This is an expensive time of year, from start to finish. But it doesn't have to completely break the bank.
Thanksgiving dinner cost comparisons at Aldi, Walmart and Whole Foods
This is an expensive time of year, from start to finish.
As Thanksgiving looms on Nov. 28, we are shopping, shopping, shopping for that big, delicious feast. Tummies will be full and wallets will be empty.
But there are strategies to cut your holiday food bill, such as planning the meal ahead of time and shopping for the best prices on turkeys and hams, which cost the most. However, the biggest way to save is to shop at stores with the lowest prices.
I wondered how prices on 12 common items purchased to make Thanksgiving dinner stacked up at grocery stores. I stopped in at Aldi, Walmart and Whole Foods to compare prices.
Thanksgiving grocery cost comparisons
Prices as of Nov. 14 are for 12 store-brand food items (when available) to make Thanksgiving dinner: 12 pound turkey; 1 bag or 2 boxes of stuffing mix; 3 pounds sweet potatoes; 5 pounds white potatoes; 1 pound fresh green beans; 1 turkey gravy packet; canned crescent rolls; canned cranberry jelly; 1 quart chicken/turkey stock; 1 pound butter; half-gallon of milk; prepared pie.
|Turkey (12 pounds, frozen)||$7.08||$8.16||$22.68|
|Stuffing mix (1 bag or 2 boxes)||$1.99||$1.56||$3.49|
|Sweet potatoes (3 pounds)||$1.79||$2.04||$2.39|
|Potatoes (5 pounds)||$2.99||$3.27||$3.99|
|Green beans (1 pound, fresh)||$1.68||$1.68||$2.99|
|Cranberry jelly (canned)||$1.49||$0.98||$2.19|
|Butter (1 pound)||$1.99||$2.98||$3.49|
|Milk (half gallon)||$1.99||$2.24||$2.79|
There were 12 items on my list: A 12 pound turkey; 1 bag or 2 boxes of stuffing mix; 3 pounds of sweet potatoes; 5 pounds of white potatoes; 1 pound of fresh green beans; 1 turkey gravy packet; canned crescent rolls; canned cranberry jelly; 1 quart chicken/turkey stock; 1 pound butter; half-gallon of milk and 1 prepared pie or dessert.
As you can see, Aldi came in cheapest at $30. Walmart was close behind at $32 and change. And Whole Foods Market was more than $62. Surprised? I'm not.
Americans will eat more than 46 million turkeys this year, spending $968.8 million, according to Finder.com. Looking at the bigger picture, imagine if you could cut your annual bill in half by shopping more carefully. Well, you can, and then bank that savings for a rainy day. Let's examine how my Thanksgiving dinner cost comparison shook out.
I'm a huge fan of this value grocery chain for one reason: price. I opted for Aldi's Shady Brook Farms frozen turkeys at 59 cents a pound, but Butterballs are cheap at 87 cents a pound. A pound of butter was just $1.99. That's almost a dollar less than what Walmart charges, and $1.50 less than Whole Foods. Considering that is a regular item on many lists all year long, it's not hard to imagine how much you may be overpaying on hundreds of similar staple items over the course of a year by shopping elsewhere.
The price is the price on groceries at Walmart. No sales, no ads, no gimmicks. You can shop at the chain with confidence knowing you're not paying double for similar items somewhere else. Jennie-O frozen turkeys are 68 cents a pound; Butterballs are 98 cents a pound. Produce prices were on par with Aldi.
One cool thing if you're pressed for time: Walmart is now delivering groceries and there is no markup on goods. Prices for items delivered are the same as in stores, which is not the case with Instacart and Shipt grocery deliveries from the other stores. Save $10 on your first $50 order at Grocery.Walmart.com with code WOWFRESH. There is a $7.95 delivery fee. Or, let Walmart shop for you and opt for free pickup at stores.
Whole Foods Market: $62.48
They don't call it Whole Paycheck for nothing. The idea that prices would drastically drop after Amazon took over has not materialized. Stores do offer weekly savings and deals for Prime members, who fork over $119 a year. For instance, through Nov. 28, members can save on organic turkeys priced at a whopping $2.99 a pound (the regular price is an even more insane at $3.50 a pound) and on regular turkeys for $1.99 a pound (regular price is $2.49 a pound). On my visit, I opted for the 365 Everyday Value frozen turkey at $1.89 a pound. All birds are animal welfare certified, which explains the higher costs.
Still, even though most of the products were 365 Everyday brands, those dozen items tallied up to more than double what you'd pay at Aldi and Walmart. Considering most of us will purchase many more items for holiday meals, Whole Foods' prices certainly won't leave shoppers feeling very thankful.
By Doreen Christensen, Sun Sentinel
5 of the least healthy holiday dishes
A lot of time and effort goes into making a holiday meal. Tables will overflow with family favorites and traditional dishes such as candied yams and green bean casserole.
But is this food actually good for you?
A typical holiday meal can easily exceed 3,000 calories, according to research from the Calorie Control Council. Some of the least healthy dishes might also be the most popular.
Here are five to look out for:
Roasted, skinless turkey is fairly healthy. When food is fried, Medical Daily points out, the amount of fat it absorbs during cooking increases. Deep frying your turkey adds calories and fat that aren't necessary. You can save even more calories by choosing white meat over dark. According to Bon Appetit, "an average serving of dark meat with skin hits about 200 calories and 8g fat. Save nearly 100 calories and 13 grams of fat by choosing white meat from the breast and skipping the skin."
Green bean casserole
Half a cup of plain green beans has only 20 calories. If you follow the green bean casserole recipe that is on a can of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup, however, the caloric intake jumps to 227 for a half cup serving.
Candied yams/sweet potatoes with marshmallows
Just 4 ounces of candied sweet potatoes adds about 187 calories and 20 grams of sugar to your meal. Another thing to consider when eating all that sugar is your teeth.
"If marshmallow-loaded candied yams are a tradition in your household it might be time to reconsider," Dr. Matthew Mullally, a dental surgeon, told thedailymeal.com. "Marshmallows are essentially pure sugar. Also, there's really no reason to sweeten yams. Yams themselves are loaded with sweetness, as well as nutrients that don't stick to the surface of your teeth."
Consumer Reports suggests a "plain baked sweet potato (103 calories) or roasted sweet potato chunks (about 120 calories per cup)" instead.
Stuffing with sausage
A dish that is mostly bread, butter, seasoning and sausage packs a lot of carbs. A cup of your average bread stuffing is about 175 calories. Add in sausage, Medical Daily reports, and "you're staring down the barrel of 400 calories per cup side dish and a week's worth of regret."
"Plus the stuffing absorbs a lot of the fat from the turkey," cardiologist Dr. Adam Splaver of Hollywood, Florida, told thedailymeal.com. "Add in some sausage and you are looking at a high-calorie, fat-laden, high-sodium choice."
Stuffing contains about 480 mg of sodium, thanks to the broth. Try using a low-sodium version this year.
According to Consumer Reports, a slice of pumpkin pie has about 280 calories and around 25 grams of sugars. But if you make a cheesecake from otherwise healthy pumpkin, Bon Appetit points out, "you'll finish off dinner with a massive amount of calories and fat."
"Be mindful of how much you serve yourself," said Amy Keating, R.D., a nutritionist at Consumer Reports. "If you double or triple your portions — which is easy to do — you could consume a sky-high number of calories."
By Nancy Clanton, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Holiday gifts for children that teach them about money
It's time for my annual suggestions for holiday gifts for your children and grandchildren. You might prefer to give them the latest toys or fashions, but where will those presents be a year from now? If instead, you make at least part of your gift a teaching opportunity about money, your gift will last a lifetime — or at least until college is fully paid.
The gift of a college education
Let's start with the gift contribution to a 529 college savings account. Money in these accounts grows tax-free for college expenses, at any school in any state. And it can be used by any child in the family.
You can use your own state plan, a good idea if you get a state income tax deduction. For example, consider Illinois' Bright Start Savings Plan (BrightStartSavings.com), which Morningstar recently named as one of the top five 529s in the country. Illinois residents can deduct up to $10,000 in contributions per individual, or $20,000 for married couples filing jointly, from their state income taxes.
But you don't have to be a state resident to take advantage of Bright Start or any of the best-run plans in the country. Search them out at SavingforCollege.com, where plans are rated on performance and costs. You can apply directly using their links.
It's easy to open a 529 College Savings Account, and you don't need to pay a broker to do it. A parent or grandparent can be custodian of the account. After your initial deposit, you can add money every year for a birthday gift or on holidays. Investment decisions are simple. Most plans offer an age-based investment plan that gets more conservative as the child gets closer to college.
The gift of shares of stock
There's no better way to teach investing than by purchasing a few shares of stock in a company that they child recognizes — whether it's Nike, Apple or McDonalds. And it's easy to buy those shares at Stockpile.com, which has a gift card program that allows you to purchase fractional shares in more than 1,000 stocks and ETFs with a $5 minimum investment. Each trade costs 99 cents, and you don't get to set price limits on your purchase.
The child can follow the price movements in his or her own account online. You can make your gift by email, by printing out a gift card, or — if you act quickly — by having Stockpile mail you (or the recipient) a plastic "gift card" allowing the recipient to choose a stock. The giver doesn't have to open an account to send the gift card — but a parent or custodian must be involved to redeem the gift by purchasing stock. One caveat: Don't amass too much money in the custodial stock account or it will weigh heavily against the family in the financial aid formula for college!
The gift of starting early
My all-time favorite money gift for children old enough to count and know their coins is the piggy bank created by Susan Beacham of Money Savvy Generation (moneysavvy.com). This four-chambered translucent plastic piggy bank has sections labeled: Save, Spend, Donate and Invest. The piggy bank costs $19.99, and for an additional $2.99 you get a coloring book/workbook with money activities. Or you can buy it for $24.99 on Amazon, including shipping.
This year, they've even added a plush piggy puppet that announces the spend, save, donate and invest categories when you squeeze it! This is really starting early! MoneySavvy also publishes the MoneySavvy OMG guidebooks for teens, college students, and now couples — hitting everyone with some sound money advice. They are perfect stocking stuffers.
Apps that teach money
Finally, since they're buried in technology all the time, consider these two free apps. The "Bank of Mom" app teaches money management through "lines of credit" on their allowance or pay them for chores. And the "Kids Money" app is a wonderful lesson in planning and saving for a big purchase like a bicycle or a new phone.
These are gifts that won't be outgrown or forgotten when the holiday lights come down. And you'll be glad you gave a gift of knowledge that will serve your precious children for a lifetime. That's the Savage Truth.
Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser and the author of four best-selling books, including "The Savage Truth on Money." Terry responds to questions on her blog at TerrySavage.com.
Worst things to buy during the holidays, 2019
It's all too easy to get caught up in the holiday shopping frenzy. Stores are blaring your favorite holiday tunes. Santa is camped out near the food court with a long line of kids waiting to take a photo. And retailers are trying their hardest to get you to spend by offering exclusive deals.
In fact, 165.3 million consumers are expected to shop in-store and online over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend alone, according to the National Retail Federation's Annual November Holiday Consumer Survey. The big draw? Deals too good to pass up on dozens of hot-ticket items, from TVs and smart home devices to digital cameras and kitchen appliances. However, die-hard bargain hunters know that if you plan ahead you can find even better deals on many of those same products at other times of the year.
Enlisting the help of several shopping experts, we identified 18 product categories that holiday shoppers should steer clear of, because they'll either be available for much less after the holidays or there's a strong chance the product might go unused. Take a look at the list of some of the worst things to buy during the holidays.
A bit of bling might rank high on many people's holiday wish lists, but if you can put your plans to buy diamonds and other fine jewelry on ice, you're likely to find a better bargain later in the winter.
"Sales for quality jewelry peak in late January, after the holidays and a week or two ahead of Valentine's Day," says Brent Shelton, a smart shopping expert with Bospar. "Jewelers and department stores have their biggest and best sales during this time."
You may be tempted to stock up on extra blankets and other bedding during Black Friday sales to get cozy for the holidays. But you can snuggle up to more savings if you hold off until after the turn of the year.
NerdWallet.com's consumer savings expert Courtney Jespersen says that many retailers including Macy's, Kohl's, Overstock and Pottery Barn tend to fold their best deals on sheets, towels, comforter sets and other linens into their "white sales" in January. Last year, she reports seeing savings of 50% or more on bedding during those sales, making them well worth the wait.
The Hottest Toys
Perhaps this holiday season is a good time to teach the little ones in your life about patience. If they can wait until after the holidays to unwrap the most in-demand toys of the year, such as 2019's Hatchimals WOW!, Kindi Kids Dolls, NERF Fortnite Dart Blaster and Nintendo Switch Lite, you can save yourself a bundle of cash and the effort of tracking them down.
"Many [hot toys] are sold out at authorized retailers [leading up to the holidays], so if you buy now you're likely to be going through a third party and paying well above the list price," says Rebecca Lehmann, senior manager at deals site BradsDeals.com. "Inventory will be replenished once the holidays wind down, and we might even see discounts at that point. You may not even have to wait long."
Between Thanksgiving feasts and Christmas cookies, we all know there's more than one fat man packing extra holiday weight in his sleigh. And the time to start thinking about dropping some pounds is likely not until after the New Year.
"Very late December and early January is a better time [to purchase fitness equipment], with millions of people making New Year's resolutions to finally get healthy and drop a few pounds," says Eric Jones, advisor and former co-owner of deals site BestBlackFriday.com. "Stores know this, and they adjust prices accordingly every single year."
Electronics go for incredible deals on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and throughout the holiday season. But if you're in the market for a top-of-the-line computer, you're better off waiting a few months.
"Although there will be select sales [during the holidays] that can help you save some money, the best times to buy newer and more powerful laptops are in late spring and mid-summer during back-to-school sales," deal expert Shelton says, "especially for MacBooks and the more expensive two-in-one hybrid laptops."
You're sure to find discounts on coats, sweaters and other cold-weather clothing at many retailers during the weeks leading up to Christmas. But as the winter wears on, the discounts are bound to head deeper.
"We never recommend purchasing clothing in the early parts of a season," says Jones of BestBlackFriday.com. "Wait until the end of January and early February for clearance deals on winter apparel."
Let your Christmas spirit spill over into the days after the holiday. That's when prices on ornaments, lights, garlands, artificial trees and other seasonal items will drop like a lump of coal.
"Post-Christmas clearance discounts will be steep," says Jespersen of NerdWallet. "Shoppers can stock up on wreaths, ornaments and wrapping paper at a major discount, then save them for next year."
You probably don't expect Santa to shove a mattress down your chimney. But if you were thinking about giving your holiday guests something more comfortable than a futon to sleep on, you might want to reconsider buying a mattress during November or December.
"Mattress deals are not awful during Black Friday -- some are quite good -- but the deals are better during other months of the year," says Jones of BestBlackFriday.com. "We recommend Memorial Day weekend, with Labor Day being a close second."
Black Friday Models
Big retailers that sell lots electronics during the holidays, especially Best Buy and Walmart, have the clout to get manufacturers to make exclusive products for them with fewer features and/or older technologies that can be sold at seemingly rock-bottom prices. It's a practice that Slaybaugh, formerly of DealNews, says is becoming more common. The thing is, it's difficult to judge whether the prices on these stripped-down Black Friday models are truly rock bottom since the products are new to the market and unique, making it all but impossible to do meaningful price-comparisons at other retailers.
"Such items were never sold before, so how can they be discounted?" says Slaybaugh. "We're not saying it's impossible to find a good deal; just be sure to check out the specs and know what you're getting before making your purchase."
You know all those commercials that show people surprising loved ones with a brand new car for the holidays? Turns out, not the best idea. Even if you could find a bow that big, you're better off waiting until New Year's Eve to buy a car to tie it on.
"Waiting until this day and a little haggling can yield an awesome deal on a new car that you may otherwise not have been able to afford," says Jones of BestBlackFriday.com. "Dealerships not only have monthly sales goals to meet, but they have quarterly and yearly ones as well."
Final Sale Items
With many retailers struggling and more stores closing every day, you may see a lot of final sale and clearance items during holiday sales, says Slaybaugh.
And while such rock-bottom prices may be tempting, remember that you're stuck with what you buy, a particularly unappealing predicament if you're shopping for gifts for other people. "Your gift may not fit, or the recipient may simply not like your choice," says Slaybaugh. "So giving them the option of making an exchange is always a good idea."
Just because something is on sale doesn't mean it's the best product to buy or the best time of year to buy it. That's the case with many Christmas sales on large appliances such as washer/dryer combos, refrigerators and dishwashers, says Brittney Mayer, a credit analyst for CardRates.com. This time of year, the biggest discounts on appliances are usually on off-brands (up to 40% off) rather than name brands, she says. While some off-brands can be hidden gems, when spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on major appliances, there's peace of mind that comes with buying from a trusted brand that's known for quality versus one you've never heard of.
If you're using a credit card to do your holiday shopping, think twice before getting pressured into buying an add-on warranty, CardRates.com's Mayer advises.
In addition to racking up rewards points and earning cash back on your purchases, most credit cards come with free extended warranty coverage that adds an extra year to an eligible product's manufacturer's warranty of three years or less, she says. Mastercard and Visa have such policies, while American Express offers its cardholders an additional two years of extended warranty coverage.
Be sure to read the fine print before your next purchase, because there may be some exclusions. Mastercard's extended warranty doesn't cover floor models sold without the original manufacturer's warranty (these types of items are usually sold at a significant discount due to wear-and-tear). Visa's policy doesn't cover computer software. American Express's policy doesn't cover items purchased using an installment billing plan, such as a smartphone.
If you're stumped on what to gift dear ol' Dad this holiday season, a new tool set might seem failproof. But if you're looking to get the most bang for your buck, you won't find the best bargains on tools during the Black Friday shopping weekend.
In fact, home improvement retailers such as Home Depot and Lowe's slash prices on tool gift sets, individual power tools, tool storage units and related accessories closer to Father's Day in early June, says Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert for Retail Me Not. Buying a tool set during the winter months versus at the start of summer is the difference between getting 35% off the retail price now instead of 50% off later.
Don't let the thrill of a Black Friday deal tempt you into purchasing something you don't really need right now -- especially when you can get it cheaper later. Keep this in mind if you're considering buying outdoor camping or hiking gear during the upcoming holiday shopping weekend. Typically, you won't find huge savings on items such as tents, sleeping bags and backpacks in November or December, says Casey Runyan, managing editor for BradsDeals.com. "New product lines tend to launch in late winter and early spring. Consumers can expect the best sale prices to come in March as retailers will be making room for new inventory," she adds.
The same goes for outdoor winter sports equipment (think: ice skates, snowboards and skis). November, December and January are peak season for these types of activities, so shoppers won't start to see significant deals until February or March, when sporting goods retailers begin to transition into the spring sports season, Retail Me Not's Skirboll notes.
Store Gift Cards
The thought of being stuck in a crowded mall with thousands of other holiday shoppers is enough to make some short-tempered consumers stay home. Hitting the gift card aisle at their local drugstore is the extent of their holiday shopping. If this sounds like you, listen up. You'll want to steer clear of store-specific gift cards, advises NerdWallet.com's personal finance expert Kimberly Palmer. Unless you know the recipient really well, you risk buying them a gift card to a store they don't shop at. In addition, gift cards can be easy to lose track of, especially if it's one the recipient doesn't plan to redeem immediately. As a result, it goes unused and your money is wasted, Palmer suggests.
If you insist on giving gift cards, stick to cash versions that come with an American Express, Mastercard or Visa logo on them. Your loved one can use it however they like -- to buy a coveted item at their favorite retailer, to catch a movie or to treat themselves to a spa day after the holiday madness has died down. Simply put: You can be assured that your friend or family member gets a gift they actually want and will use.
Tickets to a Broadway musical are sure to please the theater geek on your holiday gift-giving list, but you may want to reconsider purchasing them right now. That's because you can score 2-for-1 deals on select shows during NYC Broadway Week (which runs from January 21 through February 9) with ticket sales starting on January 8.
If you travel often to the Big Apple to catch a show, then you know this is a steal because a single ticket can cost a few hundred bucks. For example, last spring the average cost for a single ticket to see "Hamilton" -- one of the most popular Broadway shows -- totaled $286 (times two and that's $572 for tickets alone), according to The Washington Post.
Keep in mind this deal isn't for procrastinators. Ticket quantities are limited, so you'll want to book early before your desired show sells out. To see the full list of shows and to buy tickets, be sure to bookmark nycgo.com/broadway-week, so you don't miss out.
If you're expecting to snag deep discounts on an iPhone, smart watch or a set of AirPods during the holiday shopping frenzy, think again. You won't find prices being slashed on the Apple's e-commerce site or at its bricks-and-mortar locations on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
What you will find are Black Friday bundle deals from authorized resellers such as Target. For example, the big-box retailer's 2019 Black Friday doorbuster deals include a free $200 store gift card with the purchase of an iPhone 11 and qualified activation. It's worth noting that some retailers will even mark down prices on previous generation Apple product models. Walmart's doorbuster deals include an Apple Watch Series 3 for $129 (marked down from $199). Apple's current smart watch is Series 5.
For those who don't want to pay full price for the current models and can wait it out, TheKrazyCouponLady.com offers a smart buying strategy: Wait until Apple announces its new iPhone and other product releases, which it typically does annually in September. It's then that you'll start to see prices drop by as much as $150 on current models. By doing this, you get a discount without having to settle for an iPhone or smart watch that's two or three generations behind and isn't equipped with the latest technology.
Copyright 2019 The Kiplinger Washington Editors
All contents copyright 2019 The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC