Frugal Multi-Cultural 4th of July Party Suggestions

The 4th of July is just around the corner, and with it, the official launch of summer.  A favorite American pastime, a barbeque 4th of July party offers you the chance to enjoy the weather and the company of friends while enjoying tasty foods.  If you don’t have much money to devote to entertaining, consider moving beyond the traditional favorites of hamburgers and hot dogs and trying some of these unique, cultural party food ideas.

Main Meals

Frugal 4th of JulyFajitas on the grill.  Buy some lower cost steak, chicken breasts and shrimp.  Season them, grill them, and then mix them together so each fajita contains a mix of the three meats.  Grill some onions and peppers on the grill, slice them, and make a fajita bar complete with tortillas, shredded lettuce, guacamole, onions, peppers and meats.  Of course, you can choose to use only one or two meats depending on what is on sale at the grocery store the week of your party.

Taco bar.  Prepare a few different taco fillings with homemade seasoning including ground beef, chicken, and a vegetarian option such as black beans.  If you have a bit more money to spend, buy some lower cost steak and also offer steak tacos.  For variety, offer flour and corn tortillas.  Then let your guests choose their main fillings, type of tortilla and their toppings.  (Perhaps choose from shredded lettuce, cheese, refried beans, tomatoes, onions, guacamole, etc.)  If you want to be even more creative, consider making your own pico de gallo.

Pulled pork.  Be your own pit master and search the web for the myriad of homemade bbq sauce recipes.  Create your own bbq sauce and delight your guests with delicious, homemade pulled pork.

Side Dishes

Having spent the majority of your money on the main meal, consider these low cost side dishes.  Choose the ones that best match what you are serving as the main meal.

Deviled eggs.  Even in today’s economy, eggs average 10 to 15 cents a piece, making for a very low cost side dish.

Japanese potato salad.  Potatoes can also be very cheap.  If you want a new, creamy twist on potato salad, consider making Japanese potato salad.  Your guests will most likely enjoy this newer version of an old classic.

Corn on the cob.  At some road side stands and farmers’ markets, you can find corn on the cob for 10 to 15 cents an ear.  Consider going beyond the traditional and instead making some Mexican corn on the cob popular at food stands.  Either add olive oil and red pepper, or add a blend of butter, mayonnaise and cheese.  Again, search a site like food.com to find a variety of recipes.

If you have a small entertainment budget, consider some of these meal ideas.  Most of them will require less meat per person than the traditional hamburger, and your guests will love the variety.

photo credit: Signe Karin

Are You Ready for a BIG Emergency?

Are you ready for a big emergency?  Do you have the required 6 to 12 months’ emergency fund?

I can hear your groan now.  Who has enough extra money to put aside 6 to 12 months in the bank?  If you have expenses of $3,000 a month, an ample emergency fund of 6 to 12 months would be $18,000 to $36,000.  Definitely not small change.

An emergency fund is hard to build, and that may be part of the reason why many people never even try.

Big Emergency

Original image credit: https://flic.kr/p/7KLtYi

But there will be an emergency that will occur sometime in your life.  You will need that money.

Financial Death by a Thousand Nicks

We relocated to Arizona 10 months ago.   Doing so drained our meager emergency fund.  For a few months, we were doing pretty good and getting back on our feet until we started facing endless financial nicks—braces for our son, $2,000 in medical and dental expenses, $1,500 in car repairs, etc.  The last five months have been financially very difficult.

If we would have had a 6 to 12 month emergency fund, our job now would be to rebuild the emergency fund, not do constant damage control.  I think it will be a few more months until we are financially in the clear, assuming no other major expenses come up.  Meanwhile, we feel extremely vulnerable financially.

The Big Emergency Worst Case Scenario

However, our current financial difficulties are nothing compared to what others face.  My daughters’ therapist is living a financial nightmare.  Her husband had a stroke and now has locked in syndrome, which means he has his full mental faculties, but he can’t move his body.  He is no older than 40.  No one would expect this to happen.

The therapist’s life now is driving to see her husband and advocate for him as well as juggling the finances of losing one income as well as the rapidly mounting medical expenses.  She does work but has had to take frequent days off.  Even with a Go Fund Me page that brought her nearly $50,000 in donations, I have no idea how she is handling the expenses.

Of course, this is a worst case scenario, but still, an emergency fund to liquidate in this situation would be nice.

Take Baby Steps to Reach Your Goal

Right now, my husband and I are struggling to stay out of debt.  So far we’ve succeeded, but we’re right on the edge.  Still, our plan is to put a small amount away in our emergency fund, say $50 a month.  Something is always better than nothing.

In the next few months, we’ll amp that amount up to a couple of hundred a month and keep increasing as we are able.  We won’t have a sizeable emergency fund anytime soon, but we will have some money put aside.

Too often, it’s easy to look at your finances when everything is going right and say to yourself, “We’re doing alright.  I can afford to splurge.”

But that’s short-sighted thinking.  Look at your finances and ask yourself how would you be financially if you had several smaller emergencies of a few hundred or thousand dollars or if the worst case scenario happened?

My advice is to wait to splurge until you have that emergency fund.  Trust me, one day you’ll be glad.

Do you have a 6 to 12 month emergency fund, or do you find it too difficult to achieve?

Do Your Kids Do Chores?

I recently saw an article on Yahoo! that said only 28% of today’s kids do chores versus 82% of kids from our generation.

I don’t know about you, but I had chores when I was growing up.  I took care of our pets, washed the dishes, and helped clean the house ALL day on Saturdays.  (I still have nightmares about cleaning each and every slat on our huge stereo.)

My kids are definitely part of the 28% of today’s kids who have chores.  My 10 year old is responsible for doing three chores a day including things like vacuuming the living room or his bedroom, emptying the dishwasher, and cleaning the bathroom.  My younger kids are 6 and 5, and they’re responsible for two chores a day including picking up their toys, cleaning their rooms, putting away clean clothes, and feeding the cat.

Kids do ChoresWe have our kids do chores because we want them to learn to be self-sufficient, and we want them to understand that there are not always people there to do things for them.  I plan to work with my oldest this summer to teach him how to prepare some basic meals.

Repercussions for Kids Who Don’t Do Chores

But what about the other 72% of kids who don’t do chores?

One of my friends had surgery recently, and she had trouble getting up to prepare her food.  Her boys are 17 and 13, but neither of them could make her anything while her husband was at work because they hadn’t yet learned to cook.  Her son had to go to the store to buy some frozen meals for her.

And herein lies the problem.  “Too often children leave home for college unable to look after themselves adequately.  They have to rely on junk food or expensive ready-made meals” (Yahoo!).

If your children do not have the most basic of skills to care for themselves, when they’re adults their lack of skills can cost them a small fortune.  You likely know of people who don’t know how to cook, so instead they fill their grocery carts with frozen meals or go out to eat every night.

Even worse, your adult child may be so cozy at home that he never leaves!

Parents Sacrifice Now So Greater Rewards Can Come Later

My guess is that many parents don’t give their children chores because training them to do chores properly takes time, sometimes a few weeks to a few months.  It can be a painful process.

Gina Gardiner, author of the Yahoo! article, states, “Many parents I believe are suffering from the ‘It’s quicker, easier and less hassle to do it yourself syndrome.’ Of course, it takes time to teach children how to do chores and a real commitment to motivate children to do the chores and understand why it’s important—but it is well worth the investment.”

I know that is why I have neglected to teach my oldest to cook and why I’m waiting to do so until the summer when we’ll have more time.  Teaching him to cook will require patience on my end (and perhaps his, too), but it will be well worth the time and effort.

Do you require your children to do chores?  If you don’t, why not?