Home Improvements Projects

My husband and I just did our 2017 taxes, and it turns out we will be getting back some money from the Federal Government. As we’ve done in years past, we put some of that money into home improvements. This year, we’re going to do some work on the kitchen, replacing the flooring and installing new cabinets and countertops. At least that’s the plan right now!

Do you have any home improvement plans? If so, let me know!

Whether you use a tax refund or save up, many people see the benefit of putting money back into their homes. According to the Home Improvement Research institute, total home improvement products sales were expected to increase 4.9% in 2017 to $365 billion in total sales. In 2018, sales are expected to increase 4.8%, according to the Home Improvement Research institute.

According to hgtv.com, these are the top 15 home improvement projects:

1. Minor bathroom remodel (average return at resale: 102%)
2. Landscaping (average return at resale: 100%)
3. Minor kitchen remodel (average return at resale: 98.5%)
4. Exterior improvements (vinyl siding, paint, updated front entry; average return at resale: 95.5%)
5. Attic bedroom conversion (average return at resale: 93.5%)
6. Major bathroom remodel (average return at resale: 93.2%)
7. Major kitchen remodel (average return at resale: 91%)
8. Deck, patio or porch addition (average return at resale: 90.3%)
9. Basement remodel (average return at resale: 90.1%)
10. Replacement windows (average return at resale: 89.6%)
11. Family room addition (average return at resale: 83%)
12. Bonus room updates (average return at resale: 72.8%)
13. Living room updates – decor (average return at resale: 66%)
14. Bedroom updates (average return at resale: 52%)
15. Living room updates–walls and floors (average return at resale: 40%)

Note: Average return at resale rates vary by geographic location, and there may be other factors involved.

Here are some of the top home improvement projects for each state, according to Porch.com:

If you can’t see this map clearly, click on this link for a larger graphic: www.ncponline.com/wbcnt/NCPBlog/HomeImprovementStates.png

Are you doing your own home improvements? If so, then make sure to use the specific store name – for example, Ace Hardware, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Menards, Orchard Supply Hardware, True Value, etc. – when recording your purchases. If you don’t have the exact store name in your scanner or the NCPMobile App, just use the Home Improvement Stores store type.

Thanks, and let’s hope it’s a nice, warm weekend!

Have You Seen Any Good Movies Lately?

This Sunday night the Academy Awards will be presented. Although I know many blog readers don’t like to watch, being a big movie fan, I always enjoy watching the show.

Speaking of movies, I love going to a movie theater and really getting involved in the story. But who has the time and money to do that all the time? I know many people watch new movies on premium cable networks or streaming services like Netflix.

In terms of actually going to the movies, I read that U.S. movie admissions slid 6% last year to 1.24 billion for the lowest number since 1995. This is according to the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO).

Last year’s box office sales declined 2.55% to $11.09 billion, according to NATO.

Meanwhile, in 2017 the average ticket price jumped 3.7% from $8.65 to $8.97, with the fourth-quarter average soaring from $8.79 to $9.18.

Overall ticket sales peaked in 2002 with 1.57 billion, then declined to 1.52 billion in 2003 and 1.48 billion in 2004. Those are still the highest admissions years over the past three decades.

So, do you like to go to the movies, or do you prefer to watch them at home on either cable or a streaming service? Let me know!

Have a great weekend!

Time For Some Tips

First, I just want to mention that our redesigned panelist website recently debuted. I hope you’ve had a chance to check it out. Let us know what you think about it!

As you may know, the website contains an FAQ section, with details on how to deal with many different situations. While you’re on the website, make sure to check out that section, too!

Speaking of frequently asked questions, here are a few scanning tips that we want to make sure you know about:

  • Scan all types of purchases from all types of stores, including big and small shopping trips, purchases made by other household members, online purchases, etc.
  • If you purchase items using a special deal like a coupon, discount, or store sale, please let us know. Manufacturers and retailers really want to know what types of deals you’re using when you buy their products.
  • Refer to the Barcode Reference Booklet to record items that do not have a barcode, or when the scanner instructs you to go to the booklet. If you use the NCMobile App, be sure to refer to the Non-Barcoded Items list in the app.
  • Please make sure to enter accurate quantities, prices, store names, coupon information, etc. our clients rely on the data you provide, so accuracy is important!

If you have any helpful tips, or if there are any topics you’d like to see in the FAQs, please let us know by sending them to news@ncppanel.com.

Thank you, and have a great day!

Have you Been Watching The Olympics?

The 2018 Winter Olympic Games from Pyeongchang, South Korea, started last week. Have you watched any of the events?

There are always some really cool and popular events that I like to watch, like cross-country skiing, Alpine skiing, snowboarding, ski jumping, speed skating, figure skating, and ice hockey.

But then there’s also curling, luge, skeleton, bobsled, and snowmobiling, etc. – all events that I’m not very familiar with. But that’s the beauty of the Winter Games. You get the chance to see all these very different, and somewhat unusual (to me, at least), events.

So what’s your favorite event? Let me know!

According to Google, these are the most popular Winter Olympic sports in each state.

Presidents’ Day
I just want you to know that our Panel Support Center will be closed on Monday, February 19, for the holiday.

Have a great weekend!

Revealed: The Six Secret Symbols!

We hope you had fun finding the Secret Symbols in our recently concluded promotion. Thank you to all those who participated, or tried to participate.

Your objective was to go through past blogs and look for the six Secret Symbols – all winter-related graphics – and then record the exact title of each blog that contained one of the symbols.

From all of the correct entries, five winners were then selected in a random drawing. The following winners will each receive a $50 Amazon Gift Card claim code! (The winners have already been alerted via email.)

  • Michelle B. / mikib …
  • Cheryl O. / cee58 …
  • Rachel D. / kittyg …
  • Laura / laural …
  • Caitlin / caitlinf …

Note: For privacy, we only used the first few letters/characters of their email addresses.

If you weren’t able to find the six Secret Symbols, please see below:


What Are You Snacking On? (Posted on June 9, 2017)


Hot Cocoa

Kids And Cellphones (Posted on March 3, 2017)



Nothing But Treats (Posted on October 27, 2017)



A Brief History Of NCP (Posted on February 19, 2016)



Check Out Our Videos! (Posted on August 4, 2017)



How Your Data Helps Companies (Posted on July 14, 2016)


Again, we hope you enjoyed this promotion and thanks for participating. Look for more fun stuff in the future!

Have a great weekend!

Super (Bowl) Snacks

It’s finally here! The Super Bowl will be played this Sunday, February 4. Last week’s blog included a survey that asked “Which of the following foods do you like to eat while watching the Super Bowl?”

As of January 31, the top responses were as follows:

  1. Dips (onion, vegetable, etc.)
  2. Chicken wings
  3. Potato chips
  4. Vegetable tray
  5. Cheese and crackers / Tortilla chips and salsa / Nachos

How does that compare with favorite Super Bowl snacks in each individual state?

Well, in the NCP Blog we provide all the best data! Here are the favorite Super Bowl snacks, according to General Mills and Google. Just scroll and look for your state!

General Mills Google
Alabama Mississippi Roast Chicken Recipe
Alaska Potato Salad Dill Pickle Dip With Dried Beef
Arizona Chili Green Chicken Enchilada Recipe
Arkansas Queso Cheese Dip Five Bean Chili
California Chicken Wings Fried Rice Recipe
Colorado Taco Pie Baked Chicken Wings Recipe
Connecticut Slow Cooker Chicken Wings Buffalo Chicken Dip Recipe
Delaware Butter Cake Bars Stuffed Peppers Recipe
Florida Sausage Cheese Balls Shrimp Recipe
Georgia Sliders Ham Bologna Turkey Sub Recipe
Hawaii Crescent Sloppy Joes Nacho Recipe
Idaho Little Smokies Potato Recipe
Illinois Chex Mix Philly Cheesesteak Recipe
Indiana Root Beer Chicken Chicken Recipe
Iowa Pigs In A Blanket Stromboli Recipe
Kansas Dill Pickle Soup Calzone Recipe
Kentucky Buffalo Chicken Casserole Fondue Recipe
Louisiana Crab au Gratin Pork Tenderloin Recipe
Maine Clam Dip Chicken Wing Recipe
Maryland Pizza Sticks Crab Dip Recipe
Massachusetts Buffalo Chicken Dip Chili Recipe
Michigan Potato Soup Chili Recipe
Minnesota Tater Tot Casserole/Hot Dish Chili Recipe
Mississippi Beef Stew Green Beans With Beef Broth Recipe
General Mills Google
Missouri Hamburgers Chili Recipe
Montana Buffalo Chicken Dip Bacon Shrimp Recipe
Nebraska Hot Wings Cream Cheese Jalapeno Hamburger Recipe
Nevada Sausage Cheese Balls Potato Recipe
New Hampshire Chili Chicken Wing Recipe
New Jersey Chili Buffalo Chicken Dip Recipe
New Mexico Seven Layer Taco Dip Ranch Spinach Dip Recipe
New York Buffalo Chicken Wings Chili Recipe
North Carolina Sausage Cheese Balls Jalapeno Poppers Recipe
North Dakota Bacon-Wrapped Smokies Pizza Sauce Recipe
Ohio White Chicken Chili Philly Cheesesteak Recipe
Oklahoma Stuffed Mushrooms French Onion Cream Dip Recipe
Oregon Taco Soup Clam Chowder Recipe
Pennsylvania Potato Soup Chili Recipe
Rhode Island Chili Baked Ziti Recipe
South Carolina Cowboy Caviar Crab Dip Recipe
South Dakota Hummus Marinara Sauce Recipe
Tennessee Skillet Dips Jalapeno Poppers Recipe
Texas Sausage Cheese Balls Chili Recipe
Utah Pulled Pork Jalapeno Poppers Recipe
Vermont Bruschetta Chicken Breast Tender Recipe
Virginia Deviled Eggs Buffalo Chicken Dip Recipe
Washington Jalapeno Popper Dip Jalapeno Poppers Recipe
West Virginia Sliders Pork Carnitas Tacos Recipe
Wisconsin Pinwheels Chili Recipe
Wyoming Sliders Ground Beef Recipe

Note: A research team at General Mills compiled recipe search data from sites like BettyCrocker.com, Pillsbury.com, and Tablespoon.com. Specifically, they looked into both the most popular and unique search trends by state.

According to Google, the company looked for searches that are over-represented in each state (as opposed to the U.S. overall). It then reported each state’s most popular unique search term.

Secret Symbols Sweepstakes Information
The Sweepstakes has just ended; give us a few days to go through all the entries and to select the winners. Come back next week and we’ll let you know where to find the secret symbols. (The five winners will be contacted via email within the next few weeks.)

Have a great weekend, and enjoy the Super Bowl!

Super Bowl Snack Survey / Secret Symbols Sweepstakes

It’s almost Super Bowl time! I have to be honest, I’m in the “anyone but New England camp” (especially because, I’m sad to admit, I’m a New York Jets fan.)

Right now, the Patriots are favored to win, but you certainly can’t count out the Philadelphia Eagles.

One thing you can count on is that millions of people will watch the game, and those people will be doing a lot of snacking! So if you watch the Super Bowl, tell us some of your favorite foods to eat during the game by taking our Super Bowl Survey:

Also, do you have any good snack recipes? If you’d like to share, send them to news@ncppanel.com and we’ll post them here next week.

Secret Symbols Sweepstakes … There’s Still Time To Enter!
Don’t forget, you have a few more days left to participate in the Secret Symbols Sweepstakes. (The contest ends on Wednesday, January 31.)

Your objective is to go through past blogs and look for the six Secret Symbols. (These are small graphics that are all winter related.)

When you find them, go here:


and post the exact titles of the blogs where you found each of the six symbols.

From all of the correct entries, five winners will then be selected in a random drawing. Each winner will receive a $50 Amazon Gift Card claim code!

For more details, check out last week’s blog.

Have a great week!

Welcome to the Secret Symbols Sweepstakes!

If you’ve read some of my past blogs, you know I’m not a fan of the cold weather! So, to help me – and hopefully you – get through these cold, dark days, we thought we’d run a new sweepstakes. This one is called the Secret Symbol Sweepstakes (it’s similar to the Mystery Phrase Sweepstakes we ran in June 2017).

Your objective is to go through past blogs and look for the six Secret Symbols. (These are all small graphics that are winter related.) Once you find these graphics, go to the link below, follow the instructions, and post the exact titles of the blogs where you found each of the six symbols.

Other important information:

  • To be eligible, you must provide the exact title of the blog posting; for example, Tips For Recording Your Holiday Shopping Trips, which was posted on December 7, 2017.
  • Speaking of tips, here’s one: Copy and paste the exact title into the response field.
  • From all of the correct entries, five winners will then be selected in a random drawing. Each winner will receive a $50 Amazon Gift Card claim code!
  • The contest ends on Wednesday, January 31.

Go here to post your responses: www.surveymonkey.com/r/SecretSymbols

Please check out the rules: www.ncponline.com/wbcnt/NCPBlog/SecretSymbolsSweepstakesRules.pdf

If you have any questions, please contact us at news@ncppanel.com with the subject line, Secret Symbols Sweeps.

Good luck!

Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards (“GCs”) cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.

Dealing With Winter

I’m not one who likes to go out in the cold weather. And it seems like a lot of NCP panelists agree: Last week’s Instant Poll on the NCP panelist website asked, “What is your favorite winter activity?”

Well, the responses were very interesting …

  • Hiking/walking: 14%
  • Sledding/Ice Skating: 5%
  • Skiing/snowboarding: 3%
  • Hibernating: 78%

Count me in with the hibernating people!

(Note: Make sure to check out the weekly Instant Poll on the NCP website, if you haven’t already done so.)

But there are some fun things you can do that might help you enjoy the season, other than the ones mentioned in the Instant Poll above.

Here are some other options, according to realsimple.com:

  • Have a snowball fight
  • Build a snowman
  • Make a snow angel
  • Build a snow fort
  • Reread a favorite book
  • Bake cookies and share them with friends
  • Make a big batch of chili
  • Kick back in an outdoor hot tub
  • Cozy up in front of a roaring fire and watch the flames
  • Take a long bubble bath
  • Complete a jigsaw puzzle

What winter activities do you like to do? Tell us all about them.

As for me, I’m just going to keep busy and try to stay warm. Just think: 66 days until spring!

PSC Closed For Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Our Panel Support Center will be closed Monday, January 15, in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The PSC will reopen on Tuesday at 9 a.m. ET.

Have a great weekend everybody!

Turn Up The Heat!

Happy New Year every one! I hope you have health and happiness in the New Year.

I can’t believe how cold it’s been throughout the country. When will it warm up?

I usually do the bulk of my grocery shopping on Saturday. I don’t know about you, but I’m not looking forward to going out in the cold – just the thought of loading (and unloading) the car while braving the record low temps is not very inviting to me.

So allow me to fantasize a bit … ah, I’m dreaming of a nice, warm place to go for a few weeks.

I’d love to go to Hawaii one day. That’s been our dream vacation for years and years. What’s your dream vacation? Tell me all about it!

According to a survey from travel site TripAdvisor.com, these are the top 10 biggest dream trips:

  1. See the Northern Lights in Iceland
  2. Sleep in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora
  3. Admire the sunset over Santorini (an Island in Greece)
  4. Take the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
  5. Explore the Galapagos Islands
  6. Visit Italy’s Amalfi Coast
  7. Photograph the Big Five on safari at Kruger National Park, South Africa
  8. Take the ultimate road trip on Route 66
  9. Set foot on Antarctica
  10. Ride the Trans-Siberian railway

I don’t know about going to Antarctica right now, but Bora Bora sounds pretty good!

Happy Anniversary To NCP
This week marks the 8th anniversary of when the National Consumer Panel was formed. So, happy anniversary to us!

I hope you have a great weekend, and stay warm!