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Karl and Heather's Journey:

Holiday Budgeting

Coming off of a penny-wise Thanksgiving has motivated us to think about the remaining festive weeks of 2017. The three areas that we have honed in on and would like to share our thoughts are: Gifts, Travel and Meals.


Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday…if marketers had it their way, every day between now and the end of the year would have some catchy slogan to convince us all to buy gifts, gifts and more gifts. Throughout this year we’ve maintained a Gifts Savings account that we fund at the beginning of each month to cover birthdays, special occasions, bar mitzvahs, etc. Thus far we’ve rolled-over money from every previous month, so we have some extra heading into December. This is a good thing, because we now are expanding our gifting to include teachers, mailmen, crossing guards, hostesses, etc. We are following the guideline to give graciously, but within the per-gift limit we have set.


Judging by social media posts and our own eyes, we were not at all alone in hitting the highways for Thanksgiving. What started for us as money saving travel tips, are now routine: Pack a cooler of drinks and snacks, fill-up for gas at a station we know has good prices (plus we take advantage of the Plenti rewards program via Mobil, and keep the balance on the I-Pass up-to-date. Through leaving town in the evening and some good travel karma, we were able to avoid gas-sucking traffic headaches and arrive at our destination relaxed, ticket-free and on-budget.


Digging out dining room table leaves, unboxing the China and crossing fingers that the silver does not need to be polished all mean chicken nuggets and mac-n-cheese are taking a backset to traditional holiday meals. Our grocery list has been expanding into varieties of herbs, side dishes and desserts that only come around this time of year and are usually at premium prices because every recipe “Must Have Fresh Thyme!” We wish we could say we made pumpkin pie out of this season’s patch, but we didn’t. We did however harvest late-season herbs and bought bulk potatoes to minimize costs in making mashed potatoes. A couple of other tips that were a hit this year:

  • Neon chalk & chalkboard paper on the table…kids and adults love it!
  • Dixie cups for waters and kid drinks…less dishes and everyone really just wants the food
  • Make turkey soup out of the leftovers…delicious the next day

Finally, our rule of thumb is make enough for your group’s size and save what’s left over…with the exceptions of stuffing and turkey legs…Hadley devours those!!

eating bird leg

So whatever and where ever you celebrate, try to budget / plan ahead for gifts, travel and meals. A dollar here and a penny there can add up to real savings…which is truly a gift that keeps on giving. 


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