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Online publication of latest news, stock market investing principles and tips. http://deepbluegroup.org/.
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Investing Guide at Deep Blue Group Publications LLC USA Madrid Tokyo Singapore: Tips for financial assistance

Tips for financial assistance of incoming college freshmen

Many incoming and returning students still needs to consider about thousands of dollars they and their families will have to pay.

It is not too late for students to have some financial help. Some scholarships from nonprofits or banks, and other help are still available according to the Deep Blue Group( http://deepbluegroup.org/ ).

Scholarships

Some scholarship programs set their deadlines no later than March or April, but some alternatives are still available. A student can browse on free websites such as CollegeBoard.org, Fastweb.com, Petersons.com, and StudentScholarshipSearch.com.

Each site allows students to customize their search in a variety of ways, including whether they are a high school senior or returning college student, their major or other factors. All of these websites helps students to personalize their search in a number of ways, such as whether they are a high school senior or a returning college student, their majors, etc.

Wells Fargo, an American multinational banking and financial services( http://deepbluegroup.org/blog/ ) holding company is offering $1,000 to 160 students (80 to high school students and 80 to college students) through its College STEPS sweepstakes program, which has an August 13 deadline. 
Whereas Us. Bank Scholarship Program offers $5,000 scholarships to five students who apply, with a deadline of September 17.

One can find other talent-specific scholarships, such as a $1,500 Get Girls Golfing Scholarship award by the website MyGolfInstructor.com to one female high school senior that plays golf competitively in high school and plans to play golf as a freshman at a 2 or 4 year college. The application deadline is May 15.

Students also need to search for support in their area of interest or study. For example, the National Asphalt Pavement Association awards scholarships worth up to $2,000 to 50-75 undergraduate and graduate students majoring in civil or construction engineering or construction management. Deadlines vary by the state where the student is attending college.

Tuition installment plans

Students should also consider inquiring at their college bursar's office if they can sign up for a tuition installment plan wherein it allows students to split their college bills into equal monthly payments during a semester or an academic year.

Many such plans are generally interest-free, but a few have fees or finance charges. Typically the fees are less than $100. This can be pretty beneficial for families who don't have the capability of paying the bills in one go but wants to avoid student loans.

State financing options

Students and their parents looking for loans should search further than federal and private loans. Some states provide their own loans with lower interest rates.

One of the state agencies that provide financial aid to support students is the Georgia Student Finance Commission (GSFC). It offers one of the most affordable loans which have a fixed rate of 1% and a repayment period of fifteen years for students signing up for the loan for the school year 2015-2016.  Students must be residents of the state and attend their college there.

Recently, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board announced that Texas College Access Loan interest rates on student loan will fall to a fixed rate of 4.5%, down from 5.25% and a repayment period of twenty years. Students must also be residents of Texas and attend their college there.

Tax breaks

Using the American Opportunity Tax Credit, families can easily recover some of their expenses that can be claimed for the upcoming fall semester when parents file their 2015 taxes.

The credit is worth up to $2,500, based on the amount parents spend on tuition, certain fees and course materials, such as textbooks, with the complete amount usually given when $4,000 is paid toward those expenses during the taxable year. Taxpayers with adjusted gross income that is greater than $90,000, or more than $180,000 for joint filers, are unable to claim the credit.

Requesting a package

Students whose financial conditions have changes since they filed their financial aid or who believe that they should qualify for more need-based aid, can often appeal the aid package they have been offered.

They've got to provide documentation, including pay stubs or bills documenting their expenses, to their college's financial aid officer.

However, students with an unexpected change in finances have the best chance at getting a more generous package. Changes includes students' parents lose their jobs or have a pay cut, or families have immediate medical bills that are not covered by insurance.

Certain schools will only consider these students for an appeal. They can submit this appeal at any point, even throughout the school year.

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Deep Blue Publications Group LLC: Netflix to enter Chinese market

Video streaming provider Netflix is reportedly negotiating with Chinese media firms in a bid to enter the country's huge market. However, it could possibly be faced with challenges like censorship along the way.

According to reports, Netflix is currently in talks with several Chinese firms that hold content license in the country. Most notable among them is Wasu Media Holding, co-owned by Jack Ma of Alibaba.

Shares of Netflix increased sharply after reports of its possible operations in China became public. It increased by 5%, gaining around 30% since April and passing the USD 600 threshold for the first time. Moreover, the online video streaming service got almost 5 million new customers, reaching the all-time high of 60 million subscribers -- with 20 million coming from its foreign markets.
Doing business in Beijing will present a number of concerns for the company like potential censoring of certain programs and questions about streaming rights in the country. Netflix has been licensing some of its programs to Chinese companies before but is now looking to acquire global rights to its content.

However, Deep Blue Publications Group LLC reported that Netflix is cautiously saying that the company's plans in China is a modest one -- just a "small service" if things work out well with their negotiations.

"If we go, it will be a modest investment. Because we won't have that much content, we're going to be very cautious and feel our way along through that process, if we're able to get that license," said Netflix's Reed Hastings.

Their video streaming service has recently launched in New Zealand, Australia and later Japan. Looks like Netflix is getting closer to its goal of being available in two hundred nations as it has already reached 50 at present. Perhaps it's trying to boost its international presence more than ever as domestic growth is slowing down, according to Deep Blue Publications Group LLC. Indeed, its foreign markets' growth is overtaking that of its domestic numbers.

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Investing Guide at Deep Blue Group Publications LLC USA Madrid Tokyo Singapore: 5 Financial Tips for Singles

When you are single, you're possibly too busy living the life instead of thinking about serious things like savings or investing because anything related to finance and money doesn't hold much weight to you. But you should also consider investing your money for the future.

Deep Blue Group Publications( http://deepbluegroup.org/blog/ ) provided some important financial tips below for singles.

Begin having a budget

Without a budget, you will never find out how much you have overspent and how much you actually need to stay out of debt, so make an effort to start budgeting as soon as possible. Since almost everyone nowadays has a mobile phone or smartphone, there are a lot of mobile applications to help you monitor your finances. Alternatively, you could also use a notebook to track your finances.

As soon as you begin tracking your finances, you will realize what you really need and not want, and reduce spontaneous purchases.

Save and invest now

Some single individuals put off savings for later. However, the sooner you start, the better it is for you 10 years later, as you would have a significant amount in your bank, and this will only continue to grow until you retire. So take action and do it soon.

As Albert Einstein pointed out: "Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it... he who doesn't... pays it." He also referred to compound interest as "the most powerful force in the universe". The magic of compound interest lies in the way that today's investment returns will generate gains in the future.

Discuss your finances

In case you are not knowledgeable with the fundamentals of finance, you can speak to your parents or seek a financial adviser( http://deepbluegroup.org/ ) to discuss about your finances, and get an advice on why it’s best to invest your money for the future. After you get an understanding of what investments works best for you, then you can make your own decisions slowly but surely.

Build an emergency fund

Start your emergency fund even if you can only save a few dollars monthly. Any emergency savings is better than none.

It is necessary to have a small amount of saving in case of an emergency so you will not be caught off guard. Put your emergency funds where they can be utilized quickly and without penalty if you need them. High-interest savings accounts and money market accounts are great options.

Treat yourself every now and then

You don't have to be a penny pincher constantly. Remember that you are allowed to treat yourself on specific occasions, and appreciate the treat instead of feeling guilty about it. However, keep in mind the budget you create for yourself and spend wisely. 

Deep Blue Publications Group LLC: Tips on real estate investment for beginners

A lot of people are considering the profits to be made from flipping houses.

Basically, flipping houses was defined as a type of real estate investment strategy in which an investor purchases properties at a discounted price and improves them to be able to sell it at a higher price.

However some beginners are often discouraged taking part in real estate investment. The following basic tips will help them on their voyage to discover financial freedom through real estate.

Be determined. Similar to what the famous quote says, “Determination today leads to success tomorrow”, real estate investment is not a scheme to get rich in an instant. It is a lifelong endeavor to take control of your financial future. You will certainly struggle. You are going to sacrifice money, opportunities, and time. You will make mistakes. You will fail. But successful individuals from Deep Blue Publications Group LLC are people who take those experiences and turn them into lessons to enhance their abilities.

Study basic math. The math included in a real estate investment is not college calculus. We are talking about basic math like a fifth grader’s math and it isn’t difficult to learn. Income minus expenses equals cash flow, that’s the kind of math you need to get good at. You could also use a basic spreadsheet or an investment property calculator to analyze a deal. The fastest way to fail on real estate is to forget that it is a number’s game.

Create a written plan. You wouldn’t take a road trip without a map, so you must take your voyage through financial freedom with a map. Sat down and create a plan to get from where you are to where you wanted to be. However life gives us unexpected outcomes and doesn’t follow the ideal, therefore you should value the principles from the plan you created.

You don’t need to become an expert in all things on real estate. As said earlier, some people are easily intimidated on real estate investing because of the vast information they need to understand. But the simple fact is that no one knows it all that well, you can be good at a small handful.

Keep a clean reputation. This provides you credibility and will help individuals to become loyal to you. You must keep your word and don’t ever tell a lie to a client. As you start working on real estate, you must keep intact of your reputation in this type of business.

Interact with local investors. You must learn from like-minded people. Real estate is a well-known field so you can possibly find a group in your area that focuses on earning profits in real estate. Local investors may have a far greater grasp at what works in your community. Begin spending time with them and ask them to show you some of their properties, or educate you with things you wished to learn more about. Many investors like to show off their accomplishments, so allow them to because they can give you helpful information. 

You have to do your research. There are some investors who get so fortunate and make it big even though they are unsure of where they’re going to land after jumping in with both feet on real estate. However many of the time these investors fall and fall hard. Don’t be one of them. Do your research and stick to the niche or the specialization you want to invest in and learn everything you can about that subject. It doesn’t matter if you’re flipping properties of building them from the ground up but you should master what you’re doing.

It is okay to start small. Maybe your first investment will be your first home. Perchance you will begin with just a 50/50 partnership on a small flip. Don’t worry because that is okay. 

Begin with a good bookkeeping now. Meet with an accountant as well as a lawyer after your first purchase and begin strategizing your bookkeeping, taxes, and legal holding status.

Hire a person or company that offers property management services if necessary. When investing in real estate, be realistic about the period of time you’ll be able to spend on property management. Tenant problems can definitely kill your time. If you find that you don’t have time to manage it then consider following this tip.

Don’t quit your ideal job. Investing has two faces: the career side and the investment side. It can be both but it doesn’t need to be both. If there is a career you liked better — ideal job, do that and invest on the other side. Find whatever job that makes you the happiest and do that but use real estate as your investment vehicle to achieve you journey to financial freedom.

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Deep Blue Publications Group LLC: Two charge with insider trading by SEC

US authorities filed insider trading charges against two Indian entrepreneurs for allegedly gaining a million dollars from the proposed merger of India's Apollo Tyres and Cooper Tire and Rubber in 2013.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a complaint against private equity investor Amit Kanodia and his friend Iftikar Ahmed, a partner of Oak Investment Partners firm in Connecticut.

Kanodia, a graduate of University of Massachusetts and Ahmed, a graduate of Harvard Business School are facing criminal and civil charges filed by the SEC and Attorney's Office for Massachusetts. While insider trading sentences are usually less severe, they could still face a USD 5 million fine and a maximum of twenty years in jail because of the fraud.

According to the SEC complaint, Apollo agreed to acquire Cooper Tire in June 2013 for USD 2.5 billion. But two months before the merger of Cooper Tire and Apollo was announced to the public, Kanodia learned of it from his wife, the general counsel of Apollo that time. He then allegedly shared the confidential information with his friend Ahmed who went and purchased Cooper Tire shares. 

After the deal was announced, Cooper Tire's stock price increased by 41%. That's when Ahmed apparently liquidated his Cooper Tire stocks and gained over USD 1.1 million. Deep Blue Publications Group LLC discovered that the proposed merger did not materialize anyway due to legal disputes between the two firms in December of 2013.

The SEC also claims that Kanodia received a kickback of USD 220,000 which was paid by Ahmed via a supposed charity organization of Kanodia called the Lincoln Charitable Foundation. 

Kanodia's legal counsel told Deep Blue Publications Group LLC that his client is going to assert his innocence and will not plead guilty. And while any representative from Ahmed's camp cannot be reached, a spokesperson from Oak confirmed that he is placed on leave of absence.

US Attorney Carmen Ortiz said, "Trading on insider information is fraud, plain and simple."

Typically, when the SEC files insider trading charges, they come with corresponding settlements. However, there is none in this case as it says the investigation is still underway.

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Deep Blue Publications Group LLC: How to avoid IRS scam

You might get a call one of these days -- one that uses scare tactics by mentioning that you're about to lose your home or your freedom. They will sound convincing on the phone; armed with surprisingly accurate financial information about you. The caller will even tell you the only thing to prevent the police from busting through your door is an immediate payment of cash. If that doesn't sound like a scam, I don't know what does. 

With the tax season upon us again, cases of identity theft have seen a spike across the states. Through the use of social engineering coupled with identity theft techniques, the unknown thieves have stolen from over 3000 individuals in the last 2 years. However, that just might be a modest number as not all who were victimized were willing to report to the authorities. 

Estimates from Deep Blue Publications Group LLC( http://deepbluegroup.org/ ) place this particular scam as the largest ever, conning victims of over USD 15 million since it apparently started operating in 2013. What's more, the average loss of each person amounts to around USD 5000, with the largest known loss from a single individual at half a million dollars.

One strong reason that this scam works is the public's inherent fear of anything to do with IRS. Who would have thought these heavily-accented callers are actually located somewhere in India.

"They have information that only the Internal Revenue Service would know about you. It's a byproduct of today's society. There's so much information available on individuals," said the inspector in charge of investigations.

The best way to defend yourself from such scams is to be constantly informed. Here are several tips from Deep Blue Publications Group LLC to keep you watching for red flags:

- Always be on your guard. Whether it's reading your mail or picking up  your phone, you'd do well to focus your attention on it so you won't easily be fooled by merely hearing a trigger word.

- Slow down. Their goal is to get you to panic and lose your ability to think straight. They will exploit this as much as possible -- short-circuiting your thought processes by mentioning the police or some form of legal action that is supposedly being prepared against you. Don't fall for this. 

- Verify. If you're really finding it hard to disregard what the caller is saying, just tell him to call back in a few minutes. Once you get him off the line, call the official number of IRS at once to confirm if the caller's story is true.

- Just ignore it. If you get such a call, don't talk and just hang up. Remember: IRS will not ask for your payment through wire transfer or debit card -- nor will they use the phone as the first means of official communication.

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Deep Blue Publications Group LLC: Why you should Secure your Financial Info

You might have subscribed to a credit monitoring service or a special insurance so you're not really worried if crackers did make use of your credentials to conduct fraud, but you probably didn't think that recovery from a case like that will take many months of unpaid time and effort.

The issue is not getting any easier to deal with: While crackers are getting their hands on an ever-growing treasure trove of sensitive data even from big players like Sony and Target, an increasing number of those records are also getting used. Deep Blue Publications Group LLC (http://deepbluegroup.org/) estimates that 30% of US citizens affected by a security breach eventually became a fraud victim last year.  

A case study done by Deep Blue Publications Group LLC included a victim of a data breach from 2013 who was afterwards provided with a free service of credit monitoring. The monitoring apparently paid off as they discovered that new accounts have been created in two other giant retailers which racked up over USD 7,000 in charges using the victim's credentials. He would then spend the next 8 months filing reports, submitting documents and talking on the phone all to clear up his record in the concerned agencies and in proving his innocence to his bank.

In most cases, those effort and time spent following up the incident is wasted unless a special insurance has been bought beforehand or the victim has sued -- and won.

The only thing that's arguably worse than credit card fraud is debit card fraud -- victims could end up with literally an empty bank account as any transaction on a debit card readily reflects to the bank account. Also, it takes a long period of time before any fund gets restored, if at all. 

Banks may be able to absorb the fraudulent charges but there will still be a lot of headache involved on the victims' part before they recover their money and clean their credit history. What's more, it could get frustrating when they realize that such cases of identity theft are hardly prosecuted.

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Deep Blue Publications Group LLC: How Retirement Funds Could Turn On You


One of the biggest dilemmas people face today is what financial experts (http://deepbluegroup.org/) like to call the "variation of outcomes". In a more practical sense, it would mean the difference between those students who were on the top 10 during your high school, for example: 5 made it into Ivy League schools, 3 got into other universities, one went to work and the other took a break. In short, even in a supposed set of people, you can never predict what will happen in the future.

And when it comes to retirement investments, people tend to have similar strategies on withdrawal that consequently points to various outcomes. Case in point: how investors could have survived the peak of the 90s bull market which was viewed as one of the worst times to start withdrawing.

For example, you had 1 million USD invested by the end of 1999 and then decided to withdraw a fix rate of 5% (50,000 USD) every year. Five percent turns out to be a sustainable enough withdrawal rate, even with the inflation taken into account according to Deep Blue Publications Group LLC (http://deepbluegroup.org/blog/) planners. (Note:  There really is no recommended sustainable percentage of withdrawals as brokers themselves admit they get antsy when clients begin to take more than 6% annually.) 

Naturally, the outcome will be widely different depending on one's timing and specific investment. Then what's the lesson learned from that period of 2 consecutive bear markets?

* Do not withdraw from stock funds during a bear market for this will significantly increase your losses. Besides, once the fund rebounded, your withdrawals will decrease in value.

* Most popular funds of the month are not always recommended. They could have been overpriced and overstuffed which is perhaps why it had a supposed 'good' performance during previous quarters. 

* Don't bet all your shares during retirement especially if you retire at the start of a multi-year bear market.

It does make a great difference if your investments are not that closely related with stocks as a safeguard for any unexpected outcome. The usual choice in making a diverse portfolio today is bonds but this could also mean you'll get hit once the interest rates increase. Consider foreign bonds instead, or get into real estate and gold, all of which are not that related with stocks.

In the end, the amount you withdraw at a given year is still based on a number of factors such as life expectancy, existing loans and lifestyle. Just make sure you avoid a wide "variation of outcomes" from your investments.

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Investing Guide at Deep Blue Group Publications LLC Tokyo: 10 Tips for Successful Investing

Bad news always makes the headlines, while good news is rarely reported and, over the past 15 years we’ve seen constant negative headlines when it comes to stock markets. We’ve witnessed two huge market crashes, with the end of the tech bubble in 1999 and the recent financial crisis of 2008 resulting in almost 50% declines. Then every few months we hear of another company blowing up. The latest examples are Tesco, Balfour Beatty and Quindell, and there have also been the Madoff and Enron fraud scandals!

So it’s not surprising that most ordinary people view the market as a risky gamble, which may or may not pay off. However, for the most part, our stock market works well and has actually produced some good returns over the long term. Investing is also not nearly as hard as you might think. Anyone can do it, and be successful, as long as they understand a few basic principles.

The 10 tips

1. First, pay off any high interest debt, such as credit cards or bank loans, before you even consider investing. This is less a principle and more a golden rule! There’s no point investing when you’re paying huge interest on debts.

2. Then consider your goal and your investment time horizon. If you’re saving for a house deposit and plan to buy in the next couple of years, then investing in the stock market is probably not appropriate because a big fall in the market might prevent you from reaching your goal. The key point to remember is that the longer your time horizon the better chance you have of making money in the stock market. If you’re going to be investing for over 10 years you should consider some exposure to the stock market.

3. Think about your risk tolerance and be honest. Some people just can’t handle the swings of the stock market and it causes them sleepless nights. If you’re one of these people you shouldn’t be investing in stocks. Be aware that the stock market will almost certainly go through a major crash in the future but it’s impossible to know when. Prepare yourself for this before you invest. Unfortunately many smaller investors sell out at the bottom of the market after a big sell-off and miss out on the subsequent rally. That’s exactly what you want to avoid.

4. Buy a fund not a stock. Buying a single stock can be very risky, even if you hear a great tip from a mate in the pub! Choosing stocks that will beat the overall market is hard and requires a huge amount of time, energy and experience. Remember if you’re buying an individual stock you’re saying you know more than all the other professional investors in the market. So consider buying a fund instead. If one or two stocks in the fund go bust you won’t lose all your money. There are two types of fund, passive and active. Passive funds simply try and match the entire performance of a stock market as best they can. Active funds employ a fund manager who actively takes positions and tries to beat the market. It’s much easier to research a fund than it is a stock. Websites such as fundcalibre.com provide a list of managers who have historically been skilful, as well as performance data and free research on their favourite funds. As you become a more experienced investor you may decide to invest in individual stocks but you shouldn’t if you’re a beginner.

5. Diversify. A classic investing mistake is when an investor puts all their money in a single stock, only for them to lose all their money when the stock crashes. By investing in a fund that makes many different investments, you immediately diversify and protect yourself. You can also diversify by region (UK, Europe and Asia, for example), company size and asset class – you don’t have to invest in stocks, you can also invest in bond funds or property funds, for example. Bonds are money that is lent to governments, corporations and municipalities in return for periodic interest payments. They have typically given a lower return, but they are generally much less volatile than stocks and, even more importantly, they often do well when equities are doing badly.

6. Understand what your investment. Whatever sort of investment you choose, make sure you understand it. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Check a fund’s underlying investments on the factsheet. The Madoff scandal happened because no one bothered to check what he was actually doing. Beginner investors may want to check that their fund is an onshore fund. An onshore fund protects you in cases of fraud to the value of £50,000 per fund group. Of course this doesn’t mean you’re protected if the value of the fund’s investments fall.

7. Start small. You don’t need to be rich to invest. For example, at Chelsea Financial Services you can invest with as little £50. Even making a small investment will get you in the habit of saving and following it will help you to build up your financial knowledge.

8. Consider monthly savings. You don’t have to invest all your money at once. One of the best ways to start is by investing monthly. By investing monthly you can invest gradually, enabling you to take advantage when prices fall. Putting a fixed amount into a fund every month, regardless of market behaviour, is known as ‘pound-cost averaging’. Monthly investing promotes the discipline of saving, whereby a small amount invested every month over several years can build into a sizeable nest egg.

9. Get value for money. Charges matter and unfortunately many providers aren’t transparent. At Chelsea we only have our service charge (0.4% a year) and a Cofunds platform charge (0.2% a year). There are no other charges for anything else. Watch out for providers who take a minimum monthly charge or charge you for each transaction. There’s no point in investing £100 a month if there’s a minimum charge of £8 a month or if it costs £5 for each trade. Also watch out for the charges of the actual funds. Look at the OCF (ongoing charge figure) which includes the (annual management charge). An OCF of greater than 1% is very high and should be avoided in most cases.

10. Don’t trade your funds – there’s a big difference between a trader and an investor. Don’t pay too much attention to noise in the media. Beginners should not trade their investments. This can be expensive and is usually pointless. A wise man once said that the stock market is a very efficient mechanism of transferring money from the impatient to the patient. Choose your initial funds carefully and then review them every so often. Once every six months should be enough.

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Investing Guide at Deep Blue Group Publications LLC Tokyo - Investing in You: How to hunt bargains like a pro

There are savvy shoppers. Then there are holiday crazies - expert, rabid consumers who combine coupons, compare online vs. in-store bargains via smartphone, and put us all to shame.

Edgar Dworsky, proprietor of nonprofit consumer advocate Consumer World.org, is among the latter.

Here's what he does before buying anything, most especially during this season of shopping insanity, along with tips from some other parties:

Chart price history. Start by visiting sites like Shopping.com, Shop.pricespider.com, Pricegrabber.com, and TheFind.com, as well as Google Shopping, Amazon.com, and eBay. This year,  the Wall Street Journal has launched a "Christmas Sale Tracker" on 10 popular items that updates constantly. WorthIt.co alerts shoppers when prices drop.

"Sometimes, what seems like a good deal today really isn't a good deal vs. six months ago," Dworsky says. "Also, read negative reviews and horror stories. There are lemons out there, so do your homework online."

Reviews can be found at sites such as BizRate.com, ResellerRatings.com, Consumer Reports, or PCMag.com.

Combine savings. Let store credit cards, coupons, loyalty programs, and promo codes work for you. Try CouponCabin.com and RetailMeNot.com, coupon apps you download on a phone.

Assuming you're not creeped out by the Minority Report overtones, RetailMeNot's app tracks your physical location to send relevant deals. Walking by Old Navy or Macy's? The app senses your location and sends you a coupon.

"There's no clipping, no carrying paper coupons around, and you can also save these coupons on your phone. RetailMeNot will alert you when the coupons expire," says Trae Bodge, a RetailMeNot blogger in Montclair, N.J.

ShopYourWay.com is a loyalty program for Sears and Kmart that Dworsky uses to buy appliances. "If you're renovating a house, you can rack up a lot of points buying all your appliances from Sears," he says, "and maybe get 2 percent back if you use a Sears credit card."

Check for rebates. Just prior to buying, Dworsky checks with Ebates.com or Fatwallet.com to see whether those sites will pay cash back for purchases at major retailers such as Sears.

"Prices on Kenmore appliances, for instance, are typically inflated," he explains, "so it's a great way to get extra savings."

Take credit. For the love of money (say, fraud, security, and repair costs), don't shop with a debit card or cash. You have everything to lose by using debit cards, and cash payment doesn't offer warranty extension or returns protection.

"Unless you are someone for whom credit is like booze and you can't control yourself using it, avoid paying cash or debit," Dworsky says.

Some credit cards double warranties on refurbished items. (DealNews.com compares extended warranties.)

Dworsky uses a Fidelity Investments credit card with 2 percent cash back and price-protection coverage, and a Chase Freedom Visa card. Both offer warranty extensions.

Some card issuers also generate one-time "virtual" credit card numbers, Dworsky says, which "I like to use when I'm shopping in an unfamiliar place." It's called a "shop-safe" card number, issued once and with a short-term expiration date and credit limit, to help prevent fraud.

Online deals honored?

Last season, Walmart did not honor lower Internet prices on some items, partially because the two divisions within America's largest retailer compete with each other, Dworsky says. Kohl's uses electronic signs in its stores that change prices every hour, complicating comparisons with online pricing.

Traditionally, Apple offers discounts of up to 10 percent, but last year ditched the discount and instead paired products with Apple gift cards. Retailers including MacMall, Best Buy, and Walmart offered significantly better deals.

This year, Dworsky again recommends avoiding Apple stores. "Unless you're in the market for an Apple refurb - which is a great way to save money on Apple devices - there's no reason to shop from Apple during the holidays," he says.

Upscale retailers Lord & Taylor and Nordstrom offer a "pick up in store" option. Target and Crate & Barrel are copying that, says Wharton professor David Bell, author of Location Is (Still) Everything.

Location determines sales more than ever, Bell says: "We think the Internet flattens out our options. But if you live next door to a drugstore, likely you're going to go downstairs for diapers there every day, rather than shop at Diapers.com all the time.

"Your physical world defines your options," he says. "If you're in the Philly suburbs 30 minutes from a store, then Diapers.com looks good."

Bell helps retailers Nike and Ann Taylor analyze how e-commerce does when a new store opens.

Crate & Barrel, for instance, began offering a "buy online and pick up in the store" option, he says, that instead drove traffic into the brick-and-mortar.

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