Halloween Safety 2015

"Let's go to THIS house - there's a grownup who's WAY too unto it!"
“Let’s go to THIS house – there’s a grownup who’s WAY too into it!”

As we reported last month, Halloween spending is down this year. Overall, we will shell out about $7 billion in 2015, down from $7.5 billion last year. That’s about $74 per household, down from $77 in 2014.

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 years past, “Halloween Safety for Nerds and Other People.” This is not so much a consumer piece, other than the fact that you are spending $75, and you would like to get your kids 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!

Be sure to check out the rest of our Halloween 2015 coverage:

And have a safe and happy Halloween!



Tips for Early Holiday Shoppers

xmas shop girlJumping the gun? I don’t think so.

A survey for CreditCards.com conducted in the first week of September found that 14 percent of people had already started their holiday shopping. Roughly the same number said they planned to finish their shopping earlier this year, and 2 percent said they’d already completed theirs. NBCNews.com

There has already been a trickle of holiday shopping going on. In fact, Walmart started holiday layaway back in August, and Kmart followed suit in early September. Just watch, though…come Sunday, the day after Halloween, it’ll be on like Donkey Kong! So why not prepare yourself with some early holiday shopping tips?

Buy Now!

  • Denim: 40 to 60% off right now.
  • Summer clothes
  • Outdoor stuff: Low, low prices on camping, patio, etc.
  • Toys: A mixed bag. Everyday playthings are priced low, but you’ll want to wait to buy this year’s hottest toys.

Buy Later!

  • Electronics: Wait for Black Friday
  • Decorations: Wait until closer to the holidays


  • Look out for price-matching. It will get more aggressive in November.

As always, these are just the bullets. More deets at the original piece, so check it out! My own shopping list is pretty modest, but I am all for getting the headache out of the way as quickly as possible.  (Getting the hassle out of the way…THAT’s the Christmas spirit!) How about you? Have you already started your holiday shopping? Don’t tell me you’re done already! Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Avoid Halloween Ripoffs!

HALLRIPOFFSWhat’s scarier than ghosts and goblins at Halloween? Getting ripped off by unscrupulous Halloween vendors! That’s the gist of an article entitled “Don’t get tricked when shopping this Halloween.

…spending on Halloween festivities, including candy, costumes, and decorations is expected to reach $6.9 billion. 157 million Americans are expected to celebrate Halloween this year, making Halloween the second largest shopping season of the year. The Better Business Bureau advises consumers to spend Halloween shopping dollars wisely.

In particular, the article advises you to be cautious around two types of Halloween vendor: the popup store and online.

A popup store is one that one space in the strip mall that used to be a Marshall’s or Ross but is now empty. Around mid-September, it suddenly turns into HALLOWEEN HEADQUARTERS! Next month, it will be Santa’s Workshop or something. So, unlike a regular store that will still be there next month when that giant, air-fed jack-o-lantern in your yard breaks, or some weird charge shows up on your credit card statement, these guys are long gone.  (And no, this is not to malign all popup stores. Just be careful, is all.)

Some tips for dealing with popup stores are…

  • Check the company’s Business Review at BBB.org before doing business.
  • Buy from companies that have been around long enough to have a clear track record.
  • Stores with a spotty past may change their name from year to year.
  • Ask the store how long it plans to occupy the building. If you cannot get an answer, ask to speak with a manager.
  • See if they have a website in case you need to contact them later.

They also say to shop closer to Halloween for lower prices (and a way worse selection!) As for online Halloween vendors…

  • Check the company’s BBB record at BBB.org.
  • Use your browser to search for the company’s customer reviews by typing their name plus the word “review.”
  • Services like Pay Pal are useful because they do not disclose your credit card number to the seller.
  • With reputable retailers, pay by credit card.
  • Know the return policy and read it carefully.

And, in all instances, save your receipt! There are a lot more useful Halloween shopping tips at the original piece, so check it out! How about you? Have you had success with seasonal vendors? Any horror stories to share? (I got ripped off by some 4th of July dudes once!) Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!

Flu Economics

flu shotOnce I worked in a small shop, just me and another dude. We shared a lot of things, including doorknobs, telephones, computer keyboards…and every virus his toddler brought home from daycare! So I know a little bit about workplace-spread illness and how it affects morale, productivity and take-home pay.

Today, 20 years later, I am still religious about getting my annual flu shot. In fact, today I am heading all the way across town to get a free one at my wife’s work.

Now, I’m not looking for a debate about immunizations (is the flu even part of that controversy?) I am talking about how the flu affects your company’s bottom line and how, if you are an hourly employee or a freelancer like me, the flu cuts directly into your income. So let’s take a look at Flu Season by the Numbers!

In General:

  • 5-20% of us will get the flu this year
  • 100 million days of bed disability
  • 22 million visits to healthcare providers
  • 200,000 hospitalizations
  • 3,000-49,000 will die, depending on a lot of factors

At Work:

  • 75 million days of work absences
  • 200 million days of diminished productivity
  • $6.2 billion in lost productivity
  • $10 billion in direct medical costs
  • $87 billion in “total estimated economic burden”

What Are We Doing About It?

  • 180 million flu shot doses are being distributed
  • 44% of adults get vaccinated
  • 60% of kids get vaccinated
  • 70% of employers offer flu vaccine programs
  • 15% of employees actually take advantage of these programs

How about you? Are you getting a shot this year? Have you done it in the past? Or do you think it’s a waste of time? (They do say that the shot is 50-60% effective. Is that good enough for you, or not?) Speaking just for myself, I usually think it’s worth the $20. And, as I said, this year is free so I am definitely taking advantage. Share your thoughts at the MindField Online Facebook page…and stay healthy this year!

Source, source, source, source

Top Halloween Costumes 2015

Your challenge is to do better than this. Shouldn't be hard.

True Halloween tale of terror: when I was five years old I wanted to be Archie (the kid from Riverdale, not Archie Bunker.) The costume came with a mask and a full-body suit of Archie clothes – a one piece thing consisting of a shirt and blue pants. Archie wore blue pants – very important. So, I got the costume several days early, and was told not to wear it because I would tear it up. Well, I wore it, and I tore the pants part. Furious, my mother cut off the pants and made me wear GREEN CORDUROYS! The only way to make an Archie costume even more lame is to wear it with green corduroys.

Anyway, don’t be that mom.

While there’s still time, you can take this festival of self-expression and dress your kid exactly like everyone else. And Today.com studied eBay, Pinterest and Polyvore to compile a huge list of 2015’s most popular costumes for grownups, kids, couple and groups. Here are a few examples…

Kids (eBay)

  1. Mario and Luigi
  2. Star Wars
  3. Batman
  4. Frozen
  5. Witch

Adults (eBay)

  1. Batman
  2. Frozen
  3. Alice in Wonderland
  4. Star Wars
  5. French Maid

Most searched on Polyvore

  1. Unicorn (nobody knows why)
  2. Evil Queen
  3. Harley Quinn
  4. Bad Sandy (from Grease)
  5. Poison Ivy

Top Pinterest ideas (for the DIY-ers)

  1. Shark
  2. Giraffe
  3. Bear
  4. Big Bad Wolf
  5. Flower

For couples (Pinterest)

  1. “Anchorman”: Ron Burgundy and Ms. Corningstone
  2. “Big Bang Theory”: Sheldon and Amy
  3. “Toy Story”: Buzz Lightyear and Jessie
  4. Fred and Wilma Flintstone
  5. The Most Interesting Man in the World and his favorite beer

Nostalgia Picks (Pinterest)

  1. PowerPuff Girls
  2. Mario Kart
  3. Green Army Men from “Toy Story”
  4. The Spice Girls
  5. “Rugrats”

So many choices. And these are just the top 5 from each category. You will find a ton more ideas at the original piece, so check it out! How about you? What’s your Halloween costume idea for 2015? Have you even thought about it? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend. Two weeks to Halloween!!!

With Money, Act Your Age

savepiggyIt’s no secret, we think of money differently at age 20 than we do at 40 or 60. Of course, at 20 we are bulletproof. Retirement is a million years away, and we will worry about it later. Of course, “later” always seems to come too soon. At 40, we wake up, and start to panic a little. At 60, well…

Anyway, before “later” catches you by surprise, here are some spending, saving and investing tips from money dude Dave Ramsey, in a piece entitled “Your Age, Your Money: How to Spend, Save and Invest Right Now.”  . These are tailored for folks at various ages. Here are the bullet points…

  • 20s — Build a Solid Foundation: Avoid debt when you can, and pay off those student loans!
  • 30s — Shift to a Family Focus: Start budgeting for the millions of things kids need. Start saving for a house. Buy life insurance, etc.
  • 40s — Shovel the Savings: That’s me, and boy, am I shoveling into the ol’ IRA! Maintain your home and avoid big repair bills (they will happen anyway!)
  • 50s — Look Forward But Stay Focused: Keep investing, at least 15%, in retirement. Pay off your mortgage.
  • 60+ — Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor: But buy long-term care insurance. A nursing home can wipe out your savings.

Are you a little freaked out by the whole spending/saving/investing thing? That’s natural, but there are steps to take, so be sure to read the original piece. Where are you on this timeline? Are you “keeping up?” Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Discovering Savings on Columbus Day

columbus dayBetween Labor Day and Black Friday, there’s an also-ran of a shopping holiday called Columbus Day. Lately, the actual holiday of Columbus Day has been quietly shoved aside, rightly or wrongly, so much so that I am unaware of it until I hear a commercial for “Toyota’s Columbus Day Clearance Sale!!!”

But please, no politics, just consumerism!

So, aside from radio ad hype, are there deals to be found on Columbus Day weekend? Or are you better off waiting for Black Friday?  The Answer is Yes. According to USNews.com:

  • Shoes and accessories are great buys. In fact, you might save 30 to 70% on wallets, purses, and totes, around 50% on shoes, according to DealNews.
  • Clothing will see discounts, but not the deepest. Maybe up to 40% now, 50% or better on Black Friday.
  • For HDTV sales, size matters. Don’t know what that headline means, but the point is that prices are basically what they will be for Black Friday, so go for it.
  • Gadget-seekers should practice patience. Better wait for Black Friday.
  • Big-ticket items are better buys later. Refrigerators, etc., just came out at Labor Day, so they’re still pretty new. Wait a bit.

Bottom line, if you are a gift shopper, and you feel the urge, you are probably going to head out this weekend to “discover” some savings! If you do, here is a really thorough list of what many of your favorite retailers have to offer this Columbus Day weekend, thanks to DealsPlus.com.

How about you? Will you wait until Black Friday, or are you heading out to shop this weekend? What kinds of deals are you hoping to snag? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!

McDonalds Breakfast All Day?

mcdonalds-Egg-McMuffinSo, today is the day: the day McDonalds begins serving breakfast all day. If you watch the foodie news (who doesn’t, right?) this started as a rumor many months ago, along the lines of “OMG you guys, have you heard?”

This was probably about the time Taco Bell started breakfast. Many people laughed about that, too, but breakfast has quickly jumped to 7% of Taco Bell’s business, and is wildly popular on the West Coast.

So, the answer to “Why is McDonalds breakfast all day considered news?” is that it’s BIG news to McDonalds and its shareholders. And it’s likely the first big news in a while that doesn’t have the franchisees and store managers tearing their hair out.

According to some, a few of Mickey D’s recent menu introductions are items that are hard to make, take time to make, cost too much, and they have to keep fully in stock – even though nobody orders them. Hint: if you see a commercial for some new item, and you say “that seems odd for McDonalds…” BINGO.

Breakfast is something they already do. People like it. It’s the only reason some people go there. So it makes sense that if I love a McMuffin, I might visit more often – even at 4:30pm!

So, how about you? Is this big news to you, or just a shrug? Is breakfast the only time you visit, and will this make you visit more? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page. Order up!

Financial Hurricane Preparedness

It seems lately that we have not had too much trouble with hurricanes on the East Coast. This new one, Hurricane Joaquin, is causing concern though. A whole bunch of people up and down the East Coast are expected to be affected in one way or another, even if Joaquin doesn’t make a significant landfall. It has been raining 3 solid days here in SC, and they say it will rain all weekend, maybe 10 inches or more!

So, preparation. Of course, you need to protect your family. But you have to protect your home and your stuff too. Sometimes, that means replacing your stuff if it gets ruined or blown away. And that can take time. To get your life and home back in order after a big event like this, it often helps to have certain things in order beforehand.

That’s the gist of a timely article on NBCNews.com: “Hurricane Joaquin: Get Your ‘Home Insurance Go Bag’ Ready.”  Here’s the opener: “Getting ready for Hurricane Joaquin isn’t just about tossing some water and flashlight batteries in a go-bag. With property damage possible, you also need check your insurance to safeguard your home and belongings.”

What kinds of insurance details should you have in order? Here are the bullet points…

  • Gather your documents:  Paper, digital and, these days, online also.
  • Know your coverage: Wind damage? Water leaks? Removing downed trees? Replacing furniture? Damaged cars?
  • Have contact numbers ready: Not just your folks or kids, but your insurance agent, as well.
  • Secure your home: Not just locking the doors, but bringing in the lawn furniture and trimming that tree branch before it crashes through your window.
  •  Know how the claims process works: If you can get an understanding of how settling a claim works, it can remove the headache later (but likely not.)
  • Other types of insurance: Are you traveling to the East Coast during a hurricane? Why? Anyway. Know your travel insurance!

As usual, LOTS more at the original piece, so check it out…please! Stay safe folks, and have a great weekend.