Last weekend, after all of the family obligations were done, I joined a group of my friends for our annual “Friendsgiving” feast. This meal is a favorite tradition, and a great example of how to put together a large feast without putting too much financial burden on any one person. Our hosts provided two turkeys, one of which had been acquired for free as a gift. They cooked these turkeys over an open fire, which was a wonderful adventure in deliciousness, but not what this piece is about.
The rest of the meal was potluck. One person brought stuffing. One brought green bean casserole. One brought baked beans. Others brought appetizers, breads, and desserts. When it was all added up, we had an amazing meal for a very large crowd, without over-burdening any one person. We communed by the fire. We communed in the kitchen. We played Cards Against Humanity. And we ate a glorious meal.
Next time you are thinking about a dinner party, make it a potluck. Everyone shares the work, everyone gets to enjoy the meal, and everyone shares the cost. It’s the best of everything.
The week of Thanksgiving always make me think of three specific things: travel, food, and shopping. Since I already waxed poetic over leftovers last week, I’ll take the spotlight off the turkey feast, and instead focus in on the intersections of food and travel as well as food and shopping.
When you are getting ready to drive or fly or bus or train to wherever it is you may be going, start by eating a good meal and then packing some food for the road. Travel food, whether it be airport chow, a roadside restaurant, or a Sheetz stop along the highway, is always going to be more expensive than food you prepare yourself. So make a sandwich. Fill a baggie with chips or veggies. Grab an apple. Fill a travel mug with coffee or a plastic bottle with water. And save yourself a fortune in travel food!
The same rules apply if you are braving the crowds at the stores on Friday morning. Don’t leave home with an empty stomach that will lead you to a mall food court. Make a plan. Pack a snack or even a whole meal. I’m a big fan of Black Friday shopping. I sit down with the sales flyers from the newspaper Thursday night and plan my attack based on the items I am pursuing and what time the stores they are in open. Last year I remember specifically having about 20 minutes in between when I was done getting a great deal on a frying pan at Macy’s and when Bed, Bath & Beyond opened. This was my breakfast window. I sat in my car in the parking lot enjoying the coffee I had brought from home and the granola bars I had in my purse for exactly this situation. It would have been really easy to run to McDonalds or Sheetz for a breakfast sandwich. But I didn’t need to spend that extra money (or consume the extra fat).
When you’re thinking about your Thanksgiving week adventures, plan ahead. Take some food with you. You’ll save a bunch of money. And while you’re at it….don’t forget to think about all the many things you are thankful for.
Leftovers happen. At home. At work. At school. Leftovers simply happen. And if you are prepared for those leftovers they can be a glorious thing that saves you not only some money, but also some meal preparation time.
Everybody thinks about the big leftovers. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, nearly everyone is thinking about turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce, or whatever your favorite turkey leftover combination is. But what about the unexpected leftovers? The handful of vegetables that could go into the compost….but could also go into the freezer for a future casserole or soup. The leftover potatoes that can make some delicious hash browns or home fries for the next morning’s breakfast. If you have a leftover that you’re not sure how to use, ask Google. There’s an answer for everything.
And then there are the work/school leftovers. Random pizza, salads, or sandwiches leftover from a meeting or event. It’s easy to grab one to eat immediately. But what if you’re not hungry right then and would like to save it for later? If you’re prepared you’ll have the right tools handy to be able to do just that. If you don’t have one yet, you should get yourself a “locker leftover kit.”
Keep these simple tools in your locker and you’ll always be prepared when leftovers present themselves to you!
Sometimes you just have to cut your losses. Even if that means a financial loss.
This week my boyfriend was planning to visit with some friends in Buffalo for a couple of days, stay in a hostel for a couple of days, and see a couple of concerts that he was really excited about. But things went awry and the friends he was planning to visit had to cancel. So he had a few days booked in a hostel, one concert ticket purchased and one that had not yet been purchased, and no place to stay for a couple of days in the middle of his trip. So he had two options. He could either spend even more money to get a hotel so he could go on with his plans, or he could cut his losses and cancel the trip.
Despite a significant amount of disappointment over the situation, he realized that the best plan of action was to cancel the trip. To follow through with his plans, he would have had to pay a couple hundred extra dollars for a hotel, more money for the concert ticket he had not yet purchased, and a lot of extra money for eating out. So far he had only laid out $70 for one concert ticket and $60 for two nights at the hostel. So rather than spend way more than budgeted, he cut his losses. He was able to get a refund from the hostel, so he was really only out the cost of the one concert ticket. Since tickets for that show are still readily available, he wasn’t going to be able to recoup a significant amount by selling the ticket. So rather than stressing himself to try to sell, he decided to go the “good Karma” route and gave the ticket away.
In the end, he has a $70 loss, a good feeling for giving someone else a chance to go to the concert, and he didn’t ruin his financial plan by going way over budget for this trip. He is disappointed, yes. But he’s not in debt over a couple of concerts.
Sometimes you just have to cut your losses.
Everyone knows that shopping off season can save you some money. For example, this week is the best time to get a great deal on next year’s Halloween costume or decorations. Or a giant bag of candy to satiate your sweet tooth and disappoint your dentist.
But what if your favorite place to shop is a resale shop (like my favorite shopping fix, the State College Goodwill Store)? Do you still need to think about shopping off-season? I think yes.
I made a journey to Goodwill yesterday (Sunday….because that’s the day they change the prices and you get the best selection in the 49 cent and half price categories) and found several things for the current season, but also got amazing deals on a couple of pairs of shorts and an awesome pair of REI convertible pants (the legs zip off and they turn into shorts) for camping. Did these things cost less than if I had purchased them in the summer? No. But I did have a lot more to choose from because most people are not looking for summer clothes in November. So I bought the summer clothes and they’ll hang out in my basement until May, and then I’ll have new (to me) clothes that I completely forgot about over the winter.
Shopping off-season isn’t limited to regular retail. Think about it when you’re shopping resale as well!