aren’t as straightforward as they may seem.

One of the biggest issues is the time limits placed on holiday returns.

Some stores are requiring merchandise purchased between October and Christmas be returned by mid-January, says Carey Rossi, editor-in-chief of “Even if you receive a gift, you have to think, ‘Omigod, if I really don’t like this I have to return it within the first two weeks of January.’ Some people don’t get around to some of their presents until then.”

Retailers such as Amazon offer slightly more time — until Jan. 31. Kohl’s advertises hassle-free returns and does have …

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More shoppers like me are self-gifting

For the past 10 years, the National Retail Federation has conducted a year-end consumer spending survey that breaks down the ways in which people spend their money over the holidays. Most of the $6.9 billion to be spent this season will be on gifts for family, friends, co-workers and pets.
And, well, for ourselves.
“Self-gifting,” as the survey calls is, has reached an all-time high — with nearly six in 10 shoppers planning to spend an average of $159.62 on little sumpin-sumpins that will never see the shade of a Christmas tree.
This made me laugh because I am a notorious self-gifter, to my family’s dismay. As my wife puts it, I wait until Christmas time to buy myself “every piece of clothing anyone ever wanted to get you, any new music, any new book — all the perfect gift items.”
The flip side is that I never ask for anything. When my kids ask what I want for Christmas, I either try to defer my response or come up with stuff dads should ask for, like slippers and bathrobes.
I …

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12 of the most popular products of 2012

Each year, tons of products are touted and tested by experts in every category — but not all of them have maximum impact.  Here are just a few of the products that held our collective attention in 2012 and helped make life a little bit easier. Some are affordably priced and even the more expensive of the bunch (except the iPad mini) have been spotted on sale or with incentives throughout the year.

Clinique Bottom Lash Mascara, $10: A product designed to capture, lengthen and thicken those teeny bottom lashes.

Cuisinart CPT – 420 Toaster, $80: Stainless-steel with a motorized lift, LCD panel, enhanced bagel toasting and three year limited warranty. Enough said.

Instagram, free: Love it or hate it — and many people are hating it right now — this free app is credited with driving interest in phone photography by making it easy to apply creative touches and post them to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

iPad mini, $329 : The highly anticipated small tablet proved …

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Holiday packages at Melia Hotel Atlanta

meliaMeliã Hotel Atlanta has two holiday packages going on now:

Now through Dec. 26: Get Meliã’s “Winter Holiday Package” which includes two tickets to the Nutcracker Ballet at the Fabulous FOX Theater, overnight accommodations in one of Meliã’s king or double rooms, a continental breakfast for two and valet for one vehicle for $209 — a savings of $100 a night.  To add an extra person pay $35 for a ticket and breakfast.

Now through Jan. 5 (though not valid on Dec. 31): The “Atlanta Botanical Gardens Package” includes two tickets for entry to “Garden Lights, Holiday Nights,” a spacious king or double room with city views at Meliã, a continental breakfast buffet for two and valet for one vehicle for just $199 a night — a $259.00 value.  Add ons are $20.00 per person for an extra ticket and breakfast.

To book either package, call 1-888-741-8931. For more information, visit the hotel’s Facebook page.

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– Nedra Rhone, for the Atlanta …

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4 tips to save green on live Christmas trees

christmas_tree_06Seven more days ’til Christmas. Do you have a Christmas tree?

I couldn’t believe it, but some folks don’t.

When I was younger, the tree went up somewhere between the day after Thanksgiving and the first week of December and it came down right after the New Year.

But apparently that is a modern practice. Historically, Christmas trees were put up 12 days before Christmas or on Christmas Eve — which turns out to be perfect for bargain hunters looking for the best deals.

Russ Jordan, owner of Wee Three Trees in Fayetteville says they do about one-third of their usual volume in the week leading up to Christmas.  Customers include families who didn’t expect kids to come home for the holiday and need a last minute tree, customers who set up their tree on Christmas Eve and yes, bargain hunters.

Right now, you can find some pretty good discounts on live and artificial trees.

Discounts on artificial trees are creeping up to 50 percent while pre-cut live trees come with slightly lower …

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Hyatt hotel deal for holiday guests

Years ago when I lived in New York, my “home” was a 450 square foot studio. The bathroom was so small you could sit on the toilet with one foot in the bathtub while brushing your teeth.

When my parents came to visit for the holidays, we started a new ritual — they would stay at a nearby hotel where the rooms were almost twice as big as my apartment…and some nights I would stay with them to get a break from my tiny space.

If you need extra space to house your out-of-town guests, the Hyatt at 265 Peachtree is offering a 50 percent off deal this holiday season.

The “All I Want for Christmas is my Own Room!” package includes a $59 room rate (plus tax) and reduced valet parking Dec. 23, 24 and 25.

To get the offer, visit and enter the promo code IWANT.

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– Nedra Rhone, for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog

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8 gifts that cost $25 or less

The holiday season is a shopper’s dream as bargain hunters search for ways to save a bundle while still scoring great gifts for friends and family. What’s a good start? Keeping the items on your list priced at $25 or less.

Here are a few suggestions:

cashmere warmersMini Cashmere warmers ($20 at Restoration Hardware) help keep hands warm in chilly weather. To activate heat, snap the metal disk on each gel pack, tuck both packs in their cashmere sleeves and place in coat pockets. Now you’re ready whenever your hands get too cold.

kiwi crateKiwi Crate’s Crafty Christmas, Handmade Hanukkah or Gifts Made by Me holiday crates are perfect for little ones with holiday downtime. The themed crates are filled with materials and inspiration for hands-on projects. You can send one for $19.95 (plus shipping, at to the creative 3- to 7-year-old on your list. The Crafty Christmas crate has everything to create a “gingerbread” house and three one-of-a-kind paint-swirl ornaments.

velveteen rabbitMerchandise …

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Fee-free layaway plans for 2012

Have you ever used layaway?

The practice of putting aside items and paying on them in installments was first introduced in the Depression-era. By the time I came of age in the early 80’s, credit cards were king and layaway had fallen by the wayside.

The shopping pendulum moved back in the other direction around 2008 when stores began re-introducing layaway plans and many consumers embraced them.

“Layaway if fantastic. I am so happy stores are bringing it back. I have been an advocate of that for a while as opposed to interest bearing credit cards,” says Josh Elledge, of Elledge also notes that the popularity of layaway plans and the current couponing craze is being fueled by the upper middle class.

While some stores have opted not to bring back this relic of the past — Target for example, does not offer layaway — many others did and this year, most of them made it fee-free or almost free. Here’s a look at some of them (see websites for more detailed …

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