Beating the cold by birding online
Another strike for IRS outsourcing

Whew! Our annual trip to the mall is over!

The hubby and I made our annual trek to the mall this week. Black Friday had come and gone and we even stayed out of online shops on Cyber Monday, so we felt it was safe to actually go shopping.

It was. Sort of. All I can say is thank goodness we were able to hit the stores well before Christmas and on a weekday. The place was already packed, so I cannot imagine trying to maneuver the mall in a couple of weeks with the gift-giving deadline bearing down.

Luckily, we're both buyers, rather than shoppers. We go into the stores with a list, or at least a good idea, of what we want, get it and get out.

This time, in addition to a few Christmas gifts, I had to buy some clothes for an upcoming business trip up north. Most of my professional attire still is appropriate for Florida, where it was purchased, or Central Texas' climate, which we've found to be surprising similar to the Sunshine State's for most of the year.

But since I'm heading to D.C. in December and not just for fun, I needed a couple of warmer, "grownup" articles of apparel. So it was to the mall, even though I hate clothes shopping. I rarely find things I like. When I do, the item I chance upon is not my size. So I get frustrated and say to hell with it and leave the store.

That's why I brought the hubby. He's more persistent. He makes me keep looking and trying on until I finally find at least a few fitting (in every sense of the word) things. Yes, ladies, I was incredibly lucky to find him. No, ladies, you cannot have or even borrow him!

New_jackets_2 Anyway, it's done. I now have a couple of new jackets (aren't they lovely?) and completed most of our family gift purchases (don't freak, Mum; they aren't much). For any other holiday needs that might arise in the next few weeks, it's definitely cyber shopping for me!

Holiday shopping tips: If you, however, like shopping or at least consider it a challenge worth taking, check out this Kiplinger story on 10 holiday shopping tips. As I noted, we followed #6: Make a list.

And #5, take care of the easy gifts first, was a given; that's part of the reason we were out among the shopping hordes in the first place.

Number 2, tips on which credit card to use, doesn't apply to us. For every purchase, we use the same lone charge card we've had literally since we were newlyweds. Other card offers come and go, but we've held firm.

Reward programs never seem to offer the rewards we want. We pay off our card in full each month so a low interest rate doesn't matter. And even if any of that mattered, truth be told we're really just too lazy to switch!

I used to think we were total aberrations when it came to credit cards, especially regarding payment methods. But a recent Government Accountability Office study found that almost half of credit card users paid little or no interest on their accounts because they generally paid their balances in full.

Still, a good portion -- 35 percent, according to the study -- ended up paying late fees. Another 13 percent were hit with over-limit charges. So if you're in one of these statistical categories and might run into some credit card trouble, Kiplinger's tip #2, as well as #3: Keep a running tally of your credit-card spending, and #4: Have a plan for paying off your bills, should be of use.

And I hope that when you do head to the stores during this holiday season, your trip is as productive and relatively painless -- financially as well as physically and emotionally -- as ours was.

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