Tag Archives: consumer panels

Best Deals for May

may dealsWhat are your best buys for the month of May? Well, not only does May include Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, but May 4th is also Star Wars Day (“May the 4th be With You!”) So there are plenty of shopping – and saving opportunities to be had! Which of these items will be on the agenda?

  • Kitchen Appliances
  • Star Wars stuff
  • Memorial Day-related military discounts
  • Menswear
  • Fresh corn (Silver Queen for me!)
  • Peaches, apricots, cherries and nectarines
  • Melons
  • Grilling supplies
  • Handbags
  • Swimsuits
  • Sandals and Spring Clothing
  • Tires
  • Linens and Mattresses
  • Jewelry and watches

BUT…Hold off on PCs and laptops: Back to school sales start in June!

Here are some links to help you compile your May shopping list!

Are any of these items on your to-do list for May? They say you could save up to 75%! What are you in the market for? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!


The Minimum Wage Debate

burgerLast week there was news of a new, experimental McDonald’s in Missouri, where they were testing ideas such as “bottomless fries,” three different sizes of Big Mac and… nothing else, apparently. Those were the only two things that got any attention.

What I noticed, though, was the computerized ordering kiosks. There were no front-line people taking your order, just people making the food and bringing it to you. They say it leads to more efficient, accurate order-taking, but you can’t deny that it would ALSO save money on payroll.

So, how do people respond to the prospect of workers being phased out to save money? By demanding a 50% hike in the minimum wage, from the current $8.25 to $15.

There are seemingly good arguments on both sides of the minimum wage debate…

  • Some say it gives dignity to low-end jobs and makes them more livable. Others say the whole point of a low-end job is to get in, get as much experience as you can, and get out.
  • Some say the owners are just greedy. Others say that the owners are only making six cents of profit on the dollar.
  • Some say that the pay rise can be done fairly, so that no restaurant bears too much of the burden. Others say it is the consumer who will bear the burden, and they will choose to stay home.

One thing everybody can agree on is that it is a complex issue, and one blog post isn’t going to solve anything!

Here are a couple of links that explain the two sides of the minimum wage issue:

PRO: The Truth about the Minimum Wage

CON: The UGLY Truth about the Minimum Wage

So, what do you think? Is it a matter of dignity and livability, or is it strictly dollars and cents? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!




April is Financial Literacy Month

budgeting“National Financial Literacy Month is recognized in the United States in April in an effort to highlight the importance of financial literacy and teach Americans how to establish and maintain healthy financial habits.”  Wikipedia

For many of us (me, most definitely) financial literacy was achieved at the Financial College of Hard Knocks. You finally learn how to conduct your finances properly after YEARS of doing it improperly and almost driving off the financial cliff. It’s like we spend our 20s making the mess, and our 30s digging out of it.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had just started off on the right foot? Or, now that it’s too late for us, that our KIDS get a good start? That’s the goal of Financial Literacy Month.

We will provide some helpful links in a bit. First, what are some of the basics of Financial Literacy? Here are some lessons you can impart to your kids, as provided by Huffington Post:

  • Use Cash– perfect way to illustrate that when the money is gone, it’s GONE.
  • Bank/ATM Visits– illustrates that money is a real thing. It changes hands, it gets stored away, it grows, it shrinks, it disappears!
  • Grocery Shopping– have the kids count out your $84.16 and hand it to the lady!
  • Brand Names/Store Brands – comparison shopping
  • Wants vs. Needs – This is really the core, isn’t it?
  • Build a Budget – If you buy all your wants, you don’t have much left for your needs, right?
  • Pay Utility Bills Together – see, light and heat don’t just happen!
  • Create a Wish List – Once you get the Needs taken care of, and there is some left over, make a plan for getting those Want items.
  • Clear Jar System – A piggy bank where you can see the money.
  • Sharing is Caring – Making giving a part of your plan
  • Open a Small Business for kids
  • Allowance – make it chore-based. And when the money’s gone… well, you know.
  • Games and Activities – “Monopoly” and “Life” aren’t just boring – they contain valuable financial literacy lessons!

Some links:

And there you go. I wouldn’t want any young person to go through the anxiety, the sleepless nights and the marital money fights I went through in my 20s. How about you? Share your thoughts at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Rating the Customer Experience

shopcartHave you heard of “Customer Experience?” Also called CX, It’s a field of customer satisfaction measurement that studies the following aspects of your dealings with retailers and service providers:

  • Success: Did they have what you wanted?
  • Effort: How easy was it to get what you wanted?
  • Emotion: How did that make you feel?

Sounds kind of simple, but it’s a serious field of study. There’s a lot of math!

The gurus in this field do an annual survey that interviews 10,000 people about 250 companies across the consumer spectrum, such as retailers, computer makers, credit card issuers, fast food, insurance companies, rental cars, and on and on. Then they release the results.

A few highlights…

  • People LOVE their grocery stores. The top 20 represents 25 companies (there are several tie scores), and includes 13 grocery chains. Publix is the number 1 grocer, as well as number 1 overall.
  • The rst of the top 5 are Fast Food, Other Retail, Package Delivery and Banks.
  • The bottom of the list: Health Insurance providers!
  • Finally, every major section, including the favorites on the list, has seen its ratings decline in the past year. Why do you think that is?

If you want more detail, check it out! Anyway, the big story here is overall satisfaction with supermarkets. How about you? Which grocer is your fave, and why? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great springtime weekend!

Latest Food Safety Recalls

recallsIn this rough-and-tumble political season, there is a lot of debate on how much government we need in our lives. As somebody once said, “A little government and a little luck are necessary in life, but only a fool trusts either of them.”*

One area of agreement, however, seems to be that somebody, in some agency somewhere, needs to make sure that the food we eat is safe.

So, when I see headlines like the ones below, I take comfort that somebody is at the safety wheel. I feel bad for the 104 people who got flu-like symptoms from eating that thing at that place, but it can always be worse!

So here are links to some of the latest recalls – largely food related – along with instructions to follow if you think you have been affected.


Finally, here’s a recent non-food recall…

  • Target Recalls Valentine’s Day-Themed Mugs that Pose Fire Hazard: I’m just a dude, but the first time I ever used a microwave, back in the early 80s, I already had the “don’t put metal in there” thing figured out. That includes metallic paint. It doesn’t help that the mugs in question were stamped “Microwave Safe.”

So, check your cupboards! Any suspect items in there? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a safe, listeria-free weekend!

*Quote from PJ O’Rourke

The Pink Tax

pink taxEven if you haven’t heard it specifically referred to as the Pink Tax, you have probably noticed it on the store shelves. It’s the idea that the same basic item – let’s say disposable razors – are more expensive if they are pink, rather than blue.

Well, DealNews.com is on the case, and cites a New York study that says: “a comparison of 400 male/female products revealed that the women’s versions cost more at least 42% of the time, and that women pay at least 7% more than men do on these purchases.”

So, they have tracked down some of the “worst” Pink Tax offenders. See how many you have spotted in your shopping adventures…

  • Razors: Men’s Schick Hydro 5 costs $8.52; women’s Schick Hydro Silk costs $9.59.
  • Beauty Products: Nutrogena anti-age cream, Men’s $10.35/oz., Women’s $11.42/oz
  • Haircuts: Men’s national average $28; women’s $44.
  • Clothing: 501 Jeans, Men’s $68; Women’s $88
  • Toys: Standard Red “Radio Flyer” scooter, $25; Sparkly pink version $45
  • Dry Cleaning: Men’s shirt, $2.06; Ladies blouse, $3.95

And on and on… Many more examples at the original piece, including cars, mortgages and insurance, so check it out!

I have a couple of questions… first, who is paying $68 for blue jeans, let alone $88? Second, can we really compare my haircut (in and out of the chair in 12 minutes) with my wife’s (cut and color takes 1.5 hours)?

Pink Tax Solutions? Well, at my house, my wife got wise and told me to buy her the Barbasol shaving cream that I use. It sells for 94 cents per can, compared to the usual pink stuff she was buying for $3.00 per (smaller) can. As long as it doesn’t have a manly X-TREEM SPORT scent, she’s good to go!

What do you think? Is this a lot of noise about nothing, a real problem, or something in between? Either way, you have probably noticed it. What’s the worst offender on your shopping list? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!

Credit: clipartbest

Best Buys for March!

MARCH DEALSEvery month at this time,  we scout around the Web to find the best deals/bargains/values that Consumer gurus can find, as well as the items to avoid. So here are your buy/avoid links for March 2016!

So, what are the March must-have deals?

  • Snatch up anything to do with Spring cleaning – whether you do Spring cleaning or not!
  • Winter clothes – as long as you have a place to store them. Also, winter sports gear.
  • Frozen food.  March is Frozen Food Month, because there is a month for everything!  Heck, you may need to buy a big freezer to put in the garage!
  • Anything to do with travel, because we are going crazy cooped up in this house! Airline tix are supposedly the lowest they have been in years, but having just bought some for my mom, I’m not so sure!
  • Luggage specials are winding up, so get busy before travel season.
  • Last year’s smartphones, but hold off on THIS year’s devices.
  • Post-Valentines (but pre-Easter!) chocolate, cards and decorations – but not lingerie! June and July are best for that.
  • It is also a slow time for home improvement contractors, so they are looking for work and ready to deal!

Now for your linking pleasure, here is the rundown from Consumer sources around the Web. These links are such a good deal, they’re FREE!

Was this helpful? Did they miss any March deals? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Avoiding Money Mistakes

dueling piggiesIt’s a common theme that you hear repeated by the personal finance gurus – and the anxious folks who call them up on their radio shows: Why don’t they teach this stuff?

I think that life gets complicated, and the simplest lessons, such as “Don’t buy stuff you can’t afford,” get lost in the hustle.

So it’s helpful when somebody – MoneyTalksNews, in this case – types up a list of common money mistakes. We have all made a few of these. For instance, I waited YEARS to take advantage of my employers 401K matching, and I am still catching up! Others, I finally caught on; I haven’t bought a new car in years, and I try to pay off my credit cards every month. But, your mileage will vary, as they say.

So what are some common money mistakes? Here are a few:

  • Keeping up with friends
  • Letting indulgences become habits
  • Signing up and spacing out (Your first month is free. After that…)
  • Buying a new car
  • Buying almost anything else new
  • Paying interest on credit cards
  • Ignoring your employer’s 401(k) match
  • Borrowing to buy stuff that loses value
  • Chasing credit card rewards
  • Living with no emergency fund
  • Letting bank fees drain your accounts
  • Raiding your retirement savings

Fortunately, this article not only identifies the traps, it also offers some useful how-to for making smart money moves instead. But again, it’s not always quick and easy. It takes time and discipline. Anyway, check it out!

So, I told you a few of the money mistakes I made – mostly when I was younger. How about you? Did you make a few? How did you climb out of it? What did you learn? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Arguing Over Money

money fightCouples and money. Yikes, right? Various studies tell us what many of us already know: disagreements over our finances lead to more fights than disagreements over kids, sharing the chores, work or friends. Another study says that couples who fight over finances once a week are twice as likely to divorce as those who fight once a month.

What is the answer? Well, money issues never seem to go away, so maybe we should get used to that, and try to find ways to deal constructively with each other.

Money dude Dave Ramsey has a few ideas on the topic in an article entitled “14 Things Only Couples Understand about Money.” In it, he suggests that some of the things that bug us about our significant other in the finance department are universal – everybody deals with them. Others are unique to our situations, but if we can recognize them, we can deal with them without it turning ugly. Here are some highlights…

  • Money disagreements will happen
  • Compromise is key
  • Timing is everything.(As in, don’t try to have a serious discussion about money when you’re angry, or time is short.)
  • Play to each other’s strengths.(Dave is big on there being one “fun” person and one “nerd” in each couple, to balance each other out in the finance department.)
  • Be each other’s accountability partner
  • Occasional splurges: If you up save for them, they are good stress-relievers.
  • Vacations: You NEED to get away sometimes. Just be sure to save up for them.
  • Getting rid of debt takes some serious cooperation
  • Getting on the same page about money takes time!

Even when you know these things, it can be hard. I guess teamwork is key, and knowing that you aren’t the first couple to deal with this stuff. Anyway, there are more thoughts and tips at the original piece, so check it out.

How about you? Did you ever deal with this stuff? How did you handle it? What did you learn about yourself and your partner? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Valentine’s Day by the Numbers 2016

valentine bucksWell, the Valentine’s Day statistics are in, and retailers would like to thank the 55% of you who are taking part. Valentine’s Day spending continues the slow climb it has made since the 2008 crash. This year’s $19 billion will be up 3% from last year, and a new record. Part of that increase, they say, is that V-day is on the weekend this year. For some reason, that leads to extra spending. Why do you think that is?

Each year the National Retail Federation does the tally, and the results are reported far and wide. Here, then, is “Valentine’s Day by the Numbers 2016!”

What are we buying?

  • Jewelry $4.5 billion
  • Evening out, $4.4 billion
  • Flowers, $2 billion

Who are we buying for?

  • 89% spouse or significant other
  • 61% kids, parents, and other family
  • 25% friends

Where are we buying it?  

  • 35% Department Store
  • 31% Discount Store
  • 28% Online

Spending by Region

  • Northeasterners spend $146
  • Southerners spend $129
  • Westerners spend $120
  • Midwesterners spend $111

Spending by Age  

  • 25 to 34’s spend the most at $177
  • 65-plus’ spend the least at $80

Spending by Category (if you buy these things, here’s what you spend)

  • Jewelry: $156
  • Evening Out: $72
  • Clothes: $71
  • Flowers: $37
  • Candy: $21
  • Cards: $13
  • Gift Cards: $13

And, my favorite statistic:

75% of us say not to get us anything, but only 25% mean it!

Beware, gentlemen, that last one is REAL! So, what are YOUR Valentine’s day plans? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

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