Halloween Safety 2013

These two probably won't get hit by a care. But they WILL get hit by 8th-graders!
These two probably won’t get hit by a car. But they probably WILL get hit by 8th-graders!

As we noted earlier this week, Halloween spending is down in 2013. Here are the stats:

The National Retail Federation expects a 13.75 percent drop in total U.S. spending on Halloween — to $6.9 billion compared with 2012. Adults will spend an average of $75.03.  The Orlando Sentinel

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 last year, “Halloween Safety for Nerds and Other People.”

This is not so much a consumer piece, other than, as we reported earlier, you’re going to spend $80 per kid this Halloween (2012!) and you would like to get them 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!

(photo: springsgov.com)


Spending Snapshot, 1973

made_in_1973_personalized_invites-r77027731f425487fb56691e8eb6c1eec_8dnmv_8byvr_512When you compare how much our incomes and spending have changed in the past 40 years, I guess you could say that there’s good news and bad news.

The average person spends 81.2% of his or her post-tax income on food, housing and other expenses, according to ConvergEx Group, a New York-based brokerage. That’s down from the 85% that Americans shelled out for mandatory and discretionary items in 1973. LA Times

  • Household Income After taxes: UP. $9700 in 1973, $63,000 today (adjusted for inflation.)

As a percentage of income, spending in the following categories went…

  • Savings: DOWN. Way down. We put over 13% of our income in the bank in 1973, now a terrible 4.6%!
  • Housing: UP. 15% of income in 1973, 19% today. Partly because the average square footage of a home has nearly doubled since then!
  • Food: DOWN. 19% of income in 1973, 13% today. Of course, family size has shrunk, from 2.9 to 2.5 people.
  • Cars: DOWN. 9.5% of income in 1973, 6.6% today. However, the next item…
  • Fuel: UP. 4.2% in 1973, 5.4% today.

So, it’s a mixed bag. Maybe it just SEEMS like we are paying more and more and more?

Personally, I think these numbers are wack. Like, the size of our homes has doubled, but we’re only spending 20% more of our income for them?  My theory?* They are measuring expenses as a percentage of household income. In 1973, less than 40% of moms worked outside the home.  It’s over 60% today (I looked it up!) So, in 60% of homes, it’s taking two incomes to enjoy a 4% decrease in overall household expenses. Yay progress!

My question to those who remember 1973 is this: what do you think? Do you think we are better off, worse off, or about the same as we were back then? Did Dad and/or Mom work as hard/harder/about the same to pay the bills as we do? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!

*Disclaimer: I’m an English major!

When the Price is Not the Price

Heard of “fluid pricing”? You’re about to!

Theoretically, software can track and identify a potential buyer, look up his past purchases, perhaps even link to his credit rating, Facebook posts, age and income – then make a pretty decent guess about how much he’ll pay for a product. Buffalo News

Odd true-life example. My former hairdresser, a Brazilian lady, charged her Brazilian/Latino customers more – because they have more and thicker hair!

Anyway, fluid pricing (some might say discriminatory pricing) is an age-old tradition – closeout sales, end of season clearance, senior discount, “Ladies Night”, etc. But now they are talking about altering prices by the minute, by the location and by the customer. And it’s all about technology. One more reason you might want to turn off Location Services on your smart phone!

So, what do you think? Should the guy sitting next to you on the airplane pay the same for his ticket as you did? Or is it none of your business? Do you care? A lot of people do – the article quotes a study that says when people find out that they have been “price-targeted” they don’t like it! Give us your thoughts over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Common Money Wasters

images-2According to personal finance guru Dave Ramsey, there is a pretty common list of things that we waste money on. He has published a Top 10 over at his blog, and here are some highlights. See any familiar sins?

  • Deal websites: I went through a big Groupon phase, and wasted a lot of money. Not Groupon’s fault, though. I just misjudged my ability to get off my butt and travel to that new place all the way across town!
  • ATM fees: Unfortunately, my small bank only has a few locations. But I ONLY use their ATM to avoid fees.
  • Premium shipping:  Actually, I am way to impatient to wait for two weeks! However, Walmart (among others) doesn’t charge if you ship to the store and pick it up yourself.
  • Unused gym memberships: The legend goes that health clubs sell at least twice the number of “New Year’s Resolution” memberships than they can actually handle, since most people quit in February!
  • Premium cable packages: Not only did I cut the premium cable, I quit cable all together!

As always, there’s much more at the original piece, so check it out! Have you been a waster in the past? On what? How did you change your habits? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!



Haggling How-to’s

haggleIt’s certainly not for me – I hate confrontation! But Yahoo Finance says that you could save 10-15% if you learn the ancient art of haggling.

When you do decide to haggle, it can be a spectacularly successful strategy. According to Consumer Reports, almost 90 percent of those who took a stab at it got positive results and saved some cash.  Yahoo Finance

So, what’s the secret? Here are some tips:

Research! What is this product or service really worth? What do other companies charge?

Timing is Everything: First of the week, end of the month, etc. When do they need your dollars the most? 

Seasonal Savings: Related to Timing. Whenever the retailer has to “Make room for the 2014’s!!!”… then it’s time to make your best offer on the 2013’s.

Fight the power: Don’t waste time negotiating with someone who doesn’t have the power to give you what you want. On the other hand, don’t automatically assume the kid behind the counter has no power!

Escalation: Don’t be a jerk. But if you feel strongly enough to walk away, like closing your account over some injustice, then say so.

So, what do you think? I have done this once, mostly by way of research – specifically, knowing what my trade-in was truly worth when buying a car, and not budging until I got it. I made out OK, and I felt good about it. Do you haggle? Would you if you knew how? Let us know at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Online Shopping Habits

She found a great deal, and her hair looks fabulous!
She found a great deal, and her hair looks fabulous!

I knew online purchasing was a big deal, but I didn’t know it was THIS big:

Online customers are becoming important to most businesses. For example, in a recent Nielson Global Survey more than 85 percent of the world’s online population has already used the Internet to make purchases.  SmallBizTrends.com

Since the hardest part of getting people to accept a trend is getting them to try it for the first time, I’d say online shopping has conquered 85% of the world!

This article I point to is a little inside baseball – online marketers talking to other online marketers – telling each other about OUR online buying habits. Who says we can’t peek inside?

Guys and Girls:

  • Both tend to purchase from desktops (M 87%, W 82%)
  • Both tend to purchase from home (M 81, W 84)

Distractions, distractions!

  • Marketers study the number of “abandoned” shopping carts on retail sites. You were shopping and wandered off somehow. They blame cookies. If you have never understood what exactly cookies do, it’s this. They follow you, create a distraction, and try to lure you back to their site.

A Multi-screen experience:

  • “65 percent of purchases begin on a smartphone, while 25 percent begin on a laptop and 11 percent start on a tablet.” Ending, as we said, at home and on your desktop about 90% of the time. For me this is true because I will only give out my credit card on wired cable, never wi-fi.

Anyway, those are the highlights. You can read more at the original piece.

How about you? Do these traits sound familiar? What kind of online shopping do you enjoy? What BUGS you about it? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!

Secrets of the Rich

Shhh...don't tell!
Shhh…don’t tell!

Just read a piece, a slideshow really, in the latest Reader’s Digest. Entitled “How Rich People Think: 25+ Things They Won’t Tell You,” it gives us a glimpse into the wealthy person’s mind. Some of it is kind of dumb, like “I bet you think I own a lot of suits, but I don’t!” But thoughts on how they make, spend, save and think about money are more interesting. Here are some highlights:

  • Be persistent: don’t quit until you get what you came for, such as a job, a client or a good deal at car dealership.
  • Cut out the middle man whenever possible.
  • Look for savings, and don’t be embarrassed to use coupons!
  • Don’t waste anything!
  • Be bold in the workplace. You won’t get anything if you don’t ask. And aim high!
  • Make connections, form relationships and hold on to them. You never know who will send you that next great opportunity!

Pretty interesting stuff. There are a couple of humorous ones, as well. One guy says that giving gifts is always a no-win situation. If you give something normal, you’re being cheap. Give something awesome, and you’re just showing off. Boo-hoo, rich dude!

So, what’s the best advice you’ve ever heard about making, saving or spending money? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Shutdown Blues

Hopefully, this post will be obsolete soon. However you feel – right/left, red/blue, D/R – the dysfunction of the Federal government shutdown is spooking people. In fact, they are saying it could affect your holiday shopping:

A big concern is that a prolonged government shutdown could severely hurt the economy and necessarily, consumer spending. For each week the government remains shut, the U.S. economy would lose 0.15 percent of annualized growth.  TheLedger.com

Mind you, this comes at a time – the last few months of the year – when retailers typically pull in 20 to 40 per cent of their annual numbers.

And, let’s not forget the folks who are making (or not making) the money that the retailers are chasing. Here, according to TheFiscalTimes.com, are the cities that can expect to take the hardest hit…

  • Washington DC (no duh!)
  • Bethesda MD (lots of govt contractors)
  • Norfolk VA (huge Navy base)
  • Honolulu HI (lots of military)
  • Dayton OH (huge Air Force base)
  • El Paso TX (Army base, Beaumont Hospital)
  • Colorado Springs CO (lots of military)
  • Oklahoma City, OK (Air Force, Federal offices)
  • Albuquerque, NM (THREE Air Force bases!)
  • Bakersfield, CA (Air Force)

The numbers are based on how much Federal income affects the local economy, with DC at around 18% and Bakersfield at around 7%.

So, truly, no politics here! Some folks think the shutdown is pure evil. Some think it’s a righteous protest. Others think that it is a bad thing that might lead to a better way of running things in DC. But, if you are affected, it stinks!

So, are you feeling the pinch? How are you coping? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page and have a better weekend!

PS… I was going to include a picture, as I often do – something like “Uncle Sam turning his empty pockets inside out.” But I Googled that, got 20,000,000 results and got too depressed.

October Bargains

Looking for bargains in October? Well, you might have to look HARD. An article on BankRate.com says that, between Back to School and Christmas, retailers usually take a breather in October. There are still bargains to be had, though, and here are a few:

  • Now is the time when you begin to see the first markdowns in winter clothes.
  • This is also the 2nd-biggest wedding season, and many of the items you would find on a bridal registry begin to be discounted.
  • E-commerce sites want to grab your attention pre-holidays, so look for bargains there.
  • Summer sporting goods.
  • Stock up on your upcoming holiday cooking needs.
  • Cruise wear and swimsuits.
  • Travel to Europe.

You will find all the details at the original article, so check it out! Do you have any October bargains to share? Let us know at the MindField Online Facebook page!