Spurs extend home dominance SAN ANTONIO (AP): San Antonio immediately bounced back from a rare loss and beat Denver 101-86 on Saturday to extend their franchise record for consecutive home wins to 26. Kawhi Leonard had 20 points for the Spurs, who maintained their eight-game lead atop the NBA’s Southwest Division. San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge had 12 points and nine rebounds, and Boris Diaw had 16 points for the Spurs, who have won all 17 home games this season to add to the final nine of the previous campaign. Denver’s Nikola Jokic scored 22 points on 10-for-19 shooting. Shah banned after failing doping test ISLAMABAD (AP): The International Cricket Council has provisionally suspended Pakistan leg-spinner Yasir Shah for a positive drug test. The ICC says in a statement yesterday that a sample provided by Shah on Nov. 13, when Pakistan played an ODI against England in the United Arab Emirates, contained chlortalidone, which is on the World Anti-Doping Authority’s list of prohibited substances. Shah could challenge the suspension and apply for the test of his B sample within seven days. The 29-year-old Shah has taken 76 wickets in 12 Test matches and 18 wickets in 15 one-day internationals.
Most parents wonder how much is too much to spend on Christmas gifts for their children.Family holiday gatherings that include aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents can easily result in massive piles of gifts, even for children who are too young to really understand the concept of Christmas gift giving.This year, two of the hottest gifts include two new game consoles: the PlayStation 4 ($400) and the Xbox One ($500).Of course, many families will buy one of these game consoles for “the kids” rather than for each child, but that’s still a big chunk of money for a lot of families.The Rebound Since the 2008 RecessionAfter the global recession that started in 2008, the combination of high unemployment and a devastated housing market caused people to spend a lot less at Christmas.Gallup surveys said that Americans spent 29% less on 2008 Christmas gifts than in 2007.While spending in the US has not yet topped 2007 spending levels, it has gone up from its low of $681.83 in 2009.In 2012, the average family spent around $750 on holiday gifts, and spending is expected to be up again in 2013, as unemployment has eased and the housing and automobile markets have started recovering.Holiday Spending in 2012In 2012, gift cards were at the top of a lot of wish lists.People like getting them because of their flexibility, and people like giving them because it’s a lot easier to buy a gift card than to fight other shoppers for popular items and Black Friday specials.In 2012, people spent just over $400 on gifts for family, around $75 on gifts for friends, and closer to $25 on gifts for co-workers.Close to 60% of consumers bought gifts for themselves in 2012, and the figure is expected to remain the same in 2013.The most requested items for Christmas last year were gift cards, clothing, media (books, CDs, DVDs, video games), electronics, jewelry, home décor, and sporting goods.Discover Card Polls Holiday SpendingReleased at the end of October, Discover Card’s holiday spending survey found that the average family will be spending 20% more this Christmas than last, with the average family spending just over $1000.This includes gifts and other things, like holiday food, clothing, and dining out.Marketing professional Dave Brennan of the University of St. Thomas says regional holiday budgets may be up by less than 20% over 2012, because in some regions, the rebound from the recession came early, causing some regions to experience a bigger bump in holiday spending in 2012.Brennan told CBS Minnesota, “We have lower unemployment, we have good paying jobs, and things are coming back a lot faster here than they have in other places.”What the National Retail Federation SaysThe National Retail Federation’s numbers are a bit less optimistic than those collected by the Discover Card survey.The NRF survey says the average shopper will spend $737.95 on gifts, décor, greeting cards, and other holiday items. This is 2% less than in 2012.This year, the NRF asked shoppers if the government shutdown and general Washington gridlock would affect their holiday spending, and 29% of respondents said that it was “somewhat or very likely to affect” holiday spending.Fifty-one percent of consumers said the general state of the economy would affect holiday spending, with 79% expecting to spend less overall.Overall holiday spending this year is expected to make $602.1 billion for retailers.The Prowl’s Survey of Shopping MomsShopping experience website The Prowl conducted a survey of 511 mothers on 2013 holiday spending and made some interesting discoveries about how much moms are spending, and how they’re spending it.Their survey found that mothers expect to spend $224 on average for gifts for each child, and almost exactly the same amount ($221) on gifts for their husband or partner.Compared to last year, moms planned to spend roughly the same, with 55% saying they would spend “the same” as last year, 23% saying they would spend more, and 22% saying they would spend less than in 2012.As for how they plan to shop, 49% of mothers surveyed said they would make purchases on mobile devices this year, either on a phone, tablet, or both.Clearly, braving the Black Friday crowds is not for everyone.If you’re conflicted about how much you spend during the holidays, you’re not alone. Keeping holiday spending reasonable may require steps like:• Not buying “presents” for yourself• Making a spending plan before shopping• Giving group gifts• Drawing names for gifts at large family gatherings• Using cash rather than debit or credit cards for holiday shoppingNo parent should spend more than they can afford at Christmas, whatever holiday advertisements and peers say.Kids can be remarkably practical when it comes to holidays, and most understand that they can’t get everything they want. In fact, seeing altruistic behavior often influences even young kids.Children in the early elementary grades can understand the basics of how budgets work, so there’s no reason your children have to grow up with a blind expectation of getting everything they want at Christmas time.Teach this lesson early, and you can expect less holiday guilt and less of a January spending hangover in the years to come.Mary Hiers is a personal finance writer who helps people earn more and spend less.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Related Post navigation
Elsewhere, a senator defends his vote against legislation to try to improve the VA’s health care, and The Associated Press looks at doctor’s appointment wait times for all Americans.Politico: Poll: Fixing VA Health Care Top IssueThe most widespread legislative concern for Americans is improving health care for veterans, a new poll says. According to a Gallup poll released Friday, 87 percent of Americans say it is extremely or very important for the White House and Congress to address health care services for veterans. Among the nine options presented in the survey, improving care for veterans scored 15 percent higher than the second-place issue, equal pay legislation for women (Topaz, 6/13).The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Ron Johnson Defends Vote Against VA FundingIn an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Thursday, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Oshkosh, defended his vote against a bipartisan measure to address scheduling problems at Veterans Affairs facilities but vowed to continue to work to fix what he called a broken system. “The finest among us deserve the best quality health care system,” Johnson said. “They need to be able to access it and access it in time.” On Wednesday, Johnson was one of only three Senators to vote against the legislation that would allow the VA to contract with private medical facilities, enabling veterans facing long waits to get quicker treatment. The VA would also be able to use $500 billion from its current budget to hire more medical staff (Glauber, 6/12).The Associated Press: Outside The VA, Waits For Doctors Can Vary WidelyIt’s not just veterans who sometimes have to wait for health care. Depending on where you live and what kind of care you want, in parts of the country it’s not always easy for new patients to get a quick appointment. Need routine primary care? The average wait to see a family physician for the first time ranged from 66 days in Boston to just five days in Dallas, according to a survey in 15 large cities by health care consulting firm Merritt Hawkins. And doctors are bracing for new demand from millions of people newly insured through the federal health care law (Neergaard, 6/13).States, too, are trying to address the problems at the VA in their own ways –Texas Tribune: Perry Proposes Fix For Texas Vets Health CareGov. Rick Perry on Thursday announced that the state has reached agreements with health facilities to provide care for veterans who cannot get timely treatment from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Now, he’s asking federal officials to approve the plan designed to help the 1.7 million veterans living in Texas. The U.S. House and Senate this week both passed bills that would help veterans access health care outside the VA system if they cannot get a prompt VA appointment or do not live near a VA clinic (Edelman, 6/12). Texas Tribune: Vets Discuss Wait Times At Senate Committee HearingGeorgia Hernandez says her father’s medical care at VA clinics in recent months had been mired by long wait times for appointments that left him with no other option than to seek care at a Houston hospital. It was there that doctors discovered George Barraza, a Vietnam War veteran, had liver cancer and that he was suffering from hepatitis C and cirrhosis. After doctors ran several tests and sent Barraza and his daughter back to the VA, they were told to come back two months later, but Barraza died before his appointment. Hernandez was among several who testified before the committee at the Port of Houston in Pasadena. Committee members collected information from veterans and state officials who work with the veteran community as they prepare to task the Texas Veterans Commission with assisting veterans in obtaining medical services and filing complaints for long wait times (Ura, 6/12). MinnPost: Despite Audit’s Red Flags, Vets Give Minnesota’s VA Clinics High MarksWhile Minnesota Veterans Affairs officials anxiously seek an explanation why a federal audit identified the Minneapolis VA Medical Center and the Rochester VA clinic as trouble spots needing more review, many Minnesota veterans are praising the state’s VA medical facilities. Rank-and-file vets and those employed by county Veterans Services offices throughout the state said they’ve received superb care from the Minneapolis VA hospital. And Twin Cities medical professionals who work closely with the Minneapolis system say providers offer solid care to patients (Cronin and Henry, 6/12).McClatchy: Fla. Lawmakers Deride VA For Problems But Counsel Caution On OverhaulA bipartisan collection of Florida lawmakers piled on the Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday in a special delegation meeting – although one of the most common refrains heard was some variation of “the VA does many things well.” About 20 representatives from both sides of the aisle took testimony from veterans groups and from an official of the VA’s Florida health operations. The VA has been caught in a scandal over scheduling practices that hid how long veterans actually waited to see their doctors (Adams, 6/12) Poll: Fixing Vets’ Health Care High Priority This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.