MONEY Shopping

The Latest Sign That The Economy Is Getting Back on Track

A family uses the self-checkout at the Wal-Mart owned Sam's Club in Bentonville
Rick Wilking—Reuters A family uses the self-checkout at the Wal-Mart owned Sam's Club in Bentonville, Arkansas June 4, 2015.

Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of US economic activity.

U.S. consumer spending recorded its largest increase in nearly six years in May on strong demand for automobiles and other big-ticket items, further evidence that economic growth was gathering momentum in the second quarter.

The Commerce Department said on Thursday consumer spending increased 0.9% last month, the biggest gain since August 2009, after an upwardly revised 0.1% rise in April.

The sturdy increases suggested households were finally spending some of the windfall from lower gasoline prices, and capped a month of solid economic reports.

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, was previously reported to have been unchanged in April. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a 0.7% rise in May.

It was the latest sign that growth was accelerating after gross domestic product shrank at a 0.2 percent annual rate in the first quarter as the economy battled bad weather, port disruptions, a strong dollar and spending cuts in the energy sector.

From employment to the housing market, the economic data in May has been bullish. Even manufacturing, which is struggling with the lingering effects of dollar strength and lower energy prices, also is starting to stabilize.

The firming economy suggests the Federal Reserve could raise interest rates this year even as inflation remains well below the U.S. central bank’s 2 percent target.

Spending on long-lasting goods such as automobiles jumped 2.2 percent last month, while outlays on services like utilities rose 0.3 percent.

When adjusted for inflation, consumer spending increased 0.6 percent, the largest jump since last August, after being unchanged in April.

Personal income increased 0.5 percent last month after a similar gain in April. Income is being boosted by a tightening

labor market, which is starting to push up wage growth. With households stepping up spending, the saving rate fell to 5.1 percent from 5.4 percent in April. Still, savings remain at lofty levels.

Inflation pressures remained tame last month despite the acceleration in consumer spending. A price index for consumer spending increased 0.3 percent after being flat in April. In the 12 months through May, the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index rose only 0.2 percent.

Excluding food and energy, prices edged up 0.1 percent after a similar gain in April. The so-called core PCE price index rose 1.2 percent in the 12 months through May, the smallest gain since February 2014.

MONEY Shopping

Why I’m Returning My Apple Watch

Apple Watch Available Within Apple Stores
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images A new Apple Watch is displayed at the Apple Store on June 17, 2015 in San Francisco, California. Apple began selling the Apple Watch in its stores Wednesday with their reserve and pick up service.

I’m not saying the Apple Watch is overall a bad product. It’s just not for me. Not yet.

I waited two months after launch, but I did end up buying an Apple APPLE INC. AAPL -0.67% Watch. I picked a 42 mm Apple Watch Sport, which retails for $399. That’s on the low end of the spectrum as far as Apple Watch’s pricing goes, and there was no way I was going to part with $17,000 for an Apple Watch Edition, which is quite literally exactly what I paid for my car.

Yet merely days after receiving the device, I’ve already decided to return the Mac maker’s first wearable product. I’m generally an early adopter of most things Apple, and most of my reasoning for returning the device is personal. I’m not saying the Apple Watch is overall a bad product. It’s just not for me. Not yet.

Here’s why.

Apple Watch as a notification device
It appeared that most of my interactions with the Apple Watch revolved around the notifications it would send me. Texts would come in. It tells me to stand up. There’s a thunderstorm brewing tonight. While it’s undeniably an added convenience to get notifications on my wrist, the value of that convenience doesn’t quite justify the price tag when it was becoming one of the primary uses of the device. I needed the Apple Watch to be something more.

Apple Watch as a communications device
Apple has spent a fair amount of type trying to hype up its new Digital Touch communication service, with which you can send drawings, taps, and heartbeats to friends and family. In practice, I found the feature completely useless. Beyond the fading novelty of sending random doodles (I’m a terrible artist) and taps, I couldn’t see myself using Digital Touch in real-world applications. On top of that, my wife didn’t get an Apple Watch, so I also had no one to send my heartbeat to, because to send it to anyone else would certainly flirt with infidelity.

“You sent your heartbeat to her?” Image source: Apple.

But I also quickly realized that I was utterly uninterested in checking my email on such a tiny display. Not only are the vast majority of emails not formatted in a way that Apple Watch can display them (many emails nowadays are formatted in HTML, which the Apple Watch doesn’t support), but the Watch is also not a realistic way to respond to an email if need be. Besides, my iPhone is in my pocket, so I might as well just check my email from there.

The same goes for iMessages. Sure, Apple’s bizarre animated emojis are unique to Apple Watch, but the experience is more catered to reading messages instead of replying. Voice dictation for inputting text seems less accurate than on the iPhone.

Apple Watch as a fitness device
Perhaps the one area where I had the highest hopes for Apple Watch was fitness. I’m the first to admit that I could use a little bit more exercise, but Apple Watch didn’t really motivate me to get up and out in the way I had hoped. Besides, there are plenty of other devices that offer comprehensive health and fitness tracking for a whole lot less, albeit with the potential trade-off of having to wear two things on my wrist. The Fitbit Flex costs just $80 right now on’s Prime.

If I’m going attempt to break free from my sedentary lifestyle (only to probably fail), I’d rather pay less.

Apple Watch as a payment device
Using the Watch as a payment device was probably one of the most impressive experiences I had with it. To use Apple Pay, you simply double-press the button on the side, and Apple Watch is ready to pay at retail locations where Apple Pay and contactless payments are supported. It easily made for the most convenient payment I’ve ever made — double-pressing the button and then tapping the Watch on the register.

It’s not necessarily a huge improvement over paying with an iPhone, which is already extremely seamless, but it was undeniably smooth. In fact, the biggest overall problem was that Apple Pay isn’t accepted at all of the places where I shop, but the company continues to aggressively grow its footprint.

Apple Watch as a first-generation device
All of this will get better in time. I’m not ready to spend $400 to adopt a product with some early (although not entirely unexpected) shortcomings, only to get locked into the inevitable and ongoing upgrade cycle that’s associated with all tech gadgets. I’m already on enough upgrade tracks for the time being. Instead, I’d rather wait for the second-generation model, and 9to5Mac has already given us an idea of what to expect.

By then, watchOS 2 will have been released, adding important functionalities such as native third-party apps and third-party complications. Third-party developers will also have greater access to the Watch’s hardware and sensors. In essence, watchOS 2 will focus on enabling innovation from third-party developers, which is critical for the platform to thrive.

It’s not clear yet whether Apple will redesign the second-generation model altogether (beyond the expected addition of a FaceTime camera that 9to5Mac refers to), but we do know that Apple’s quest for the thinnest and lightest products it’s ever made will never end. Both the iPhone and iPad were completely redesigned after their respective first generations, so it’s entirely possible that Apple Watch will follow the same pattern. At the same time, Apple has set a precedent that when it enters a new product category at a particular price point, it generally stays in that range with subsequent iterations. The Apple Watch’s $350 entry-level price is unlikely to budge.

Even though I’m returning this one, I’m confident that I’ll buy the next one — and keep it.

Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Apple.
MONEY Shopping

5 Things to Consider Before Signing a Contract With a Phone, TV or Internet Provider

Simone Becchetti—Getty Images

Contracts limit freedom.

I see offers like these on a daily basis: “Get a new iPhone for only $99; requires two-year contract,” or “Get DIRECTV for only $29.99 a month for six months; requires a one-year commitment.”

These teasers may sound great, but the companies offering them always require that customers sign a contract — and that contract usually includes a variety of stipulations.

Before you sign a new contract with a cell phone provider, Internet provider, or a cable or satellite TV provider, carefully consider the terms. Insisting on service without a contract may save you money in the long run.

Key Considerations Before Entering into a Contract

1. It’s easy to sign up, not so easy to cancel
You can easily sign up for service with these providers just by signing a contract. The process may involve a credit check, and usually involves a verbal or online agreement. Once you agree to purchase the service, you also agree to the contractual obligations. The ease with which you enter into the contract stands in harsh contrast to the amount of effort it takes to cancel a contract for a service agreement.

When you first call the company to explain that you wish to cancel the service, the service representative will unfailingly attempt to talk you out of your decision. Frequently, the phone call precipitates a large amount of paperwork that you must complete before you are free of the contract.

2. Contracts limit freedom
Once you sign a contract, you lose the freedom to continue shopping around. You are locked in, and cannot respond to competing companies that may offer better deals. Additionally, if you plan to relocate, you may still have to fulfill the contractual obligations. Many service providers’ contracts include verbiage that states that moving away from the service area does not nullify the service contract.

3. No option for price negotiation
Service providers want you to sign a contract so they can lock you into a payment agreement. Regardless of the service, prices fluctuate – yet companies lock customers into a payment agreement, and then exclude them from future price reductions. No matter how good the initial offer seems, you almost always pay more in the long run for the cost of the contract, mitigating any initial savings from the introductory promotional offer.

4. Fine print can include undesirable stipulations
Service contracts usually include extensive terms and conditions. Familiarize yourself with the fine print before signing a contract. For example, when you sign up for a cell phone plan, you may have to purchase a pricy data plan. You may also have to pay full price for your “free” movie channels when the introductory promotion ends, or pay more for a faster Internet connection after an introductory promotional period ends.

To get the best deals, discuss the length of any promotional periods – as well as cancellation fees – with a representative before signing a contract. If you have to cancel your service early, you may have to pay termination fees. Cell phone cancellation fees typically range from $95 to $450. You can also find information about cancellation fees and promotional offers online. Most service providers offer some version of the contract’s terms and conditions on their websites.

5. No contract options exist!
Currently, I am not under contract with any of my providers. This includes my cell phone, Internet, and satellite TV services. I can price shop, compare service offerings, and switch companies whenever I choose. I will never sign a contract for a service agreement; plenty of no-contract options exist amongst service providers. I may not get the benefits of special promotional deals, but I am saving money in the long run by using this strategy.

Final Thoughts

If possible, do not sign contracts with service providers. Instead, shop around and find a company that offers a similar service without requiring a service contract.

If you absolutely must sign a contract, sign a short-term contract. Don’t get locked into any contracts that last for years.

Negotiate with service representatives to get the best introductory offers and to make your contract more valuable.

Remember, once you sign a contract, you won’t be able to utilize negotiation strategies and tactics later on. Make sure you’re really happy with the deals you receive before you sign on the dotted line.

More From Len Penzo dot Com:

MONEY Food & Drink

Why You’ll Be Paying More at Diners and Bakeries This Summer

eggs and bacon
Duston Todd—Getty Images

Menu prices will rise, if they haven't already.

The bird flu outbreak, which has killed 48 million chickens and turkeys over the past few months, began affecting the price of eggs sold by supermarkets and wholesalers starting early in spring. In some cases, the price of a dozen eggs at the grocery store doubled in about a month, and the USDA anticipates that shoppers will see record high prices by the end of the year.

The Whataburger fast-casual chain decided to scale back its breakfast hours in order to cope with an egg supply that was both limited and expensive. But for the most part, restaurants and other prepared-food sellers have steadfastly tried to maintain their same menus, at the same prices, while waiting for the impact of the bird flu to subside.

Based on recent reports, however, it looks like we’re reaching a breaking point. Diners, restaurants, and bakeries throughout the Midwest are slowly scratching egg-heavy items off their menus, or they are considering adding a surcharge of 50¢ to $1 for orders that feature eggs, the Associated Press reported. “I’m absorbing it right now, but I am due for a price increase,” one Nebraska diner owner said of the fact that the wholesale price for a case of eggs has more than doubled since mid-April.

Likewise, after talking to the owners of bakeries, caterers, and restaurants, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted, “the rising cost of eggs might soon result in more expensive meals for customers.” The cost of preparing pies, cakes, pancakes, and of course egg dishes have all gotten much higher for local businesses, and at some point in the near future these costs will be passed along to customers. One bakery said that it has temporarily eliminated angel food cake from the menu because it’s too expensive to make. The item can still be customer-ordered—but only at a price much higher than usual.

“I have never seen this type of egg increase in the 19 years I’ve owned Wedding Wonderland,” said Michael Temm, the owner of a cake shop specializing in weddings and upscale events.

Read next: How the Bird Flu Outbreak Is Affecting Your Grocery Bill

MONEY credit cards

3 Things You Should Never Buy With a Credit Card — and 1 You Always Should

wedding cake
Keller & Keller Photography—Getty Images/StockFood

Beware the "snowball effect".

From time to time we bring you posts from our partners that may not be new but contain advice that bears repeating. Look for these classics on the weekends.

Credit cards shouldn’t scare you; when used correctly, they’re actually the most rewarding form of currency available today.

Seriously, when’s the last time you were rewarded with airline miles for using cash?

And while it’s highly recommended that everyone should apply for a credit card as early as possible to begin the process of building credit, there are a few things you should simply not charge to your card. Generally, these are big-ticket items that might take you a long time to pay back. And when it takes you a while to pay back a credit card purchase, eventually you end up paying interest. A lot of it.

The single easiest way to fall into credit card debt is to make a big-ticket purchase and spend the next several months paying it back in very small increments. That’s what they call the “Snowball Effect” — wherein you make minimum payments, half of which go to interest – and it’s a legitimate credit killer.

The trick to staying out of credit card debt is to make small, semi-regular purchases and pay the entire balance every month.

With that in mind, here are three things you should avoid paying for with your credit card … and as a bonus, one purchase we ALWAYS recommend using a credit card for.

Hospital Bills

NEVER put your hospital bills on a credit card. Medical bills are expensive as it is; the last thing you want to do is add high interest fees to those bills, too.

The fact of the matter is you can get on a payment plan with lower interest rates if you need to pay back your medical bills over time. Credit card interest rates range anywhere from 10% to 30%; you can get a much better rate through a payment plan initiated through the hospital. So take the time to sort this option out before sticking it all on your credit card.

Student Expenses

Student debt is brutal, but the fact of the matter is student loan interest rates are, by and large, a lot lower than the average credit card interest rate. So it’s highly recommended that you don’t charge off some or all of that student loan payment since, ultimately, you’ll end up paying a lot more in the long run.

Along those same lines, it’s not recommended to charge your tuition bills. It’s MUCH cheaper (OK, maybe “cheaper” is the wrong word here — how about “less expensive”?) to take out a student loan or apply for a scholarship than it is to simply swipe your way through school.

Think about it: the average yearly cost to attend a public university is $22,261, according to CNN Money. Add 15% in interest to that and that’s another $3,300 — IN INTEREST ALONE.

Sorry for yelling, but hopefully you get the idea here: Keep the big-ticket items — especially the ones with lower interest options — off of your charge card.

Your Dream Wedding

Unless you’ve got a feeling your wedding gift-pile will be something akin to Henry Hill’s in Goodfellas (i.e. a pile of envelopes stuffed with cash), then it’s probably a good idea to scale back that dream wedding you had in mind to something more manageable.

I’m not married and I’m certainly not a relationship counselor, but it can’t be a good idea to begin your first days of marriage swamped in debt because you decided to fly in your entire extended family for a destination wedding.

Getting hitched is a celebration of love, not luxury. Stay within your means when planning your wedding and you’ll be more likely to enjoy your party.

That said, if you need to go into debt to fund the open bar, then we’ll make an exception.

(Just kidding. Kinda of.)

So, while we recommend putting the plastic away for the above purchases, there’s still one HUGE category of items we always recommend using your credit card for:

Online Purchases!

Why? Well, the dirty secret your bank doesn’t want you to know is that most credit card issuers offer better identity theft protection than that of the biggest banks. Not only that, but in the event that your credit card account is hacked, the damage will usually be limited because your credit card accounts aren’t synced with your personal bank accounts, savings accounts, etc.

Besides, the only credit card networks worth applying to have purchase protection, so you’re covered in the event of fraudulent charges. Not so with your debit card…

By using your debit card online often, you’re increasing the chance of foul play.

So you see, credit card purchases are actually recommended in some cases — especially if your card offers you cash back, rewards or miles.

Just be sure to keep the most expensive purchases — the ones that no matter how you slice it are simply out of your reach — off your charge card. By doing so, you’ll save yourself the burden of interest fees and debt for years to come.

Read next: 6 Perks a Sparkling Credit Score Will Earn You

This was a guest post written by Jason Bushey. Jason works at

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MONEY Shopping

The One Big Problem With Father’s Day Gift Guides

ugly ties in a pile
Getty Images

An actual real-live dad was consulted for this story. Imagine that!

We’ve all heard about how hard it is to pick out Father’s Day gifts. “Finding a Father’s Day gift ranks right up there on the difficulty scale with rocket science (at worst) and holding a plank for more than a minute (at best),” states a Glamour post accompanied by the prerequisite list of fashionable Father’s Day gift ideas. “Dads never seem to want anything until something breaks or gets lost.”

How awful. Doesn’t Dad know that his stubborn contentedness with what he has is getting in the way of your desire to spend an afternoon at Nordstrom and buy him something?

Certainly, Father’s Day gift-buying guides proliferate because selecting dad presents is such a pain. But that’s not the only reason. Father’s Day gift guides are also everywhere because children and spouses want to show their genuine appreciation for all that dads do (which is really nice), and the fact that retailers and advertisers love the opportunity to prod shoppers into buying supposedly manly merchandise that men wouldn’t buy for themselves (which is less nice).

Wanting nothing on Father’s Day is more or less considered a crime. More importantly, due to a mixture of obligation, guilt, and sincere affection, givers want to get something for the men in their lives. Hence the need for gift guides that theoretically help givers find the perfect “must-have” for a guy who, remember, doesn’t want anything. (Side note: Dads don’t use the phrase “must-have.”)

The big problem about Father’s Day gift guides, then, is that they are created much more with the giver rather than the recipient in mind. What’s more, these lists of Father’s Day gifts often seem to be compiled without any input whatsoever from actual, honest-to-goodness fathers.

This explains why Father’s Day gift guides are overloaded with cutting-edge gadgets, grooming products, luxury watches, stylish clothing, artisanal bourbon marshmallows, and what have you. These items are not necessarily about what dads want, but about what the givers want the dads in their lives to be like. They want dads to be hipper, smell and look better, and generally be trendier and less clueless.

Let’s think about this for a second. On the one day of the year devoted to fathers, the message accompanying many gifts is not simple appreciation for who dads truly are and all they do but nudges that say: Man, you need to get your act together. There would be upheaval if similarly passive-aggressive Mother’s Day gifts were handed out to implicitly tell Mom: You have awful taste and your appearance hasn’t been up to snuff lately.

Dads could be insulted by being force-fed these kinds of gifts. More often, they are received with a forced smile and a sense a puzzlement as to how much of a mismatch the item is with the kinds of things he truly likes. Detroit News finance editor (and genuine-article dad) Brian J. O’Connor recently pointed out many dos and don’ts (mostly don’ts) for Father’s Day gifts, in order to help givers avoid “having to slink back to Bed, Bath & Beyond or to waste your money shipping a return to that twee, ‘personally curated’ hippie store on the Web.” Among the many don’ts are items relating to Dad’s hobbies (if he wanted it, he’d have it), almost any kind of clothing, and anything personalized (coasters, tools, grilling sets, etc.).

To this, I’ll add the advice that if you must consult a Father’s Day gift guide, at least go to a source that the dad in your life knows and respects and therefore has a prayer of jibing with his sensibility. If your dad is a regular on Pinterest or etsy, or if he’s a big reader of Glamour, Seventeen, or Real Simple, or if he shops all the time at Nordstrom, Pottery Barn, or Bed, Bath & Beyond, that’s great. By all means check out their Father’s Day gift suggestions.

On the other hand, there’s a problem if you’re getting a Father’s Day gift based mostly on what you like—or perhaps what you want your dad or husband to be like. This is how dads wind up with scented candles on Father’s Day. They may be “manly” scented candles that look and smell like charcoal, but they’re scented candles nonetheless. And if your dad isn’t a scented candle kind of guy, what in the world are you doing buying him scented candles?

Likewise, if your father never looks at Esquire, InStyle, Details (or MONEY for that matter!), and would chuckle at the thought of dressing like any of the slick, trendy hipsters on the pages inside, then these resources should be dismissed, or at least their recommendations should be considered with extreme skepticism. These kinds of Father’s Day lists swear that your dad really does want a vintage $400 camera, a drone, $1,300 penny loafers, men’s makeup products, and perhaps a fancy wireless digital thermometer with Bluetooth connectivity for grilling meat.

If you truly know your dad, you should know whether these are the kinds of things he’ll like or be annoyed or mystified by. And if he says he really doesn’t want you to buy him anything, maybe, just maybe, you should believe him.

MORE: This Father’s Day, Your Dad Actually Needs a Tie
The Worst Father’s Day Gifts — And What to Buy Instead
What You Wish You Could Give Dad on Father’s Day, But Shouldn’t

MONEY Shopping

4 Mattress-Shopping Gotchas

Greg Vote

Most places won't let you return a mattress.

Buying a mattress fits somewhere in between buying a car and buying a home on the dreaded “babe in the woods” scale. As a big-ticket, infrequent purchase, consumers who go looking for a better night’s sleep find themselves navigating a hazy world full of intentional brand confusion and seemingly meaningless price tags. Buying a mattress can feel like buying a car, as sales staff are often pushy. And it can feel like buying a home because you have to live with the choice for a decade or more — heck, many folks buy mattresses less often than homes, as anyone who has ever moved a bed can tell you.

The rarity of the purchase means consumers are a “babe in the woods,” knowing little about what they should buy or how they should buy it. In other words, they are easy marks for less-than-scrupulous sales staff. We’re going to try to change that equation today.

1. Brand Confusion

There are a few overriding principles that mattress shoppers should understand. First, while comparison-shopping is a great idea, stores and manufacturers make this intentionally difficult by slapping different brand names on what is essentially the same mattress. That makes it harder, but not impossible, to engage in showrooming: trying out a model in a store, then buying it online for a lower price.

2. Meaningless Price Tags

Speaking of price, get ready to negotiate. Price tags on bedding mean even less than price tags on cars. Ignore the percent of MSRP claims, or the “sales.” All that matters is the price. Most stores will match whatever price you can find somewhere else (assuming you can match models), so try to work that way. If you can’t agree on a direct-model comparison in a store, you are probably shopping in the wrong store.

3. No Real Test Drive

Remember, it’s also nearly impossible to try out a mattress in a store by lying on it for five minutes in street clothes while people stare at you. The mattress isn’t “broken in.” You aren’t asleep and turning. You aren’t even sleepy — your heart is probably racing. So it’s a good idea to try out different models at a friend’s house if possible. One reader suggested an excellent idea: If you have a great night’s sleep at a hotel, find out what brand of mattress it was, and try to buy that.

4. Problems After the Purchase

That leads to the fourth principle: it’s all about the returns. Mattress sales folks I’ve chatted with say that, in the end, prices and delivery costs have a way of flattening out, as long as you do due diligence and bargain reasonably well. The real gotchas of mattress shopping happen after the sale.

Because you won’t know if the purchase is right for at least two weeks, the retailer’s return policy is absolutely critical. Equally important is the manufacturer’s warranty policy. Not all 10-year warranties are the same, as Constance Brinkley-Badgett found out.

“Our mattress failed after about two months. Giant sink holes where we sleep. The retailer replaced it with a different model, but it was a major hassle and took numerous calls to the manufacturer and the store owner,” she said.

“Jack” is a former mattress salesman who maintains an excellent website called The Mattress Nerd — he asked that we not publish his last name. He offered several warnings about mattress purchases gone bad.

First, “returns” to the retailer often aren’t possible.

“Most places don’t let you return a mattress. You can only exchange, and then you can only exchange for something the same price or higher. Also, everybody has a different policy on how long you have to exchange, and sometimes the fees can be pretty high,” he said.

Second, invoking the warranty can come with a series of problems.

“If the mattress starts sagging, it might not be covered under the warranty,” he said. “Most innerspring mattresses have a ‘tolerance’ of 1.5 inches, which means if there’s a dip in your mattress 1.4 inches deep, the company will say that’s a normal impression and there’s nothing to be done. Foam mattresses usually have a tolerance of under an inch. Also, if there’s a stain on the mattress — even a little one — or if the frame you have doesn’t have enough legs, they’ll deny your warranty claim even if it has nothing to do with the sag.

“Speaking of warranty, be careful of ‘prorated’ warranties. Some manufacturers will have a warranty of ’10 years prorated,’ sometimes written as 1/10. Meaning, it’s one year of a full warranty, but in years two through 10, you only get a portion of your money back towards a new mattress if it sags,” he said. “Some unscrupulous salesmen will say it ‘has a 10-year warranty’ but then will neglect to mention that it’s prorated.”

Add-ons can often be costly, too. Many stores will try to sell buyers a mattress cover. Buying one isn’t a bad idea, Jack said, as it will help protect the purchase and might make warranty claims easier. But buy a cover elsewhere — a cover that sells for $100 at a mattress retailer can cost only $50 elsewhere.

Finally, there is some good news in the mysterious world of mattress stores — internet disruption strikes again. In the past 24 months, there’s been a small explosion of online dealers offering clear pricing and easy shipping, thanks to innovations that allow shipping of tightly compressed foam mattresses. Brands including Casper, Leesa and Tuft & Needle are catering to millennials who like buying everything online, but anyone shopping for a new bed should consider them. Buyers lose the ability to test out a bed in a store, but these brands come with liberal return policies to compensate. They aren’t cheap, but each has several mid-priced models. And, as standard shipping, delivery can be free and easy.

Keep in mind that mattress sellers often offer financing to interested shoppers — here’s a good read on why you should check your credit before buying a mattress. (You can check your credit scores for free on to see where you stand.)

Read next: How to Buy a Mattress in 10 Minutes or Less

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This Week’s Best Deals: 20% Off iTunes, 50% Off Children’s Place

The Children's Place store at the Settlers' Green Outlet Village in North Conway, New Hampshire

One sale is as good as Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

Here are the best bargains shoppers can find this week:

Gift Cards Really Do Go on Sale
People usually assume that gift cards are face-value items that never go on sale, but this iTunes gift card deal proves the contrary. Gift Card Mall knocked $10 off the price of a $50 card, selling it for $40. That makes this a smart purchase for those on the hunt for an easy gift, as well as anyone who buys content from iTunes (i.e., cable cutters, music junkies, etc.). This promotion cuts 20% off the original price, which is about as good as it gets with iTunes gift card deals.

A Good Week for Gaming Deals
There are opportunities galore this week to save on video games, starting with the hotly-anticipated Steam Summer Sale that cuts up to 80% off PC game downloads. (Just watch out for titles with inflated prices, and make sure you understand how to find the best offers.) There’s also a coupon that cuts 25% off game downloads at Green Man Gaming (use “GRAB25-PERCNT-OFFNOW” at checkout), as well as $5 off at GameStop for those who prefer physical games to downloads.

Black Friday Pricing at Children’s Place
Clothing your kids can be frustrating; one day their little jeans fit perfectly, and then the next week your child has sprouted like a beanstalk and those flares have become clam diggers. If this sounds all too familiar, check out the latest sale at The Children’s Place, where everything sitewide is now 50% off. Plus, coupon code “GOAVENGERS20″ slashes an additional 20% off, and all orders receive free shipping. Combined, that’s as good as what the store offered way back on Black Friday!

Save on The North Face Now
The best way to save on seasonal items is to stock up well after the season in question is past its prime. This sometimes requires “vision,” and admittedly it’s hard to get excited about winter necessities in the middle of June. But that’s exactly what you should be on the lookout for! Fans of The North Face, for instance, would never be able to find a fleece from the brand in December for as cheap as this women’s quarter-zip pullover is now. It’s currently selling for a mere $22.99 with free shipping. Styles like this normally sell for $75 or more at the height of winter.

Amazing bargains pop up at any given moment, so consider signing up for a daily email digest from DealNews to have the best offers sent directly to your inbox.


Amazon’s Discounted Gift Cards Are Like Free Money

envelope of money
Mosay May—Shutterstock

Spend $40 and get a $50 card.

What with high school and college graduations, weddings, and Father’s Day, spring and early summer are hectic gift giving seasons. Assuming you don’t have the time, creativity, or insight to handpick the perfect present in each of these obligatory gift-giving events, it’s inevitable that you’ll at least consider the gift card route in some instances.

It’s understandable, then, that retailers and restaurants regularly offer special promotions on gift cards at this time of year—and also November-December, the other big gift-giving period. In a typical deal, when you purchase a $50 gift card, it’ll come with a $10 bonus card, which the buyer can also give away or keep for himself as a little reward for being such a strategically generous gift giver.

A new series of gift card promotions from Amazon (thanks for head’s up, dealnews) tweaks the concept mentioned above. Instead of including a bonus card with a purchase, cards for restaurants and retailers bought via Amazon are simply being sold at discounts.

Now through June 22, $50 gift cards at T.G. I. Friday’s, J.C. Penney, PacSun, Steak ‘n Shake, Legal Seafoods, and Jiffy Lube are available for just $40 when purchased via Amazon. A $25 card at Cold Stone Creamery, meanwhile, is selling for $20, while the purchase of a $50 card for Longhorn Steakhouse comes with a $10 credit at

Note that there are no physical cards included with these “card” promotions; instead they’re all email gift cards. They’re just as valid as any plastic card, of course.

However, the fact that the cards are being discounted in a way that’s tantamount to a flat 20% discount might give you an idea of how big the markups are at these stores and restaurants—and also how likely it is that some electronic gift cards are never actually used.

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