What Can You Learn About Money From a Turkey Dinner?

November 25, 2010

The planning and preparation of a Thanksgiving dinner can teach us a few lessons about money.

1) Don’t Be Afraid To Fail
Every year my wife cooks a new dish for the family Thanksgiving dinner. Some years she goes through multiple failed attempts before finding the dish that turns out the way she wants it.

Don’t avoid investing because you’re afraid to lose money. If you’re in the stock market, I can almost guarantee you will lose money. Rather than not investing for fear of a loss, try it, learn from your mistakes, and you’ll find an investment strategy that works for you.

2) Follow The Recipe
We use cookbooks because an expert has already come up with the steps for creating a successful dish.

The steps to successful personal finances are well documented in books and online. The things we need to do are already laid out for us. Follow these recipes and over time your personal finances will turn into a tasty treat!

3) Add Your Own Spices
There are many recipes that have been improved upon by an experimenting chef.

When people create recipes for financial success, they are often guidelines for using money in your life. Not everything you read will apply to or make sense for you. Don’t feel you have to follow the recipe exactly, spice it up a little, modify it to what works best for you.

4) Plan Ahead
Often in the middle of making a dish, my wife realizes she didn’t buy all the ingredients. This results in a rushed trip to the store or sometimes even a not so tasty item.

Planning is probably the most important part of getting your finances on track. Make sure you know how much money you’ll need and when you’ll need it. Otherwise you may find yourself having to borrow to cover costs or unnecessarily spending a lot of money.

5) Ask for Advice
When things aren’t going right with a new recipe, my wife often calls up her mom for some advice on what to do next.

Find someone you can trust and feel comfortable talking to about your money situation. If a question comes up, give them a call and ask their opinion on how to proceed.

6) Don’t be Last Minute
One of the biggest mistakes my wife’s makes is waiting until 2 hours before dinner to start cooking. She’s rushed and more likely to make a mistake. If something goes wrong there is no time to run to the store.

Don’t put off planning your finances. If you wait too long to begin planning for things like college or retirement you will miss out on the ability of money to grow over time and will be limited in the choices you have. Time is a non-renewable resource. Don’t run out of it, there is no going back for a do over.

7) Diversify
We always want to have multiple dishes at Thanksgiving dinner that satisfy all tastes and complement each other.

One of the keys to having a secure nest egg is to have multiple investments that complement each other in terms of risk and market exposure. It is important to be diversified not only among sectors in the stock market but also by having real estate, bonds, and liquid investments.

8 ) Have an Emergency Plan
We have experienced several crises where the first dish doesn’t turn out. If my wife bought the ingredients for several dishes and has enough time, the crisis is averted. If no emergency plan is in place then we show up to Thanksgiving dinner shamefully empty handed.

Be prepared for the unexpected. The best way to do this is to build up an emergency fund that will cover your living expenses for 3-6 months. If life takes an unexpected turn for the worst, it will not be as bad if you have a safety net to catch you.

9) Don’t Over Eat
A common problem at Thanksgiving dinner is eating too much food. This is not something my wife does often but I am challenged by it every year. Everything just tastes so good!

In today’s society of materialism and easy credit, it is easy to spend more money than you have. Resist the temptation to spend, spend, and spend. You may feel you’re missing out in the short term but in the long run you’ll be much happier if you are smart with your spending.

10) Enjoy with Friends & Family
While we spend a lot of time and effort making the food, the important part is sitting down to eat with our family.

While we focus on making and managing our money every day, the most important thing is how we use it to live our lives. Don’t get so caught up in your personal finances that you don’t have time to enjoy the important things in life.


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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11 Responses to What Can You Learn About Money From a Turkey Dinner?

  • Lisa

    Great analogy between Turkey Day and Money! The analogy I think makes it easier for people to understand. Sometimes, people get intimidated by financial speak, so to see it put into simple words is both helpful and awesome. Great tips!

  • moneysmartz

    She doesn’t mind. Of course that’s because she doesn’t know she’s my inspiration for this article! Just kidding.

    She actually is a great planner in general. That’s why it’s so odd she gets flustered for big family meals.

  • CJ

    Great article! I wish I wrote it. Though I’m wondering what your wife thinks of it, since you’ve outted her weakness of sometimes being a poor planner. My wife gets a little squeamish sometimes about the stuff I write, but so far I haven’t revealed anything to do damaging (to her or me!).


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