Expect THIS from stocks as Fed normalizes

The Fed left the door open for a December rate hike after its Oct. 28. According to the CME Group, the chances of a rates increase next month are 50 percent.

Hooper also said that fundamentals will be driving individual stocks.

“A lot of the easy money has been made,” she said. “This is an opportunity now for discernment, for being a lot more thoughtful about individual stocks, because, what we’re going to see as we normalize monetary policy, is that capital markets are going to normalize.”

U.S. equities were higher in midday trading, further capitalizing on October’s gains.

Investors have already digested a number of mixed economic reports this week.

“What’s truly remarkable about today’s data is the amount of divergence in economic performance between producers and consumers in the U.S. We had a bit of positive survey data yesterday on production, but let’s be clear: it’s been a terrible year for U.S. manufacturing and industrial production,” Ben Mandel, JPMorgan Asset Management global strategist, said in the same interview.

The Institute for Supply Management said Monday national factory activity declined for the fourth-straight month in October, but came in slightly above expectations.

“On the other hand, you have a generally positive view for U.S. consumers [and] very solid fundamentals. So, what we’re seeing today is exactly that. Factory orders that were relatively weak in September, and we’re seeing auto sales shoot the lights out,” Mandel said.

U.S. factory orders declined for the second-straight month in September, the Commerce Department said Tuesday, but the U.S. auto industry was on its way to reporting another month of booming sales.

“That economic disparity is one which apparently … the U.S. can keep chugging along,” Mandel said.

Al Gore shows how he’s making money post-politics

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.

Al Gore is making money for himself and others by investing in companies that follow what he believes are ethical practices.

In addition to his crusade against global warming, the former vice president these days is a money manager, using the principles he applies to his environmental beliefs to playing the market.

The result, he said, has been positive financially and ecologically, though he didn’t specify the precise performance his company, Generation Investment Management, has turned in over the past 11 years or so.

“Everything that goes into our portfolio gets there after a lengthy process. We will have many visits, typically many more conversations and in-depth research. But we apply a sustainability lens — not just environmental sustainability but how does a business treat employees, what is the health, what are their ethics in the executive suite,” Gore said Tuesday at the annual DealBook conference. “All of that is relevant.”

He voiced concerns he has expressed often since leaving office in 2001 about the dangers that warming poses to the global climate. What he hasn’t been as vocal about is how to follow those principles and still make money.

Gore, also a former U.S. senator from Tennessee, refused to be drawn into analyzing the current presidential race.

Instead, he picked up on a central theme of the conference, namely the battle on Wall Street over short- versus long-term investment.

Whereas investors used to hold stocks six to seven years on average, the typical holding term is now barely four weeks, he said. That doesn’t give companies enough time to return value or properly develop.

“This high turnover and the short-term horizons that are now so endemic to market investments clash with the organic process by which real businesses build up their value,” Gore said. “If you’re getting in and out of the market in 29 days, then at some point the clash between what the real process you’re investing in and how you’re turning over your money leads to mistakes. There’s ample research that shows longer-term investors get better returns.”

3 Sneaky Ways to Make a Small Home Office Look Huge

home-office2

The plight of the way-too-small home office: a space that needs to be functional often doubling as a guest room and the holding pen for all the random stuff you couldn’t find a home for elsewhere. And did we mention these rooms are often tiny? You spend many of your waking hours in this wee, cramped place. So, how can you figuratively supersize one of the hardest-working and smallest rooms in your home?

1. Pick the right-sized furniture

One of the worst home office gaffes? Furniture that simply doesn’t fit! Just because you want a large work surface (who doesn’t?), it doesn’t mean you want to overwhelm your space with a massive CEO-style desk, says Allison Petty, an interior designer with Homepolish, a national design firm based in New York City.

Start with the right-sized desk, and orbit other furnishings around it. There isn’t a formula for size; the more compact you can go, the better. The small-home mecca otherwise known as Ikea (cue the trumpeting angels) offers countless affordable desk options. Take measurements of your room before you shop, and don’t forget to account for other furniture that needs to go in the tight space. And maybe factor in a bit of walking space, too.

Find a desk that has ample storage and just enough surface space for your computer, Petty suggests. If you primarily use a laptop, you can get away with a small laptop deskfor tight spaces. For bigger devices, consider a storage-rich desk (Petty loves this onefrom Crate & Barrel) that’s both stylish and sturdy.

Treble White Desk
Treble White Desk

When it comes to your chair, you want comfort but you don’t need the gargantuan seat on wheels that you’d see in an office building. Pro tip: Go for a stationary chair with style, Petty says. “I use standard dining chairs because they’re smaller than most office chairs, but they have high backs so you don’t have to worry about being down too low,” says Petty, who recommends West Elm’s Saddle Dining Chair and the Dane Armchair. “Dining chairs are a lot more attractive than office chairs, and they just blend in better.”

2. Find a place for everything

On websites, floating, open shelves look amazing. Know why? Because they’re styled for photos, not living. They probably hold about half the stuff you really need. Your pile of crumpled and mismatched paper? It’s not nearly as eye-pleasing as the perfectly stacked piles you see in design books.

Here’s a good way to leverage wall space: Use it to hang file holders. You’ll find plenty of options at The Container Store or any office supply retailer. Every item should have a dedicated place that’s not your work surface or the floor, Petty says.

If you can squeeze another piece of furniture in your room, Petty suggests a closed cabinet. A stylish armoire could be a nice touch. Use bins to store your office wares inside. Purchase cord organizers and tuck away that laptop when you’re offline to make everything look seamless.

If you must leave things out, then do it in style with finds from online shops such as Poppin.com, says Petty.

3. Have fun with decor

Scoop Table Lamp- Copper
Scoop Table Lamp- Copper

One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to make your work ambiance more Zen is through color.

You can paint, but a hued wallpaper looks great, too. The key, productivity-wise: You want a design that’s inspiring but not distracting, says Petty.

While overhead lighting is the best lighting for task-orientated work, a desk lamp can add a great decorative detail, says Petty. Don’t opt for one that looks too utilitarian. With practically no effort, you can find options that are stylish, attractive, and affordable (the trifecta!), like this one in copper.

One thing to skip: rugs. “Chairs are harder to move on rugs and placing them under a desk ends up cutting the rug off awkwardly,” says Petty.

7 Cheap Upgrades That Will Make Your Home Feel Like It’s Brand-New

painting-improvement

If your home has you down in the dumps but you lack the cash to fix it up, don’t despair! Not every upgrade has to take a big bite out of your bank account.

Here are seven foolproof ways to make your home feel like a totally different place through small changes—and small expenses.

1. New hardware

Swapping out the boring chrome hardware the previous owners installed can go a long way toward making your home look like yours—not to mention give the entire space an easy, inexpensive refresh. Depending on your style, new pulls or handles can cost mere dollars.

“The first thing I do to give the home more of the look and style that I like is swap out the hardware,” says Doug Mahoney, who worked in construction for 10 years and now writes about tools and home improvement for The Sweethome. “All it takes is a screwdriver, and it’s surprising what a difference it can make.”

2. Small paint jobs

Don’t have time to repaint your entire home? Start by tackling smaller jobs such as your front door or kitchen cabinets. Since these projects are quick, you can squeeze them in during the weekend (or even an afternoon). And you’ll use only a fraction of a gallon of paint (which costs between $15 and $30)—making for an ideal impact-to-expenses ratio.

“Personally, I can’t stand the look of polyurethaned oak cabinets, so I’d cover those up with a nice white paint,” Mahoney says. “It makes it look like a whole new kitchen.”

If you like your cabinets, consider repainting the trim in your living room or adding some fresh color to a small room such as your bathroom.

3. Sensor lights

Tired of scrambling for the light switch while your arms are holding bags of groceries? Add sensor lights to your front porch and any other regular entrances such as your garage door. Starting at just $15, it’s a tiny cost with a big reward.

These lights won’t just improve your visibility—they’ll also lower your electricity bill. And they’re a big home safety boon to boot; experts say motion-detecting lights discourage criminals from lurking around your home.

4. Magnetic door catch

Speaking of those arms full of groceries: Adding a magnetic door catch (like this onefrom Amazon, which costs $11) to your primary entrance drastically simplifies loading and unloading. No more awkward sideways crab walks as you attempt to keep the door open while carrying a big package. You might even consider installing this before moving day to make your movers’ job easier.

5. Keyless entry pad

If you’re always losing your keys, try investing in a keyless entry pad such as this simple$100 Kwikset deadbolt. It can mean the difference between spending a few hours moping in your car and enjoying a hot cup of cocoa in your living room.

Plus, you’re not the only one who benefits: If you’re expecting guests but won’t be available to greet them, they can let themselves in—a huge improvement from hiding a key, which might be a safety risk.

6. Low-flow toilet

“It may seem intimidating to those not very interested in DIY, but swapping out toilets is a fairly simple process,” Mahoney says.

Choose a high-efficiency or low-flow toilet to save money on your water bill. While it does require some investment (expect to pay between $100 and $325 for the toilet itself), you’ll be making your money back soon enough—especially if you’re replacing an older model installed before 1992. That’s when federal plumbing standards mandated all toilets use 1.6 gallons or less per flush.

With a high-efficiency model, you’ll use about 300 fewer gallons of water per year—if not much more.

7. Fresh mulch

Jazzing up the outside of your home can go a long way toward making you love where you live. While you could go all-out—landscaping the yard and painting the trim—there’s a simpler solution: mulch.

“New mulch in the flower beds can add a lot to the curb appeal,” Mahoney says.

Instead of grimy old dirt that’s been trod on for years, a fresh new layer looks clean, fresh, and pretty—making a huge difference for just $6.

What Couples Really Want in Retirement

Grandmother playing with grandson
Ah, retirement. That second honeymoon you’ll spend lounging around with your main squeeze. Which is who, exactly?

While about 60 percent of men want to hang with their wives during retirement, only 43 percent of wives agree, according to a survey from Fidelity and the Stanford Center on Longevity.

Instead, 70 percent of women cite quality time with grandkids as a big motivator to retire. The survey draws on responses from those ages 55 and up — and as workers get older, turns out the idea of spending retirement with a spouse loses more of its luster.Another thought-provoking survey finding is that about half of Americans plan to stop working on a specific date — no matter how much they’ve saved up for retirement.

They’ve got big plans that involve, well, not really needing to plan anything. Almost 75 percent of respondents expressed that the No. 1 reason for retiring was to have freedom and flexibility, even to simply relax at home.

And if they do take on a side gig or two, 61 percent say it’s because they enjoy doing the work and want to feel valued.

Or, just maybe, it’s a welcome break from spouse overload. Right, retired wives?

If you’re looking to get on the same page as your significant other, here are sometips for talking retirement dreams — and finances.

How to Tell if You Have a Good 401(k) Match

401k concept word in bird nest
The fastest way to increase your retirement savings is to get 401(k) contributions from an employer. Company 401(k) contributions will grow your account balance far faster than you could on your own. But 401(k) contributions vary considerably by employer, and the match can be difficult to get for people who only stay at a company for a year or two. Here’s how to tell if your employer is providing a generous 401(k) match.

What percentage is matched? The most obvious way to evaluate a 401(k) match is by the percentage of your contributions the company matches. A 401(k) match worth 50 cents for each dollar you save is a 50 percent return on your investment. A dollar-for-dollar 401(k) match effectively doubles your money. Some employers have more complicated match formulas such as dollar-for-dollar for the first 3 percent of pay and then 50 cents per dollar on the next 2 percent of pay. A few companies even set up their matches to vary by age, job tenure or other variables chosen by the company. Often the employer stops matching your contributions once you save a specific percentage of your pay in the account, such as 6 percent of your salary.

How much do you need to save to get the match? Some employers contribute to 401(k) accounts on behalf of employees without requiring them to save anything at all. Other companies require workers to save a specific amount in order to get the match. Savings requirements can make it difficult for people who can only afford to save a limited amount to take full advantage of the 401(k) match. For example, if your employer matches 50 cents of each dollar saved for retirement up to 6 percent of pay, but you can only afford to save 3 percent of your pay, you will miss out on half of the 401(k) match you could have gotten. Many new employees are automatically enrolled in 401(k) plans, typically at 3 percent of pay. Sticking with the default savings rate could cause you to miss out of part of your employer match.

Is there a match cap? Some employers set a maximum amount of money they will contribute to a 401(k) for a single employee. For example, an employer might stop providing a match once you hit $2,000 in employer matching funds in a single year.

How soon does the match start? Most 401(k) plans begin providing a 401(k) match as soon as you start saving in the plan. However, some companies have waiting periods of up to a year before they will match employee contributions to the 401(k) plan.

When do you get to keep the match? You don’t get to keep company contributions to your 401(k)account until you are vested in the plan. Some employers immediately vest workers in the 401(k) plan, while others require a specific number of years of service with the company, such as two or three years, before you get to keep any of the 401(k) match if you leave the job. In this case, people who switch jobs within a year or two won’t get to keep any of the 401(k) match. Other employers allow you to keep a percentage of the employer contributions based on your years of service. For example, if you become 20 percent vested in the 401(k) plan for each year of service and you leave the job after two years you will get to keep 40 percent of the company contributions to your 401(k) plan. You always get to keep your own contributions to the retirement account.

What You Need to Know About a Second Mortgage

House sitting on pile of dollar bills
If you don’t know what a second mortgage is, or only have a vague understanding, there’s probably a good reason. You likely don’t want to know. After all, paying for a first mortgage can be bad enough. Hearing the term “second mortgage” is enough to make anyone’s eyes glaze over.

But it’s a financial strategy that’s helped many a homeowner. So if you’ve ever wondered what you need to know about a second mortgage, consider this your crash course.

What it is. It’s a second mortgage on your existing home. (Yes, theoretically, if someone refers to a second mortgage, they could be talking about another mortgage on house No. 2, like a cottage at the lake. Lucky them.)

If you take out a second mortgage on your home, you’re borrowing money using your house’s equity as collateral.

There are two types of second mortgages: a home equity loan, which usually lasts 15 to 30 years, just like your first mortgage, and a home equity line of credit, which allows homeowners to use a line of credit based on their home’s equity. But those 15- and 30-year second mortgages are becoming very rare.

You’ll most likely take out a home equity line of credit, says Heather McRae, a senior loan officer at Chicago Financial Services, a mortgage lender in Chicago.

“Those two terms, ‘home equity line of credit’ and ‘home equity loan,’ are used interchangeably,” she says. “Obtaining a second mortgage as a fixed-rate, closed-ended loan is difficult to find these days. What I mean by closed-ended is that it functions like an installment loan rather than a credit card.”

An auto loan is a good example of a closed-end loan, McRae adds. “If you pay according to the schedule, the car is paid off within a defined period of time,” she says. “Home equity loans do not function like this, per se.”

“Most home equity loans have a 30-year amortization period but are interest only for the first 10 years, which means the minimum payment required is just the interest,” McRae continues. “You can pay extra to pay down the balance, and you can run the balance up again just like a credit card. After 10 years go by, the existing loan balance is amortized over a 20-year period, and it turns into a closed-ended loan. No more running up the balance if you need access to cash.”

Why people take on second mortgages. Well, they need money, and they need a lot of it.

“The primary advantage of a second mortgage is that it allows you access to money you may not otherwise be able to obtain,” says Arvin Sahakian, a co-founder of BeSmartee.com, a search engine for mortgages.

And it’s a loan with a low interest rate.

“The best thing about doing this is the interest rate,” says Jennifer Fredericks, a College Station, Texas-based real estate agent for Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Preferred Living. “It’s lower than it is for credit cards, and it’s lower than it is for student loans.”

“If you are using the money to improve your home or pay off higher interest rate loans, it makes perfect sense to choose this type of financing and improve your overall financial picture,” Sahakian says.

There are other reasons homeowners commonly take out a second mortgage — to pay off major medical bills that insurance wouldn’t cover, to pay a kid’s college tuition or to start a business. Whether a second mortgage is right for any of these purposes depends on the individual’s views on debt and risk, especially when it comes to doing something like starting your own business, which, of course, could work out very well or go very badly.

The dangers. Not only can a business go bust, which is bad news if you’re stuck paying off a second mortgage that funded a failed company, any number of things could go wrong that could mean you aren’t only struggling to pay off your first mortgage and other bills — you’re now having trouble making payments on your second mortgage.

Even with a stable, reliable income, the danger of a second mortgage is that the interest rate on these loans is usually variable, McRae says.

“Currently, interest rates on these types of loans are alluring, but they will fluctuate with market conditions. Most second mortgage rates are tied to the prime interest rate,” she says. “When you hear in the news that the Fed will meet to consider a rate increase, if and when that happens, the interest rate on the second mortgage will increase.”

McRae adds that the Fed meets eight times a year to decide whether to change interest rates, “which means the rate on the line of credit could change eight out of 12 months of the year.”

It might seem crazy to think about after all these years of low interest rates, but what goes down does sometimes go up, even way up, and you could easily wind up with a loan that has a high interest rate.

There’s another potential problem, Fredericks says. “If the market were to change dramatically, and home values were to drop, you might be negative in your house as far as equity goes,” she says.

If you’re thinking about getting a second mortgage. Fredericks recommends talking to a reputable loan officer and getting his or her opinion. But whatever you do, don’t borrow too much, she cautions.

“In California, a few years back, they were letting individuals borrow 125 percent of their loan, but when the market got bad, a lot of homes were foreclosed on,” Fredericks says. “One of the reasons that Texas had less foreclosures during this period is because people were only allowed to borrow 80 percent of their equity. So, the moral of the story here is that, even if your state allows you to borrow more than 80 percent, you wouldn’t want to go higher than that because you need to have a cushion in your value.”

Second mortgages can be great if you use them properly, says Greg Cook, a mortgage originator based in Temecula, California, who runs a website for new homebuyers, FirstTimeHomeBuyersNetwork.com.

“A second mortgage is new debt that has to be repaid,” Cook says. “Too often a consumer will use the proceeds to take on new additional debt. For example, a down payment on a car, toy hauler or to fund a dream vacation. Now it’s debt upon debt.”

So don’t do that. Bottom line: You take out a second mortgage if you can solve afinancial problem. You don’t take one out to create a new one.

Auto Industry Headed for Record Sales in 2015, GM Says

Inside A Car Dealership Ahead Of Motor Vehicle Sales Figures
DETROIT — The U.S. auto industry is on track for a record year of annual sales, General Motors said Tuesday, as the top U.S. automaker and its rivals reported October sales that far exceeded expectations.

GM said the six-month rolling average for U.S. auto sales is 17.8 million vehicles on an annualized basis, which means the industry is on its way to beating the 1999 annual sales record.

October sales will come in around 18.2 million vehicles on an annualized basis, their highest level since 2001, when automakers offered zero percent financing in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, the company said.

In 2009, at the depth of the Great Recession, U.S. auto sales fell to 10.4 million vehicles.

October was a huge month for the industry, smashing expectations and continuing its hot streak.

Analysts had forecast October sales to be 8 to 12 percent higher than last year. A Reuters poll of 45 economists showed expectations of a seasonally adjusted annualized sales rate of 17.7 million vehicles for last month.

“October was a huge month for the industry, smashing expectations and continuing its hot streak,” said Bill Fay, Toyota’s U.S. general manager.

The booming October sales materialized despite concerns about a slowdown in consumer spending and stagnant wages.

U.S. economic data suggests consumer spending lost momentum at the end of the third quarter, with consumption in September posting its smallest increase in eight months. Personal incomes also barely rose that month.

GM said its sales rose 16 percent to 262,993 vehicles last month, marking its best October since 2004. GM (GM) shares were down 0.3 percent at $35.45 Tuesday morning.

Ford Motor, No. 2 in the U.S. auto market by sales, reported it sold 213,938 vehicles last month, a 13 percent rise from the same period last year. Ford’s U.S. sales chief, Mark LaNeve, said the company commanded record average selling prices for its vehicles, at $34,600 per vehicle.

Ford (F) shares were up 0.3 percent at $14.79.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU) reported its 67th straight month of year-over-year gains, selling 195,545 vehicles in October, up 14.7 percent from a year earlier.

Toyota Motor (TM) said it sold 204,045 vehicles in October, up 13 percent.

Nissan Motor said its U.S. sales rose 12.5 percent to 116,047 vehicles in October, led by its Rogue small SUV, which had a 70 percent increase to nearly 25,000.

Mitsubishi Motors reported record October sales in the United States rose 19.8 percent to 7,426 vehicles from last year.

Factory Orders Fall for 2nd Straight Month in September

Factory Orders
WASHINGTON — New orders for U.S. factory goods fell for a second straight month in September as the manufacturing sector continues to struggle under the weight of a strong dollar and deep spending cuts by energy companies.

Motor vehicle production, however, remains a bright spot as orders surged in September. That trend is likely to continue, with early reports Tuesday showingauto sales on track for another strong month in October.

The Commerce Department said new orders for manufactured goods declined 1 percent after a downwardly revised 2.1 percent drop in August.

Factory activity, which accounts for about 12 percent of the economy, is also being constrained by efforts by businesses to reduce an inventory overhang and tepid global demand. But the worst could be over for the sector after a report Monday showed new orders rose in October for the first time since July.

Factory orders were previously reported to have declined 1.7 percent in August. The dollar has gained 16.8 percent against the currencies of the United States’ main trading partners since June 2014, which has undercut export growth and weighed on the profits of multinationals.

Orders for transportation equipment fell 3.1 percent in September, largely reflecting a drop in aircraft orders. Orders for automobiles and parts rose 1.5 percent in September.

The Commerce Department also said orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft — seen as a measure of business confidence and spending plans — slipped 0.1 percent instead of the 0.3 percent drop reported last month. This also supports the view that the worst of the manufacturing slump might be over.

Shipments of these so-called core capital goods, which are used to calculate business equipment spending in the gross domestic product report, increased 0.5 percent in September as reported last month.

Inventories of factory goods fell 0.4 percent after a similar drop in August, also an encouraging sign for the sector. That left the inventories-to-shipments ratio unchanged at a still lofty 1.35.

Manufacturers reported Monday a decrease in the share of customers who believed inventories were too high, and a fall in the stock of unsold goods at factories in October.

Unfilled orders at factories fell for a second straight month in September, Tuesday’s report showed.

10 Tips to Get the Best Deals From Outlet Shopping

Sale sign in the clothing shop

I used to think of outlets as a repository of amazing deals on brands I love. But after researching this story and making a trip to an outlet mall, my opinion has changed.

I recently trekked to a Gap outlet store hoping for big savings on their pants. But I was surprised by what I found: jeans that looked noticeably different and of lower quality than the pairs I’d purchased from the mall back home. How could this be?

As it turns out, I wasn’t mistaken. According to Consumer Reports, Gap is one of several retailers that manufacture clothing specifically for their outlets, and these items may be different and of lower quality than what is in regular stores. This isn’t the only trick retailers pull at their outlet stores, either.

Outlets still offer plenty of great deals that can make the trip worthwhile, but some savings aren’t always what they seem.

1. Give outlet goods a closer look. Outlets aren’t just for items that didn’t sell at the retail store. Some offer seconds or B-grade goods, and many stores stock items that are only made for outlets, sometimes with noticeable differences in quality from what you’d find at the mall.

According to The Dallas Morning News, Saks outlets — Saks Off 5th — says only 12 percent of its goods are overstock from Saks Fifth Avenue stores. The rest was made specifically for the outlet location. Gap, Brooks Brothers and Coach admit they manufacture separate lines of goods exclusively for their outlet stores. Only 20 percent of what Nordstrom Rack sells is clearance merchandise from Nordstrom stores and website, according to this report, while the rest is bought expressly for the outlet.Outlet-only clothing and goods vary in quality, so be sure to take a close look. Does the item feel like it’s lighter? Does it look low quality? Some items might say “outlet” or “factory line” right on the tag. Here’s a tip from Buzzfeed: “J.Crew Factory (the outlet for J.Crew) puts two diamonds under the “r” on its labels, while the Gap Outlet label uses three dots.”

It’s possible the outlet version is cheaply made and won’t last as long as what you’d buy from the regular store, so factor in quality as well as price. On the other hand, some differences might be insignificant, and the savings may outweigh them.

2. Compare prices beforehand. Retailers know you’re looking for savings at outlet stores, and many try to make these discounts seem as deep as possible. You may see signs at the outlet store suggesting prices are 65 percent off, but those only apply to the sorts of things that haven’t sold despite repeated markdowns. Consumer Reports says the average savings are closer to 38 percent. You’ll often see markdowns off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, but outlet or not, customers rarely pay this suggested price.

If you want to know what you’re really saving, check the retailer’s website and compare prices. You may be surprised to find outlet discounts aren’t as big as they claim.

3. Join online outlet clubs. Premium Outlets and Tanger, two of the largest outlet operators, with 70 and 35 malls respectively, offer exclusive promotions when you become a member of their clubs.

With Premium Outlets’ free VIP Club, you’ll receive online coupons and notifications of special events.

Tanger charges a one-time $10 fee to join TangerClub, but you’ll get a $10 gift card in return along with exclusive member offers and savings.

4. Get the best deals off-season. Shop for your winter clothing in the summer and for summer items in winter to bring outlet prices down even further.

5. Time your shopping trip. Outlets can be very busy, so you’ll do best by avoiding both congestion and picked-over shelves by shopping at off-peak times. Experts suggest stopping in on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and shopping early in the day. If you’re not a morning person, avoid the early afternoon and wait until dinnertime.

6. Check retail stores before outlets. Try shopping the local mall during sales or with coupons, where you might find the prices to be comparable but the quality better. Don’t forget to look at clearance items both in the store and online.

7. Check with outlet centers for coupons and circulars. Coupons and other discounts can make outlet shopping an even better deal. Call or go online to see if any coupons or circulars offer additional savings. Senior and military discounts might also be available.

8. Watch the return policy. Unless you don’t mind driving back to the outlet mall, check the return policy before loading up on discounted goods. Many regular stores don’t take returns from outlet locations.

9. Ask outlet staff. If you have questions about the quality of outlet items, don’t be afraid to ask store staff. Some employees may tell you if it’s made for the outlet or offer other valuable information.

10. Don’t fall into the daytrip trap. Don’t see anything you like? Don’t be afraid to leave empty-handed.

Outlet malls are typically placed in far-away locations. Not only is this real estate cheaper, but shoppers may also look at outlet shopping as investing in a full-day trip. With the expenses of gas, time and energy, shoppers may feel they need to justify the sunk costs and end up spending more than they would otherwise.

Ignore the impulse to spend more just to make the trip feel worthwhile. Shelling out more money for unneeded stuff won’t make you feel better, no matter how much you spend on gas.

Outlet stores are just one way to find bargains, of course. If treasure hunting is your passion, don’t forget to check our tips on shopping at thrift stores, Not Your Grandma’s Goodwill, consider Rebate Sites that Pay You for Shopping Onlineand peruse the 10 Best Buys at Warehouse Clubs.