Tag Archives: consumer research

Take Control of Your Credit Score

credit reportFunny how your credit score can be this mysterious, intimidating thing. At our house, we don’t use credit cards, we pay our bills on time, etc. IN THEORY, our credit score should be A-OK. But I’m in no hurry to crack open my Experian report to confirm my FICO score. It freaks me out.

Other folks don’t have a choice. If you have been turned down on a loan, or maybe you got approved but with crappy conditions and interest rate, your credit score is something that’s right up in your face.

Like anything else we build up in our minds, though, your credit score – and fixing it if necessary – doesn’t have to be this huge intimidating thing. According to DailyFinance.com, there are “7 Ways to Raise Your Credit Score in 2016.”  Let’s hit the highlights…

  1. Get your credit report, and report any errors you find: What kinds of errors? Read the piece.
  2. Get a new credit card, and use it sparingly: Utilization rate is very important – your actual debt versus your debt limit. If you can raise the limit by getting another card (and not using it!!) you can lower your utilization rate. (I did not know this!)
  3. Make payments more frequently: Your credit report is one of those “snapshots in time.” With more frequent payments, you’re more likely to have a better-looking snapshot.
  4. Make larger payments: At least, make more than the minimum payment.
  5. Pay off the card that is closest to being maxed out.
  6. Become an authorized user: Sort of like having your dad co-sign for your first car, I think. Piggyback on someone else’s credit score. All the usual risks apply – oh, you bet they do!
  7. Commit to keeping it simple: Make your payments, carry less debt and don’t have a bunch of credit cards!

So, a plan, some discipline, and a few tricks. Not so intimidating! There is a lot more info at the original article, so check it out! Are you going to get a grip on your credit score this year? Have you already done it? How did it go? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!

New Year$ Re$olution$

newyearrezFor many of us, our New Year’s Financial Resolutions begin and end with “win that record-breaking $1.3 billion Powerball jackpot.”

New Year’s Day arrives, and we all make Resolutions. Some are serious, some are frivolous, most are in-between, and many are forgotten. I think many get swept under the rug because we don’t know what an achievable goal looks like, and we don’t know where to start. Fortunately, everybody and their brother with a consumer or personal finance blog is here to help! Here are some common New Year’s Financial Resolutions!

  • Spend less
  • Save more
  • Invest more
  • Pay down debt
  • Set aside money for an emergency
  • Have a budget and stick to it
  • Save more for retirement
  • Buy a home
  • Save for your kid’s college
  • Learn more about finances

I’ll add one more: Take advantage of unexpected windfalls. Last year, I got a notice about a pension payout (one that I didn’t know existed) from a job I quit 15 years ago. I could have done a LOT of cool things with this chunk of change, but I did the responsible thing and actually put it toward retirement! BORING!

Anyway, do you have New Year’s Financial Resolutions for 2016? Have you already started? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page! Here are some links!

Electronics: Not Just for Men?

woman gadgetOr, still mostly just for men? This week, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) blasts off in Las Vegas. It is the largest show of its kind in the world, where gadget producers bet their entire fortunes on grabbing the public eye and becoming the Next Big Thing.

According to Time magazine, this year’s Ones to Watch include advancements in Wearables (FitBits, smart watches, etc.), a new selection of car gadgets to make our driving even more distracted more interactive, innovations in virtual and augmented reality (which is what, exactly?) and more fun with drones. And about a million other things.

It’s no big secret that the gadget world has historically been aimed at dudes. Why is that, do you think? About a million years ago I was in a record store (remember them?) and I said to my then-girlfriend, “This place is packed, and it’s all guys!” She said, “If I have $15 to spend, I spend it on makeup.” True? Not true? Likely? Maybe in 1985 but not now?

If you read an article about “Hot Gadgets for Guys ‘n Gals!” (such as this one) you will see some really gender-neutral items like FitBits and smartphone accessories. Then, you see things such as the Electronic Baby Shusher, an even smarter Roomba, and gadgets to make cooking easier and faster.

So, gadgets and women… are we there yet? Are you a Gadget Gal? Are the gadget makers reaching you? Has this improved, or are they still just taking the dude items and painting them pink? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Last Minute Holiday Shopping

panic shopOur shopping has been done for a while, so I keep getting surprised as we are out and about: I see a million cars in the lot and I say “MAN! What is going on at the mall?! …oh, right. Last minute Christmas shopping.”

If the last minute isn’t here already, it’s close. What does that mean to you? How do you tend to get caught up in the Last Minute? For us, it’s less about putting it off, and more about surprises. We find out that somebody already got the same gift for someone on our list, and somehow it is always more convenient for US to return it and get something else. Or, “I didn’t think her boyfriend would last until Christmas, but he did, and now we have to buy him a present!”

The Last Minute can be stressful, and mistakes can be made. Here are a couple of links to illustrate…

And on a more helpful note:

So, don’t get stressed and don’t feel bad. Look around you – you aren’t alone! In fact, 17% of us waited until the last week! How about you? Is your shopping long done, or are you reading this on your phone while standing in line at Bed & Bath? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Star Wars Merch Madness

star wars cover girlChances are, you are reading this on your mobile device as you stand in line for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But probably not.

This is the day fans have been waiting for, and their passion for all things Star Wars reaches well beyond the multiplex. You’ll find star Wars in your breakfast cereal, your video games, your bedsheets…basically everywhere. As Darth Vader once said (sorta) “The branding is strong with this one…”

Here is a collection of some of the more interesting Star Wars items for sale, as compiled by NBC News.

  • CoverGirl’s Star Wars Collection
  • Star Wars Crocs
  • Star Wars Creamers by Coffee-mate
  • HP Star Wars Special Edition Laptop
  • Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner – Star Wars Shapes
  • Star Wars-branded fruit

So, is there a saturation point for this kind of thing? Is there such a thing as the merchandising “going too far”? Maybe. There already seems to be a backlash growing over that last item:

Consumers are rebelling against ‘Star Wars’ branded fruits and vegetables

As Darth Vader might also have said, “I find your lack of faith in Star Wars-branded fruit and vegetables…disturbing.”

How about you? Are you on board with all the Star Wars merch? How much is too much? Me, I’m so disgusted that I will only see the new movie 6 or 7 times in protest!! Have a good weekend – see you in line!

Twelve Days of Spending

partridgeEvery year they take that old carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and determine how much all of the items listed would cost, and compare it to last year. It’s goofy fun, but it also helps paint a picture of the overall economy.

This year’s picture is not so merry, sadly.  Sure, the cost of 10 Lords Leaping is up 3% over last year. Partridges and turtle doves are up, too, due to rising feed prices. Otherwise, this year’s total is pretty flat, and that supposedly points to a “bah, humbug” economy.

So how will Gold Rings, French Hens and Pipers Piping hit your budget this year? The PNC Wealth Management Christmas Price Index has it all figured out! Let’s take a look!

  • Partridge, $25; up $5
  • Pear tree, $190; up $2
  • Two turtle doves, $290; up $30
  • Three French hens, $182; same
  • Four calling birds (canaries), $600; same
  • Five golden rings, $750; same
  • Six geese-a-laying, $360; same
  • Seven swans a-swimming, $13,125; same
  • Eight maids a-milking, $58; same
  • Nine ladies dancing, $7,553; same
  • Ten lords a-leaping, $5,508; up $160
  • 11 pipers piping, $2,635; same
  • 12 drummers drumming, $2,855; same

To see how they came up with these numbers, be sure to check out the original article. So, what do you think? Unless you’re buying the same stuf this holiday season as you did last year, it’s hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison. But, do you FEEL like you are spending more, less or the same? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great second-to-last shopping weekend!

The Gift of Dining

dining gift cardsDining gift cards… meaningful gift or not? It depends on the recipient. My mother LOVES to go to lunch with her friends. So a dining gift card makes a lot of sense. Used for lunch on Senior Discount Day, even a $25 card can go a long way.

But during the holidays, a dining gift card can go even further. Many restaurants offer bonuses during this time of year, along the lines of “Buy a $50 card, get $10 extra for free.” MoneyTalksNews has compiled a list of several of these deals. Here are the bullets…

  • Bakers Square Restaurant & Bakery: Buy $25 gift card, get $5 bonus card
  • California Pizza Kitchen: Buy $50, get $10 promotional card
  • Cheesecake Factory: Buy $25, get one slice of cheesecake or layer cake
  • Del Taco: Buy $30, get one small-size combo meal OR Buy $100 in gift cards, get four small-size combo meals
  • IHOP: Buy $25, get $5 coupon
  • Olive Garden: Buy $50, get $10 bonus offer
  • Outback Steakhouse: Buy $50, get $10 bonus card
  • Papa John’s: Buy $25 e-gift card, get one-topping large pizza
  • Pei Wei Asian Diner: Buy $25, get $5 bonus card
  • P.F. Chang’s China Bistro: Buy $100, $20 bonus card
  • Romano’s Macaroni Grill: Buy $25, get $5 grazie gift bonus
  • Ruby Tuesday: Buy $50, get $15 bonus card OR buy $25 and get $5 bonus card
  • Souper Salad: Buy $25, get $5 gift card
  • Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes: Buy $50, get meal pass valid on your next visit
  • T.G.I. Friday’s: Buy $25, get $5 Bonus Bite card

Who’s hungry? Now, almost all of these bonus deals have expiration dates, so be sure to go to MoneyTalksNews to get the details on that, as well as how to purchase the gift cards.

I wish I had read this earlier – I always get my mom a Red Lobster/Olive Garden card. Of course, I bought it at the kiosk at CVS Pharmacy, so no bonus for me! Maybe next year…

How about you? Are you a dining gift card giver? Do any of these sound like good deals? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Cyber Monday On the Rise

cyber mondayWe have heard a lot of noise about the “Death of Black Friday” this year. Is that true?

I think it’s all relative. It’s still a huge shopping day, but maybe not as big as in the past. Why? I think shoppers are tiring of the hassle, and retailers are tiring of the negative headlines. Stores have taken steps to spread out the deals over a number of days (opening on Thanksgiving has taken a toll), and limit the doorbusters – often flashpoints for inter-shopper conflict.

One thing we can say for sure is that, this year, Cyber Monday has edged out Black Friday for the first time. Apparently, as NBC News cleverly put it: “We would rather be Online than stand IN line!”…

  • 151 million of us went shopping in total this past weekend
  • 103 million of us shopped online,
  • 102 million went to the physical stores
  • 94 million of us didn’t shop at all (including ME.)
  • We spent an average of $299 this past weekend, 2/3 of that on gifts
  • We spent $1.8 billion on Thanksgiving Day
  • We spent another $10.4 billion on Black Friday
  • Sales were down 1.5% in stores
  • Spending per shopper was down 1.4%
  • We spent $3 billion on line on Cyber Monday
  • That’s an increase of 12%
  • This year’s Gotta Have item: big screen TVs!

Read more fun facts here! Personally, I can see the benefits of the Cyber Monday thing. I have participated in the past, but never in gift-giving mode. Typically, I have been needing a new laptop for 3 or 4 months, and Cyber Monday is when I pull the trigger. I have saved hundreds of bucks, for sure, and all from the comfort of home.

How about you? Are your holiday shopping habits changing? Is Black Friday still fun, or is it losing its charm? Are you steering more toward Cyber Monday these days? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

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!