A Nutty New Year’s Eve


Time to check in with New Year’s Eve traditions, some familiar, some downright NUTTY.

Auld Lang Syne: What’s the story behind this classic? Find out HERE.

Kissing at midnight: if you don’t, it’s “a year of loneliness” for you, according to tradition.

Black-eyed peas and collard greens: In the South, they represent pennies and dollars. In other words, prosperity!

Colorful undies: in Latin America, the color of your unmentionables at midnight will affect your fortunes in the coming year.

Ooh, MELTY! Those crazy Germans drop molten metal into a bucket of water, and whatever twisted shape it takes reveals your fortune for the coming year.

Fireworks: The Chinese invented them, and set them off at midnight to ward off evil spirits.

Polka dots: In the Philippines, the circle represents prosperity. So wear those dots!

The night for white: In Brazil, you wear white on New Year’s Eve. Otherwise, bad luck!

Renewal in Japan: New Year’s is super important in Japan. Lots of emphasis on flushing away the troubles of last year, and hoping for better in the new. Temples strike their gongs 108 times, to banish the 108 types of human weakness. Personally, I have 137 kinds of human weakness. So GET ON IT, Japan!

Burn that mother down! In the Netherlands, they build bonfires in the streets using their Christmas trees.

Chew carefully: When eating New Year’s cake in Greece. One lucky person will find a gold coin, bringing good fortune in the new year.

12 grapes: In Spain, you eat one grape for every stroke of the bell. Statistically, it’s the New Year’s tradition with the most Vitamin C.

You dropped something! In Mt. Olive NC (oddly, the home of the Mt. Olive Pickle Co.) they drop a lighted pickle instead of a ball. Meanwhile, in Eastport Maine, it’s a lighted sardine! And Brasstown, NC lowers an opossum in a Plexiglas box (and PETA hates that!)

So, we’re all from somewhere else… do you have any different or oddball NYE traditions to share? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a happy, SAFE New Year!

Sources: Here, here, here and here!

Notes on 300

sorry, this is NOT sparta!
sorry, this is NOT sparta!

Welcome to MindFieldLive’s 300th post! This blog came online on September 11, 2010. A Saturday, oddly. Just a quick hello and an invitation to tour the site – which thousands have done. The various permanent pages describing how the whole MindField thing works have always been the most visited pages.


But we have also talked about a bunch of other stuff, some serious topics and some goofy ones too. We have made note of just about every Facebook milestone. Note this headache-inducing graphic from October 15, 2010…

today: 40,657!
today: 40,657!

We’ve asked questions like “what makes this product FOR WOMEN when all they did was take the regular product and make it pink?”

Like so.
Like so.

We have discussed the return of old habits, like layaway. Who would have thought?

We talked a lot about technology changes, and how they affect our shopping habits. Online shopping immediately springs to mind. Other “advancements” include a boatload of smartphone apps that allow you to comparison shop on the showroom floor, make dinner reservations, help you remember where you parked, receive insta-coupons, etc. Where is this trend heading? Will our increasing paranoia about privacy blunt its growth? (I kind of doubt it!)

The sad journeys of some old favorites. JCPenney comes to mind, with the hiring of an old Apple retail exec. He made a bunch of changes (no more Saturday sales, everyday low prices, etc.) that everybody hated, forcing JCP to flip-flop. They continue to circle the drain, and it doesn’t look good for the 110-year-old retailer.

Mom & Pop video stores vs. Blockbuster vs. Netflix vs. Redbox. It has been a wild 20 years in this segment, but it really came to a head in the MindFieldLive blog era. Mom & Pop were already dead and Blockbuster was king – though stumbling. Netflix was killing them with home-delivered DVD’s – until Redbox came along and forced them to change course. Today, Blockbuster is dead (with zero tears shed,) there’s a Redbox at every corner gas station and Netflix owns home streaming

Overall, the major trend has simply been the economy. What decisions have you made in the last 3 years that weren’t colored by anxiety over how things are and where they are heading? Is it getting any better? I honestly can’t say. What do you think?

Anyway, it’s been fun. We’re glad to see you every Tuesday and Friday, and we hope you keep coming around. Thanks to the best bunch of consumer panelists in the business! Have a great weekend, and see you on New Year’s Eve!


target-credit-card-breach-stolenBeen keeping up with that credit card breach at Target? Here’s the skinny….

Target says 40 million credit and debit cards may have been compromised. If you shopped at a U.S. Target store between November 27 and December 15, you should assume you’re at risk and keep a close watch on your account statements. It’s not clear whether every Target store was affected, but at least one card issuer says it’s seeing signs of fraud all over the United States, according to Krebs on Security. You’re not in any danger if you shopped at Target’s website, or one of the company’s Canada stores. Time Magazine

At my house, we got our notices from Target via email. It answers a lot of questions, offers advice, as well as the opportunity to access free credit reporting from the big agencies.

Some, of course, are saying it’s too little too late. The public relations nightmare – and the lawsuits – have already begun. In my opinion – very much a “seems to me” without any hard evidence – Target was a little late in admitting there had been a breach. When they did, they talked about it happening on Black Friday weekend (let’s say 11/27 to 12/1.) By the time I got my email, that weekend period had stretched to December 15!

On the other hand, let’s not place ALL the blame on (seemingly) inadequate security. Let’s be sure to thank the jerks who stole the credit cards. They KNOW you and I won’t be held accountable for the fraudulent purchases, and they see it as a victimless crime. In my opinion, it’s ECONOMIC TERRORISM pure and simple.

Anyway, here are some (FRESH) links if you need to catch up:

Did you get your notice? Is this an outrage, or more of the same in today’s super-connected, ever-more-vulnerable world? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and Merry Christmas Eve!

The Smell of the Sell

sens-MMCWhat does a Hugo Boss store smell like? I couldn’t tell you. But I know it smells like something. And the scent was scientifically chosen, and it’s the same in every store. Why? To sell stuff!

Such sensory branding is becoming a bigger part of stores’ consumer marketing. Retailers often rely on music and colors to create a mood, but now they’re targeting the other sense, smell, to get customers to make a more sophisticated connection to the brand through their shopping experience — they even have a name for it: olfactive branding. Time.com

What have the eggheads learned with these sorts of sensory branding?

Sight: displays consisting of warm colors (red/yellow/orange) are good at attracting impulse buyers, while cooler blues and greens attract the more analytical shopper.

Sound: you may be tired of the holiday music in stores now but, like it or not, it put you in a Christmas mindset, which fuels gift buying.

Taste: there’s a reason Starbucks (and everybody else) whips out the pumpkin spice in the fall and peppermint in the winter!

Smell: has really captured the retailers’ imaginations in the past few years. Baby powder smell in the kids. Section, coconut in the swimwear section, and so on. There are even professional smell consultants who design official scents for retailers. By the way, I said I didn’t know what a Hugo Boss smells like. Actually it’s “musk with a hint of citrus.” I don’t know what that MEANS, of course. So, technically, I wasn’t lying!

So, what do YOU think? Trickery or smart business? What smells have you noticed? Do you notice them at all? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!

Online Spending and Trending

online-holiday-shoppingA survey by the Marist Poll, entitled “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Last Year” states it pretty bluntly: The hope that an improving economy would spur holiday shopping does not seem to be materializing.

But while spending isn’t up much, they point out the way we split opur shopping time and dollars. Across the board, online shopping keeps nibbling away at the total.

What are we spending compared to last year?

  • 52% expect to spend about the same
  • 10% plan to spend more this year
  • 38% think they will spend less.

…numbers almost identical to 2012

Where are we purchasing?

  • 19% strictly online, up from 14% in 2012
  • 41% buy some online, some brick & mortar, unchanged
  • 40% brick & mortar only, down from 44% last year

Regional differences in online buying?

  • Northeast: 28%, up from 19% last year
  • South: 17%, up from 12%
  • Midwest: 16%, up from 11%
  • West: 18%, up from 16%

Online buying age gap? Yep.

  • Under 45: 27% mostly online shopping, up from 20% last year
  • Over 45: 13% mostly online, up from 11%

More stats and analysis at the original piece, so, you know, check it out! So, do you see yourself in these numbers? Are your shopping habits changing? Online more? Brick& mortar less? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page.

Ditching the Name Brands?

110924-ketchupHere’s a lightweight Friday piece on brand loyalty vs. pinching pennies. Times are tight y’all! We all have our favorite brands of food and health & beauty items. For some, our loyalty is so strong we will stick with them even when the budget gets tight. Others, not so much. Turns out, according to Forbes.com, there’s a pattern to which items we will sacrifice first.

Here’s a list of everyday items, with the percentage that the name brand has lost to the generics since the economy up and got dead in 2008 (with bonus dumb commentary!)

  • Paper Towels down 1%
  • Facial Tissue down 8%
  • Laundry Detergent down 9%. Not in our house. Sgt. Wife insists on Tide!
  • Pasta Sauce down 10%. Definitely. A couple of cans of Walmart Italian-style diced tomatoes (68 cents each!) is just as good.
  • Fruit Juice down 12%
  • Soup down 12%. I do think Campbell’s is better, but it’s been forever since I bought any.
  • Shampoo down 12%. Can’t say. I have always been a Suave girl. Guy. Whatever.
  • Toothpaste down 12%.
  • Mouthwash down 14%. It’s blue alcohol. Is NameBrand-sterine that much better than Walmart-sterine?
  • Over-the-counter medicine down 17%. When one is $7 and the other $4.59? Definitely!

There’s more to be had at the original article (not much, really) including the percentage of each of these segments that the generic brands have swiped from the name brands. So check it out!

How about you? Which of your fave name brands have you given up for the economic apocalypse? Did you switch, and then switch back? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!

Last Minute Tax Reduction Tips

2010-year-end-tax-tips-landlords-250x250I know we’re all distracted by Holiday shopping madness, but it’s never too soon to start looking for ways to reduce your 2013 income tax obligation. You only have 3 weeks left to make adjustments!

Things like deferring income until the new year, making charitable donations, pre-paying next year’s college tuition, and maxing out your IRA and HSA contributions are all legitimate ways to cut your tax bill. For a more comprehensive list of tax ideas, I went on a little Google search. Here is a list of links that will get you started.

And, just in case you miss the boat, there’s always next year!

Of course, you should definitely consult with your tax professional before doing this. That’s if you can catch him – he’s probably out Christmas shopping!

How about you? Have you used any of these techniques? Did you save much? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Holiday Spending 2013

christmas_spending-258x300Ah, statistics. How much are we spending this holiday season? You can ask 5 different experts and get 5 different interpretations of the numbers. What seems to be universal is that we still aren’t back to where we were in 2007, before everything went wacky, but slowly (painfully slowly) we are clawing our way back. Of course, that’s relative too. Is spending $800 per family at holiday time something we SHOULD be striving toward? I’m not so sure.

Anyway, here’s the latest look at Holiday Spending by the Numbers, 2013 edition, courtesy of Mint.com.

  • 2007: The year holiday spending peaked, before the crash
  • 39%: How much spending went down in 2008
  • 2009: The year holiday spending bottomed out
  • $682: The low point, per family, in 2009
  • $750: what we worked our way up to, per family, in 2012. Expected to rise again in 2013
  • $400: How much we spent on family gifts, 2012
  • $75: Gifts for friends, 2012
  • $25: Gift for co-workers, 2012
  • 60%: The number of us that bought gifts for ourselves, 2012
  • $224: The amount moms spend on each child and spouse
  • #1: The most requested gift on wish lists: Gift cards!

The article is full of stats from different survey firms. Sometimes the numbers differ, but the trends seem stop hold up across the board. It also offers for tips to cut costs (I’m going to guess “buying gifts for yourself” is the first to go!) So check it out!

How about you? Are you spending the same? Less? More? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great (shopping) weekend!

Curbing the Impulse

06shopping5Tales of Impulse Buying Horror!

I once knew a girl who bought so much stuff on QVC that they asked her to go on the air and talk to the hosts. She did but, in the middle of the conversation, she remembered that her husband said he would leave her if she bought one more thing on QVC. So she abruptly hung up on air!

I once knew a dude who filled his house with Hoosier cabinets bought at antique stores. He was convinced he was going to someday open a store of his own. There were so many that you had to shimmy sideways down the hall. Otherwise, the house was crammed with other collectible crap because, for some reason, he never thought to put it IN the cabinets!

So, yeah, impulse buying. On a small scale it can be relatively harmless. But when it’s out of control, well, it’s out of control.  For some folks, it’s a serious problem, causing money troubles and conflict in the home. What can you do about it? NerdWallet/ABC News has some helpful hints. As usual, these are just the bullets, with dumb commentary added…

  • Don’t buy with credit (duh)
  • Install a time delay for shopping websites (like, the site won’t load for five minutes after you click.)
  • Make shopping harder (like, when you store all your personal, payment and shipping info on a site to make shopping a breeze? Don’t do that!)
  • Follow the 30-minute rule (just back away…)
  • Unsubscribe from daily deal newsletters (I have wasted SO much money with these)
  • Take advantage of the cooling-off period (You legally have 3 days to cancel)

I like this one, because hey, we’re only human…

  • Keep a splurge fund

Again, much more detail at the original piece, so check it out! How about you do you know any impulse buyers (because, obviously, it’s not YOU)? Is it harmless or out of control? Do you think these tips would help? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

ALSO: Shopaholics Anonymous …if you think you need it.