Tag Archives: consumer panels

Thanksgiving by the Numbers 2015

thanksgiving spending
One nice thing about Thanksgiving is that, even when times are tight, we still celebrate it. There are years when we have to choose driving over flying, spend less on food than we like, or worry more about the price of gas. But the urge to get together and give thanks amongst family and friends remains strong. Yay, us!

Apparently, the price of gas will be the lowest, and the number of us taking off in the car the highest they have been in many years. Who knows if we are ever going to get back to 2007 levels of “comfort,” but this year seems to be better than last. How so? Let’s take a look at Thanksgiving by the Numbers 2015!


  • $2.00 (approximately): average gallon of gas. Lowest since 2004!
  • 46.9 million: people who travel will be driving this Thanksgiving (highest since 2007!)


  • 248 million: Average number of Turkeys raised in the U.S. each year
  • 51 million: turkeys consumed on Thanksgiving day (same as 2014)
  • 20%: of turkeys raised every year will be eaten this day
  • $1.15: Average cost of pound of turkey
  • $4.37 billion: Total value of turkeys produced in the U.S. annually
  • 16 pounds: Annual consumption of turkey by the average American
  • $56.18: Average household spending on Thanksgiving dinner
  • $2.9 billion: total spent in US for Thanksgiving food

And… this year’s completely random statistic, courtesy of Cracker Barrel:

  • They will serve 1.6 million pounds of dressing that together weighs nearly 4.5 times more than the Mayflower, the ship that brought the pilgrims to America in 1620! Now you know!!

How about YOUR Thanksgiving spending in 2015? More travel or less? Driving or flying? Longer distance or shorter? More food and/or guests, or fewer? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page! Gobble gobble!



Black Friday Preview


Recently, Walmart announced changes to the way they will be doing Black Friday in an effort to “keep things simple.’ One big change: no more doorbusters. Apparently, they lead to confusion. And, let’s be honest – they can sometimes lead to confrontation (not that this is Walmart’s fault, nor is the chaos limited to Walmart). Instead, they “will offer deep discounts on gift items like TVs, DVDs and pajamas starting at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving at its stores until they are gone.” Frankly, if a redesign leads to fewer fistfights, I’m for it. Proactive!

So, it’s two weeks until Black Friday. What can we expect? Well, several stores have already released, or previewed or teased, their Black Friday mailers. Other stores’ mailers have been “discovered” by something called BlackFriday.com.

Here are some links to some of the more popular national stores Black Friday Ads, or top secret intel…

Lots more at BlackFriday.com, so check it out. So, how about you? Looking forward to Black Friday, or have you changed your habits over the years? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!

Best Deals for November!


When it comes to November’s best deals, your mind probably heads straight for Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday. Those are both good bets for finding savings on your holiday shopping lists, but they aren’t the whole story.

Consumer/lifestyle sites DealNews.com, Lifehacker.com and Coupons.com all have a stack of the best – and worst buys for your November shopping pleasure. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights.

Go For It!

  • Kitchen cookware and gadgets: “The absolute best time to buy.”
  • Major appliances: November is your moment!
  • New iPad mini 4: Likely released by Black Friday
  • Android and Windows Tablets: Crazy low prices
  • Apparel: 50 to 80% off
  • Game consoles: And look for free games with purchase
  • TV’s: The bigger the better
  • Laptops: Common doorbuster item on Black Friday

Maybe Wait!

  • Roku Box: December is better
  • Travel: November OK, December better

There are tons more tips in the following articles, so check ‘em out! How about you? What’s on your shopping list? That item you have been waiting for the perfect moment to buy? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!


Halloween Safety 2015

"Let's go to THIS house - there's a grownup who's WAY too unto it!"
“Let’s go to THIS house – there’s a grownup who’s WAY too into it!”

As we reported last month, Halloween spending is down this year. Overall, we will shell out about $7 billion in 2015, down from $7.5 billion last year. That’s about $74 per household, down from $77 in 2014.

However, as you pinch your pennies, don’t forget to invest in safety for your little goblins! In that vein, here’s a classic bit (as if) from years past, “Halloween Safety for Nerds and Other People.” This is not so much a consumer piece, other than the fact that you are spending $75, and you would like to get your kids home in one piece.

When I was a kid, Halloween safety consisted of my dad telling me not to accept any apples, because hippies were hiding their drug needles in them. “That’s it! Now go run in the night streets in your dark gray Batman costume!”

So, to pay it forward, I will share a few Halloween safety tips from the National Safety Council.

Motorists: BE COOL! Seriously, I don’t even have kids, but I spend half the night screaming at the idiots driving 45mph on my street!

Parents: Basically it’s your job to suck all the fun out of it. Make your kids tell you their precise route. Give them a curfew time. And make them wear bright or reflective clothing, even if it ruins their Zombie costume.

Kids: Use some common sense! Don’t go to dark houses. Don’t eat your stuff until mom inspects it and steals the Kit Kats. Carry dad’s best flashlight, which you will surely break. And stay out of the abandoned mill, even if they dare you!

OK, enough sarcasm. You should download the list. There are tons of great tips to keep Halloween safe. The alternative is a “Trunk or Treat” in the middle school parking lot…and nobody wants that!

Be sure to check out the rest of our Halloween 2015 coverage:

And have a safe and happy Halloween!



Avoid Halloween Ripoffs!

HALLRIPOFFSWhat’s scarier than ghosts and goblins at Halloween? Getting ripped off by unscrupulous Halloween vendors! That’s the gist of an article entitled “Don’t get tricked when shopping this Halloween.

…spending on Halloween festivities, including candy, costumes, and decorations is expected to reach $6.9 billion. 157 million Americans are expected to celebrate Halloween this year, making Halloween the second largest shopping season of the year. The Better Business Bureau advises consumers to spend Halloween shopping dollars wisely.

In particular, the article advises you to be cautious around two types of Halloween vendor: the popup store and online.

A popup store is one that one space in the strip mall that used to be a Marshall’s or Ross but is now empty. Around mid-September, it suddenly turns into HALLOWEEN HEADQUARTERS! Next month, it will be Santa’s Workshop or something. So, unlike a regular store that will still be there next month when that giant, air-fed jack-o-lantern in your yard breaks, or some weird charge shows up on your credit card statement, these guys are long gone.  (And no, this is not to malign all popup stores. Just be careful, is all.)

Some tips for dealing with popup stores are…

  • Check the company’s Business Review at BBB.org before doing business.
  • Buy from companies that have been around long enough to have a clear track record.
  • Stores with a spotty past may change their name from year to year.
  • Ask the store how long it plans to occupy the building. If you cannot get an answer, ask to speak with a manager.
  • See if they have a website in case you need to contact them later.

They also say to shop closer to Halloween for lower prices (and a way worse selection!) As for online Halloween vendors…

  • Check the company’s BBB record at BBB.org.
  • Use your browser to search for the company’s customer reviews by typing their name plus the word “review.”
  • Services like Pay Pal are useful because they do not disclose your credit card number to the seller.
  • With reputable retailers, pay by credit card.
  • Know the return policy and read it carefully.

And, in all instances, save your receipt! There are a lot more useful Halloween shopping tips at the original piece, so check it out! How about you? Have you had success with seasonal vendors? Any horror stories to share? (I got ripped off by some 4th of July dudes once!) Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!

Flu Economics

flu shotOnce I worked in a small shop, just me and another dude. We shared a lot of things, including doorknobs, telephones, computer keyboards…and every virus his toddler brought home from daycare! So I know a little bit about workplace-spread illness and how it affects morale, productivity and take-home pay.

Today, 20 years later, I am still religious about getting my annual flu shot. In fact, today I am heading all the way across town to get a free one at my wife’s work.

Now, I’m not looking for a debate about immunizations (is the flu even part of that controversy?) I am talking about how the flu affects your company’s bottom line and how, if you are an hourly employee or a freelancer like me, the flu cuts directly into your income. So let’s take a look at Flu Season by the Numbers!

In General:

  • 5-20% of us will get the flu this year
  • 100 million days of bed disability
  • 22 million visits to healthcare providers
  • 200,000 hospitalizations
  • 3,000-49,000 will die, depending on a lot of factors

At Work:

  • 75 million days of work absences
  • 200 million days of diminished productivity
  • $6.2 billion in lost productivity
  • $10 billion in direct medical costs
  • $87 billion in “total estimated economic burden”

What Are We Doing About It?

  • 180 million flu shot doses are being distributed
  • 44% of adults get vaccinated
  • 60% of kids get vaccinated
  • 70% of employers offer flu vaccine programs
  • 15% of employees actually take advantage of these programs

How about you? Are you getting a shot this year? Have you done it in the past? Or do you think it’s a waste of time? (They do say that the shot is 50-60% effective. Is that good enough for you, or not?) Speaking just for myself, I usually think it’s worth the $20. And, as I said, this year is free so I am definitely taking advantage. Share your thoughts at the MindField Online Facebook page…and stay healthy this year!

Source, source, source, source

With Money, Act Your Age

savepiggyIt’s no secret, we think of money differently at age 20 than we do at 40 or 60. Of course, at 20 we are bulletproof. Retirement is a million years away, and we will worry about it later. Of course, “later” always seems to come too soon. At 40, we wake up, and start to panic a little. At 60, well…

Anyway, before “later” catches you by surprise, here are some spending, saving and investing tips from money dude Dave Ramsey, in a piece entitled “Your Age, Your Money: How to Spend, Save and Invest Right Now.”  . These are tailored for folks at various ages. Here are the bullet points…

  • 20s — Build a Solid Foundation: Avoid debt when you can, and pay off those student loans!
  • 30s — Shift to a Family Focus: Start budgeting for the millions of things kids need. Start saving for a house. Buy life insurance, etc.
  • 40s — Shovel the Savings: That’s me, and boy, am I shoveling into the ol’ IRA! Maintain your home and avoid big repair bills (they will happen anyway!)
  • 50s — Look Forward But Stay Focused: Keep investing, at least 15%, in retirement. Pay off your mortgage.
  • 60+ — Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor: But buy long-term care insurance. A nursing home can wipe out your savings.

Are you a little freaked out by the whole spending/saving/investing thing? That’s natural, but there are steps to take, so be sure to read the original piece. Where are you on this timeline? Are you “keeping up?” Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

McDonalds Breakfast All Day?

mcdonalds-Egg-McMuffinSo, today is the day: the day McDonalds begins serving breakfast all day. If you watch the foodie news (who doesn’t, right?) this started as a rumor many months ago, along the lines of “OMG you guys, have you heard?”

This was probably about the time Taco Bell started breakfast. Many people laughed about that, too, but breakfast has quickly jumped to 7% of Taco Bell’s business, and is wildly popular on the West Coast.

So, the answer to “Why is McDonalds breakfast all day considered news?” is that it’s BIG news to McDonalds and its shareholders. And it’s likely the first big news in a while that doesn’t have the franchisees and store managers tearing their hair out.

According to some, a few of Mickey D’s recent menu introductions are items that are hard to make, take time to make, cost too much, and they have to keep fully in stock – even though nobody orders them. Hint: if you see a commercial for some new item, and you say “that seems odd for McDonalds…” BINGO.

Breakfast is something they already do. People like it. It’s the only reason some people go there. So it makes sense that if I love a McMuffin, I might visit more often – even at 4:30pm!

So, how about you? Is this big news to you, or just a shrug? Is breakfast the only time you visit, and will this make you visit more? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page. Order up!

Financial Hurricane Preparedness

It seems lately that we have not had too much trouble with hurricanes on the East Coast. This new one, Hurricane Joaquin, is causing concern though. A whole bunch of people up and down the East Coast are expected to be affected in one way or another, even if Joaquin doesn’t make a significant landfall. It has been raining 3 solid days here in SC, and they say it will rain all weekend, maybe 10 inches or more!

So, preparation. Of course, you need to protect your family. But you have to protect your home and your stuff too. Sometimes, that means replacing your stuff if it gets ruined or blown away. And that can take time. To get your life and home back in order after a big event like this, it often helps to have certain things in order beforehand.

That’s the gist of a timely article on NBCNews.com: “Hurricane Joaquin: Get Your ‘Home Insurance Go Bag’ Ready.”  Here’s the opener: “Getting ready for Hurricane Joaquin isn’t just about tossing some water and flashlight batteries in a go-bag. With property damage possible, you also need check your insurance to safeguard your home and belongings.”

What kinds of insurance details should you have in order? Here are the bullet points…

  • Gather your documents:  Paper, digital and, these days, online also.
  • Know your coverage: Wind damage? Water leaks? Removing downed trees? Replacing furniture? Damaged cars?
  • Have contact numbers ready: Not just your folks or kids, but your insurance agent, as well.
  • Secure your home: Not just locking the doors, but bringing in the lawn furniture and trimming that tree branch before it crashes through your window.
  •  Know how the claims process works: If you can get an understanding of how settling a claim works, it can remove the headache later (but likely not.)
  • Other types of insurance: Are you traveling to the East Coast during a hurricane? Why? Anyway. Know your travel insurance!

As usual, LOTS more at the original piece, so check it out…please! Stay safe folks, and have a great weekend.

October Best Buys!

pumkinAh, October. There’s a touch of coolness in the air. It’s the time of high school football, church festivals and pumpkin-spice lattes. And, as always, there are calendar-specific bargains to be had. So, let’s take a look at your October deals and savings! Here’s a list. Courtesy of Lifehacker  and Dealnews,

  • Cars (Last year’s models)
  • Cookware
  • Digital Cameras
  • Gas Grills
  • Cookware and Kitchen Accessories
  • Air Conditioners
  • Plants
  • Appliances
  • Blue jeans
  • Patio Furniture
  • European Vacations
  • Flatscreen TVs

Be sure to check out the original pieces for more October deals and savings. What’s on your shopping calendar this month? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!