DEAR ABBY:

About a month ago, my friend lost her keys in a major department store. Despite announcements in the store, the keys were never found. My friend wasn't worried because she had her wallet and personal information in her purse.

Two weeks later, her home was robbed. There was no sign of forced entry. What we learned from the police is that the little tags we carry on our key chains from major pharmacy and supermarket chains carry our names on the receipts. All the person who found the keys had to do was purchase something, swipe the card and the receipt came up with my friend's name printed on it! Unfortunately, her name is listed in the phone book, so the thief was able to find her house, use her house key, walk right in and take whatever he/she wanted.

I no longer keep the tags on my key chain. I keep them in a separate place in my purse or in my pocket. I hope this keeps at least one person from being robbed.

- Karen in Methuen, Mass.

DEAR KAREN: So do I, and thank you for the warning. For those who prefer not to carry those little tags at all, many are linked with the shopper's telephone number in the pharmacy's or supermarket's computer. If you mention it before the cashier starts ringing up your purchase, the sale can be rung up as part of the saver's program. Inquire at the stores where you shop regularly.

DEAR ABBY: Five years ago, when my niece was 9, we came up with the idea of making Christmas cards and sending them out to special friends and family members. We both work hard to make sure each is attractive and in good taste, and we handwrite a personal note inside. We also print on the back that the card was "handmade with love." This has become a tradition for the two of us, and the cards are quite beautiful.

Last year, after we sent them out, I received a card from a friend with a small check inside. The card read, "I'm sending you this check so you can afford to buy 'real cards' next year." I was, to say the least, hurt and offended. I wondered if others felt similarly, so I asked around and was shocked to learn they, too, thought I was "cheap." Although it cost more money and time to create each card, no one appreciated them.

We won't be making the cards this year, but how do I tell my niece why? I don't want her feelings hurt, too.

- Blue at Christmas

DEAR BLUE: Tell your niece what you were told - and by whom - so she won't waste any more effort on these rude and unappreciative individuals. Better she hear it from you than one of the recipients.

As to the "friend" who sent the check, I hope you returned it and deleted her from your Christmas card list. What she did was uncalled for.

DEAR ABBY: I am 13 and I have a problem. My mother gave me $20 so I could go Christmas shopping, but I forgot I was Christmas shopping and ended up buying everything for myself. Now what do I do, because she's really mad.

- In Trouble in Michigan

DEAR IN TROUBLE: Apologize to your mother, admit what happened wasn't a memory lapse as much as yielding to temptation, and start doing whatever you can to earn more money. Some suggestions: shoveling sidewalks and driveways and dog walking, if the neighbors will let you.

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