Gift Card Popularity Keeps Rising

gift cardDid you receive or give gift cards this holiday season? I was mostly a Giver this year, and mostly for clients. I gave out six 10-dollar iTunes gift cards, two $25 Regal Cinemas, and a $25 Red Lobster. For family, an Olive Garden for mom, and a Sears for my nephew the electrician.

So, while some folks think they are an incredible convenience, and others think they are incredibly impersonal, gift cards are here to stay, and growing in their use.

The retail federation conducted a consumer survey in October and found that 62 percent of shoppers said they would like to receive a gift card, making gift cards the most requested gift item eight years in a row. The average shopper buying gift cards will spend $173, up from $163 last year, the NRF said. Dayton Daily News

Also helping the cause, new rules that make gift cards last longer before expiring. That alone has accounted for the dollar amount of cards going unused from $8 billion down to 1 billion!

So, what are the best ways to get the most out of the gift cards you have received? What can you do if you have a problem using them? Read this article to find out!

How about you? Did you give or receive? Are you using gift cards more or less often these days? Are they convenient or too impersonal? Let us know at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Fun at the Return Desk

returnsSome comic once had a bit about gift-giving (or “gifting” if you hate the English language.) Your mom hands you a terrible gift and says, “I included the receipt so you can take it back.” And you’re like, “Great, a bad gift AND an errand!”

This year, I’m guilty of that, though my intentions were good. A couple of my wife’s wish list included a tracksuit and a bolero jacket, size medium. I found the tracksuit, but they only had large pants. I bought them, and then later found medium pants. So, that’s return #1 for wifey. Later, I found two boleros and couldn’t decide between them, so I bought both. Return #2! Sorry honey, I love ya, but I have done my mall duty for the year (two trips!!)

So, returns. It’s big business.  It’s a prime reason that 12/26 is the second-biggest shopping day of the year. In general, retailers aren’t thrilled, because there is so much room for fraud.

The retail industry will lose an estimated $3.8 billion to fraudulent returns this holiday season, up from $3.4 billion last year, the retail federation said. Dayton Daily News

So it’s no surprise that retailers have rules for returns, some naughty, some nice. In fact, that’s the title of every other article on the subject appearing today (mostly because they are reprinting the list from Consumer Reports.) So, here’s a link that article! Finds out which retailers are naughty and/or nice this year!! Enjoy, and have a great weekend at the mall!

Makin’ it Rain (Holiday Edition): Meet the Winners!

Back in October, MindField Online announced the launch of the new SurveyCloud mobile app. We also announced our latest prize drawing, “MindField Makes it Rain for the Holidays!” Prizes include one $500 grand prize winner, two $100 2nd-place winners, and six $50 3rd-place winners.

Well, it’s time meet the winners!

** $50.00 Third-place winners! **

Lou Marie B. of Cape Coral FL

Rebecca B. of Logan UT

Rebecca H. of Cleveland OH

Kent R. of Raleigh NC

Chelsea G. of Placerville CA

Pat C. of Chicago IL

** $100.00 Second-place winners! **

Jocella H. of Jonesboro GA

Christina B. of Arlington TX

And finally…

** $500 Grand Prize winner! **

Starlah R. of Rialto CA

Congrats, Starlah!
Congrats, Starlah!

A married mom of two, Starlah has been a MindField Online panelist since 2006. She enjoys taking the surveys, formerly on her PC, and now with the “simple to use” SurveyCloud App on her mobile device. More than once, she says, a 12 or 15-dollar payout has come in handy for expenses around the home.

So, what’s it like to win the $500? Starlah says, “It was a big surprise – I don’t win things! I saw the notification in my IN box, which I don’t automatically check regularly. But something told me to open that email – and I’m glad I did!” And what to do with $500? “When you have kids, they always need something! But also, we’ll have a little extra for the holidays, and a little extra to put in reserve.”

Sounds like a plan, Starlah! Thanks to you and all of our winners for your many years of membership. Thanks for downloading and using the SurveyCloud mobile app. And Happy Holidays to you and yours!!!

Who will MindField “Make it Rain” on next? It could be YOU! Another drawing is coming, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Stay tuned!

Good News on the Financial Front

Looking for some good financial news? Well, the stories are out there, and Yahoo Finance dug up a few of the better ones.

Most of these folks got into debt in ways you would recognize. Student loans, sudden changes in health, unemployment…and plain ol’ bad decision making. We’ve all been there. So it’s good to see that people can climb out of the hole if they make a plan, make some sacrifices, and stick to it.

The headlines include:

  • Single mom retires $5000 of debt in a year while only earning only $21K
  • Family of five pays off $100,000 of debt in just four years
  • Woman eliminates $50,000 worth of debt in two years, despite six months unemployment
  • Retired couple cashed it all in to travel the world
  • Couple pays off $118,000 worth of debt in four years – on $70K annual earnings

These are just the headlines. There are some pretty inspirational stories behind them, so check it out!

How about you? Ever been in the hole? How did you make it out? Do you have an inspiring story? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!

Bad Gifts 2014

badYesterday, we posted a little piece on Facebook, wherein Miss Manners threw some serious shade on people who make and hand out Holiday gift wish lists. What did you think? Personally, I’d rather have some idea of what to give. Gift shopping is stressful, and I want to get it right. On a selfish tip, I would also like to RECEIVE the right thing, as well.

Apparently, the things we DON’T want to receive are common enough that Consumer Reports has compiled a list, based on a survey of 1500 adults. What do we NOT want this year? Here are the top 5:

  • Hard liquor: 25%
  • Flowers or plants: 23%
  • Home décor: 13%
  • Books: 8%
  • Kitchen items: 7%

Interesting that booze is so high on the list, while wine is much farther down. Anyway, there are more details in the original, so check it out!

What do you think? Is making a list of what you want a bad thing? Is making a list of what you DON’T want even worse? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page – because there are only 9 days left!!

Holiday Shopping Thru the Ages

xmas shoppingThat is, OUR ages. Advertisers have done the research, and it seems that our attitudes and shopping habits during the Holiday season depend on our age. Check it out!

First, the terminology: Millennials are age 18-34, Gen X is 35-54, and Boomers are 55-plus.

  • How much do we spend on gifts? Millennials $307, Gen X $299, Boomers $262
  • Where do we shop? Millennials online, Gen X online, Boomers in-store
  • Where do we learn about this year’s popular gifts? Millennials online, Gen X online, Boomers on TV
  • Favorite Holiday Activity? Millennials gift-giving, Gen X decorating, Boomers entertaining
  • Holiday dislikes: Millennials spending, Gen X spending, Boomers crowds

More info at the original piece, so check it out!

So, do you see yourself in this picture? Has your attitude about Holiday shopping changed over the years? How so? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!

Tightening the Belt for 2015

ID-100178555The Holiday season is upon us, traditionally ending on New Year’s Day. And what defines NY Day? Resolutions! There are only 3 worth mentioning – lose weight, reconnect with friends and family, and SAVE MONEY.

USA Today has an interesting piece out today, “5 Everyday Expenses Worth Eliminating in 2015.” See if one or more ring a bell in your household…

  1. Coffee to go. Jerry Seinfeld once said “I get my coffee on the outside.” Not smart. According to one consumer: “I was shocked to find that my $4.30 daily latte was costing me over $1,200 a year.”
  2. Take the bus. Not always a viable option, but it has financial and social benefits. Would you rather be stuck in traffic ALONE or with equally unhappy people? …yeah, I’m not sure about this one either.
  3. Pack your lunch. It’s comical watching my wife assemble her lunches for the week. Grapes, Wheat Thins, pretzel sticks, animal crackers, frozen meals… all portioned out in little Ziploc bags. But it’s better than spending $10 a day for lunch in food-obsessed Charleston SC!
  4. Cut the Cable. I will say it again. I ditched cable TV, cut back to internet-only, bought a set of rabbit ears and a Roku box and signed up for Netflix and Hulu. My bills went from $150/month to $50. It works!!!
  5. Quit the gym. There are MANY ways to get and stay fit. People say, “Well, I signed the contract, so now I HAVE to go!” Does that actually work?

There is a bunch more detail at the original article, so check it out! What do you think? Are you cutting back? Are these good ideas? Have any others to share? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Holiday Shipping Blues

shipping1The other day, I’m standing in my kitchen when I hear a loud THUD at my front door, almost like someone had kicked it. Followed by a single ring of the doorbell. I look out and see a US Mail carrier slouching away, talking on his phone. I pick up my package and scream at him, “That’s a $700 laptop! Maybe slam it to the ground a little softer?” His classic reply? “Aw man. My bad.”

Welcome to Holiday Shipping Blues!

Consumer Reports conducted a survey of 1,000 people regarding their thoughts on Holiday shipping. See if any of these findings sound familiar…

  • Biggest complaint is cost. UPS and FedEx can cost up to 5 times as much as regular mail.
  • More than half complain about valuable packages left at the door (or, in my case, slammed into the door!)
  • Related, about 40% of people have had the package stolen from the porch.
  • 55% complain about late delivery.

So, what to do? Pay the high cost to UPS and FedEx? Sacrifice your sanity and time by going to the Post Office? Use one of those USPS-contracted places where they don’t know what they’re doing half the time? You tell me!!

On a constructive note, here are some tips for getting your holiday packages to their destination in one piece, and on time! USPSFedExUPS

Any shipping horror stories to share? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!

December Deals 2014!

december savingsSo, are you looking for deals during December shopping season, or are you just trying to get through the month in one piece? Probably a bit of both.

Believe it or not, there’s more to December retail than Christmas shopping. So, if you’re looking to save some money, there are deals to be had. Travel is generally cheapest between now and Christmas. Thrift stores have some of their best selections right about now, between people cleaning up for holiday parties and those making last-minute donations for tax purposes. Gift cards often carry extra incentives and gimmes this time of year. Heck, even BOOZE is cheap in December!

So, in the Holiday spirit of giving, we have scouted the web for some savings links. Enjoy!

Can you think of any other good deals (or bad ones!) for December? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page – and happy shopping!