Dollars & Sense columnist John Ewoldt searches the Twin Cities and beyond for bargains and strategies to spare you time, money and hassles.
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Posts about Holiday shopping

What are the best deals in February?

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: February 2, 2012 - 3:01 PM


Consumer experts have released their best and worst deals for shoppers in February. But rather than accepting their tips at face value, let's take them to task. 

TipHero has cameras on the list of best bargains in February. Retailers start to clear out last year's models as new models released at the Consumer Electronics Show last month will start hitting stores in March and April.  Dealnews said that the Feb. bargains are hit and miss and may not be as good as the ones in November and December.


It sounds as if the quality of the deal depends on the camera. National Camera Exchange is currently selling the Nikon Coolpix S3100 for $79, which is as low as anything online. Its Black Friday price was $100, said Mike Pazandak, manager at the Golden Valley National Camera Exchange. he said that NCE's February deals are good ones, and they don't get better in March or April when the new models arrive. "Vendors want to have the old models cleared out before the new ones arrive," he said. "Otherwise new models would be competing with lower-priced older models." Pazandak sees savings of $30, $50 or $80 or various models. Bottom line: Shop around. Not every camera will be at a great price, but many will be.

Winter coats: There's no straddling the fence on this one. February is a great time to buy a winter coat. And this year is even better than most year's, because Minnesota's winter has been so mild. That means stores are overstocked and ready to deal. Sure you can buy a coat in January, but now it's time to make way for spring jackets and that means

retailers have to bite the bullet. Bottom line: Go for it.


Chocolate: Wait until the 15th and you can buy enough to supply Willy Wonka,  You can choose brand name candy at discounters such as Target and Wal-Mart or drug stores such as CVS or Walgreens. Most will discount it 50 percent on the 15th. Target usually increases the discount to 75 percent a few days after that sometimes clears it out at 90 percent off a week later. Anything with a valentine package gets the discount. If you want higher-end cocoa, try Chocolat Celeste in St. Paul, which occasionally discounts some of its chocolate on the 15th. Bottom line: Hoard away.

Tablets: If the rumors about the release of iPad 3 at the end of February are true, said Dealnews, expect nice discounts  on the iPad2 from resellers as well as refurbished iPad 2s from Apple. Bottom line: Wait until the release of iPad 3 for iPad2 deals.

Snowblowers: The winter of 2011-12 has yet to dump a snowfall worthy of a blower. That alone could make snowblowers a bargain this year. But we're also coming off last year's near record snowfall. That would make a dry February an ideal condition for markdowns by the end of the month. Bottom line: Shop now for a model you like, and

then lie in wait for a bargain at the end of the month, assuming we don't have a major snowstorm soon. 


TipHero and Dealnews also mention prom dresses, boats, laptops and big screen TVs as potential bargains. Anything you wait to buy on sale or clearance  in February that wasn't mentioned?  





Digital cameras:

Who buys a Christmas tree the week or day before Christmas?

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: December 22, 2011 - 7:32 AM

The last time I bought a Christmas tree, President Clinton was still in office. It's a slim one that has served me well,

but now that I have more room for a larger tree, After Christmas, I'll try to sell it or maybe I'll give it to a family member.  


Yesterday, I started scouting out what's new. Target and even Bachman's on Lyndale already have their trees discounted 50 percent. I've also seen several people buying real trees. I've wondered if they're getting a discount with less than a week before Christmas. I found a nice fake one at Bachman's that's out of my price range, so I asked if they would be marked down more on Dec. 26. An employee said they would probably go to 75 percent off. Perfect.

Bachman's prices on trees are a lot higher than Target's, but at Bachman's Lyndale store, I found flocked fakes, 9-ft. trees, a wider variety of needle choices and a large selection of pre-lit trees with energy-saving LED lights on them. Most pre-lit trees are still using the conventional mini-lights. 


By Friday or Saturday this week you can probably get your real Christmas tree free. Who waits until the last minute to grab a tree? Do sellers just leave them there with a handmade sign saying "FREE TREES. MERRY CHRISTMAS"? I'd like to hear from last minute buyers of real trees. 


If you're considering an artificial tree on Dec. 26, the ones already at half-off will probably be 75 percent off. Target usually discounts its holiday decor 90 percent in early January. Maybe the 90 percent off will come a little earlier this year.

Merry Merry.



Courage Center cards 40% off at Lunds, Byerly's and the CC store

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: December 21, 2011 - 10:18 AM


The 2011 Courage Cards for the holidays from Courage Center are a good cause and a good deal with Lunds, Byerly's and the Courage Center store in Golden Valley discounting the cards 40 percent. The card collections are regularly $13 for a set of 12 cards. 

The Courage Card Program, which began in 1958, has been a way to support the center's cause--helping people with disabilities realize their full potential. To date, the card program has raised more than $6 million for the Courage Center. 

Kudos to  Lunds, Byerly's, Gerten's and Bachmans for selling the cards to help the center and generously giving back 100 percent of the proceeds to Courage Center.

The cards are made in the U.S. and produced of high quality card stock from managed forests. Some recycled acid and clorine-free paper is also used.

Today (Dec. 21) is the last day to buy the cards at the Courage Center gift shop (3915 Golden Valley Rd., Golden Valley). Hours are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call 763-520-0270.   

Courage Center is a nonprofit rehabilitation and resource center that advances the lives of children and adults experiencing barriers to health and independence. The center specializes in treating brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, chronic pain, autism, and disabilities experienced since birth.  Founded in 1928, Minneapolis-based Courage Center offers advanced technologies and innovation provided in part through the efforts of thousands of volunteers and donors.

Wal-Mart offers great deals Saturday to shoppers who were waiting

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: December 16, 2011 - 3:23 PM

Starting at 8 a.m. Saturday, Wal-Mart and bring back echoes of Black Friday with some deals worthy of waiting bargain hunters.

Savings on Electronics and Games
·         Vizio 32” Class 1080p LED/LCD HDTV (31.5” diagonal screen, right) – $298 (Yes, the Black Friday 32-inch deal was only $188, but it was only 720p)
·         Vizio  3D Blu-ray Player with Built-in WiFi – $98
·         Select Games for Xbox 360 , Nintendo  Wii, and PS3 Games – $39.96 each (shown, right) 
Gifts for Kids:
·         Girls’ or boys’ 24” Power Climber Bike, Mongoose 20” FSG or Outer Limit Bike $88 each
·         FurReal Friends Cookie My Playful Pup  – $29 (shown, right)
Gifts and Toys for $10 and under
·         Barbie  Swim & Dance  Doll or Strollin’ Pups  Doll – $10 each
·         Air Hogs  Moto Frenzy or Beyblade Metal Masters Burning Fire Strike 2-pack – $10 each
·         Axe  Excite Gift Set – $10
·         Nobo Cozy Socks – $2.97
Top Toys for $20 and under:
·         Nerf Dart Tag Swarmfire Blaster or Hot Wheels Sky Jump Track Set – $20 each
·         Happy Nappers  The Perfect Play Pillow  – $14.88
If ordering online, you have the following options:
• Home Free (now through 12/20 11:30 p.m. PT) – order online and receive free shipping to home on all purchases of $45 or more on Microsoft Xbox consoles, games and accessories, electronics, apparel, consumables and other seasonal items.
• Site to Store (now through 12/20 11:30 p.m. PT) – order online and receive free shipping to a Wal-Mart store
• FedEx Site to Store (now through 12/20 11:30 p.m. PT) – order online and receive free shipping to participating FedEx Office locations.  This service in now available in more than 650 FedEx Office locations in NYC, Los Angeles, Washington DC, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Denver, Miami, Cincinnati and Columbus.
• Pick Up Today (now through Dec. 23 11:30 p.m. PT) – order store items online for same day pick up at a Wal-Mart store. 


Free shipping today at 2,500 sites AND sitewide discounts too

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: December 16, 2011 - 10:12 AM


It's the annual Free Shipping Day today (Dec. 16) where more than 2,500 sites offer free shipping. But save even more by checking the list of retailers at the Freeshippingday site that offer additional discounts today. Hare are some samples, but you have to to the Free Shipping site to get the discount code. Some sites require a minimum purchase amount to get the discounts.


Kohl's: Free shipping plus an additional 15 percent off sitewide.

J Crew: Free shipping plus 30 percent off sitewide.

Ann Taylor: Free shipping plus 40 percent off sitewide.

Eddie Bauer: Free shipping plus 40 percent off sitewide.

Banana Republic: Free shipping plus 30 percent off sitewide.

Perry Ellis: Free shipping plus 30 percent off sitewide.

Tommy Hilfiger: Free shipping plus 40 percent off sitewide except watches and fragrances.

Gap: Free shipping plus 20 percent off sitewide.

Old Navy: Free shipping plus 20 percent off sitewide.


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