Cutting Back on Halloween?

haunted houseApparently the Halloween business is TOO good these days. More people than ever are celebrating, but they have spent so much money in recent years that they are now cutting back.

Here’s the money quote from

“Halloween has been on the upswing in terms of the number of people celebrating and what they’re spending, so we’ve reached a point where people have been stocking up for several years now,” she said. “The average person is content with the amount of merchandise they already have.”

So, in 2015, we will spend almost $7 billion, down about a half-billion from last year.  That is, we are fine with recycling our costumes and decorations from last year. Heck, I still have last year’s CANDY in the freezer! (Though, back in July I may have swiped a Snicker’s or two!)

They say that each household will spend about $74, down from $77 last year. How about you? Are you cutting back from last year, staying the same or boosting your spending? Me, I don’t care – I love Halloween. There is nothing like opening the door and seeing a little 2-year-old Batman or Princess Elsa.  I am going to spend whatever amount I want!!


October Best Buys!

pumkinAh, October. There’s a touch of coolness in the air. It’s the time of high school football, church festivals and pumpkin-spice lattes. And, as always, there are calendar-specific bargains to be had. So, let’s take a look at your October deals and savings! Here’s a list. Courtesy of Lifehacker  and Dealnews,

  • Cars (Last year’s models)
  • Cookware
  • Digital Cameras
  • Gas Grills
  • Cookware and Kitchen Accessories
  • Air Conditioners
  • Plants
  • Appliances
  • Blue jeans
  • Patio Furniture
  • European Vacations
  • Flatscreen TVs

Be sure to check out the original pieces for more October deals and savings. What’s on your shopping calendar this month? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!

Millennials and Credit Cards

good bad creditI remember my first credit card – an Elder-Beerman’s department store charge card with the astronomical limit of $500. I had just turned 22, and by age 22 and 1 month my ex had maxxed the thing out. Talk about starting your credit history with a bang!

People that age are called Millennials now, and many of them are making the same mistakes, according to a sobering but helpful article entitled “Credit Card Mistakes Are Costing Millennials Plenty: What Not to Do.”  Here are the common pitfalls the Millennials find themselves in..

  • Applying for too many cards and too often: You need a certain level of income to qualify for a credit card. If you don’t have it, you are rejected, and that goes against your credit score. Second, after a rejection, too many young folks just walk to the next kiosk in the mall and apply for a different card. Applying too often is another stain on your record. This article suggests waiting 6 months to a year between applications.
  • Avoiding credit cards altogether: Surprisingly, over 30% do this. It’s not enough to avoid bad credit, you also have to build GOOD credit. Having a credit card with a modest balance and making regular, timely payments is how you get auto loans, mortgage loans and good insurance rates later in life.
  • Taking it to The Max! Maxxing out your credit card suggests you are not in control. It’s also costly. If you hit the max, most credit cards will hit you with punishing interest rates of 25% or more! And yet, it happens, which is one reason why 21-25 year olds have $13K in debt, and by age 30 it has TRIPLED.
  • Last-second payments. Late fees, man, determined partly by your balance. High balance late fees hurt! The good news is that if it’s a rare occurrence, you have a very high chance (over 80%!) of getting the late fees waived.

So, the hazards are real. Best to be aware of them, and watch your step, because it can take YEARS to straighten this stuff out (trust me.) Be sure to read the original piece for more info about services that can help you stay on the straight path.  How about you? Are you of that age, making common mistakes? Or was that you 10 or 15 years ago? How did you pull it out? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Free Stuff Friday!

free stuffEverybody likes stuff. And we like it even better when it’s free. I do, anyway! If you like stuff and you don’t want to pay for it, then check out this timely article at entitled, “Fabulous Freebies — Valuable Things You Can Get for Free.” The list of 69 things carries the disclaimer, “We don’t allow any useless junk on our list, only quality goods and services that you would happily pay good money for (or perhaps you already are.”)

Here are some highlights:

  • Baby Stuff
  • Beauty Stuff
  • Sample Stuff
  • Pet Stuff
  • Medical Stuff
  • Diet and Fitness Stuff
  • Travel Stuff
  • Cultural Stuff
  • Recreation Stuff
  • Hobby Stuff
  • Entertainment Stuff
  • Education Stuff
  • Computer Stuff
  • Financial Stuff
  • Retirement Stuff

…and on and on (and on!) If you have some “Free” time, check out the original article. And if you don’t have any free time, then make some…it’s free! How about you? Have you tripped across any valuable freebies? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a nice weekend!

Haggling Over Your Bills?

pay billsThe opening line of this article is a direct hit (for me, anyway.) “Does the thought of haggling over your monthly bills make you break out in a cold sweat? You’re not alone…”

Man, do I hate to haggle. I only do it once every six years or so when it’s time to replace one of the cars. At a yard sale, if they want $3, I pay it! So, the idea of calling up your cable company, the landlord or the wireless provider and negotiating monthly bills is a no-go for me.

But your mileage may vary. And that extra 10 or 15 bucks here and there can add up to real savings. So, this article in, “6 Basic Bills You Should Always Negotiate,” may appeal to you. Here are the bullets:

  1. Medical Bills: I have heard of taking extra time to pay these, but actually cutting the price? There are online resources that tell you the average or “fair” cost of procedures, to give you a haggling starting point.
  2. Wireless Phone Service Bill: Do your research, know your provider’s competition (and their plans and prices) and you can almost always save money.
  3. Cable or Satellite TV: My mother’s favorite haggle! You got a sweet deal when you signed up. Now, it’s about to expire. Tell them you’re going to switch if they don’t play ball. They usually will.
  4. DSL Internet Service Bill: See Cable/Satellite TV
  5. Rent: Didn’t expect to see this one. If you are a long-standing tenant, solid record, good credit – and it’s a renter’s market – go for it. There’s a rule in renting: It’s easier to keep a tenant than find a new one.
  6.  School Tuition Bills: Another surprise. More than one kid attending? Ask for a group rate.

As usual, these are the highlights. You’ll find valuable online resources (and a bonus 7th tip!) at the original piece, so check it out!  How about you? Are you a haggler? Have you tried any of these? How did it work out? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Getting Out of Debt

debtDo you have what it takes to get out of debt? The answer is probably yes, even if you don’t know how to go about it – yet. I have been there: student loans, credit cards, youthful “living it up.” And then the bill comes due.

So, there are plenty of people who were in the same boat, and taking on water. They were able to turn it around, but how? How did they change their behavior? We turn to money dude Dave Ramsey for hints about the characteristics of debt-free people, in an article conveniently titled “7 Characteristics of Debt-Free People.” Here are the bullets:

  1. Wisdom: Acknowledging the problem, as they say, is the first step.
  2. Patience: Learning that there are very few things we actually have to have NOW!
  3. Confidence: Having faith that we’re doing the right thing, even if our friends ride us for being a cheapskate!
  4. Goal-driven: And, equally important, having a plan to get there.
  5. Responsibility: Seeing that shedding debt is a necessary step to getting our lives together.
  6. Non-materialistic: Giving up our addiction to stuff.
  7. Sacrifice: Dining out constantly, the top-shelf cable package, etc. These aren’t bad things, but they are if we can’t afford them and we don’t stop indulging.

Those are the highlights. Be sure to check out the whole piece. I think one thing to remember is that you didn’t get up in debt overnight, and you won’t get out quickly either. It takes time and patience. The most important thing is to STOP DIGGING! The second is get that debt going in the right direction, which is DOWN. How about you? Have you been there too? Did you get past it? How? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

How We $pent Our Labor Day 2015

labor day spending

The last bash of the summer has come and gone. Now, it’s back to work and school with barely a break until Thanksgiving – though Columbus Day and Veterans Day certainly help!

So how did we spend our precious final summer weekend? Here are some stats:

Travel: The LA Times says that 35.5 million of us traveled at least 50 miles for the holiday weekend, and we spent an average of $380.

U.S. travelers spent an estimated $13.5 billion, a 2% increase over last year.

Gas Money: We spent an average of $2.45 per gallon of regular gasoline, the lowest gas prices for Labor Day weekend since 2004. (It was $1.84 in Charleston SC!)

Yahoo Finance says that overall, we have saved over $1 Billion at the gas pump this year.  BUT… that hasn’t translated into a bunch of extra spending. One estimate says that for every dollar we save, we are putting one-third toward our credit cards, ne-third into savings, and one-third into new spending. Good news, right?

Movies: Labor Day weekend is never the biggest money-earner, as everybody is doing other stuff. But, according to Rotten Tomatoes, this year was terrible – the worst in 15 years. The top 20 films earned $79 million, down from a typical $90-110 million. This weekend’s winner was the religious-themed War Room.

So, how did you spend Labor Day 2015, and how much did you spend doing it? At my house, we bought a tank of gas for a 200-mile day trip, spent $60 on clearance items at Kmart, $30 on food…and that’s about it. How about you? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Shopping: Online vs. In-store

shop online
photo credit:

The mix between online vs in-store shopping continues to evolve. As of now, in-store is still the preferred method. One survey of 19,000 consumers worldwide says that 40% of us buy something in-store once a week, while 27% buy something online.

Pros and Cons:

Of course, in the store, you can touch and feel the item. You take it home right now. And returns are much easier. Online, if you pretty much know what you want, it’s a matter of picking the right make and getting a good price. Enter your card number, and the item shows up at your door!


We talked about this previously. Showrooming is going to the physical store, getting that “touch and feel” experience, and then going home and ordering online. Even this has evolved. Today, we are just as likely to research a potential purchase online, and then go buy it at the store!

To Buy or Not to Buy?

Consumer Reports offers advice on good online deals vs not-so-good. Here are the bullets:

Buy Online:

  1. Electronics
  2. Small Appliances
  3. Pet Supplies
  4. Theme Park Tickets
  5. Baby Supplies

Don’t Buy Online:

  1. Paint
  2. Office and School Supplies
  3. Drugs From Overseas

Why these items? You’ll have to read the article! How about you? Are you buying more online than you used to? Why or why not? Do all the identity theft scares have you spooked? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!

Changing the Way We Shop?

shopcart 02So, has the years-long economic downturn forever changed the way we shop? Maybe so. For years now, people have been tightening their belts. At the grocery store, things like “big national name brand loyalty” have taken a big hit, while store brands and generics have prospered.

Now, with a perceived (!) improvement in the economy, things are thawing out a bit. But, again, it may be that these past years have changed the way we think about grocery shopping. That’s the gist (or one of them) of the latest Deloitte Pantry Survey 2015:

A key finding is that eight in 10 Americans believe “the American economy has fundamentally changed and that thriftiness and challenging economic conditions are the new normal.”  The Tennessean

They surveyed 4000 shoppers, and found that they seem to split up in 4 categories. Do you see yourself in any of these?

  • Super Savers(26%): You focus on coupons and loyalty programs. You will switch brands to save. Tracking down the lowest price is fun.
  • Sacrificers(23%): You are the most affected by the economy. You are younger, lower income and less educated. You avoid higher-cost items.
  • Planners(21%): You also save with coupons and loyalty programs. You also save by not buying prepared foods.
  • Spectators(30%): You were least affected by the recession. You are younger, more educated, higher income. You buy store brands, less prepared foods and you buy in bulk.

Personally, I don’t see myself in any of these categories, not neatly anyway. I do steer away from prepared foods, though. How about you? Have your habits changed? How so? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page! And read the original article…tons more consumer insight!