Being Thankful

Thanksgiving – this season when we pause to be grateful – can become so much more than a day in which we gather with loved ones to enjoy each other’s company and share a wonderful feast. If we take it further, thanksgiving, or gratitude, can become an underlying attitude that helps us see our options and opportunities all year ‘round. That can have a big impact on our finances.

Feeling gratitude causes us to focus on what we have, rather than what we don’t have. As we deal with our finances and try to make choices about the best uses of our money, being mindful of and grateful for what we already have makes it easier to:

  • Say “no” to impulse or unnecessary purchases
  • Set money aside for future needs (including college, retirement, or other long-term goals)
  • Build an emergency fund
  • Give to worthwhile charities

Pausing and reflecting with gratitude on our possessions, and on the people and experiences in our lives, makes it easier to be satisfied.  Being satisfied makes it easier to put our money toward important uses rather than being distracted by spending opportunities with only short-lived value.

Gratitude helps us see ways in which we have more than a “bare minimum” existence – having freedom to choose how to use our money is definitely something to be grateful for. That includes small freedoms, like being able to add ice cream to our grocery cart, and bigger freedoms, like the ability to travel to see loved ones, or to provide music lessons for our child.

If you’re interested in taking your gratitude to a next level by sharing your abundance with causes important to you, stay tuned for next week’s post related to “Giving Tuesday.”

Note: freedom of choice is an essential element of financial well-being – learn more about financial wellbeing here or take the financial wellbeing quiz.

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan's goal as a Family Finance program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is to help people use their money according to THEIR priorities. She provides information and tools, and then encourages folks to focus on what they control: their own decisions about what to do with the money they have.

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The Greater Good

Thanksgiving always makes me philosophical.  With much to be thankful for, one of my instincts is to ask myself “Am I using my resources for good?”

For those of us who have enough income to more than meet our needs, Thanksgiving is a great time to consider whether we are using our money not just in the ways that will be good for ourselves, but also in ways that will be good for the world, or for our community, or for others. Some people like to think of themselves as stewards: people who have temporary custody of resources with the goal of using them for the greater good over the long term.

If you seek to be a good steward with the resources you manage, you might do it in several ways:

  • You might work to conserve the earth’s resources by choosing reusable products more often than disposable products;
  • You might choose to shop at local merchants even at times when a product might be cheaper elsewhere, in order to keep your community vital;
  • You might support causes you believe in by volunteering and/or giving money to organizations that focus on those causes;
  • You might share with those who do not have enough, by giving money to charitable organizations locally or worldwide.

This time of year many charities and non-profit groups seek donations. If you are considering making donations, be sure the group is a good steward of the resources they receive. You can check out most national groups at www.give.org or www.charitynavigator.org.  Note: smaller local organizations may not be listed. This does not mean that they are untrustworthy; it simply means that you will need to consult with local sources to find out if they use their resources effectively.

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan's goal as a Family Finance program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is to help people use their money according to THEIR priorities. She provides information and tools, and then encourages folks to focus on what they control: their own decisions about what to do with the money they have.

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Holiday Savings: Beyond Gift Lists

ThanksgivingWordleIt’s Thanksgiving week.  Many Americans are focused on two things: a fabulous Thanksgiving meal and starting their holiday shopping with a Black Friday extravaganza.  They probably give some thought to “budgeting” for Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving) – that is, to having a plan and setting some spending limits for any shopping they do that day.   Whether or not they shop Black Friday, many people who will be celebrating holidays in December are probably making spending plans for holiday gift-giving.

It’s funny though – in planning for holiday spending, many of us overlook several whole categories of spending.  It’s easy to forget that there will be extra spending on food and drink, decorations, travel, parties (including babysitting) and more.  Those less-obvious expenses add up, and can completely derail a holiday spending plan.

So as we consider the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend, let’s all think about ways to keep spending under control for the Thanksgiving meal itself.  Here are a few ideas for starters:

  • Always have water available as part of your beverage selection.  Sometimes people just need to quench their thirst, and water is the best way to do that.  Offering a pitcher of ice water (with lemon slices if you prefer) can help save money on other beverages, such as juice, soda, wine, or beer.
  • Minimize use of paper products.  Using disposable plates, cups and cutlery is tempting, because clean-up is so quick, but it can add significantly to the expense of a celebration.  Using “real” dishware can be extremely practical for family gatherings, though, because there are lots of people available to help make clean-up quick and even enjoyable!
  • Focus on the things that matter.  If stuffing, sweet potatoes, scalloped corn and pumpkin pie are the key elements of your holiday tradition, adding “extras” such as fancy appetizers, unique side dishes, or extravagant desserts may not matter very much to the people at the table.  Before going to extra effort and expense, ask yourself if the additional food item will actually add to the enjoyment of the day.

What are your favorite ways to manage the expenses of a holiday meal?

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan's goal as a Family Finance program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is to help people use their money according to THEIR priorities. She provides information and tools, and then encourages folks to focus on what they control: their own decisions about what to do with the money they have.

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