Tag Archives: focus groups

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.

Tax-free Weekends 2015

shop kidsUpdate!

If there’s one thing that takes the sting out of Back to School shopping, it’s saving money. Fortunately, this is the time of year when many states have tax free weekends for shoppers, typically good for clothes, shoes and school supplies and computers. Offers.com has compiled a list for 2015. The list is smaller than in some years past, because several of the Gulf Coast and Atlantic states cancelled their Back to School weekends in favor of Hurricane Preparedness. Also, a few states have outright repealed it, because they want that sweet, sweet tax money!

Here are the Confirmed dates for Tax Free Back to School shopping:

2015 Tax-free Weekends

  • Alabama: August 7-9
  • Arkansas: August 1-2
  • Connecticut: August 16-22
  • Florida: Two this year, August 7-16 and September 19-21  
  • Georgia: July 31-August 1
  • Iowa: August 7-8
  • Louisiana: August 7-8
  • Maryland: August 9-15
  • Mississippi: July 31-August 1
  • Missouri: August 7-9
  • New Mexico: August 7-9
  • NEW! Ohio: August 7-9
  • Oklahoma: August 7-9
  • South Carolina: August 7-9
  • Tennessee: August 7-9
  • Texas: August 7-9
  • Virginia: Aug. 7-9

Did we miss any? Anyway, there’s MUCH more detail at the original article! There’s also a nice graphic boildown HERE. Also, you can check with your state Department of Revenue for details.

Have you done the tax holiday for back to school? Have any tales of big savings? Leave a comment at the MindField Online Facebook page.

May’s Best Bargains

The Memorial Day sales are already starting at retailers such as Sears, JCPenney, Overstock and Macy’s, so it’s a good time to look at your best bargains for May. What’s on tap?

  • Cell phones and service deals
  • Kitchen Appliances
  • Handbags
  • Swimsuits
  • Sandals and Spring Clothing
  • Tires
  • Linens and Mattresses
  • 3D HDTVS
  • Jewelry and watches

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!


Mother’s Day by the Numbers 2015

mothers day2The National Retail Federation says that average spending for Mother’s Day is up this year – $173 vs. $163 last year, which is the highest amount since they began the survey. So, how do we spend those precious mom-dollars?

  • Total spending: $21 billion
  • Average spent per mom: $173
  • 80% will buy a greeting card, spending $786 million,
  • 67% will buy flowers, spending $2.4 billion.
  • 36% will buy clothing items, spending almost $2 billion
  • 34% will buy jewelry, spending $4.3 billion
  • $3.8 billion spent on special brunch or activity
  • $1.8 billion spent on smartphones or e-readers
  • $1.5 billion spent on spa days
  • $890 million spent on housewares or gardening tools
  • $480 million spent on books and CDs

There is much more info at the original piece, so check it out!

How about you? Is your Mother’s Day spending up, down or about the same? What are your plans for Mother’s Day? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and…Happy Mother’s Day!!

Home Improvement Winners & Losers

home improvementThis past Saturday, I was cleaning out the garage (or “rearranging the mess” as my wife calls it.) Meanwhile, wife was potting plants. The lady across the street was laying paving stones on her garden path, and the guy two doors down was planting a palmetto tree. As you can see – in South Carolina, at least – it’s “that time of year.”

Spring home improvement projects… You sit cooped up all winter, and your imagination runs wild. The sun comes out, and where do you begin? Well, as a homeowner, you are trained to do projects that will come as close as possible to “paying for themselves” when you sell your house.

Fortunately, there are a lot of resources out there to tell you which projects meet that criterion. Here’s one called The 2015 Cost vs Value Report. It gives national averages and also breaks it down by region. Here are some highlights, looking at the national average of mid-range home improvement projects…

Biggest return:

  • Steel entry door replacement: Costs $1200, you will recoup $1250, a 102% return
  • Exterior stone veneer: Cost $7100, recoup $6500, 92% return
  • New garage door: Cost $1600, recoup $1400, 88% return
  • New vinyl siding: Cost $12K, recoup $9700, 81% return
  • Deck addition (wood): Cost $10K, recoup $8100, 80% return

Biggest losers:

  • Master suite addition: Cost $111K, recoup $69K, 62% return
  • Backup power generator: Cost $12K, recoup $7000, 60% return
  • Bathroom addition: Cost $39K, recoup $23K, 58% return
  • Home office remodel: Cost $29K, recoup $14K, 49% return
  • New sunroom: Cost $76K, recoup $37K, 48% return

TONS more info at the original piece, so check it out! So, are you doing any home improvements this spring? Have you had any success stories when you went to sell? Any nightmares? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Money Trends for 2015

dollarThere are so many outside forces that affect your family’s cash flow and financial well being. Dropping  gas prices put a lot of $$$ back in our pockets. Drought and livestock disease raised the price of food, taking some of that $$$ back.

So, what’s coming in 2015 that might affect your family? Money guru Dave Ramsey has some ideas:

  • Fines for not having medical coverage will increase
  • The job market will strengthen
  • Car values will go down
  • The U.S. deficit will continue to grow
  • Social Security will be one year closer to failing
  • College tuition will rise
  • The housing market will continue to rebound
  • Gas prices will go back up (and back down)
  • Individual 401(k) contribution limits will increase

I guess the lesson is that there are forces pulling in every different direction that will affect your wallet, your budget, your savings, and on and on. So, pay attention, and always be trying to improve your financial situation (though that’s not always easy!)

As always, more bullet points and much more explanation at the original piece. What about you? Are you reading news and changing your money behavior? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Jobs Without College Degrees

help wantedDo you NEED a college degree to make a good living? I just don’t know. The economy may be… “improving” (sarcastic quotes added) but there MILLIONS of college grads living in the parents’ basements, waiting for the answer to that question!

I saw a piece entitled “10 high-paying jobs for college dropouts,” and immediately hated the title. Some people never get the opportunity to attend. As Charlie Daniels once said in Longhaired Country Boy, “The rich man goes to college and the poor man goes to work.”

Setting that aside, the piece offers some encouragement, though some seem a little farfetched. Here are the bullets:

  • Waste disposal personnel
  • Sommelier – Summa WHAT now? (It’s a wine expert.)
  • Bingo manager
  • Lodging manager
  • Massage therapist
  • Insurance agent
  • Equipment operator
  • Claims adjuster
  • Real estate broker
  • Telecom technician

Of course, they lead off with “waste disposal” but, hey…that’s $25 an hour! The whole list is scattered with salaries of $40-50-60K. SO READ IT. And have a GREAT weekend!

Americans Wasting Money

I hate it when I get to the counter and I only have swirls in my wallet.
I hate it when I get to the counter and I only have swirls in my wallet.

In a piece entitled “10 More Things Americans Waste Money On,” money guru Dave Ramsey suggests that there are 10 things Americans waste money on. Actually, he says 10 MORE, bringing the list to 20 because we are bad people. Here are some highlights, with bonus dumb commentary®!

  • Purebred Dogs: Sure, because “get my DOG BUDGET under control” was my #1 resolution this year.
  • Lottery Tickets… I always thought the phrase “a tax on stupidity” was a bit harsh. Not wrong, but harsh!
  • Brand-Name Medicine: You hold the brand name in one hand, and the generic in the other, and the difference is $3? Sold.
  • At-Home Parties: Some ladies aren’t going to like this advice. Others will be relieved to be able to say, “Sorry, Dave Ramsey told me to stay home!”
  • Singing Birthday Cards: Mom will enjoy it, but will she enjoy it $7 worth?
  • Up-Sizing Your Order: But, if I get the 72-oz Sprite, the girl behind the counter will like me better. I’m not popular enough to “be different!”

I think the important thing to remember is that Dave Ramsey isn’t against you having nice things (a private education, a new car, etc.) He just doesn’t want you to go into debt for them. Anyway, there are more things on the list, and much more detail at the original piece, so check it out!

How about YOU? Do you agree with the list? Are you “wasting” money on them? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Consumer Confidence?

confidenceHow would you rate YOUR consumer confidence? Apparently, according to the people who keep track of these things…

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s final reading on the overall index of consumer sentiment came in at 93.6 in December, slightly down from a preliminary reading of 93.8 but up from 88.8 in November. It is the highest reading in nearly eight years as lower gasoline prices drove expectations up. TradingEconomics.com

Highest reading in 8 years… They say that gas prices are a factor. I am certainly in a better mood at the pump these days, paying $1.75 (in South Carolina) rather than $3.50… dang, that’s like HALF price!

As a freelance writer, I look out on the horizon and see more POTENTIAL jobs this year. So far, though, they are still POTENTIAL. I always say, if the year turned out like my rosy January predictions, I could RETIRE. Hasn’t happened yet. But, sure, I  guess I feel a little more optimistic now than in the past few years.

How about YOU? What’s your “consumer confidence” level? Better, worse, the same? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!


Cable Cutting Just Got Interesting

cutcableI have mentioned it a few times…I cancelled cable TV, did the Roku/Hulu/Netflix thing, and have been pretty happy. But that’s just ME. I can tell you that I am not a huge sports fan and, if you are a cable cutter, that’s something you have to deal with. Lack of ESPN has been a sticking point for many folks who consider cutting the cable.

Until now.

This is not an endorsement – heck, it’s not even available yet – but something called SlingTV is promising a decent range of cable content (TBS, TNT, Food, Travel, HGTV, etc.) as well as ESPN and ESPN2 for $20 a month, streaming thru your Roku or other device.

Is it (cable cutting) for you? Here’s a way to find out… Slate.com has published a “cable calculator” that illustrates the ways you might save on your cable bill.

Trust me, I have nothing against cable TV…I just realized I was only watching about 10 of the 200 channels and paying $150 a month (including hi-speed internet, which I kept.) Cutting just made sense for ME. How about YOU?