8/20/2012 2:15 PM ET|
7 biggest holiday money wasters
Not every holiday tradition is worth the money, and some richly deserve to be scuttled. Whether it's gift wrap or a Secret Santa gift exchange, here are some of the prime candidates.
The great thing about holiday traditions is that you don't have to think much about them. You just do them, because it's that time of year.
But some holiday traditions deserve a closer look. They don't add nearly enough to your holiday enjoyment to justify their cost -- and some of them actually detract from your enjoyment.
So consider giving these money wasters the boot this year:
1. The blowout holiday dinner
You can easily spend way too much on a meal that will be digested and forgotten in just a few hours. With a little care and planning, you can host a special meal that won't eat through your pocketbook, said Stephanie Nelson, a grocery expert and the creator of CouponMom.com.
First, pick your main dish carefully. Grocery stores often sell turkeys, hams and some types of beef below their cost as so-called loss leaders to get people into stores.
"Traditional dishes makes sense because the grocery stores put the ingredients on loss leader," Nelson said. "You're not going to get a good deal on a goose or a duck or something more exotic. They're not going to put that on sale."
Even on sale, though, a beef roast will set you back $3 a pound, and gourmet grocers can charge five or six times that amount. Contrast that with the price of turkey, which you can often score for less than $1 a pound. In the past, Nelson has scooped up a couple of frozen turkeys on after-Thanksgiving sales for just 29 cents a pound.
If you want to serve beef, consider a stew, gumbo or goulash that will serve a crowd without slaughtering your pocketbook. If it's got to be a roast, consider buying it from a warehouse club. Such outlets typically offer "higher quality at a lower cost," Nelson said.
Pay attention to the side dishes as well. Steer clear of those that require expensive ingredients, particularly the ones that require a quarter-teaspoon of a $5-a-bottle spice that might sit in your cabinet the rest of the year.
In Atlanta, where Nelson lives, sweet potato soufflés are a traditional holiday dish and are often topped with pecans that can run $7 or $8 a pound. Instead, Nelson makes a crumble topping with oatmeal, brown sugar and butter that costs just pennies.
"A lot of people don't think about these costs, but these are the kinds of things that are going to put you over the top," Nelson said.
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