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What the Financial Crisis Means for Spam, Psychics, Hosiery & More

It's hard to find something not impacted by our current financial crisis. Here are 12 examples of what the recession means for specific things, from Spam to sex addiction.

1. Spam

It looks like meat, it tastes like meat, but it's a far cheaper substitute for meat. It's Spam! And it's booming. Though Hormel's share price has fallen with the overall market, Spam sales are soaring as the economic crisis leaves consumers strapped for cash. Interestingly enough, Spam, the "crazy tasty" mix of ham, pork, sugar, salt, potato starch and a sodium nitrite, was invented during the Great Depression and became a staple for Allied troops overseas in the 1940s.

2. Marriage and Divorce

Breaking up is hard to do, especially in this economy. While it may be too early to know the impact of the crisis on divorce rates, it appears divorces may have slowed down since the financial crisis began. That's because despite most arguments being over financial issues, it may just be too expensive to pay the legal fees of a divorce and support two households. In fact, during the Great Depression, divorce rates dropped sharply, though they picked back up immediately thereafter.

3. Recycling

The plunge in commodity prices has taken a toll on recyclers. In fact, the whole movement may come to a halt as oil and metal prices fall. Used newspaper, used cardboard, and scrap metal prices have also seen a drop, partially due to dwindling home construction and slower automobile production. Some recyclers are closing their doors, and in the UK entire city councils are abandoning their recycling efforts, as they are no longer economically feasible.

4. Psychics

"There is no rhyme or reason to the way the market is trading," says a personal trader. "When conditions are this volatile, consulting a psychic can be as good a strategy as any other." Psychics, astrologers, palm readers and "professional advice-givers" say business is booming as clients come to them seeking financial guidance. Clients will typically pay $75 to $1000 for an hour's worth of insight!

5. Holiday Parties

Just as you suspected, companies are cutting back on their holiday galas. ABC News announced the cancellation of its annual celebration. American Express did the same and then some "“ announcing the cancellation of 2009's celebration as well.

But what about the caterers? 56% of party planners say that their corporate holiday party numbers will be off more than 10% this year compared to last. They're scrambling to come up with innovative, more somber types of gatherings like luncheons, pot-lucks, and receptions rather than galas, caviar, and glam.

6. Used Car Sales

The used car business is flourishing! Specifically, used car companies that offer buy-here/pay-here financing for lower credit individuals who have been locked out of traditional lending.

But if used isn't your thing, it may still be a decent time to buy new. That's because even steady growth car makers like Honda and Toyota have seen 24% and 32% declines, respectively. Car dealers are desperate to get rid of inventory and are offering invoice and below invoice prices. Look for dealers that have a lot of inventory, because they'll likely offer the best deals.

7. Iceland Tourism

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Looking for a good holiday or spring trip? Look to Iceland!

Once an economic success story, this small country is now, well, bankrupt. If you were attune to Fannie and Freddie and the big Wall Street break-up, you may have missed Iceland's fall. Its three largest banks were oversized and highly leveraged, and seemed ready for collapse in early October. Iceland's currency, the krona, is essentially valueless, and foreign trade has come to a halt. Luckily, the IMF and its Nordic neighbors have stepped in, lending $2.1 billion and $2.5 billion respectively to help the country recover.

But tourism appears to be on the rise. Airfare search engines report a 400% increase in Iceland flight searches. A recent search of round-trip flights from New York found tickets at a record low of $471.

8. College Endowments

Ivy League schools aren't immune to the financial crisis. Since many college endowments are invested in alternative asset classes, which have lost value, they're seeing unprecedented losses. Many college and university endowments are projected to have decreased by 30% this fiscal year. For Harvard, that may mean an $11 billion drop.

That may mean a decrease in financial aid "“ especially because lenders can no longer sell their securitized loans in the secondary market to get new money to offer new student loans. Despite Congress' Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act of 2008, which authorizes the Education Department to buy federal student loans from education lenders for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years, there's a chance financial aid may fall short.

9. Lipstick & Hosiery Sales

The Lipstick Indicator is an economic theory proposed by Leonard Lauder, the chairman of Estée Lauder Companies. The theory states that a direct relation exists between rising sales in tubes of lipstick and a falling financial market "“ the worse the economy, the more women indulge in small purchases, like $10 tubes of lipstick. There are conflicting reports as to whether Lauder's theory is holding up this downturn. Perhaps hosiery sales will supplant lipstick as the indicator of choice. Overall hosiery sales rose 2.3% this year, with Spanx seeing a 77% increase in sales compared to last year.

10. NASCAR

Very few sports have been hit harder by the economic crisis than NASCAR. From ticket sales to souvenir sales to team sponsorship from large companies, racing is reeling. That's because an average NASCAR team relies on corporate sponsors for 80% of its budget. That's four times the percentage of an NFL franchise's budget. And many of those corporate sponsors, including the Big Three "“ GM spent $578M in sports advertising in 2007, including NASCAR "“ are facing high-profile hard times of their own. As a result, some NASCAR teams, including Chip Ganassi Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc., have merged in an attempt to attract corporate sponsors.

11. Personal Maintenance

According to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, gym memberships have been on the decline since 2007. There's no sign that these former gymrats are instead opting for cosmetic surgery "“ 53% of plastic surgeons of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery say business has slowed.

12. Sex & Sex Addiction

Will the financial crisis spark a baby boom? It just might. According to the Telegraph, sales of sex toys, pregnancy tests, maternity clothes, and baby equipment are soaring. But that's not the only place sex may have increased. Jonathan Alpert, a Manhattan psychotherapist, has seen a big jump in the number of Wall Street workers who seek help for the sex addictions. Apparently, the economic crisis has sparked "maladaptive coping mechanisms" among bankers, according to Jodi Conway, a sex addiction therapist in New Jersey.

Read more of what Diana learned today here.

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Yes, You Can Put Your Christmas Decorations Up Now—and Should, According to Psychologists
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We all know at least one of those people who's already placing an angel on top of his or her Christmas tree while everyone else on the block still has paper ghosts stuck to their windows and a rotting pumpkin on the stoop. Maybe it’s your neighbor; maybe it’s you. Jolliness aside, these early decorators tend to get a bad rap. For some people, the holidays provide more stress than splendor, so the sight of that first plastic reindeer on a neighbor's roof isn't exactly a welcome one.

But according to two psychoanalysts, these eager decorators aren’t eccentric—they’re simply happier. Psychoanalyst Steve McKeown told UNILAD:

“Although there could be a number of symptomatic reasons why someone would want to obsessively put up decorations early, most commonly for nostalgic reasons either to relive the magic or to compensate for past neglect.

In a world full of stress and anxiety people like to associate to things that make them happy and Christmas decorations evoke those strong feelings of the childhood.

Decorations are simply an anchor or pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement. So putting up those Christmas decorations early extend the excitement!”

Amy Morin, another psychoanalyst, linked Christmas decorations with the pleasures of childhood, telling the site: “The holiday season stirs up a sense of nostalgia. Nostalgia helps link people to their personal past and it helps people understand their identity. For many, putting up Christmas decorations early is a way for them to reconnect with their childhoods.”

She also explained that these nostalgic memories can help remind people of spending the holidays with loved ones who have since passed away. As Morin remarked, “Decorating early may help them feel more connected with that individual.”

And that neighbor of yours who has already been decorated since Halloween? Well, according to a study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, homes that have been warmly decorated for the holidays make the residents appear more “friendly and cohesive” compared to non-decorated homes when observed by strangers. Basically, a little wreath can go a long way.

So if you want to hang those stockings before you’ve digested your Thanksgiving dinner, go ahead. You might just find yourself happier for it.

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11 Black Friday Purchases That Aren't Always The Best Deal
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Black Friday can bring out some of the best deals of the year (along with the worst in-store behavior), but that doesn't mean every advertised price is worth splurging on. While many shoppers are eager to save a few dollars and kickstart the holiday shopping season, some purchases are better left waiting for at least a few weeks (or longer).

1. FURNITURE

Display of outdoor furniture.
Photo by Isaac Benhesed on Unsplash

Black Friday is often the best time to scope out deals on large purchases—except for furniture. That's because newer furniture models and styles often appear in showrooms in February. According to Kurt Knutsson, a consumer technology expert, the best furniture deals can be found in January, and later on in July and August. If you're aiming for outdoor patio sets, expect to find knockout prices when outdoor furniture is discounted and put on clearance closer to Labor Day.

2. TOOLS

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Unless you're shopping for a specific tool as a Christmas gift, it's often better to wait until warmer weather rolls around to catch great deals. While some big-name brands offer Black Friday discounts, the best tool deals roll around in late spring and early summer, just in time for Memorial Day and Father's Day.

3. BEDDING AND LINENS

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Sheet and bedding sets are often used as doorbuster items for Black Friday sales, but that doesn't mean you should splurge now. Instead, wait for annual linen sales—called white sales—to pop up after New Year's. Back in January of 1878, department store operator John Wanamaker held the first white sale as a way to push bedding inventory out of his stores. Since then, retailers have offered these top-of-the-year sales and January remains the best time to buy sheets, comforters, and other cozy bed linens.

4. HOLIDAY DÉCOR

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If you are planning to snag a new Christmas tree, lights, or other festive décor, it's likely worth making due with what you have and snapping up new items after December 25. After the holidays, retailers are looking to quickly move out holiday items to make way for spring inventory, so ornaments, trees, yard inflatables, and other items often drastically drop in price, offering better deals than before the holidays. If you truly can't wait, the better option is shopping as close to Christmas as possible, when stores try to reduce their Christmas stock before resorting to clearance prices.

5. TOYS

Child choosing a toy car.
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Unless you're shopping for a very specific gift that's likely to sell out before the holidays, Black Friday toy deals often aren't the best time to fill your cart at toy stores. Stores often begin dropping toy prices two weeks before Christmas, meaning there's nothing wrong with saving all your shopping (and gift wrapping) until the last minute.

6. ENGAGEMENT RINGS AND JEWELRY

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Holiday jewelry commercials can be pretty persuasive when it comes to giving diamonds and gold as gifts. But, savvy shoppers can often get the best deals on baubles come spring and summer—prices tend to be at their highest between Christmas and Valentine's Day thanks to engagements and holiday gift-giving. But come March, prices begin to drop through the end of summer as jewelers see fewer purchases, making it worth passing up Black Friday deals.

7. PLANE TICKETS AND TRAVEL PACKAGES

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While it's worth looking at plane ticket deals on Black Friday, it's not always the best idea to whip out your credit card. Despite some sales, the best time to purchase a flight is still between three weeks and three and a half months out. Some hotel sites will offer big deals after Thanksgiving and on Cyber Monday, but it doesn't mean you should spring for next year's vacation just yet. The best travel and accommodation deals often pop up in January and February when travel numbers are down.

8. FOOD AND SNACK BASKETS

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Fancy fruit, meat and cheese, and snack baskets are easy gifts for friends and family (or yourself, let's be honest), but they shouldn't be snagged on Black Friday. And because baskets are jam-packed full of perishables, you likely won't want to buy them a month away from the big day anyway. But traditionally, you'll spend less cheddar if you wait to make those purchases in December.

9. WINTER CLOTHING

Rack of women's winter clothing.
Photo by Hannah Morgan on Unsplash.

Buying clothing out of season is usually a big money saver, and winter clothes are no exception. Although some brands push big discounts online and in-store, the best savings on coats, gloves, and other winter accessories can still be found right before Black Friday—pre-Thanksgiving apparel markdowns can hit nearly 30 percent off—and after the holidays.

10. SMARTPHONES

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While blowout tech sales are often reserved for Cyber Monday, retailers will try to pull you in-store with big electronics discounts on Black Friday. But, not all of them are really the best deals. The price for new iPhones, for example, may not budge much (if at all) the day after Thanksgiving. If you're in the market for a new phone, the best option might be waiting at least a few more weeks as prices on older models drop. Or, you can wait for bundle deals that crop up during December, where you pay standard retail price but receive free accessories or gift cards along with your new phone.

11. KITCHEN GADGETS

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Black Friday is a great shopping day for cooking enthusiasts—at least for those who are picky about their kitchen appliances. Name-brand tools and appliances often see good sales, since stores drop prices upwards of 40 to 50 percent to move through more inventory. But that doesn't mean all slow cookers, coffee makers, and utensil prices are the best deals. Many stores advertise no-name kitchen items that are often cheaply made and cheaply priced. Purchasing these lower-grade items can be a waste of money, even on Black Friday, since chances are you may be stuck looking for a replacement next year. And while shoppers love to find deals, the whole point of America's unofficial shopping holiday is to save money on products you truly want (and love).

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