Monthly Archives: October 2017

A Tale of Two (Thanksgiving) Dinners

It was the best of dinners, it was the worst of dinners, it was the age of entertaining, it was the age of cooking, it was the epoch of presentation, it was the epoch of preparation, it was the season of isolation, it was the season of socialization, it was the autumn of family, it was the autumn of folly.

A man, let’s call him Tim, realized that it was late October and thus, was time to begin the laborious process of planning to host his family for Thanksgiving dinner and he began to despair.  He loathed the hours he was about to spend planning, shopping for, preparing and, most of all, cooking the family feast.  For it was the cooking that relegated him to the loneliness of the kitchen while his family conversed, laughed, reminisced, and reveled in each other’s company.  Yes, Tim despaired mightily.

Another man, let’s call him Roger, also noticed that the porch pumpkins had arrived in his neighborhood which meant the time of giving thanks was not too far behind.  However, he did not despair, instead, he rejoiced.  He rejoiced because it meant his far-flung family would soon converge upon his home and he would be immersed in the warmth that is his family, if only for a short time.  Roger would spend little time planning, shopping for, preparing or, best of all, cooking his dinner of thanks.  For you see, Roger, years ago, had discovered a way to host his large family for Thanksgiving while spending every precious moment in their company.

Tim, days after the trick or treaters rang his doorbell and accepting of his fate, began preparations for the fourth Thursday of November.  He counted the confirmations, planned the menu, and then trudged to the local, oversized supermarket to play grocery cart bumper cars with soccer moms, octogenarians, and other work-from-home dads.  He, as always, purchased the staples: a frozen bird, potatoes, rolls, corn, green beans, pumpkin and apples pies, and canned, gelatinous cranberry jelly.

Roger, days after moving all the time-keeping devices in his home back an hour, began his preparations for turkey day by turning on college football, grabbing his laptop and logging on to MagicKitchen.com.  He then browsed their extensive Thanksgiving menu, located and purchased everything his family requested, from appetizers to apple pie.  This simple process took him a total of 30 minutes, but 15 of those minutes was spent yelling at the TV as his alma mater was losing once again.

When the Pilgrim’s favorite holiday finally arrived, Tim just wanted to get it over with, rather than enjoy it.  He got up at 6:00 AM, after imbibing a bit too much the night before, to baste and shove the bird in the oven and then began to prepare the sides, to include mashed potatoes and green bean casserole.  By the time the guests arrived, he was exhausted, still slightly hung-over and began to resent the very kitchen he had so loved after it was remodeled.  That resentment stemmed from the fact that he was trapped in that kitchen along with the new granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and Italian tile floor, cooking for the family whose company he so enjoyed.

A few days prior to Thanksgiving, Roger’s entire meal from MagicKitchen.com arrived at his door, fully cooked and flash frozen.  He then placed it in his freezer until just prior to feast time.  Next, he simply heated it to the necessary temperature and then served it, buffet style, to his guests.  Prior to that, he spent his day conversing with his siblings and parents, playing board games with his nieces and nephews and watching football with his dad and father-in-law, and a grand time was had by all.

The moral of the story: ‘tis better to spend time with family and friends on Thanksgiving then to spend time with kitchen appliances.

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Mid-October, the Perfect Time to Start Your Christmas Shopping

When I was a much younger man, a kid actually, I used to poke fun at my mother for beginning her Christmas plans around this time of year.  She would (and still does) make a list of all the people she planned to purchase or make gifts for and then agonize over what to get them.  She would also plan out her Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners and develop her guest list for each family gathering.  And there I was, the prince of procrastination, telling her to begin planning for the Fourth of July while she was at it in the most sarcastic voice I could muster.

Well, it turns out she was correct (as EVERY mother is about everything) in her October planning for a late December event.  She was always the “Why put off till tomorrow what you can do today?” type of mom and it’s a shame that if that philosophy came in apple form it fell very far from the tree in my instance.  Anyway, it wasn’t until I was a fully (ahem)mature adult that it dawned on me why mom was fully justified in her autumnal holiday planning and the reasons why she was correct are as follows:

She was the master of the spacing out of holiday spending.  For mom, the worst part of Christmas was when the credit card bills arrived in January.  To avoid that single, massively depressing January credit card bill that took damn near the rest of the year to pay off, she spread those bills out over November and December as well.  Needless to say, mom didn’t need to read last week’s blog about financial planning.  She was, and still is, the princess of pecuniary policies.

When she went shopping (the physical form of shopping which involved a car, walking from store to store in the mall, hauling the presents home, etc.) in October there was always a wide selection of “stuff” to choose from.  No matter who she was buying for, kids, dad, grandkids, co-workers, friends, relatives back in Ireland, she shopped from fully stocked shelves.

She always managed to find great deals prior to December in the form of Colombus Day, Halloween, Election Day, Veteran’s Day, and Thanksgiving Day or “just for the hell of it” day sales.  She would scour the newspaper inserts in search of sales and deals that would keep her gift buying budget as low as possible and she was amazingly successful at it.  Now, you can just scour the internet machine looking for great October and November deals.

She would spend a great deal of time planning for Christmas dinner and the earlier she started this process, the smoother it would go on December 25th (unless my drunken uncle caused “issues”).  Of course, today MagicKitchen.com can eliminate a lot of that planning, prep work, and actual cooking by delivering a savory holiday dinner right to your door.  Our prepared foods also make a great gift for not just yourself, but for any busy family or senior during the holiday season.  Why not give someone the gift of time in the form of a pre-cooked Christmas dinner delivered right to their door?

Finally, and most importantly to mom, she always said that the more Christmas chores she could take care of prior to December, the more time she could spend with family and friends once the holidays arrived.  To that end, having all her shopping done prior to the start of December gave her many advantages, but the most significant to her was the time it granted her which she used to spend with the people most important to her, her family.

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October: National Financial Planning Month…Who Knew?

Yes, the designation of October as National Financial Planning Month could be a contrived creation foisted upon us by certified financial planners (to a cynic like myself).  Regardless, it’s still a good time to make or review financial plans for your future.  After all, it was created to, “Promote financial literacy and raise awareness among the general public of the value of financial planning.”  And who among us doesn’t need to improve our “financial literacy” and be made aware of the “value of financial planning?”

As someone quite a bit more intelligent than myself once said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”  These words to live by apply to many situations, especially to setting financial goals like being secure in your retirement, or purchasing a new home, or saving for your child’s college education.  Sure, they’re noble goals, but how are you going to get there?  That’s where financial planning comes in.  Look, most of us do not plan to travel somewhere we’ve never been before without mapping out the route, whether the old school way, utilizing a paper map, or with a GPS.  We still know how we’re getting to our destination and getting to, or achieving our financial goals is no different.

Full disclosure, I am NOT, in any way, shape, or form, a certified financial planner, but I play one on TV…I jest, of course.  However, I don’t need to be one in order to remind people to get their financial house in order and to plan for their, and their family’s future.  And this doesn’t need to be rocket science.  All we’re talking about here is the “b” word (budget) and using it to plan for your financial future and goals.  It does, however, include more than just placing your extra money under your mattress or in a simple savings account…they’re essentially the same thing since the interest earned in a savings account and under your mattress are just about equal…oh yeah, there is that big shiny vault.

First step towards creating a budget: a list of your assets (car, savings, investments, home equity), and liabilities or debts (mortgage, student loans, car payment, credit card debt).  The difference between the two is your net worth…it can be positive (hooray!) or negative (crap!).

Step two: list of your monthly expenses (utilities, groceries, fuel, insurance) and monthly income, from all sources.  Hopefully, your monthly income exceeds your monthly expenses.  If not, you’ll sink deeper into debt and use more and more of your income to pay off interest rather than your actual loans.  You might also want to track your spending habits for a month or so to see exactly where your money goes, from your smallest impulse purchase (Starbucks) to your largest unplanned indulgence (picking up the bar tab after guys/ladies night out).  Most are quite surprised at the money “wasted” on non-essentials, aka disposable income that’s actually thrown in a disposal.

Once that’s all done, you should now be able to determine how much money you can set aside to reach your financial goals, whatever they may be.  Just remember, it’s never too late or early to start planning for retirement or your kid’s college expenses.  One of the most popular and safest investments to help save for retirement is a Roth IRA (individual retirement account).  A Roth IRA is simply a special retirement account funded with post-tax income and there is no up-front tax deduction for Roth IRA contributions as with a traditional IRA.  Also, access to your contributions, but NOT the earnings from those contributions, are tax and penalty free.  Roth IRA’s make the most sense for those who expect to be in a higher tax bracket during retirement than your current bracket.  This is usually just about everyone, but they make the most sense to young, lower-income workers.

As for college financial planning, most state’s offer what’s known as a 529 plan, so named from section 529 of the IRS code.  They differ from state-to-state, but they essentially allow you to pay all or part of in-state tuition for a public college education well before the potential student enters his/her college years.  In other words, they permit you to pay tuition costs for a specific year, before tuition increases in future years.  For example, you can pay 2017 tuition costs even though your child won’t enter college until 2030.

As previously stated, I am NOT a certified financial planner, so if you’re interested in learning more about listing your assets, liabilities, and monthly expenses or about a Roth IRA or a 529 Plan, please seek the assistance of a reputable certified financial planner…and that ain’t me.

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