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"95 percent of your emotions are determined by how you interpret events to yourself."  – Brian Tracy

You know how Thanksgiving got its start, don’t you?

Smack in the middle of horrendous civil war, President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national day of Thanksgiving which should take place every year.

I believe Lincoln understood a fundamental truth in the human soul: how we choose to see our circumstances often dictates the state of our hearts — and, thereby, our future circumstances. After all, if a war-torn nation can turn its eyes upward — so can you and your family.

You should sit in my office with me sometime, watch the procession of "wealthy" and "poor" clients meeting with me and my staff over various problems — and watch how the hearts are activated. Sometimes my "wealthiest" clients are the most impoverished … and those without many zeroes in their accounts are flat-out rich.

"Rich" is a state-of-mind–and it’s tied to gratitude. It affects how you see savings, retirement, our current economy, and investment. And, of course, gratitude is the enemy of fear. It’s like an opposite magnet for it — walk in gratitude, and fear just melts away.

So, here’s my advice for this week: Whatever financial situation you happen to find yourself in, be thankful. There are hidden blessings in any trial … and hidden fears lying within any windfall. Find them, savor the blessings, and watch your family thrive.

Now, perhaps this the perfect segue into my actionable advice for this week — because though I’m a professional in tax-savings, I like to find ways for my clients to find savings all over the place. And aside from turkey, there’s this whole "shopping" thing which is pushing up against our football! Well, I scanned around online, and I’ve compiled some of the BEST (i.e. not-just-conventional) advice for starting the holiday shopping season with a bang…

[By the way, as I write this, the "debt supercommittee" is headed towards failure. You KNOW that means that the IRS will be under serious pressure to collect maximum tax from you, right? So don’t let this year pass without a tax planning conversation: (618) 532-7223 ]

Alan Newcomb’s
"Real World" Personal Strategy

Newcomb’s Black Friday Winning Tactics

Personally, I prefer avoiding this mess altogether, but I just KNOW that many of my clients feel differently. So, if that’s you…here you go:

Expect some Black Friday sales to start on Thursday.
Many retailers will start offering discounts online on Thanksgiving day. And some, such as Amazon, will offer Black Friday deals several days before November 25 — so hot items may sell out before the big shopping day after Thanksgiving. And, as you’ve probably seen, some stores (like Target) are even opening on Thursday…

Don’t assume the best deals are only in the stores.
It’s a tradition for a lot of people to get up at the crack of dawn and camp out in front of stores to scoop up deals. But a lot of "doorbusters" (those deeply discounted items retailers use to get consumers in the door early Friday) will be available online, too — especially on big-ticket products. And if an Apple product is on your gift list, you’ll probably find it for less online (at Amazon.com, MacMall.com or MacConnection.com) than at an Apple store — AND you may escape sales tax on your purchase [I just had to get that one in there, as a tax pro!].

Only brave the crowds if you’re trying to snag an extremely limited item.
You have a better chance of getting the deal if you go to the store – and are first in line. Keep in mind, though, that the items which are marked down dramatically are often cheap items to begin with – not top-selling, name-brand products.

Black Friday is only the beginning.
In fact, the best deals on apparel usually appear on Cyber Monday (November 28 this year), when retailers discount items online. Toys will be cheaper the first two weeks of December when Walmart and Amazon go to war with each other to offer the lowest prices and clear out inventory before Christmas. And the best deals on name-brand TVs and luxury items can be found in early December, too.

Watch out for return policy shenanigans.
Some retailers tighten their policies around the holidays as a way of compensating for all that discounting they’re up to. Some charge restocking fees if you bring an item back. And some won’t let you exchange items which were manufactured specifically for Black Friday (to be sold at a low price).

This one is pretty universal: Never spring for extended warranties on big-ticket items. There’s a good chance that a salesperson will try to talk you into paying extra for an extended warranty if you purchase a big-ticket item on Black Friday. That’s because revenue from extended warranties helps make up for lost profits on these discounted items. Typically, you’ll pay 10% to 20% more for an item to extend a one-year manufacturer’s warranty through the fifth year of ownership. But most major appliances do not break down within the extended-warranty period. Plus, you might already be covered if you use your credit card to purchase an item.

Just doing my little part to help YOUR economy-stimulation efforts this holiday season get the most bang.

Next week, I’ll have some urgent information on expiring 2011 tax breaks. Until then…