Being a Woman is a Rip-Off

Well this sucks:

A recent report from the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs found that, on average, products geared toward girls and women cost 7% more than similar goods for males. The agency, which analyzed almost 800 products from more than 90 brands sold in New York City, found that items targeting women cost more than the male versions 42% of the time

This is especially true for children’s toys, like the identical-except-for-color scooter pictured above. The report acknowledges that there are sometimes legitimate reasons for the price discrepancy. The “boy” products might be cheaper to make, for example, or less popular so they are put on sale. But that doesn’t apply across the board. Forty-two percent of the time, women pay more.

The New York Department of Consumer Affairs urges people to report gendered pricing discrepancies themselves using the #genderpricing hashtag. [Buzzfeed News]

Should Retail Stores Provide Selection or Curation?

While buying gifts this year, I found myself in the monument to consumerism, the Mall of America. To get my bearing, I did a lap to see if I could find what I wanted: a pair of shoes and an insulated travel mug for my wife. Although there were dozens of stores at which I could have bought my gifts, I only walked into two: Williams-Sonoma and Clarks.

That’s because I did not want to stand in front of a wall of insulated tumblers with no indication of which will do the best job. I just wanted a good tumbler, and I didn’t want to have to think too much about it. Williams-Sonoma only carries high-quality stuff, and as it turned out, they only carried one travel mug in two sizes. It’s awesome, and my wife loves it.

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Give One Less Gift This Holiday

How many of you give someone money (or a gift certificate) for the holidays? In other words, how many of you put zero thought into your gift, but just hand over some money because you feel compelled to? Or how many of you give the equivalent of a Christmas sweater, which the recipient will wear once—maybe—and then stuff in a box for the rest of the year (or forever)?

Many people simply go through the motions of giving, because it’s often really hard to get something your friends and family will really treasure. Think of all the clothing, gag gifts, and stocking stuffers that you’ve tossed in the back of a drawer, re-gifted, or hauled off to Goodwill. Every one of those gifts represents wasted money and carbon emissions. Your life, the giver’s bank account, and our planet would have been better off without them. We’ve all got enough things.

You could re-commit yourself to the spirit of the season and give thoughtful gifts, but that doesn’t solve the things problem. Or you could just opt out of gift-giving entirely, and put your friends and family on notice with this “gift certificate” from Miss Minimalist:

(There’s a full-size version you can easily print off.)

Instead, make a charitable donation in your friends’ and family members’ names (I suggest Heifer International), have everyone over for a holiday dinner (or just spend time together), or find other ways to show friends and family that you are grateful for their presence in your life.

Banks Plan to Charge a Monthly Fee to Use a Debit Card

As of October 1st, banks will be able to charge only 21¢ per transaction for debit cards, due to the Dodd-Frank Act’s Durbin Amendment. That’s a completely reasonable charge for sending a few bits of data over the wires. But charging comically large percentages for transactions is how banks pay for the mortgages on those skyscrapers, so they’re just going to charge you, instead.

Bank of America will begin charging $5/month to use a debit card early next year, and Wells Fargo is already testing a $3/month fee in some states. In other words, debit card use is going to get a lot more expensive for consumers.

Price tags on everything else may rise, too, since Visa and Mastercard (not banks, so not bound by the Dodd-Frank Act’s Durbin Amendment) plan to quadruple their merchant transaction fee.

Consumers Tend to Buy What They Touch

If you want to save money, keep your hands to yourself. If you touch something, you are more likely to buy it. That’s why Best Buy lets you play with practically everything in the store. And why clothing stores put fuzzy things right at waist level so you can reach them easily.

To avoid this subtle persuasion, you could just stay out of stores and do all your shopping online. If that’s not practical (and let’s face it, it isn’t), go to stores with a list, and make a beeline for what you need, grazing results in touching, and you know what touching leads to.

If all else fails, my wife likes to put things in our cart while we do our shopping so that we can think about whether we really want it. This works surprisingly well for us. Ten or fifteen minutes later, the rush of picking up a new shiny gadget often wears off, and we can consider the purchase rationally. Often, it goes back on the shelf.

Citibank Credit Card Numbers Exposed by Blippy

Upstart social networking site Blippy apparently failed to protect its users’ credit card numbers—or at least some of them. Blippy allows users to see what friends are buying and comment on their purchases. It also let Google index the purchase information, including credit card numbers.

If you are a Blippy user—especially if you have a Citibank card—keep an eye on your account and look for unfamiliar charges. You might even ask for a new card as a proactive measure.

Blippy users’ credit card numbers found on Google | VentureBeat

Divorce Lawyer Selection

Minnesota, like most states, has hundreds of divorce lawyers. Picking the best divorce lawyer for you can be intimidating and frustrating. You can increase your chances of finding a good match with a little preparation and a few good questions.

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Support the Small Businesses You Love

When the economy goes sour, big businesses get all the attention and government money. But I am far more concerned with keep my favorite coffee shop and restaurant open, and making sure my handyman stays in business. I could care less whether Bank of America goes bankrupt.

So I have made an effort to support those businesses during the economic downturn. Like most Americans, my family has cut back on spending, but we cut back less at the local businesses we love. You should, too. Wal-Mart and the Home Depot will be fine. Your favorite bar or bookstore may not.

According to The 3/50 Project, for every $100 you spend at independently-owned businesses, $68 stays in the community. If you spend that at a national chain like Wal-Mart or Target, only $43 stays home. If you spend it online, none of it does.

You should always support your favorite local, independently-owned businesses, but they need it now, especially.

The 3/50 Project

How to buy a new car in any economy

Now is not the time to run out and buy a new car if yours works perfectly well. But if you are in the market, you can look forward to some great deals, as cars are piling up in storage lots and dealers are anxious to move inventory.

Whether the economy is bad or good, there is one sure way to get the best deal on a car.

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Let’s make a deal

It might be too late to haggle over prices for this holiday season but this is sage advice for any time of year – especially in this economy. Let’s make a deal | Star Tribune (via Associated Press)