Redeeming Gift Cards

I received a number of gift cards for the holidays, and I finally got around to start using some of them. Ah, that spa day was great! (Thanks to my husband for giving me such a thoughtful gift!)

I also received some gift cards for stores that I really don’t go to often, which I’ll discuss a little later.

I know most people get or receive gift cards, so I was curious to see if there was any information on how many people actually use them. I found some fascinating information from giftcards.com:

  • Over $100 billion is spent on gift cards annually
  • 93% of U.S. consumers purchase or receive a gift card annually
  • Consumers spend an average of $213 per year on gift cards
  • 72% of customers will spend more than the value of their card
  • On average, the recipient will spend 20% more than their gift card value
  • 90% of gift cards are used within the first 60 days

When it comes to unused gift cards, roughly $1 billion went unspent last year, according to marketwatch.com. That’s a lot of money!

According to usatoday.com, there are some things you can do with your unwanted gift cards:

  • Regift it: Give the card to a family member or friend who could use it
  • Sell it: There are many websites that will buy your unwanted gift cards. Just search “sell gift cards”
  • Donate it: Give the gift card to a religious organization, food bank or school, or search for “donate gift cards”

I thought donating gift cards was a good idea, so I’m going to donate a few that I know I won’t use.

Did you receive or buy gift cards? What do you do with the ones you may not want? Let me know!

Thanks, and have a great day!

Valentine’s Day is Coming!

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and as you may know, it’s one of my favorite holidays! My husband and I are planning to go out to dinner, and as you can see from the data below, quite a few other people are also going out.

As you know, a lot of money is spent on Valentine’s Day gifts. According to the National Retail Federation, U.S. consumers are expected to spend an average $136.57, down from last year’s record-high $146.84. Total spending is expected to reach $18.2 billion, down from $19.7 billion last year, which was also a record. (These sales figures include purchases for significant others as well as friends, family members, and even pets.)

According to the NRF, these are the top purchases that people will make for Valentine’s Day:

  • Candy (50% are planning to purchase; spending expected to be $1.7 billion)
  • Greeting cards (47% percent; $1 billion)
  • An evening out (37% percent; $3.8 billion)
  • Flowers (35% percent; $2 billion)
  • Jewelry (19% percent of shoppers; $4.3 billion)
  • Clothing (19% percent; $1.9 billion)
  • Gift cards/gift certificates (16% percent; $1.4 billion)

Here’s another interesting statistic I found (on statisticbrain.com): 53% of women surveyed said they would end their relationship if they didn’t get something for Valentine’s Day. Hmm, I’m not sure what to make of that!

I wish you all a very happy Valentine’s Day, and remember if you buy flowers, candy, or clothing, you can record these purchases, even if they don’t have a barcode. If you have a scanner, use the Barcode Reference Booklet. If you use the NCPMobile App, use the onboard Non-Barcoded Items Listing.

Have a great day!

The Big Game Is Here

As you probably know, it’s almost Super Bowl Sunday. It’ll be the New England Patriots against the Atlanta Falcons. Who do you think will win? Take our poll (below) and let us know! (Personally, I’d like to see Atlanta win.)

We of course have some interesting stats about the Super Bowl! According to The Nielsen Company, last year’s Super Bowl was watched by 111.9 million viewers. (For the past three years, women have made up 47% of the TV viewing audience.)

What would watching the Super Bowl be without some good eats? In the two weeks leading up to last year’s Super Bowl, according to Nielsen, Americans spent …

Fresh Food

  • $82 million on chicken wings
  • $80 million on deli salads
  • $58 million on deli sandwiches
  • $23 million on deli platters
  • $13 million on vegetable trays
  • $10 million on deli dips

Salty Snacks (packaged goods)

  • $277 million on potato chips
  • $225 million on tortilla chips
  • $99 million on meat snacks
  • $89 million on pop corn
  • $71 million on cheese snacks
  • $42 million on salty snack dips

Beverage alcohol

  • $1.2 billion on beer, flavored malt beverage and cider
  • $594 million on wine
  • $503 million on spirits (whiskey, vodka, run, tequila, gin)

Finally, here’s some interesting Nielsen info about the areas represented by the Falcons and Patriots:

  • Adults age 25-54 in Atlanta watch an average of four hours and five minutes of live TV
  • While Bostonians watch an average of three hours and eight minutes

Are you having people over to watch the game (or at least the commercials?) If so, don’t forget to record everything you buy, because our panel members’ food preferences were reflected in the statistics above.

Have a great Super Bowl Sunday!

Keeping Your Resolutions

It’s hard to believe, but January is almost over!

If you remember, I wrote about resolutions a few weeks ago. My top resolutions were to lose a few pounds, get more sleep, and be less stressed.

We also asked you to take our poll and let us know what you would like to work on or change this year.

The results were very interesting. Here are the top six results:

  • Lose weight: 50.6%
  • Enjoy life more: 49.4%
  • Stay fit and healthy: 48.3%
  • Spend more time with family and friends: 43.7%
  • Get organized: 43.7%
  • Be less stressed: 42.5%

Now I certainly know how difficult it is to stick to a resolution. To be honest, I’m having trouble with all of my resolutions!

Statistics show that many people have trouble sticking with their resolutions. According to a University of Scranton study, 75% of resolutions will be continued through the entire first week of January, but only 46% make it past six months.

The study also stated that 39% of people in their twenties will achieve their resolution each year, while only 14% of people over 50 years of age will achieve theirs.

What can you do to stick to your resolutions? According to lifehack.org, here are some tips:

  • Just pick one thing: You can’t change everything right away. So pick one area of your life to change to begin with. And make it realistic. (This was my big mistake. So now I’m just focusing on losing some weight.) You can’t run a marathon if you’ve never even run down the block.
  • Plan ahead: Do you research so you know what you need to do to achieve your goal. (This was another thing I failed to do. My goal was to lose a few pounds, but I didn’t figure out how I was going to do it.)
  • Anticipate problems and setbacks: Make a list of anticipated problems, and think about what you can do to overcome them.
  • Accept failure: If you don’t do what you wanted to on a given day, don’t give up. Just figure out what happened so that you can try again the next day.
  • Plan rewards: Small rewards are great encouragement to keep you going. Think about what incentive will get – and keep – you going.

So, if you’re having trouble with your own resolution, DON’T GIVE UP!

Have a great day!

Beat The Winter Blues

During most winters I tend to hibernate. It’s so dark and cold (at least where I live) in the mornings that it’s hard to get out of bed. And when I get out of work, the sun is already down, so it’s dark and dreary … I just can’t wait to get home and snuggle up at night. But that only leads me to get the “Winter Blues. “

So I wondered what can be done to beat those blues. Here are some tips, according to realsimple.com:

  • Make your environment brighter. Open up the blinds and sit as close as you can to window!
  • Eat smarter. Certain foods can help to enhance your mood and relieve anxiety. Thankfully, chocolate is one of those foods! Just don’t overdo it.
  • Simulate dawn. Studies show that a dawn simulator, a device that causes the lights in your bedroom to gradually brighten over a set period of time, can serve as an antidepressant and make it easier to get out of bed, according to realsimple.com.
  • Exercise.  No matter what you do, it’s always a good thing.
  • Crank up the tunes. Researchers showed that listening to upbeat music significantly improved a person’s mood.
  • Plan a vacation. Just the mere act of planning a getaway can make you feel better. I know it works for me!
  • Help others. Volunteering your time can improve mental health and life satisfaction.
  • Get outside. Spending time outside during daylight hours (even when it’s cold) can improve focus and lower stress levels.

I hope these tips help you. I know they’re helping me!

Have a great day!

Friday The 13th And MLK Day

Two interesting and vastly different days are on the calendar.

Today is Friday the 13th, considered by many to be a very unlucky day. According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, NC, an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the U.S. are affected by a fear of this day, making it the most feared day and date on the calendar.

I, for one, don’t have any issues with this day, but I do have a friend who refuses to leave her house all day. So I do want to wish you all a safe and pleasant day, just in case …

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, marking the birthday of the man who was a leading civil rights advocate. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King’s birthday, January 15.

The idea to recognize his birthday as a federal holiday began soon after King’s assassination in 1968. President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed three years later.

As with many other people, I have the day off. So my family and I will be doing some relaxing.

PSC Closed On Monday
Speaking of having the day off, I just wanted you to know that the Panel Support Center will be closed on Monday.

I hope you have a nice weekend.

Happy New Year!

I want to wish everyone a very happy and healthy new year! As you know, New Year’s is a time when many people make resolutions. (By the way, this year I want to lose a few pounds, get more sleep, and be less stressed!!!)

In fact, according to statisticsbrain.com,

  • 41% of Americans usually make New Year’s Resolutions
  • 17% of Americans infrequently make New Year’s Resolutions
  • 42% of Americans absolutely never make New Year’s Resolutions

So even if you typically don’t make a New Year’s resolution, what would you like to work on/change? Let us know by taking the poll below!

Happy Anniversary To NCP!
This month is also the anniversary of when the National Consumer Panel was formed. So, happy 7th anniversary NCP!

I hope you have a great day.

Holiday Movies, Christmas Trees, And More!

Boy, it’s cold outside! At least in this part of the country. No matter what holiday you celebrate this time of year, who doesn’t enjoy snuggling up on the couch and watching a good holiday movie?

My favorite has always been “It’s a Wonderful Life.” But there are many other great holiday-themed movies; here is list of some of them:

  • A Christmas Carol/Scrooge/Scrooged
  • A Christmas Story
  • Elf
  • Holiday Inn
  • Home Alone
  • How The Grinch Stole Christmas
  • Jingle All The Way
  • March of the Wooden Soldiers
  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • The Polar Express
  • The Santa Clause
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • White Christmas

What’s your favorite holiday movie(s)? Let me know (send your comments to info@ncppanel.com or leave a reply on this page).

Christmas Trees
For those who take part in Christmas celebrations, nearly 100 million households across the U.S. will display a Christmas tree, according to the sixth annual Christmas tree survey from the American Christmas Tree Association, conducted by Nielsen.

Of those Christmas trees displayed, 81 percent will be artificial trees and 19 percent will be real trees.

The survey also indicated that the number of years consumers will reuse their artificial trees has increased.

PSC Closings
I just wanted you to know that the Panel Support Center will be closing at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, Dec. 24, and will be closed on Monday, Dec. 26.

Also, the PSC will be closed on Monday, Jan. 2. 2017. It seems so weird to write 2017!

On behalf of everyone here at NCP, I just want to wish you all a very happy holiday! See you in 2017!

Holiday Shopping

I don’t know about you, but I’m deep into my holiday shopping! The malls are always crazy, so I thought I’d do more cyber shopping this year. Obviously, a lot of other people had the same idea.

According to published reports, Cyber Monday 2016 was the largest e-commerce day in history, as consumers spent $3.45 billion online. That’s a 12.1% increase over Cyber Monday 2015.

Shoppers have gone mobile! According to Adobe Digital Insights, mobile sales on Cyber Monday totaled $1.07 billion, which was a 34% increase over the previous year. In fact, sales on mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, were 31% of total online sales for the day!

How are you doing with your holiday shopping? Let me know (send your comments to info@ncppanel.com or leave a reply on this page).

Have a happy holiday shopping day!

Holiday Party Time!

Tonight is NCP’s holiday party, so I just wanted you to know that the Panel Support Center will be closing at 4 p.m. ET. We’ll be back tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. ET to help you with anything you need.

If your company is having a holiday party anytime soon, let me know all about it. I’m sure all our readers would love to hear what goes on!

Also, please remember to record all of your holiday purchases. Everything counts, no matter how big or how small!

Thanks, and have a great day.