Nutty but Legitimate Tax Deductions


Tax time approaches, and there is often little to smile about. But if you’re a whaling captain or an accused criminal, and you’re looking for some last minute deductions, you’re in luck! From TurboTax:

Whale Tale: You can claim up to $10,000 for repairs to your whaling ship. The catch is you must be a Native American!

Orthodontic clarinets? A 1962 ruling said that clarinets were helpful in correcting a child’s overbite. So, if you have a prescription clarinet, claim that sucker as a medical expense!

The Dog Paddle Deduction: I have a brother-in-law with a bum knee who has been told by his therapist to swim every day. If that’s you, you could claim your swimming pool as a deduction!

Butts for Bucks: The various tools, tricks and prescriptions for kicking the smoking habit are often deductible.

Volunteer for the Wrong Reasons! If you have to hire a babysitter when you do volunteer work, that’s deductible!

Deductible Defense: Crime doesn’t pay, but sometimes your legal defense is deductible!

Bow-wow Bonus! The cost of a guard dog may be deductible from your taxes. Enough to offset your higher homeowner’s insurance premium? Probably not!!

There are more goofy deductions here. Have you heard of any other weird deductions? And aren’t you glad our tax code is so delightfully simple?

Dining Out on the Cheap

Hmm...what should I title this one?

Times are tight, and we are all cutting back. But sometimes, for your mental health, you gotta go out! Let’s look at a few ways to dine on a dime, from an article called, appropriately enough, “Dining On a Dime,” courtesy of

  • It’s Happy Hour somewhere! At many local bar & grille type places, or even at a big place like Chili’s, there are happy hour appetizer specials. Long ago I used to go to a Mexican chain at happy hour on Friday, where it was all you can eat chips, salsa and queso for the price of a couple of beers!
  • Go Online! Everybody has heard of Living Social and Groupon. There are others, as well, and they often have decent BOGO offers for their members. Just be careful that you don’t “impulse buy.” I have done that too often. Grabbing up a deal quickly – because they tell you to – and never getting around to using a coupon before it expires.
  • Support the Swim Team! Or the Girl Scouts, or your neighbor’s church, etc. by buying one of those local coupon books. You really can’t go wrong with these. They scream “a $1200 value for $25!!” Personally, I have never gotten more than $40 from my $25, but I still came out ahead.
  • Lunch is the New Dinner! Not really. But if you just want to go somewhere nice, sit in peace and be served – and you don’t care what time it is – do lunch! You’ll save money and you may like it enough to come back for dinner sometime.
  • Be Progressive! Why not grab a drink at one place, have an appetizer at another, and dessert at a third? You’re still saving over ordering two full meals, and you’re getting three times the “going out” experience!

These are just a few tips for dining on the cheap, while getting that all-important out of the house sensation. So get out there, have fun and save a dime this weekend!

Many more tips at the original article: Read it!

20k Facebook Fan Revealed!

At last, meet the winner of MindField’s 20,000th Facebook fan giveaway:

Sara P. from Sartell, MN!

Sara P. and her $50 smile!

Sara says: “I am a stay at home mom of 3 of the most wonderful kids!  I live in Sartell, Minnesota have been a member since 1/30/12.  My favorite part so far is being the 20K fan!! Thanks so much!!”

For being lucky number 20K, Sara received a $50.00 gift card!

So, that’s the wrap. Like we said, it’s just an example of the kind of fun and surprises our members have here at MindField. Stay tuned, there’s always something around the corner! Thanks again to the rest of our (now) 21, 250 Facebook fans!

A New Wrinkle in Personal Finance

In our youth-and-beauty-obsessed culture, we don’t even want to THINK about being old, gray and wrinkled. That avoidance has another big consequence: we neglect to plan for our financial futures.

But a researcher has forced his test subjects to imagine themselves in their old age and found:

The more connected we feel to our future selves, the more likely we are to save. In one study, participants looked at digitally-altered (aged) photos of themselves and then answered questions about how they would allocate $1,000 if they were to suddenly receive it. They allocated twice as much to a long-term savings account if they saw an older version of themselves versus just seeing themselves now.

Basically, we see our future selves as strangers. But seeing ourselves bald, with wrinkles and liver spots, is apparently a big reality check!

There are apps that allow you to perform this exercise, including But the article also suggests you get in touch with the concept of aging by visiting MeMaw and PapPap, and also asking yourself what the older you would say about the various big-ticket purchases you make – will the old you regret buying a jet-ski versus a municipal bond?

Anyway, it’s pretty interesting. Check it out here!

Twilight of the Mall?

Malls, over the last 50 years, have gone from the community center in some cities to a relic of the way people once wanted to shop. While malls have faced problems in the past, the Internet is now pulling even more sales away from them. And as retailers crawl out of the worst recession since the advent of malls, many are realizing they are overbuilt and are closing locations at a fast clip. New York Times

Check out these grim statistics:

  • Sears is closing up to 120 stores,
  • Gap is closing 200 stores and
  • Talbots is closing 110.
  • Abercrombie & Fitch closed 50 stores last year,
  • Hot Topic, almost the same number.
  • Chains that have filed for bankruptcy in recent years, like Blockbuster, Anchor Blue, Circuit City and Borders, have left hundreds of stores lying vacant in malls across the country.

What’s going into these empty spaces? Anything and everything! Schools, medical clinics, call centers, government offices, churches, aquariums and auto showrooms. In one one glass-enclosed mall in Cleveland, they’re even planting a vegetable garden!

How about you? Is it the twilight of the mall era? Have your retail habits changed? Let us know!

Mobile Facebook Growing Pains

Just how big is Facebook? As a private company it hasn’t been easy to pin that down. Now that Facebook is going public, they have released some statistics like this:

In December 2011, Facebook had more than 425m monthly active mobile users – people logging in from the company’s apps and mobile website. That is just over half of its 845m monthly active users overall.  UK Guardian

So, half of their usage comes from mobile devices. Personally, I am not the biggest fan of using Facebook on my iPhone. Everything is so shrunken down, and my big stupid fingers can’t handle it!

What I DO like about mobile Facebook is that it’s free from clutter, very simplified, and NO ADS. Well, guess what?

“Growth in use of Facebook through our mobile products, where we do not currently display ads, as a substitute for use on personal computers may negatively affect our revenue and financial results,” explains the filing. UK Guardian

85% of their revenue comes from ads on the desktop site, but only half of their users are tuning in? This will not stand!  So get ready for “Sponsored Stories” in your mobile Facebook feed. The global ad market is expected to grow from $1.5 billion in 2010 to $17.6 billion in 2015, and Facebook wants its slice of the pie!

The problem? We have grown used to mobile Facebook WITHOUT ads! Oh well, the only thing more popular than Facebook is complaining about Facebook!

What do you think? Read the article here.

Blockbuster Bummer!

Prefer to rent your DVD’s from Blockbuster Express vs. Redbox? So sorry! I just received a notice from Blockbuster Video that states, in short:

NCR, which operates your Blockbuster Express kiosks, has entered into an agreement to sell its kiosks and other assets to Redbox. Until the transaction is completed (3rd quarter 2012), you will continue to enjoy the convenience, choice, and value you’re used to from BLOCKBUSTER Express.

They had not much to say about how things will be run afterwards. Is BB going away? I don’t know, but not having machines SEEMS like sort of a handicap!

Now, I have no particular love or hatred for Blockbuster. But never having to go in their store again was a nice feature of the kiosk! However, there were definitely fewer Blockbuster than Redbox kiosks. BB managed to get some advantage with certain exclusive deals where they would have a film 2 or 3 weeks  before Redbox got it. So, for a while it was something of a 50/50 advantage between the two rivals.

Then BB screwed it up with tiered pricing. Redbox was 99 cents across the board (now 1.29.) BB was .99 to 2.99, based on newness and popularity. Basically, you never knew what you were going to pay. But the more you wanted to see it, the higher the price. That irked me.

So, now what? BB’s kiosk machines are being sold to their rival. I have to say my preference in this battle goes to Redbox. Flat pricing, with BB’s exclusives removed? Nearly perfect. But who knows how long that warm feeling will last when they have ZERO competition?

So, how about you? Red or Blue? Do you prefer one over the other? Why?

20K Facebook Fans!

The fireworks are cool, but how do they make those big words in the sky?

Late in 2010, MindField Online decided to jump into the social media pond with a new blog, Twitter feed and Facebook page. And today, we have a fun milestone to celebrate!

The whole idea was to open up the lines of communication and enhance your experience in a positive, fun way. We wanted to shed some light, help everyone better understand the whole survey process, and hear your ideas for improvement. It’s the oldest cliché in social media, but we wanted to “build community.” Based on the number of comments posted to the Facebook page, combined with messages received at our main support line and the scuttlebutt we read on other survey industry related boards, we feel like it’s been a big win for you and for MindField.

Today’s big milestone? 20,000 Facebook fans! It happened on January 30, 2012.

To celebrate, we tracked down number 20K and attempted to contact her. When we hear from her and verify her info, she will receive a $50.00 gift card! No contest, no sweepstakes, just a fun little celebration of our milestone. You may recall we did this when we had our 1 millionth survey response back in November.

We will update this post soon. Until then, congrats to our 20K and thanks to our other 19,999* fans for your continued support!

(*actually, since Monday we have already grown to 20,278 Facebook fans!)

Smartphone Security

“While we enjoy the benefits of technology, we must also be aware of the risks it presents. Criminals have turned to technology as access points for key personal information. The best way for consumers to protect themselves is to make sure their technological devices are secure.”

So, we had that huge Zappos hack a couple of weeks back, where 24 million passwords were exposed. It points out once again the importance of online security, both on your home PC and your mobile devices.

About half of us are carrying smartphones these days, and has put together a list of common sense tips for keeping them safe. Highlights include:

  • Password Protect Your Phone: Seems obvious, but I still haven’t gotten around to it!
  • Remote Wipe:  Allows you to destroy all data on your phone if it’s lost or stolen.
  • Unfamiliar Apps: Man this makes me furious! It claims to be protecting you from viruses, but is actually malware. ONLY use trusted suppliers!
  • Geo-tagging: You’re seeing these cute geo-tag notices on Facebook, like, “Susan is at Northwoods Mall.” I don’t care that Susan is out for the day, but the guy planning to rob her house probably appreciates the info. So, use geo-tagging sparingly!
  • Surf with Care: Pretty obvious. You do it home… if some link has a weird suffix like “.ru” (for Russia) instead of “.com” you tend to avoid clicking. Same here.
  • Online Banking and Shopping: I feel like a stick in the mud, but I am not yet comfortable with financial transactions on my phone. Heck, even at home I unplug the wi-fi and go cable for my online banking!

These are the highlights. Learn more at the original article. Let’s be safe out there!