TIME Amazon

Amazon’s New Prime Day Will Be a Massive ‘Global Shopping Event’

Mark your calendars: It’s on July 15

Amazon is turning 20 next week, and to celebrate the online retail site is launching Prime Day, a global shopping extravaganza for Prime members.

The company has whet the appetite of shoppers around the world by announcing that on July 15 there will be “a global shopping event, with more deals than Black Friday” — the biggest shopping day of the year that happens after Thanksgiving. Much like Black Friday, deals will start at midnight, and new discounts will be offered as often as every 10 minutes, Amazon said in a statement. The event will be open to Prime members in the U.S., the U.K., Spain, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Canada, and Austria.

Not a Prime member? Clearly, this is the time Amazon wants to woo you into the fold, and a 30-day free trial of Prime has been offered: “If you’re not already a Prime member, you’ll want to join so you don’t miss out on one of the biggest deals extravaganzas in the world,” said Greg Greeley, vice president of Amazon Prime.

Getting shoppers to become Prime members is a push that has yielded benefits for the company. A recent ComScore report revealed that “Prime members make twice as many purchases as nonmembers, and they spend 40% more per transaction.” Last week, the company expanded its one-hour delivery service Prime Now to parts of central London, marking the company’s first expansion of its speedy service outside of the U.S.

MONEY deals

Summer Price Break! 6 Things That Are Actually Cheaper This Summer

Blessedly, bacon and cheese are on the list.

For the most part, consumers are accustomed to seeing prices for a wide range of goods go in only one direction: up, up, and up. Often, this is simply the result of inflation and regular price increases. There are also freak price spikes like the current situation with eggs, which have risen dramatically of late thanks to the bird flu outbreak. And more costly eggs have in turn begun causing price increases everywhere from diners to bakeries.

Thankfully, from time to time consumers get to benefit from the occasional price decrease on goods and services—including some of their favorite treats. Here are a half-dozen things you’ll actually pay less for this summer.

  • Bacon

    Plate of bacon
    Alamy

    While bacon prices aren’t cheap by historical standards, they are significantly cheaper than in the summer of 2014, when they spiked amid low supplies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average price for a pound of bacon as of May 2015 was below $5, compared with $5.50 at the start of 2015 and more than $6 last summer. Overall, bacon prices fell 18% over a 12-month span.

  • Gas

    gas prices
    Elise Amendola—AP

    After surging steadily through much of the spring, gas prices have dipped of late, hitting a national average of $2.77 for a gallon of regular at the start of the week, according to AAA. Drivers in nearly all states are paying at least 75¢ less per gallon compared with a year ago, and AAA estimates that cheap gas prices in 2015 have helped Americans collectively save $65 billion on fuel costs thus far this year.

  • Last-Minute Hotels

    Luxury Hotels on the Las Vegas Strip
    John Kellerman—Alamy The Las Vegas Strip

    Overall, hotel rates in the U.S. are expected to be up 5% to 6% in 2015, and in some cases are up more than 10%. But in certain cities and under specific circumstances, prices can be much cheaper compared with this time last year. Data from the last-minute hotel booking specialist HotelTonight indicates that some Fourth of July weekend rates booked right now are bargains compared with the 2014 holiday. Average rates in Las Vegas are 39% cheaper versus last year, and July 4 hotel prices are also down in destinations such as the Berkshires (down 29%), Tampa (20%), and Williamsburg, Va. (12%).

  • Other Pork Products

    sausages on grill
    Slawomir Purgal—Alamy

    The same rise in the nation’s pork supply that’s caused bacon prices to retreat is lowering prices for pork chops, hot dogs, and the like. The American Farm Bureau Federation recently estimated that the cost of a typical July 4 cookout that feeds 10 people is 3% cheaper than it was a year ago. One of the reasons why this is so is that two of the main dishes—hot dogs and pork spare ribs—are 2% to 4% less expensive than they were in 2014.

  • Airfare

    plane flying over field
    iStock

    At the start of the year, researchers from the likes of Expedia predicted that flight prices would fall in 2015, if for no other reason than airlines would finally have to lower fares in the face of dramatically cheaper fuel prices. And while airfare prices depend on a range of factors—route, timing, demand, etc.—data from the flight search Hopper.com show that overall, domestic flights in the spring and early summer were 8.7% cheaper compared with the same time last year. The site also predicted that the trend will continue through the summer, with the average flight selling for $18 (or about 6%) less than in the summer of 2014.

  • Dairy Products

    Vitamin Cottage Natural Grocers, Denver, Colorado
    Brennan Linsley—AP

    The USDA reports that national stockpiles of butter, cheese, and milk are all up significantly compared with a year ago, and prices for most dairy products—including yogurt, ice cream, and blocks of cheese—are down as a result. Bear in mind that some of the price decrease is based on how expensive dairy products were for much of last year. Butter consumption, for instance, has been increasing for years, and prices spiked to near record prices last summer through the fall.

MONEY Shopping

4 Furniture Shopping Mistakes to Avoid

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Thomas Barwick—Getty Images

Arm yourself with knowledge before you hit the showroom floor.

Buying furniture has always been a perilous, complex affair. You don’t buy a couch the way you buy a television or a laptop computer. You can’t carry the couch out of the store with you (most of the time). Heck, usually you don’t really have a great idea when the couch will get to your living room.

Like all businesses, the furniture industry is undergoing dramatic changes, thanks to the dual challenges of the digital age and the recession. That means both good and bad things for furniture shoppers. The good: There are more choices than ever, including buy-couches-from-home apps. It helps with comparison shopping, too. The bad: Many furniture stores are struggling, which means you are even more likely to encounter aggressive sales tactics and sneaky techniques for adding profits, like funky financing offers. I can’t tell you what color loveseat will best match the carpet in your living room, but I can tell you four gotchas you should watch out for the next time you furniture shop.

Before we get to the Gotchas, however, here’s a bit on the state of the furniture industry. I’m a big believer in knowing your opponent.

Not surprisingly, the bursting of the housing bubble was a killer for the industry, as fewer home purchases mean fewer couch purchases. Furniture sales plummeted 13% between 2008 and 2009, according to this report from analyst firm ABTV.

It has slowly recovered since, and 2013 was the first year to exceed 2008 sales. However, the meandering recovery of the U.S. economy means the environment for furniture stores continues to be challenging. Demographic changes also add to the struggle. Delayed household formations – i.e. more 30-year-olds living with their parents – has also hurt furniture sales. The continued fascination with “disposable” furniture – think Ikea and Target – hasn’t helped much, either.

“The American furniture industry is at a turning point. Never known for its ability to respond quickly to change, the industry finds itself emerging from the Great Recession to face some significant challenges,” says the ABTV report. “Slower-than-expected economic recovery, shifting consumer buying preferences, skilled worker shortages, rising labor costs, technology integration, new distribution channels and global competition… It’s a sticky wicket: Baby Boomers are downsizing to smaller spaces, new home sales are increasing gradually, but mortgage reforms have made it difficult for younger homeowners to qualify, given the debt loads many are carrying from student loans.”

These shifts create interesting issues in the furniture industry. Downsizing Baby Boomers often want new things when they leave the five-bedroom house for the two-bedroom condo. But their old things are filling up second-hand stores with great deals, ABTV says.

“The used-furniture market is now glutted with Boomers’ upholstered sofas, armoires, formal dining room sets, and antique collectibles that are being shed in order to downsize,” says the ABTV. “With the market full of the Boomers’ cast-aways, consignment shops and traditional non-profit donation centers such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army have become pickier about what items they will accept for resale and don’t hesitate to turn away anything they can’t use or aren’t willing to pay more for.”

Still, sales at Ashley Furniture, the largest furniture seller according to ABTV, were up 4% between 2013 and 2014, so the story isn’t all bad.

Now that you know a bit more about the furniture industry, here are four things to watch for as you shop.

1. Price Tags

Much like mattress stores, most furniture stores put meaningless price tags on their items. Expect to haggle. And never tell anyone “We got our couch at 50% off,” because that’s nothing to be proud of. It probably means the price tags were too high to begin with. Discounts are distracting. Shop around and get an honest sense of the real out-the-door price for the item in your class, then just make sure you pay a fair price.

2. Costs & Liability

Like financing at a car dealership, delivery is often where a good deal goes bad. The price of delivery should be among the first things you discuss at the store, not an afterthought.

It’s incredibly important to be realistic about your furniture choices. If you order a couch that can’t fit in your front door or up the stairs, and there’s damage during delivery, you’ll have quite a fight on your hands. Demanding that someone try to move a square peg into a round hole can shift the liability to you. One tip: Digital laser tape measurers work great and they’re really inexpensive now. They’re also subtle to whip out in stores. Old fashioned tape measures work, too. Also, some furniture requires assembly on-site. Be sure to understand who pays for what, and don’t forget to add in the cost of tipping the folks who actually do the heavy lifting for you.

For most consumers, the nightmare begins after the credit card is swiped. Then, the reality of the delivery schedule kicks in. Many furniture delivery trucks rival the cable guy for late-or-no-shows. Expect to lose a day of work getting your furniture, and maybe two if there’s a cancellation. The best way to protect yourself is to verify the store’s cancellation policy in case of a delivery problem. Make sure you can get a full 100% refund if the store doesn’t live up to its end of the bargain on delivery. In reality, you probably don’t want to cancel a purchase right away if there’s a screw-up, but having the right to do so is important. Nothing lights a fire under a sales person faster than the prospect of losing a commission because the delivery truck screwed up.

4. Financing

The other way deals go bad is the classic “interest-free financing” offer. Such deals can be structured many ways, but they often involve what’s called “deferred interest.” That means the loan is free, but if you fail to pay it off entirely during the free period, you end up paying retroactive interest for the entire time period you borrowed the money. With furniture, the rates are often 20-30%.

For example, shoppers can buy a $3,000 couch and get 24 months “deferred interest.” Pay the bill in full before 24 months, no problem. Pay the bill in month 25, and you might owe close to $1,000 in interest.

Further complicating the deals for consumers is that minimum monthly payments required on the furniture loans DO NOT add up to pay for the entire purchase during the interest-free period.

Plus, applying for store credit this way can hurt your negotiating position. It’s harder to tell a store, “$2,000 and I don’t have a penny more to spend” if that store has already approved you for $3,000 in financing.

In the end, the best advice I’ve heard about buying furniture is to go up or down – buy really cheap, because you only want it a year or two, or buy really high quality and plan to keep it a lifetime. In between is where the suckers live. Real wood furniture can be repaired – it can be sanded and stained, for example. Temporary furniture can be broken into pieces and thrown out in the trash. A sort-of-nice kitchen table isn’t worth the money.

If you’re not in a position to buy real wood new, go to those crowded consignment shops the ABTV report mentions and buy something used. Or try Craigslist, or one of a host of new mobile phone apps, like Sell It.

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MONEY Donald Trump

Donald Trump Piñatas Are a Hit In Mexico

A Mexican client who lives in the U.S., looks at a pinata depicting U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump hanging outside a workshop in Reynosa, Mexico, June 23, 2015. Days after billionaire Trump accused Mexico of sending criminals to live in the United States, a Mexican artisan has given angry Mexicans an outlet-- a Trump pinata they can stuff with candy and beat with a stick. In the Mexican border city of Reynosa, Dalton Ramirez works at his family's pinata shop where they create a variety of paper mache figures to be filled with treats and broken open with sticks on birthdays and holidays.
Daniel Becerril—Reuters A Donald Trump piñata.

"This pinata especially is the one everyone wants to break."

Mexicans have found a way to hit back at Donald Trump. Literally.

Reuters reports that piñatas bearing Trump’s likeness, including “a flange of blonde hair and a big mouth,” have hit store shelves in Mexico and are proving popular among customers eager to protest the billionaire’s recent remarks against immigrants.

Trump, who is a Republican candidate for president, drew criticism after declaring in his campaign announcement speech that Mexican migrants were bringing “drugs, crime, and rapists” to the United States. He later called his comments “100 percent correct,” but insisted he was a strong supporter of Mexicans. “How can I not love people who give me many millions of dollars for apartments?” Trump said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The Donald’s comments prompted piñata maker Dalton Remirez to design an extremely bashable piñata bearing Trump’s visage. The candy-filled sculpture retails for about $40, and Ramirez says it has been flying off shelves. “This piñata especially is the one everyone wants to break,” the artist told Reuters.

Read next: 8 Epic Business Failures with Donald Trump’s Name on Them

MONEY consumer psychology

How Your Money Beliefs Are Hurting You

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Barbara Taeger Photography—Getty Images

We make things up about money and believe them.

What you believe about money drives your financial behavior. Finding out your beliefs is a key step to solving various problems, such as money conflicts in relationships.

Money doesn’t actually exist in reality. It isn’t gold or bank account balance or the pieces of paper in our wallet — it’s this conceptual thing, a promise, an agreement, delivered in measurable units, which we later exchange for something we want.

To grapple with this concept, we make things up about money and believe them. These beliefs act like a kind of programming language, which I call Money Operating Systems.

Your Money OS is a very basic belief about money that influences all your financial behavior. This system you install, unwittingly, controls how much you save and spend, whether you invest, how you invest, how you negotiate for a salary and how you feel about all of that.

Your past experiences with money, starting with your early memories of it, created your Money OS. It also came from your parents or the environment you were raised in.

Recognizing your belief helps you tackle your money woes, or those with your partner. Here are five of the Money Operating Systems I see most frequently:

  1. “There will always be enough money.” People with this belief can be high earners, but sometimes they’re average earners who just live a simple lifestyle. If you have this belief about money, you need to be careful. Make sure you understand how much money you need for your financial future. Over-optimism causes under-saving.
  2. “If I am good, the universe will give me what I need.” A positive world outlook doesn’t lead to productive financial behavior. Saving and investing rarely happen, because these folks believe that their financial health is a function of virtuousness.
  3. “Money makes me valuable.” They are often the people who drive the big flashy cars, and they work to have other people perceive them as successful. Money intertwines with their self-worth. Their ego grows with their bank account. But if they are unsuccessful, their confidence suffers.
  4. “There will never be enough money.” This one is pretty self-explanatory, and very common. People with this money belief will be either over-spenders or under-earners, and they keep creating the circumstances to prove this outlook true. They may justify holding on to poorly paid positions or overspending their high income.
  5. “Money is bad, the root of all evil.” These people believe that business and capitalism are responsible for social ills. They often righteously live without a lot of material possessions. Their negative opinion of money usually leads to destructive financial behavior.

These are only some of the beliefs that determine what is possible in your financial life. It took me some time to be analytical about my own money. I recognized my own system and how it kept me locked in cycles of overspending and feelings of worthlessness, and I’ve since transformed my experiences with money.

So where do you begin to see yourself here? What about your honey?

Hilary Hendershott, MBA, CFP, is founder and Chief Executive of Silicon Valley-based Hilary Hendershott Financial.

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MONEY Kids and Money

7 Bad Money Habits You’re Teaching Your Kids

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KidStock—Getty Images

Instant gratification isn't always a good thing.

Nobody’s perfect.

And if you are a parent, you’ve probably seen some of your imperfections in broad relief as your child imitates them. Where did he learn that tone of voice? Did she really just tell the pediatrician her favorite food is french fries?

Kids and teens are watching everything we do, and they pick up on how we manage money. And much as we want them to develop good financial habits, telling them about budgeting and compound interest is unlikely to make up for showing them that we buy on impulse and (hopefully) still manage to keep a roof over our heads. Because we presumably want to do a good job teaching our children healthy attitudes about money, what should we be doing?

Sam X Renick, entrepreneur and financial educator, has some ideas — and he reached out to other financial experts for input as well.

Renick said the overriding goal is to teach kids to be thoughtful about what they do with money. We want them to understand money is one of the tools you use to make dreams come true. What can you do with money? You can save it, invest it, spend it or give it away. And managing money well has the potential to make your life happier and less stressful.

It’s easier said than done, of course, but some parents make it even harder by accidentally modeling the very behaviors we hope our kids will avoid. Here are some of the bad money habits we may be inadvertently passing onto our kids.

1. Shopping without a list.

This is an invitation to waste money — and groceries, and a lot of us don’t need an invitation. It also makes us especially vulnerable to impulse buying. After all, what’s one more item that’s not on the list? For children, especially, it blurs the line between planned purchases and impulse buys. (And lists in general help people stay organized. Teaching children to use lists can help in many areas of life.)

2. Buying on impulse.

We don’t do well at teaching delayed gratification. Advertisers make it even harder. Ever seen an Internet “flash sale” that lasts only a few hours? Or notice the price changes on an item you HAVE been watching. It’s frustrating to see that deliberating a bit might mean paying more. Of course, long term, these “flash sales” will tempt you to buy things you probably don’t need and likely didn’t plan for because you couldn’t stand to miss the killer deal. The Internet and TV work hard to tempt us to buy on impulse. Show your child how advertisers try to manipulate us to make decisions that might not be in our best interests long-term. “Sleep on it” is a great habit to encourage.

3. Teaching entitlement.

Why are we going out to dinner and letting you order anything you want? Because you are a great kid! You… told the truth, got a good grade or got a soccer-participation certificate. Or you didn’t, and now you’re disappointed. Either way, a treat is in order. (Treats are not wrong, by the way. You can explain to your child that treats are in your budget. But the people who are most experienced handling the money and who have the most knowledge of the family’s finances will make the major decisions. Translated, this means the adults pick the restaurant and tell the children which entrees they may choose from or what the price limit is.)

4. Focusing exclusively on the now.

Even if you are putting away money for vacations, if that is invisible to kids, they are not learning about it. “Let’s eat at home and save the difference in what it would cost for vacation,” can help make your intentions clear. You can even save the money in a jar so they can see it. It’s easier to say “we can’t afford it,” because YOU know that you can’t afford both lots of dinners out and a trip to Disney, but your kid may understand only that you can’t afford to go through the drive-thru, rather than that you are consciously choosing to direct your money toward something else — that you are delaying gratification.

5. Speaking in terms of dollars, not percentages.

Renick says it’s important for kids to learn that not only is a nickel worth more than four pennies, it’s worth 20% more. It’s easy not to care about a penny, but 20% seems worth worrying about. And it is. Would they prefer to earn $20 for a chore or just $16? It’s still 20%, and it’s worth saving. “The concept is if you get in the habit of taking care of small details (financial choices) the habit and behavior will carry through to larger financial choices,” Renick said. Go ahead and save where you can — and show your kids that little things add up. (And hopefully, when they are in the workforce, that 401(k) match offered by your kid’s employer will seem too big to pass up.)

6. Giving them “spending money.”

The idea behind this can be smart — hoping they will learn to prioritize. That’s a good goal, certainly. But Renick would suggest giving them money to manage… and rewarding saving if they show some restraint. He gives as an example a child with $100 to spend (or save) at Disneyland. What if you told a child that he or she could KEEP any money not spent at the park? Do you think he or she would care more about getting the most value for the money and would check carefully to see what concessions cost before ordering?

Routinely giving them the money may be a problem as well. Kids can earn money. Renick said his father used to tell him that he could have anything he wanted — as long as he was willing to work for it. Having to work can also help teach the value of money, when you begin to think about whether thing you need or want is really worth the time you’ll spend earning the money to buy it.

7. Indulging in spendy habits, like a daily Starbucks or cigarettes.

Despite what we say, we show them that the gratification today is more valuable to us than the sacrifice involved in putting some of that money in a 401(k) or saving it for a family vacation.

What Should We Be Teaching Them?

Talking to kids about money can feel awkward and difficult, especially if our own parents didn’t tell us much (or overshared, resulting in kids worrying about money).

Tim Hamilton, founder and managing director of FinancialFamilies.com, a fee-only service on Ohio, said it can also be difficult if the parents are not on the same page. “I work with the occasional couple where one spouse was provided for endlessly as a child and the other spouse occasionally, or regularly, went without. . . . At the very least, the couple needs to effectively communicate their perspectives on an ongoing basis,” he said in an email.

On one hand, you don’t want children to become so worried about money that they cannot spend. Another financial educator told Renick that her sibling, who has a high income now, still shops at thrift stores and often wears ill-fitting clothes as a result (not taking those clothes to a tailor, either), because spending is uncomfortable and upsetting. Nor do you want them to not give money a thought — seeing a credit card as a license to spend and failing to budget or save.

So what does a healthy attitude look like? Renick asked financial educator Leslie Girone, and here’s how she defines financial success: “doing something you love, having supportive family and friends, and not worrying about money 24/7.” Hopefully, we can model that, too, while we’re trying to explain the magic of compound interest, the pitfalls of too much debt, or the importance of keeping up to speed on your credit.

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MONEY deals

Amazon’s New ‘Treasure Truck’ Will Sell One Discounted Item Daily

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Darren Hendrix Amazon Treasure Truck

The goods will run the gamut of merchandise sold by Amazon.

If residents of the greater Seattle area spot a giant brown Amazon package on wheels in the coming days, it’s not a hallucination. (Well, it’s probably not a hallucination.)

The world’s biggest e-retailer is introducing something called the Treasure Truck. It’s a basically a standard delivery truck tricked out to look like a typical Amazon package—oversized Amazon logo and icons, brown cardboard box appearance, thick black line encircling the whole thing.

Starting this weekend, the truck will set up shop somewhere in Seattle—that’s the only location, for now at least—and offer a single item for sale. The goods will run the gamut of merchandise sold by Amazon.

“Each day the truck drives around Seattle parking in neighborhoods filled with but one highly desirable item exclusively for you,” the ad posted by Amazon on YouTube explains. Among the first items for sale at deeply discounted prices are paddleboards, professional knife sets, and porterhouse steaks.

Amazon doesn’t seem to expect all that many customers to walk up to the truck and impulsively buy inflatable paddleboards or steaks like they might pick up a fish taco or a Sno-Cone. Instead, the idea is that people will use Amazon’s mobile shopping app to scope out where the truck is and what’s for sale that day, and then purchase and pick it up later.

Why this process is any easier than using one’s Amazon Prime membership and having the item delivered to your home is something of a mystery. Presumably, you’d be able to get the goods sooner—you know, in case the immediate emergency need of a paddleboard arises.

From the consumer point of view, the main draw is that the prices are supposedly phenomenal. The item on sale on Saturday, the Solstice Bali inflatable paddleboard set, is priced at $99 on the Treasure Truck, nearly 80% lower than the retail price of $477. Another item coming soon, the Firmstrong Beach Cruiser bicycle, will be priced at $99 too. Amazon says the list price of this item is $299, but it looks like the bike is sold fairly regularly for around $200. Even if Amazon is exaggerating how big the discounts are, it sure looks like the deals are pretty terrific.

On the other hand, the selection and availability leaves something to be desired—just one item for sale daily, in just one city.

 

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 -4.47% 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 Amazon.com’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

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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.

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