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More $10 toys at Walmart

Last year, deep discounter Walmart responded to consumer spending cutbacks by offering a line of more affordable toys in time for the holiday season. It put 10 different toys on its shelves, for which it charged $10 apiece. Following the success of that strategy, the chain announced it will do it again this year. Only this time around, it's bumping up the offering to 100 toys at the $10 price point.


Included in the list of toys are brands such as Barbie, Tonka, LEGO and Transformers, as well as popular board games such as Monopoly and Connect Four. Some of the toys will be specially produced to fit the $10 mark, others are already on shelves and will take a price cut of up to 50 percent.

In addition, Walmart said it will match any price advertised elsewhere for less than $10.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

MasterCard Tries a New Tactic

Remember all those decadent MasterCard commercials, listing expensive luxury goods and their prices? They went sort of like this:

"Stiletto heels: $700. New haircut: $300. Private jet: $8 bazillion. Making everyone think you're rich at your high school reunion even though you're flat broke and living on credit and up to your eyeballs in debt: priceless."

Well, it seems the consumer backlash against recession-era materialism has them changing their tune. Now they're talking about using your MasterCard to buy groceries and shop at discount stores:


---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Seriously. Get over there.

Still got that Circuit City gift card? You might want to use it before you lose it.

After failing to find a buyer or secure a refinancing deal, electronics retailer Circuit City signed an agreement with liquidators to sell off stores' remaining merchandise.

As of today, the company is still accepting gift cards. But when asked if the store would still be taking them tomorrow, an Amherst employee said:

"I'm not gonna lie. You probably want to spend them today."

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Wanna get away?

Sure, it's only a half-hour drive from Buffalo. But Niagara Falls is always a nice day-trip or overnight destination. Travelzoo alerted me to a special rate at the Fallsview Plaza hotel in Canada. Rooms are as low as $58 and include a dining voucher that virtually pays for the room. Winter must not be peak tourist season at the Falls. Check out the link above for more information. Don't forget your passport.

--Joseph Popiolkowski

Get Thee to a Circuit City!

Many readers were flabbergasted when they saw troubled electronics retailer Circuit City selling gift cards this holiday season. Still, those gift cards ended up in many a Western New York stocking, as nearby locations stayed humming though its counterparts throughout the country closed.


If you received a Circuit City gift card yourself, you were probably smart enough to have spent it already. But if you haven't had a chance yet, you may want to get yourself over there and unload it.

An auction of the company started at noon today, and if it doesn't find a buyer by Friday, you may get stuck in a very long line of people hoping to get their money back.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

How to win big at CVS

When the economy gets tough, the tough play "the CVS game." My wife's coworker, Matt, has been pioneering this game. Use the right combination of sales, coupons and Extra Care Bucks to score great deals on everyday household items. You'll pay little or nothing, and sometimes CVS will even pay you, he says. But it takes practice.

For example, he recently picked up four packs of rechargeable Duracell batteries. CVS is having a sale: spend $20 dollars on batteries and get $15 back, with a limit of three.

$65 − $10 off $50 (extra care coupon) = $55
$55 − $45 (extra care bucks you get back) = $10.

Here is a link that explains his general winning pattern with a sample order at the end:

-Joseph Popiolkowski

The Christmas Creep

My father and I used to get so excited when department stores would begin putting out their post-Thanksgiving Christmas displays. We're the kind of family that listens to Christmas carols year round, looking forward to having the whole family together for our Polish Christmas Eve Wygilia celebration.

Then the displays started sprouting up earlier and earlier. Christmas trees started appearing alongside horns of plenty and bunches of Indian corn. Soon, red velvet Christmas dresses began edging out the rows of Halloween costumes.

It's called the "Christmas creep," where retailers extend the holiday shopping season to take advantage of holiday commercialization and heavy Christmas retail revenue. Most stores have holiday merchandise on the shelves by October 1. Are you feeling fa-la-la-la fatigued yet?

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Brand Loyalty

Consumer Reports said a majority of women are willing to give up brand name over-the-counter medications, eggs, milk and cleaning products in favor of less-expensive generics. On the other hand, they were least willing to part with brand-name pet food (29 percent), cosmetics (30 percent), personal care items (48 percent) and toilet paper (49 percent).

How about you? On what sorts of names and items are you willing to splurge? Why?

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Cheap Autumn Activities?

Mmm, Autumn.

Is there any nicer time of year? Bonfires, cider, harvest sunsets. Watching the leaves change is some of the most thrilling entertainment money can't buy.

What are some of your favorite (cheap) ways to wile away this most brief season?

Your Mission, if you Choose to Accept it.

You've got a $20 bill and three hours to live. What do you do?

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