This Year’s Prom Theme? Going Broke (Again!)

prom-limoTime for an update on a story from last year. It seems that, despite a continuously brutal economy, one area we aren’t cutting back on is our kids’ high school prom.

Visa says American families who have teenagers will spend an average of $1,139 each on the prom, a five percent boost, or roughly $60 dollar increase compared to the average amount spent in 2012 of $1,078.  KARE 11 News

What are we spending?

  • Northeastern average: $1,528
  • Southern average: $1,203
  • Western average: $1,079
  • Midwestern average: $722

And it appears, once again, that the brokest among us spend the most.

Visa also says one troubling statistic is that parents surveyed who fell in the lowest income brackets (less than $50,000) plan to spend more than the national average, about $1,245. Parents who make over $50,000 a year plan to spend less than that, an average of $1,129.  KARE 11 News

It’s madness. I see two culprits: TV shows like “My Super Sweet 16”… and parents that can’t say “No.” One bright spot: kids appear to be paying about 40% of the bill, with mom and dad coughing up 60%

BTW, the article also explains ways to cut some of these outrageous costs, so check it out!   What are your thoughts?


Let’s Hear from Our Facebook Fans!

Time once again to update our satisfied Facebook fans shout-out page. Take a moment to read some of the positive feedback from a few of our purt-near 34,000 fans… including this comment from Nilda:

“I’ve been a MindField member since 2009, and it is a company that hasn’t failed me.  This is real, not like others that offer and don’t give anything. I have to thank MindField for having  me as a member for so long.”

So take a look HERE. Thanks to all our friends, Facebook and otherwise. And have a great weekend!


Storewide Sensory Overload!

"Don't worry, dear. According to the article, Red means savings!"
“Don’t worry, dear. According to the article, Red means savings!”

Merchandising or manipulation? It’s probably a bit of both. We’re talking about the ways retailers place items on the shelves as well as the ways they modify the store’s lighting, music and even smells. This is all in an attempt to alter your buying behavior, usually meaning making you spend more money! And if you’re trying to cut back – and who isn’t? – it may be helpful to learn some of their tricks.

Here are some of the retailers’ Sensory Weapons:

Color: Colors have different associations and those things tend to get people going. So, for example, red is almost always the color associated with sales because it inspires people to take action and it’s a stimulating sort of color. Lifehacker

Touch: We are more likely to buy something if we touch it. And, oddly, if the display is too neat or fancy, we shy away. It reminds me of the big healthcare tub display at the checkout of my local Walmart – a big tub with a huge variety of 88-cent aspirin, nasal spray and bandages literally dumped in. It’s a glorious mess, (below) and I can’t keep my hands out of it!

Who am I to resist?
Who am I to resist?

Music: It depends on what the retailer wants you to do. Sometimes they want you to move through a place quickly (like a fast food restaurant), while other times they want you to linger. Lifehacker

Layout: It could be the grocery store that moves everything every six months to make you discover new items to buy. Or a really specific example such as Ikea – which has a definite In and Out door, and a specific path we must take to get from one to the other.

Smell: yes, even smell. Smell has a strong tie to memory (Personal smell note: Fresh cut grass = first day of kindergarten.) If the retailer can connect with a memory, it’s a sale!

I guess you could make a counter argument… that all of this sensory experience is part of the fun of shopping. (I’m told some people enjoy shopping, anyway.) What do YOU think? And check out the original article!

In Case of Emergency…

emergencyI don’t know…it feels like today calls for a “public service” post instead of the usual consumer fun.

So, this was the week of the Boston Marathon attack and the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas. Still fresh in our memories are the shootings at the school and the movie theater and Hurricane Sandy.

If you happened to know anyone involved – and I have an acquaintance that had been tweeting about running his first Boston Marathon for weeks – you immediately wonder about his or her safety. And you keep wondering, because cellular service instantly crashes and the TV news is completely unreliable.

What’s the solution? It takes some forethought and preparation. We begin with some good news, and it is this:

That doesn’t mean your phone is useless. Text messages are a much better option than calls, because they take up less of a cell site’s resources and because if they can’t get through, they automatically keep trying. If you are connected to the Internet or can find nearby free Wi-Fi, email and Twitter are also quicker, more reliable options.

Now, let’s go worst-case scenario… what if something happens to your physical self, and you can’t communicate? Plan ahead, and remember this acronym: ICE. It stands for In Case of Emergency, and more and more first responders are learning it. Basically, you set up an emergency contact on your phone with the last name ICE, and the first name MOM or HUSBAND or WIFE. If a rescuer finds you unconscious, he will know what to do. Also, if you have a memo or reminder app, you might want to enter some medical history, or at least any medication allergies you may have. Of course, you will have to take off the password protection on your phone.

So, that’s it. Here is some extra reading that explains all of this in greater detail. Again, thoughts and prayers to our friends in Boston and Texas. And please stay safe!!

Cellphone Networks Fail in Emergencies: Here’s What to Do

Five Minute Lifesaver: ICE Your Cell Phone

4 Easy Ways to Get Free Wi-Fi

How to Set Up an ICE Contact

Slash Your Grocery Bill!

Tip #17: Instead of Hundreds, try eating only Fives and Tens!
Savings Tip #17: Instead of Hundreds, try eating only Fives and Tens!

A while back we talked about stretching your food budget by eliminating food waste. And of course, it’s common sense that cutting back on dining out can save you plenty.

But, what if you have already made these cuts, and you’re still feeling the pinch? Take a closer look at your grocery habits!

There’s a pretty interesting article at Money Talks News called “16 Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half.”

Here are some highlights:

  • Buy Discounted Meat: If you’re like me, you plan to eat pork chops, and then go buy them. Instead, see what’s on sale, and then plan your menu around that. This might not work if (like me) you can only cook 4 things!
  • Meatless Monday: Not as a moral or political statement, because YAWN. Just to save money! At my house, we have a big salad at least once a week.
  • Only Buy Food: At a Publix or Kroger or whatever, things like laundry detergent can be crazy expensive. Save that for Walmart!
  • Buy Generic: Store brands, yo! You can save up to 30% on things like pasta, salt, etc.
  • Embrace Inconvenience: If it comes in snack size, you don’t want it. Buy the big box of pretzels and some baggies. Cut your own fruit salad. Spend your life combing through circulars for coupons. Convenience is pricey!

There are 11 more tips of varying awesomeness at the original article, so check it out!

Tax Time 2013!

no-stress-tax-tips-600Standby for our annual, obligatory “Last Minute Tax Tips” post!

You might be thinking: How can it be tax time? There’s still snow on the ground! Well, you better hitch up the sleigh, because Uncle Sam waits for no man, snowman!

Anyway, the web is full of hundreds of articles on last minute tax advice, all of which I will share now and here are a few to ponder.

And FYI, in recent years, Tax Day has been postponed for the weekend, or due to some holiday. But this year, Tax Day goes Old School, i.e., April 15. Yay, tradition!

So, as a humble public service from your humble public servant (me) here are the links to everything you need to know. Have a good weekend!

Forbes     •     CBS News     •     Investopedia     •     US News Money

Fox News     •     TurboTax     •     Money Talks News

Wall Street Journal     •     Yahoo Finance     •     Detroit Free Press

Death of the Family Portrait


“Treasured” memories like the above will soon be a thing of the past. Out of the blue, the company (CPI) that runs thousands of portrait studios inside big retail stores such as Sears and WalMart is closing its doors.

In fact, go to, and this is ALL you see:

After many years of providing family portrait photography, we are sad to announce our Sears Portrait Studios are now closed. We appreciate your patronage and allowing us to capture your precious memories. If you currently have an album or have had a recent portrait session, you can order products at thru April 18, 2013. If you have had a recent session, your portraits may be available at your local studio.

Now, before you blast Sears or Walmart, remember that CPI, in business for 60 years, is just a vendor for the retailers. They are deeply in debt, and their time has come.  CPI says that much of the blame goes to the proliferation of camera phones.

Their employees are shocked, to say the least, and more than a little worried that CPI might not make good on their current orders. Some are taking matters into their own hands. One employee “hastily burned as many undelivered portrait packages as she could onto compact discs on Thursday. By Friday, she tried to spread the word to those customers that she’d be at a nearby pet store’s parking lot Saturday with those CDs.”

So, if you have a pending portrait order with a local CPI, you might want to pick up the phone. To CALL them, not to take pictures!

So, what do you think? Will you miss the old portrait studio? Hey, I never used one, but it is kind of sad to lose a minor American tradition such as this.

On a brighter note, here are some bad family portraits from around the web!  Awkward Family Photos, More Awkward Family Photos

State(s) of Happiness, 2013

The darker green ye see, the happier ye be! Arrr!
The darker green ye see, the happier ye be! Arrr!

Well, the 2012 results have just been released, anyway. Today, we revisit and update a topic from June of last year.

Who are the happiest Americans? And how would be know? Well, you interview a BUNCH of people all across the United States – DAILY, for a WHOLE YEAR – and you draw some conclusions!

Gallup rated each state on the following: life evaluation, emotional health, physical health, work environment, healthy behaviors and basic access to services and amenities.  Drum roll please…

Happiest States 2012 (with 2011 score)

10 Massachusetts (14)…09 Iowa (16) …08 New Hampshire (9)…

07 Nebraska (8)… 06 Montana (10)…05 Vermont (12)…

04 Utah (5)…03 Minnesota (3)…02 Colorado (6)… 01 Hawaii (1)

Dropping out of top 10 from last year:  Kansas, Alaska and North Dakota

Unhappiest States 2012 (with 2011 score)

41 Oklahoma (39) …42 Indiana (38) …43 Louisiana (36)…

44 Ohio (46) …45 Alabama (45)…46 Arkansas(44) …

47 Tennessee (41) …48 Mississippi (48)…49 Kentucky (49)…

50 West Virginia (50)

Climbing out of the bottom 10 (yay…?) Delaware, Missouri, Florida and Nevada

So that’s the rundown. What do you think? Are you in a “happy” state? An “unhappy” state? Do you agree or disagree with this assessment? Let us know! Check out the whole report, and have a great weekend!

Acts of Random Suspended Kindness

coffee2I think people want to do good. They mean well. As the Wizard of Oz said there at the end, “Back home we call these people well-meaning do-gooders!” or something.

But this one has me skeptical. You be the judge…

There is a movement afoot (translation: a Facebook page) to “Pay it Forward” at your local coffee shop. It goes like this…

When you order your morning (coffee), you also order additional items, but ask for them to be “suspended.” When a person who can’t afford their own beverage comes in, they can ask for a “suspended” coffee or food, and receive one for free. The Consumerist

Poverty solved! I am AWESOME! (Sorry, I said I would let YOU judge.)

Now, with a headline like “Why Ordering ‘Suspended’ Coffees For The Needy Is Stupid And Inefficient,” it’s as if The Consumerist is giving us a vague hint as to its opinion of this practice. You can read their criticisms in the original article. Meanwhile, Starbucks Melody, an “unofficial blog of the Starbucks brand,” has some suggestions to help people more efficiently.

But what do YOU think? Is this an efficient way to help people? Is a little kindness better than nothing? Is this just an example of (well-meaning) people finding the easiest, cleanest way to feel like they are helping? Have you done it? Would you? Let us know!