Although Apple isn’t discounting its new iPad Mini, I’ve found a few deals if you want to buy its big brother. Also, new discount bus services may be coming your way. Plus, I have a rundown of holiday-shopping layaway policies for four major chains.
Save Up to $300 on an iPad
With orders for the Apple iPad Mini starting today (price: $329 and up), retailers are dangling incentives to encourage current iPad and laptop owners to trade in something old for something new.
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Radio Shack is offering up to $300 back if you swap a 64GB iPad 2 for the new, 4th-generation iPad before Nov. 17. The electronics chain also has a widescale “Trade and Save” program that lets you trade in multiple eligible gadgets to get money off a future purchase, either as a store credit or on a Radio Shack gift card. Check with your local store for details.
Eager to buy a new laptop? Best Buy will give you at least $100 toward the purchase of a new Windows 8 Ultrabook when you trade in any working laptop before Nov. 17.
By the way, if you bought an iPad 3 recently and want to upgrade to an iPad 4, you may be able to make an exchange. CNET found an Apple store in San Francisco that will let iPad 3 owners trade in their tablets for iPad 4s if they bought them within the last 30 days. So it pays to call your store to see if it has the same policy.
Hop On to a Discount Bus Bargain
At a time when airlines are shrinking their legroom and raising their fares, you may be looking for a less expensive way to travel within the continental United States and Canada. Check out discount bus services, especially now that some lines are rolling out new routes. These aren’t your father's buses; they come with leather seats, free WiFi and electrical outlets.
On Oct. 31, Greyhound Express will expand from its current 80 markets to eight new ones: Baton Rouge, La.; Beaumont, Texas; Buffalo; Erie, Pa.; Montgomery and Mobile, Ala.; New Orleans; and Oklahoma City.
Bolt Bus, a partnership between Greyhound and Peter Pan Bus Lines, recently expanded its Pacific Northwest service to Bellingham, Wash. It also runs up and down the East Coast, from Boston to Washington.
Megabus, a subsidiary of Coach USA that serves 80 cities in the United States and Canada, now has routes to Dallas, Houston, Little Rock, Memphis, New Orleans and San Antonio.
As with the airlines, the earlier you book a trip with these bus lines, the cheaper your fare could be — all three companies promise fares as low as $1 one way for advance purchases.
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When I priced a one-day roundtrip from Philadelphia to New York City for Monday, Nov. 5, I didn't qualify for a $1 ticket, but did scare up some pretty good prices. Megabus charged as little as $12, while both Bolt and Greyhound Express would cost $16. By comparison, an Amtrak ticket was priced at $51 each way, though the train trip would be 30 minutes shorter.
Layaway Options for Holiday Gifts
Before credit cards became ubiquitous, layaway was a popular way to pay for holiday presents over time. Stores stopped offering the service for a while, but it’s back in style for the 2012 holiday season and could help you spread out the cost of some gifts. More than a third of U.S. shoppers are considering using layaway, according to a recent Couponcabin.com survey.
The four big retail players in the layaway game are Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, Kmart and Sears. While each chain's program is slightly different, there are two constants: You need to make a down payment and you won’t be charged interest while making the payments over time. Here is a rundown on their layaway programs:
Toys R Us You can buy nearly anything toy-related on layaway in a Toys R Us store (including bicycles, pools and musical instruments) as long as you put 20 percent down, pay 50 percent of the total price within 45 days and make the final payment by Dec. 16.
Wal-Mart Layaway is limited to toys, small appliances, electronics, refrigerators, certain sporting goods, floor care and jewelry bought in its stores. Last year, Walmart charged all sorts of fees for using layaway, but it’s possible to avoid the charges in 2012.
You’ll need to pay $5 up front to buy on layaway, but you get the $5 back as a Wal-Mart gift card if you’ve made the entire purchase by Dec. 14 (jewelry layaway is offered all year round). The initial layaway payment must be at least $10 or 10 percent of the purchase price, whichever is greater; the total purchase must be over $50 and individual items must cost $15 or more.
Kmart Just about everything in Kmart stores and on the chain’s website is available for layaway, except for perishables and prescriptions. There’s generally a $5 upfront fee and a required down payment of $15 or 10 percent of the purchase price, whichever is greater; the fee is waived if you start a layaway account by Nov. 21. You’ll need to make the final layaway payment within eight weeks.
Sears Like its sister chain Kmart, Sears lets you buy practically anything in its store or online on layaway, except for perishables or prescriptions. The same eight-week term applies here, too.
But the program differs from Kmart’s in two ways: The down payment is $20 or 20 percent of the purchase price, whichever is greater. And you can avoid the $5 fee only if you start new a layaway before Oct. 29 or between Nov. 2 and Dec. 3. Halloween is verboten.