April Shower of Savings!

I just said that!
I just said that!

It’s almost April, and time to look at the months best bargains! Here are some highlights:

  • Electronics: It’s the end of the fiscal year in Japan, and everything must go!
  • Seasonal stuff: Spring clothing, Easter candy (after Easter, natch), Mother’s Day jewelry
  • Travel: Book cruises now, even if you aren’t traveling for months
  • Health: The New Year’s Resolution crowd has faded out, so there are bargains on athletic shoes and gym memberships.
  • Tax Time: Many retailers (especially fast food) offer a free cup of coffee here, a donut there. Check it out!
  • Home Improvement: Like we said, spring cleaning and projects, projects, projects!

Again, just the highlights. Here are a couple of helpful links for your Friday browsing pleasure.

ABC News: April Bargains to spend your tax refund on
Best Travel Deals: Best Travel Deals for April
Ben’s Bargains: Waste Not, Want Not: Best Deals to Buy in April
DealNews.com: The Best and Worst Things to Buy in April

Have you got any spending (or saving) secrets for April? Share them over at the MindField Online Facebook page. And have a great weekend!

Today’s Connected Consumer

That’s her!

I found a stack of mildly interesting graphics on the web, describing various aspects of today’s Connected Consumer.

Today, consumers of all ages and lifestyles are connected to the brands and businesses they love via multiple screens and devices. In fact, 90% of all media interactions today are screen-based. This has many implications, especially for online shopping, customer service, and the nature of communication in general. Survey Analytics

There are a few surprises buried under all the bars and pies and percentages, chiefly that the connected consumer ISN’T a “tweeting twenty-something” (not that this is a bad thing...) Instead, the “average” connected consumer is a 40-year-old woman with a household income of around $60K who owns several devices.

Take a look at some of the numbers…

What are we using?

  • In addition to a PC or laptop, 43% own a smartphone and 16% own a tablet.
  • 81% are on Facebook
  • 60% use digital catalogs
  • 87% interact with retailers via websites or mobile sites, but…
  • only 4% use a retailer’s mobile app.

What are we buying?

  • #1 item purchased on tablet or PC: Electronics (about 55% for both)
  • #1 item purchased on a smartphone: Music (42%)

What do we say about ourselves?

  • Connected Consumer’s top-3 answers: Savvy, Frugal and Spontaneous

Interesting note: the #5 way that CC’s describe themselves is “Addicted.” A little self-awareness is a good thing, I guess! There are a lot more graphics with more numbers, statistics and pretty pretty colors colors HERE, so take a look!

So, do any of these numbers sound like you? The trend running through the whole thing is that this connected consuming is on the rise. Have you caught the bug? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Spring Home Improvement Fun?

Savings Tip #1: Find a bunch of giant $100 bills in the yard
Savings Tip #1: Find a bunch of giant $100 bills in the yard

It’s been a tough winter for just about everybody. And, trust me, I know it’s relative. If I tell you that here in Charleston SC, we had a cold snap where “it got down to 19 degrees one night!” many of you will laugh. But that’s a big deal here! Anyway, as spring finally breaks, we emerge from our caves to find that our lawns, landscaping, patios and home exteriors look decidedly more beat-to-crap than we remember them. Disgusted, we go back inside to the dank grizzly den we burrowed into all winter long, only to see that it has suffered a similar fate.

I’m pretty sure this is where the whole Spring Cleaning thing came from. I believe it’s as much as a psychological need as a physical one.

Of course, that takes money. That is, if you (I) have any left after watching your (my) heating bills more than double over the winter. A lot of folks use their tax refunds and – even in 2014 – over half of us plan to get one.

How will we spend? According to Zillow.com, about 60% will take on some kind of project, but we will only spend $700 on average – which is the lowest since Zillow started their survey. So, since we are being so conservative, here are some links to help you spend wisely!

Also, Walmart and Target are having HUGE home improvement sales this weekend.
How about you? Any home improvement plans? I plan to smash my thumb with a hammer and cuss a lot. Share your plans and savings tips with us over at the MindField Online Facebook page. And have a great weekend!

Extreme Cutting Back is Extreme!

336Caught a 2am rebroadcast of Kathie Lee and Hoda (Link here if you can bear it) interviewing a couple that moved with their two kids into a 336 square foot house they built. Apparently, this is a thing now, so they say. The couple really didn’t seem to be too smug about it (unlike, say, the enviro-hipsters at my old job who ride their single-gear bikes to work every day even though it’s 88 degrees in Charleston by 9am and you smell like a mule the entire day.) Anyhoo, these folks lost everything in the Crash, had to start over, and didn’t want to be in debt ever again.

Yeah, but 336 square feet? “It brought us closer together…” Geez, you think?

How about some more practical tips on cutting back? Try “54 Ways to Save Money” from AmericaSaves.org. Ideas include everything from keep a jar of change to buying the new light bulbs to only using YOUR bank’s ATM, and 51 more!. Some good stuff there.

So, what about you? Could you have a fire sale and move your family into 336 sq ft? What ways have you cut back? Are you saving much? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

St. Pat’s 2014!

This-cat-like-Guinness-too-228x300Let go of my Lucky Charms, and listen up! Here’s where all your “green” will go this year on St. Patrick’s Day, according to MSNMoney.com:

Who is celebrating?

  • 55% of Americans will celebrate, up from 48% in 2007
  • 58% of men, 53% of women
  • 77% of 18-24 year-olds
  • 133 million people total
  • 34.1 million U.S. residents claim Irish ancestry
  • 24.1% claim Irish ancestry in the “most Irish” city: Boston

How are we celebrating?

  • 83% will wear green
  • 34% make a special dinner
  • 30% attend a party at a bar or restaurant
  • 22% decorate the home or office
  • 17% attend a private party
  • 2 million – number of attendees at NYC St Pat’s parade, America’s largest

How much are we spending?

  • $4.8 billion in spending
  • $36 per person
  • $255 million spent on beer

How about you? Any special plans for St Pat’s (other than possibly calling in sick on Tuesday?) Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page! Have a good weekend and a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Consumer Culture Hall of Fame!

1981905_710425518979512_1357359628_nIf you asked me what the biggest consumer trends of the past however-many years would be, I would say cell phones are at the top of the list. I remember in 1985 being fascinated by the ONE guy I knew with a cell phone… it looked like something Radar might use to call Sparky at the 8063rd on M*A*S*H: a big blocky unit, the size of a VCR, with a shoulder strap and a wired handset.

Turns out I am correct – or, rather, one-twelfth correct. Cell phones are on the list, as compiled by the London Globe and Mail. What else is on the list? Lots of things, not just technology but also trends. Here are the highlights…

  • Everyone is a designer: And don’t I know it! For many years, I was a Professional Video Producer. Now, any Joe with a camera and a laptop can make videos that I needed a ROOM full of technology to achieve!
  • Brands are keepers of culture: Sadly true. I was looking at my second-grade class picture. Know what I didn’t see? Nike, Spider-Man, Dora, or Red Bull t-shirts!
  • Everything you need fits in your pocket: See the picture above. A guy from 1990 carries 200 pounds of crap – a camcorder, VCR, TV, telephone, dictionary, road atlas, etc. – in contrast with carrying a smartphone.
  • Life is a project to be optimized.: “I’m living life to the fullest – even with my mild-to-moderate plaque psoriasis!” See also: Viagra.
  •  Technology never sleeps: Oof, I am guilty of this one. Wake up at 3:45am. Hit the bathroom. Then, check the iPhone for emails or texts.
  • Scarcity is something to embrace: Ehh, not so sure about this one. There is a certain stripe of people who think that the itty-bitty SmartCar is cool, but I don’t know any of them.
  • Connectivity is like oxygen: Want to see a super freakout? Tell somebody that the WiFi is down!
  • Nothing is from one place any more: Remember “American Made”? Now it’s “Assembled in America from parts from who knows where”… and we’re OK with that!
  • Crowds know more than experts: Who do you trust to give you the lowdown on that new restaurant – the trained culinary expert, or a bunch of Joes who post on Yelp?

So, those are the highlights. Check out the original piece for further insights. So. what do you think? Are these relevant? Are there other cultural and technological phenomena you would add to the list? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

March (Retail) Madness!

introEverybody knows that there are certain things you buy  – and certain things you avoid – in certain months. Many people (like ME) have no clue what those things are, though. So here is your buying (and avoiding) guide for March, with a load of links so you know we’re not making it up!

In general, what are the good buys for March? Things like cleaning supplies and home fragrances (for the Spring Cleaners among us!) Frozen food (March is Frozen Food Month, because there is a month for everything!) Anything to do with travel, because we are sick of sitting in the house all winter. Last year’s electronics. Post-Valentines (but pre-Easter!) chocolate, and on and on.

Now for your linking pleasure, here is the rundown from sources across the fruited plain. Enjoy, and have a great weekend (shopping, of course!)

And if you have a favorite March buy, let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Dollar Store Don’ts!

Dollar-Store dontThe hard-hitting sequel! Or something.

As much as I love the dollar store, there are some items you probably shouldn’t bother with, as the value doesn’t quite stand up. A relative term, for sure… it’s $2.50 someplace else, a dollar here, but it’s probably only worth 79 cents. Are you actually going to make a trip back to return it? You will spend more on gas!

Nevertheless, value is value, so let’s take a look at items to avoid, as listed by Wisebread.com

Dollar Store Don’ts…

  • Anything With a Plug: forging that “UL Approved” label is not unheard of.  About the only electrical thing I buy here is lightbulbs.
  • Food Storage Bags, Aluminum Foil, and Cling Wrap: Sometimes you have to buy 4 boxes to get as many bags or feet of wrap as you would at Walmart, so you aren’t really saving.
  • Kitchen Utensils: For a college dorm or your niece’s first apartment, maybe. For regular grownups, no.
  • Vitamins and other drugs: Not dangerous, but sometimes lacking ingredients, sometimes past their expiration and, again, there may be very few in the bottle compared to the grocery store or pharmacy
  • Toys: There are so many safety regulations for toys, and some of the dollar-store kind come from far, far away, if you know what I mean.
  • Tools: Been there. Planning to use that screwdriver exactly once? Buy it at the dollar store!

A general note, courtesy of Me: Along the lines of “how many aspirin are in the dollar bottle?” I often consider how much they had to shrink the product to make it possible to sell for a dollar. If you have to buy 3 or 4 of them, are you saving? (I’m asking!)

Also, I am generally wary of anything in the store that costs UNDER a dollar. I think “One Dollar” is a powerful psychological cue. If everything else in your basket costs a dollar, then you won’t mind (or even notice) that the can of peas you are paying 85 cents for is actually 60 cents at Walmart!

So, that’s the lowdown. Again, I LOVE the dollar store. But if you shop it smarter, you can enjoy it even more! What are YOUR dollar store do’s and don’ts? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

October Surprise (deals!)

ID-100246553Time for a look at your best deals of the month! October is an in-between month, stuck in the dead zone between back-to-school and Black Friday. It can be difficult to spot a bargain – and the right time to snag it – without professional consultation! So, what do the experts say are good buys in October? Hot items include Cars, Costumes, Vacations, Thanksgiving travel, Music, School Supplies (whatever’s left!) Cruises, Camping gear (the warmer-weather stuff,) Jeans, Cookware and Whatever Apple thing that is about to be replaced.

In general, there are many items that you don’t have to wait until Black Friday to buy, but also a bunch of things that you SHOULD wait for. (Helpful!)

Here are some links for ye:

How about you? What savings tricks do you use during October? Let us know over at the MyMindField.info blog!