Topics, Anyone?

"Come on, Lucky Writing Necktie...inspire me!"

Here at, we post twice a week on topics related to the MindField Online member experience. We also pick up on various consumer-related topics from around the web like saving money, avoiding ripoffs, tax-time tips, etc. and pass them along to you.

Sometimes it’s easier than others for your humble blogger to come up with ideas. So once in a while – that is, we did it once, and it’s been a while – we like to ask if you have any ideas for blog topics.  More consumer stuff? Articles about mobile retail? Saving for retirement? Finding the right daycare? Or maybe questions about MindField Online? Maybe even a question about MindField about something other than qualifying?

So leave a comment below, and give us your thoughts! And have a great weekend!

Financial Compatibility in Marriage?

Shadow-people have problems just like the rest of us.

How well do you and your spouse sync when it comes to handling money? Do you agree, or agree to disagree – or just plain disagree? Did you and your honey have to come to an understanding when you tied the knot? Did you manage to do it before you got into trouble?

Maybe that’s all in the rear view mirror, but what about your kids? Are they grown and ready to get hitched? Do you worry about them or their prospective mates? Well, you might have good reason to be but, fortunately, there are some steps you can take to avoid disaster.

Even though research suggests that married couples are more likely to accumulate wealth and meet certain financial goals than their single peers, disagreements over money can derail those plans. Before tying the knot, experts recommend that couples have a series of talks about money to prevent conflicts later.   USNews Money

Here are the bullets, but be warned: some of them are not terribly romantic!

  • Know each other’s credit histories. An uncomfortable discussion now avoids surprises later. Trust me, a friend got a big surprise when she learned her new husband had previously failed to pay child support and was having his wages garnisheed FOR THE REST OF TIME.
  • Separate or joint accounts? There are good arguments for either one.
  • Long-term goals. Save for a house or retirement – or party like it’s 1999?
  • Spending styles. More often than not, you will be opposites. But that can be a good thing! You can learn from each other… or just fight a lot.
  • Who does what? Somebody has to take charge of writing the checks, licking the stamps, etc. Thankfully, it’s not me.
  • Dealing with relatives. What happens when your broke sister-in-law’s car breaks down? That could get really hairy if you don’t plan ahead.

Personally, my wife and I get along fine in this area because we pretty much addressed each of these items early on. How about you?

Anyway, it’s a good article, so check it out.


E-Coupons Popular and Growing


According to a survey in the marketing publication eMarketer, over 92 million of us will use online coupons in 2012. Not only do we use them to save money, but to research and compare products as well.

Here are some stats:

  • 27% of us prefer to receive digital coupons instead of cutting them out of the newspaper.
  • 80% of e-coupon fans like their convenience, especially those that arrive by email.
  • 70% say that e-coupons are easier to manage, and help with product research and comparison shopping.
  • E-coupons are particularly popular with PC users, compared to tablet or smartphone users. 37% of PC users pull the trigger on a sale, compared to 17% of tablet users and 13% of smartphone users.

That last one is mildly interesting. Personally, I don’t consider myself a cutting-edge technology user. I don’t have a tablet but I can tell you that, as far as pre-shopping research, the PC is so much more convenient. High-speed internet, a big screen, nothing compares. On the ground, standing in the aisle at OfficeMax comparing printers? Then yes, the smartphone is awesome. But I tend to go to the store having done all my research.

Anyway, 92 million of us are e-coupon users. That sounds like a lot but, as a percentage of all coupon users, that’s still only about one-quarter. That is still second place to print coupon users. So, as the younger, more tech-savvy population grows and ages, you can count on that percentage to grow, and more and more retailers to jump on board the bandwagon.

Are you an e-coupon user? What are your thoughts?


This Year’s Prom Theme: Going Broke

Times are tough, and we are all tightening our belts. One area we aren’t cutting back on is our kids’ high school prom.

Despite continuing economic sluggishness, when it comes to high school proms, Americans are partying like it’s 1999. This year, families with teenagers will spend an average of $1,078 each on the prom, a 33.6 percent increase over the $807 spent in 2011. Consumer Affairs

Speaking as a guy whose girlfriend had to drag kicking and screaming into the tuxedo place to spend $50 on a rental (it was that long ago) I guess I can’t relate. But apparently this prom madness is everywhere. Here are some regional statistics on prom spending:

  • Northeastern average: $1,944
  • Southern average: $1,047
  • Western average: $744
  • Midwestern average: $696

And, it seems that the brokest among us spend the most. Families earning $20,000 to $30,000 spend an average of $2,635 on a dress or a tuxedo, limousine rental, flowers, food, accommodations, and parties after the party.

It’s madness. I see two culprits: TV shows like “My Super Sweet 16”… and parents that can’t say “No.” What are your thoughts?

BTW, the article also explains ways to cut some of these outrageous costs, so check it out!


Last Minute Tax Fun!


Homer Simpson does his taxes at the last minute…

Homer: “Quick! We need more deductions! OK Marge, if anyone asks, you require 24-hour nursing care, Lisa’s a clergyman, Maggie is seven people, and Bart was wounded in Vietnam!”

Bart: “Cool!”

Later, 5 seconds to deadline, he tosses his return into a mail cart as the cage doors are slamming shut. The cart is marked For Severe Audit.

There’s a lesson here folks, and it’s that the Simpsons used to be really funny.

Also, it’s tax time, and getting late in the game. The deadline for filing your return is April 17th.  So here, courtesy of the money page at, are some last-minute tax filing tips:

  • File an extension. This has always confused me. They say you can put it off for 6 months, but you still have to pay by 4/17. If you don’t do your return, how do you know how much you owe?
  • Make tax-deductible IRA contributions. Right up until 4/17.
  • File electronically. With my luck, my broadband would go out that night!
  • Even when rushing, do a careful review.  Duh.
  • Don’t forget this year’s newest forms. If you need any of the new forms, you should have started earlier!
  • Get organized for next year. Or just marry someone organized, like I did.
  • Enjoy tax-day freebies. Companies like Bruegger’s are giving away tax-time treats that day. So Google that!

So, even at the last minute, there are ways you can avoid mistakes, penalties and audits. Check out the info behind the bullet points at the original article. And happy tax time!

Gender-neutral Toys?

An article (more of an editorial, really) at, entitled “5 Reasons Not to Buy Your Daughter Pink Legos,” begins like so:

Gender segregation starts early these days, with color-coded diapers, blankets, and binkies. Most of us seem happy with this arrangement, spending some $22 billion on toys every year. But when one company recently went too far, the response was swift.

I was immediately reminded on the ONE “Cathy” cartoon I have read in the past decade (I swear.) Cathy is determined to find a gender-neutral toy for her niece. Combing through the toy store, she finally gets an idea: plastic dinosaurs! Unfortunately, they only have two kinds – Dinosaur Commando Squad and Dainty Dino Beauty Shop.

I knew she would say that.

Anyway, Lego did a bunch of research, found that girls were playing with Legos, and figured they might play with them MORE if they were building little kitchens, beauty shops, etc. As a result, a petition protesting the idea went up online, and supposedly has 50K signatures.

This author lays out her case. Here are the bullets:

  • Girls are already surrounded by gender stereotypes wherever they turn.
  • Girls love Legos, even without the new line for girls.
  • Classic children’s toys that stand the test of time are usually gender-neutral.
  • Buying the new Lego line will lead to more gender-specific toys.
  • Strong girl role models abound, and they don’t have to look like models.

That’s her view…what do YOU think?


The Cost of Easter

Sorry, the art department took Good Friday off

It’s the big Spring holiday weekend. It’s Good Friday, Passover begins at sundown, and Sunday is Easter. These are serious, revered occasions, but also a time to gather and celebrate:

Easter is also a family celebration — a day to wear Easter dresses and, perhaps, Easter hats, hunt for eggs and welcome spring. It can be expensive. This year, spending a total of $16.8 billion. That’s an average of $145.28 each, up 11 percent from 2011.  Bloomberg News

How do we spend that money?

Candy: Easter is the 2nd-biggest candy holiday behind Halloween. We will eat 90 million chocolate Easter bunnies, 700 million Marshmallow Peeps, and about 16 billion jellybeans this year.

Easter Baskets: Prices range from a couple of bucks at the dollar store, to a $70 (or higher) Longaberger.

Decorating Eggs: Eggs became popular at Easter because eating them was forbidden during Lent. Today, we buy 10 million egg-dyeing kits at $4 to $13 each

The Easter Dinner: We will spend $5.5 billion on food this Easter. 33 million of us will dine out. And, of course, we eat HAM. Um, not for Passover, obviously!

Flowers: Easter and Passover combine to account for the 4th-biggest flower holiday. We will spend about $11 for Easter flowers, or over a billion dollars!

Greeting Cards: We will send 57 million Easter cards and spend about $7 each, or over $800 million.

So that’s the tally, and there’s more at the original article. Now, FORGET the cost, and enjoy your family and your holiday! Happy Easter and Happy Pesach from MindField Online!!

Help for Shopaholics

Is this you? I’m asking because I can’t see your face.

Spending addictions can rear their heads at the most inopportune times. They also know no socioeconomic boundaries. This is a problem that can affect wealthy people, low-income people and pretty much anyone living between those two extremes.

Even now, when we really don’t have the money to spend, some of us do it anyway. Hey, I’m no different – when work is slow, and I get anxious, I go to Goodwill! A two-dollar piece of junk is often the perfect pick-me-up!

So how do you recognize a spending addiction, and what do you do about it? Well, there’s a pretty good article on today. Here are the bullet points:

  • Understand the phenomenon
  • Know thyself
  • Reflect on how you feel when you shop
  • Think about the time involved
  • Take control of the situation
  • Start writing things down
  • Steer clear of unnecessary temptations
  • Find healthy alternatives
  • Expand your possibilities
  • Know when to get help

So like I said, I am no stranger. How about you? Care to share? And please read the original article, there’s lots of helpful info!