Frugal Friday: Memorial Day Party on a Budget

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If there’s one thing that all of us here at Veitengruber Law all have in common, it’s finding ways to save money. Often this comes in the form of us working to help a client: apply for a loan modification, get a fresh start with bankruptcy, negotiate outstanding debts and learn how to budget so that their financial future looks bright.

When it comes time for us to leave the office each evening, we then turn our attention to our personal lives, and part of that involves how to best keep our own finances in order. We are constantly on the lookout for money-saving life hacks, which we love sharing with our clients and blog readers.

As we approach the end of May, many people have started planning for Memorial Day parties. A day to remember and memorialize those who died while serving our country in the armed forces, Memorial Day has also become the unofficial start to summer. Although summer doesn’t technically begin for several weeks, the last weekend in May now sees a plethora of pool openings, family gatherings, cookouts and beach trips.

This year, if you’ve been nominated to throw a Memorial Day party at your house (voluntarily or not) – why not see just how frugal you can be while hosting an unforgettable party at the same time? Try implementing some of these party hacks to see just how little of your own cash you have to part with this year:

Avoid the “party store.” Buying pre-made party supplies and decor adds up fa$t. Making your own patriotic decorations and party favors is not only a great way to lower your party costs; it can be a lot of fun, too! Check out this site for some really cool money-saving patriotic decoration ideas.

Prepare your own food. It is undoubtedly a lot more convenient to fill up a shopping cart at the warehouse store with pre-packaged food – from burgers and buns to snacks and desserts. Just like the “party store,” however, you’ll pay a premium for that convenience. Instead of forking over hundreds of dollars at BJs or Sam’s Club, roll up your sleeves and get cooking.

In addition to putting your own culinary skills to good use, enlist the other party attendees to each bring a food item with them. This will enable you to focus only on the main dish(es) yourself, while your friends can bring sides, snacks and desserts. Consider making it into a challenge to see who can bring the tastiest goodies.

Make it a BYOB shindig. You may be thinking: “But I already asked them to bring a food dish. Now they have to bring their own drinks, too???” Well, sort of. As the host, you should have the basic bar necessities on hand (if you plan to serve alcoholic drinks). If you don’t already have them stocked, consider a visit to the liquor store for an affordable bottle of: vodka, gin, scotch and rum. Add in a few mixers and you’ll be able to stock your home bar for around 50 bucks.

Alternatively, you could come up with one signature drink for the party that fits in with a patriotic theme, and serve only that drink. For example, a drink called the firecracker settles into layers of red, white and blue. Let party-goers know that if they want to drink wine or beer, they can bring their favorite bottle(s) along. This alone will save you a significant amount of money.

BE the entertainment. The merriment of any good Memorial Day (or any summertime) cookout should center around good conversation with friends and loved ones. If you’re looking for something a little more organized – toss out some brain teasers or get several card games going. Alternatively, crank up the volume and turn your picnic into an instant dance party (talent not required).

One of the keys to living a life free from debt is to plan ahead for special events just like this. Waiting until the last minute will give you little choice but to swipe your credit card more times than you’ll want to admit in order to acquire the party supplies you need.

Proper planning, budgeting, and getting help when you need it (in this case, asking your friends to contribute food and drinks) will keep the cost of a party from getting out of hand. Aside from a slight headache from too many firecrackers or wine, you won’t have any regrets the morning after you throw a penny-pinching Patriotic party.

Image credit: JD Hancock
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Friday Five: Cures for Your Holiday Spending Hangover

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Today on the Veitengruber Law Blog, we bring you another Friday Five. Our topic this Friday is getting out from under all of the debt that you may have acquired during the recent holiday season. Let’s face it: every year we vow to spend less next year, but when “next year” rolls around, it’s very difficult to resist showering our friends and family with prodigious piles of presents!

It’s great fun watching the excited expressions on our gift recipients’ faces, but come January, our own features scrunch into scowl lines and frowns as the credit card bills arrive in the mailbox. Rather than simply paying the minimum balances due and hitting the mental “Ignore” button, here are five proactive things you can do to pay off your holiday debt sooner rather than later:

  1. Suspend your spending: This has to be priority numero uno. Until you’ve paid your holiday credit card balances off, spend money only on necessities. Remember all of the gifts your friends and family showered you with, and enjoy them instead of buying more “stuff.” If it helps, set a goal and reward yourself: as soon as your holiday debt is gone, you can buy yourself something you’ve been coveting (within reason).

  2. Cut up your cards: For many people, getting those credit cards out of sight is imperative. If you really don’t trust yourself not to use them, by all means, cut them up and get back to using real money only. You might also benefit from simply taking the card(s) out of your wallet and putting them someplace safe in your house. This way, you’ll still have them if an emergency situation arises, but you won’t be able to make in-store impulse purchases.

  3. Make molehills out of mountains: In other words, focus on the card with the highest interest rate first. The higher the interest rate, the more you’ll end up owing on that balance, so it’s best to get it as low as you can, and quickly. Keep paying the minimum amounts due on any other cards while you tackle them in order of their interest rates.

  4. Return and be refunded: It may not be the most socially acceptable thing to do, but if you were gifted anything that you simply don’t like or won’t use – find out if you can return it! Even if the gift-giver didn’t include a receipt, you can often find out where an item was purchased, in which case many stores will give you gift cards rather than cash. Use these gift cards to buy things you need, which will free up more of your money for paying down your credit card balances.

  5. Bang out a budget: While it may seem like common sense, it’s often the simplest ideas that succeed. As you get close to paying off last year’s holiday spending debt, look ahead to the next holiday season. Something as easy as buying one gift card every time you get paid can make a big difference. (And who doesn’t like receiving gift cards these days?)

By putting these five simple tips into action, you will be able to get your holiday debt paid off in a reasonable amount of time, freeing up that money for living life! Planning ahead will mean that next year at this time, you’ll hopefully be able to pay off your holiday spending in a much shorter time frame.

Image credit: Quint Cobb