Source: Money Tips from Food For The Soul
Contributed by Natalia T.
I’ve tried many ways to stay on budget but they never seemed to work for me. I put money in separate envelopes, but then I had to run to the bank to redeposit the money before paying bills. This led to overdraft fines. I tried keeping track of my expenses on a note pad but I would leave the notepad behind in the store. I had to figure out a way to keep on track on my own. Here’s how I did it.
Step 1. I decided to open a new checking account just for fixed bills and groceries. There are monthly fees in having a checking account so be sure to calculate for this or keep the minimum balance to avoid the fees. I opted to keep the amount needed to avoid the checking fees. (I did this to avoid using my savings account for emergencies.)
Step 2. I went over my bills, changed any variable bills like my electricity bill to charge me an average instead of a fluctuating amount. I calculated how much I spend on average on groceries and kept the total in my wallet. By creating a menu plan, that includes all meals and snacks, I purchase all the food I need for the week and do not spend over that amount.
Step 3. I totaled everything up and added a ‘social fun’ amount that is for going out and treating myself. I have my paycheck automatically deposited into my new checking account and anything over my budget goes directly into savings. Each week I take out my ‘social fun’ amount and put it in my wallet.
Now, I do not have to think at all about if I am going over budget or if I will have enough for savings. I am less stressed and have gotten rid of my fear of money.
How do you keep on track? We invite you to share your ideas in the comment box below.
Source: Culture Views from Food For The Soul
I, along with tens of thousands, saw The Hunger Games on opening weekend and, according to Entertainment Weekly’s Inside Movies box office update, the opening day box office for the film was the best for a non-sequel. Hoping to avoid the seemingly inevitable throngs that would be lined up to see this movie that’s all the rave and taking the nation by storm, a friend and I made a plan to see the earliest Saturday morning showing at a nearby ‘hundredplex.’
For the most part, I’m not the kind of girl who likes the idea of queuing up to see anything … at least not since I lined up outside Radio City to attend that Jackson Five concert in the 80’s or that Christmas Day (in the 1990’s) when I stood in the cold to be among the first to see Godfather Part III or … OK, I’m no longer that girl except when I am. Anyway, I digress. My friend and I joined a modest line-up of eager fans and saw the 9 AM showing of The Hunger Games on opening weekend which, I suppose, makes me part of the latest movie phenomenon.
Honestly, I had not heard about The Hunger Games until last year when a guest chef contributed a Culture Casserole to The Daily Special feature. Even then, all I knew was the name and that it was a book. So, my decision to go was based on 1) walking past a Barnes & Noble bookstore and seeing a throng of kids and adults, patiently waiting to purchase the book and get it signed, and 2) the spirit of adventure, curiosity and discovery that I possess.
So, there we were, watching The Hunger Games in IMAX, not knowing exactly what to expect and going along for the ride. While I watched I found myself intrigued by many aspects of the production as well as the plot.
From a production standpoint, the film-making is grand, sweeping, worthy of an IMAX experience. In this day and age when movie goers are balking at high ticket prices ($18 per ticket for IMAX in New York City!) and opting for the small screen to watch movies, (or converting a living room wall into one’s own personal drive-in with the use of a movie projection system and watching movies streamed from NetFlix or DVDs borrowed from the library like a friend did recently), it is no easy feat to get fannies into the seats when there are so many options available to a technologically savvy population. Mission accomplished on the part of the producers of The Hunger Games–it is definitely the kind of movie that truly benefits from the big screen experience–it is a visual smorgasbord of delight. And, at the before-Noon ticket price of $11 (full price for IMAX IS $18!) offered by the AMC Theatres in my city, it was a steal!
In terms of the plot, there were many themes that speak to where we are in life and who we need to be in the face of life’s circumstances.
At the macro level, there is the historically significant theme of children being called upon to bear the brunt of responsibility for past conflicts of adults; this is clearly reminiscent of the way armies press young people into duty (some are driven by patriotism, others looking to escape poverty) to fight the wars the adults have wrought. Then there was the very topical theme of the 1% being supported and entertained by the 99% whose main focus in life is on survival. Further, the disposability of young people by a satisfied, even decadent elite class whose concerns go to simple pleasures like having dessert or making light of matters of life and death might be viewed as indicative of the way many in our society are lacking in compassion for others. Witness the youthful ‘prank’ played by the Rutger’s student on his roommate who felt it was harmless to film his roommate having sex with his partner and acceptable to invite his friends and tweeps at a designated time to the viewing of this personal act between friends. It was only because the young man, whose privacy was violated, committed suicide that this blatant disregard, even trivializing of such an action, was brought to light. The fact that there was such blatant disregard for the privacy of another, might be viewed as indicative of how we as a society have become so insensitive to the needs and boundaries of others.
At the micro level, we see the main protagonist, Katniss, playing the role of hunter-gatherer for her family, expressing strength by volunteering (and in all probability sacrificing her life) to protect her sister and reflecting classic role reversal when she as the child feels the need (based on past experience) to demand that her mother stay responsible and take care of the home and her sister while Katniss participates in the 74th Annual Hunger Games. This theme in particular resonates with me and many of my friends of a certain age who are being called upon to provide support to elderly parents, support that is often financial or physical or emotional, or all three.
With all that said, The Hunger Games is a riveting film and a worthy view. And, at the end of the film, when the stage is set for the sequel, I realize I’m vested in what’s to come and, while I might or might not read the books, I will see the next theatrical installment.
In this time of near double-digit unemployment, rampant underemployment, sky-rocketing home foreclosures and other adverse economic factors, the emergence of the tightfisted consumer was totally predictable. What was spawned from necessity does not appear to be a short-term strategy. Rather, it is becoming a way of life for a majority of Americans.
Harris Interactive reports that American consumers continue to hold the line on spending, with 63% purchasing more generic (private label) branded products. This behavior is consistent across generations.
A recent study from Decitica, “Marketing to the Post-Recession Consumers” posits that consumer spending patterns have been profoundly altered by the current recession and we are now entering a period of “new normal.” Decitica has identified four distinct consumer segments – Steadfast Frugalists, Involuntary Penny-Pinchers, Pragmatic Spenders, and Apathetic Materialists.
While consumers’ commitment and focus on finding the lowest prices vary, it’s clear that price-related value is no longer a competitive advantage. Rather, it has become an expected attribute for many purchasers.
The traditional retail “fix” of offering discounts is no longer (or is fast becoming) like email SPAM. In other words, buyers are applying their own mental filters to these offers, going for the lowest price point across many product categories. But, this approach has resulted in store brands in some categories becoming category leaders – suggesting that lower pricing as a strategy is a form of value that brand marketers cannot sustain.
Given these conditions, it is clear that the days of price discounts as the sole expression of value are over.
As consumers navigate the new economic world order, more than ever, they want to feel they are getting the best value for their money. Marketers will need to be more inventive in their offers and create products as well as marketing messaging that imbue brands with discernible value. So the question is this:
In what ways might marketers re-create brand value in today’s environment?
It begins with looking at value through an entirely new lens.
A New View of Value
In recent years, companies have begun to enhance brand value with what might be described as product-driven, functional value strategies.
Some brands, many in the Procter & Gamble stable, are combining well-recognized attributes of premium brands such as Dawn Hand Renewal with Olay Beauty, Mr. Clean with Febreze Freshness, Tide with a Touch of Downy to offer consumers an assurance of product performance and desirable attributes. This brand-combining strategy has enabled P&G to maintain its premium priced edge.
In the current new campaign for 1800 Tequila, the commercial’s protagonist points to the functionality of the cap as a point-of-difference with Patron.
Clearly, if there are product elements that can be leveraged as these examples demonstrate, marketers should naturally capitalize on these product advantages. But, there is also a consumer-driven factor that is likely to strengthen this trend towards a new value paradigm and we believe this is an attitude of responsibility. Specifically, people are becoming more responsible when it comes to the ‘stuff’ they acquire.
When you layer on facts like declining disposable income or postponing retirement out of financial necessity, it is inevitable that the purchase decision process will be more conscious, even introspective as buyers weigh their choices. And, the factors weighed are likely to reflect factors that might not have considered in the past. With these shifting attitudes, we believe there are new value areas to be mined—areas that people will resonate to more deeply—a higher order level of value.
As we look to redefine value in this new era, it is important to look at areas that are likely to have an enduring impact on consumers’ purchase decision process. We believe these reflect what used to be incidental benefits but now are more at the forefront that ever before. By tapping into these avenues of opportunity, brand perceptions will be enhanced and companies will have a chance to make a new impression in the marketplace.
In subsequent posts, we will feature the New Value opportunities. Stay tuned to our first discussion – the Green Value opportunity.
As far as I knew, going green used to be linked solely to the environment and energy conservation. An Inconvenient Truth did much to universalize awareness of this issue and personally, I do my best to be mindful, though I was recently reminded that I could do better.
The green movement has become all-inclusive, spreading to all areas of life such as: our homes, our food, our clothes, how we clean, and so on. In fact, if marketers ever wondered whether consumers would embrace green marketing, research suggests a resounding yes!
Recently I noticed the term going green being applied to a aspect of food marketing I have a lot of heart for—removing questionable ingredients from every day foods. The ingredients I am referring to are two of the most ubiquitous—high fructose corn sugar and hydrogenated oils.
Making the connection between going green and wellness is something I am totally in favor of as it will no doubt improve our quality of life exponentially. Any efforts to get rid of these culprits in the pursuit of health & wellness will make a huge difference in the quality of life. According to Phil Lempert, The Supermarket Guru®, some of the products that are going this kind of green include ketchup, soda, snacks.
Good riddance I say!
This news got me thinking about a time not so long ago, the time of free, when diet foods—fat free, sugar free, lite, low—were all the rage. We welcomed the chance to have more of the foods we loved more often and feel we were doing something good for our bodies in the process. Then came some controversial facts about free. Here’s how Wikipedia talks about this dispute:
In many low-fat and fat-free foods the fat is replaced with sugar, flour, or other full-calorie ingredients, and the reduction in caloric value is small, if any. Furthermore, excess, digestible sugar, as well as an excess of any macronutrient, can be stored as fat.
As a consumer advocate, it is my wish that companies go green responsibly—not simply to make a buck, but to reflect a new value to consumers—where the health & wellness of consumers is at the heart of the decision to bring green products to market. Only time will tell!
Most people spend some part of their adulthood as singles – as young adults bounding out of their parents’ homes or through circumstances, as divorced people or as widows and widowers. Historically, being single was short-lived, but things are changing.
The US Census reports that over the past 25 years, the median age for first marriage has increased nearly 4 years for men to 27.1 and 5 years for women to 25.8. Single-person households grew from 17% to 28% over the same time period. And a small (9.2 million adults), but growing group is not marrying at all.
Whether people are staying single longer or not marrying at all, dynamics leading to the growth of the single segment may include:
- Greater economic achievement by women has freed them from needing to marry for financial stability
- De-stigmatization of single parenthood, in fact 11.6 million single adults have children living with them (either through divorce or because they have chosen to have and raise children on their own)
- Increasing acceptance of homosexuality has freed many gays from sham marriages
- Marriage or partnering is not viewed as the only lifestyle option when you have reached a “certain” age
With these factors at play, how singles are currently marketed to (looking to be paired up) or not marketed to (mostly absent from marketing/communications efforts) needs to be reconsidered. The group of singles we are spotlighting here might be a minority now but they represent an untapped consumer segment that could be a new source of opportunity for marketers of a wide range of products and services.
Dove, Volkswagen and Ikea (to name a few) demonstrate the value of intelligent engagement with newly uncovered consumer segments. Dove celebrated the diversity of women by featuring “real women” in their successful Campaign for Real Beauty**. Volkswagen and Ikea effectively reached gay/lesbian sensibilities with smart marketing.
New Singles Defined
For New Singles, singlehood is not a stop on the way to coupledom and/or wedded bliss, but rather a choice. It may or may not have been planned at the outset of adulthood, but over time, single is now their chosen state of being. Being single for this segment is a lifestyle, not merely a lifestage.
While there are some people who have not necessarily chosen to be single, as noted in a highly touted September 2006 New York Times article highlighting the dilemma of middle-aged male high school graduates who are still seeking suitable life partners, others truly are “Single by Choice.”
In 1999, magazine publisher Sasha Cagen came up with the term “quirkyalone” on a Brooklyn subway platform on New Year’s. Quirkyalone is a mindset, a movement which has grown into an international community and speaks to singledom as a celebrated option that is the equal of coupledom rather than solely something people back into.
She later expanded on this concept in an essay in the first issue of her magazine To-Do List which was republished in the Utne Reader in 2000. Cagen was surprised by the fervor of responses from readers who felt their lives had been validated by her work. As a result of these responses, Cagen opted to expand her essay into a 2004 book, titled Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics.
In 2006, social psychologist Bella DePaulo (PhD, Harvard) published Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After . Using social science data Dr. DePaulo challenged the stereotypes of people who are single. In addition to offering seminars and workshops on the science of singlehood, Dr. DePaulo’s writings have appeared in professional journals and other publications. Her latest book, Single with Attitude (2009), is a compilation of essays that originally appeared in Living Single, Dr. DePaulo’s popular blog for Psychology Today and other writings which were first published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Forbes.com, the Huffington Post, and the New York Times.
New Singles have even made its way into popular culture, reflecting the new reality of this segment. According to the Urban Dictionary, Single by Choice is a person who does not wish to be in a relationship. They value their independence and do not feel they need to have a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife to gain validation. People who are single by choice may go out or date casually, but do not choose to be in a long term committed relationship.
In recent years, the blogosphere has become populated with optimistic and expansive perspectives on singles including Living Single, Singles by Choice, Singletude, MySingleSpace, to name a few. And then there’s National Singles Week (also known as Unmarried and Single Americans Week) which was just celebrated (September 20-26).
As with any other marketing niche, there might be targeted efforts to reach them, but, how they are portrayed, addressed and communicated to, are the most important elements to for an effective campaign. To win with New Singles, here are some keys to bear in mind:
Messaging Key: It is not enough to include single people in advertising. Messaging and tonality needs to be uplifting, welcoming, even celebratory – remember New Singles enjoy rich, fulfilling lives. They are at ease with their status and do not consider being single as an affliction.
Image Key: It goes without saying, stay away from stereotypes. New Singles are diverse. They come in a range of demographic and socioeconomic flavors. They don’t exist in a vacuum, they have family and friends. New Singles live in urban centers and in the suburbs. You get the picture.
Product Key: New Singles are consumers of as vast an array of activities, products and services as the larger population, not just dating services or singles cruises. They have homes and apartments that need furnishing, upgrading or repairing. New Singles take vacations and dine out but only couples/families are promoted to. They appreciate fine wines and champagne but half-bottles available on-premise are rarely found at retail. New Singles need insurance to provide for themselves now and in the future, but families are the focus for most insurance products. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Value Key: Clearly, having a better understanding of this segment is important to convey relevant New Singles values. So remember to include this consumer mindset in the research process whether the focus is on new product development, branding or other marketing efforts.
Whether promoting restaurants, hotels, cruises, vacation destinations, insurance products, home furnishings or alcohol beverages, remember going solo is a chic and powerful choice.
By stepping up to the plate with a plan that includes New Singles and is spot on attitudinally, marketers stand to gain substantial credibility and incremental market share among this untapped and sizeable consumer population. Said another way, treating New Singles as a center of influence could pay huge dividends for your business!
**Read this marketing case study on the impact of Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty.
I’ve noticed, with some trepidation, how acceptable it has become for celebrities young and old to transform themselves not just with makeup but with photoshopping—the new rejuvenator. We have become virtual beings. Hips are being slimmed, waists are being trimmed, bodies are being made ‘perfect.’ And, age is no longer the primary reason to airbrush or photoshopp.
Whether it’s Jessica Alba, Kelly Clarkson or Madonna, each is happy to project their photoshop best on magazine or CD covers.
Then the editor of Self–a magazine I’ve always respected as a publication that celebrates the ‘real’ best in women–defended the magazine’s decision to photoshop Kelly Clarkson who appeared on their recent cover. I knew then that the standards of beauty and health had merged. The other thing I realized was this—airbrushing and photoshopping is moving downwards. In other words, even the youngest celebrities with their resilient skin and flexible bodies are still not good enough. I was gender neutral, what I meant to say was the youngest women! This is an issue–looking young and perfect–that is primarily the domain of women. Men are accepted as they are for the most part but women always have to look better, even if it means that photo images are an illusion of you!
That’s what is going on at a surface level. But, on the product front, I think we’ve tapped into something deeper—a desire to take the best care of ourselves as early as we can. When speaking to some older women, the common cry is, “I wish I had paid more attention to taking care of my skin when I was younger. I wish I had used some form of protection when I was in the sun but I didn’t know any better.” These women have made it their mission to encourage their children to be more conscious about the damaging effects of sun exposure and to be proactiverather than reactive.
Introducing Clarins Multi-Active Day coming to a retail shelf near you in September 2009–a line of anti-aging products targeted to younger consumers. As other brands follow suit, it is clear that anti-aging products are no longer the domain of hopeful ‘older’ consumers. It is also the domain of ‘younger’ women who are looking to prevent the ravages of aging. Self-Care is being promoted at earlier ages these days and being your best you is a positive thing at any age!