Retailers are optimistic about back-to-school sales because the job market has been strengthening and gas prices have been falling. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Anthony Matthews collects letters from dissatisfied customers — including himself — at his website, Dear Customer Relations. He's crowd-funding a book based on the site. Courtesy of Anthony Matthews hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Anthony Matthews

After two kids and her husband's bouts with cancer, Claire Shrout's family was wracked with debt. Instead of declaring bankruptcy, they worked themselves out of it and hope to be relatively debt free by spring. Courtesy of Claire Shrout hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Claire Shrout

Dollar Tree recently announced it will buy Family Dollar Stores for about $8.5 billion in cash and stock. Discount stores have been doing well in the recession. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Joe Raedle/Getty Images

An artist's installation shows pre-foreclosed homes in Newark, N.J., in July 2009 at the Queens Museum of Art in New York City. Mario Tama/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Mario Tama/Getty Images

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testifies before the Senate Banking Committee on July 15. She said the Fed is likely to keep interest rates low "for a considerable period" since inflation remains so tame. J. Scott Applewhite/AP hide caption

itoggle caption J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Retirees Mike Shane (left) and William Davis protest near the federal courthouse in Detroit on July 3. Workers and retirees approved pension cuts in Detroit's bankruptcy by a landslide, the city reported Monday. Paul Sancya/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Paul Sancya/AP