The yolk is on ewe!

More than colored eggs and chocolate bunnies, the economics of Easter.

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I find it very appropriate that in 2018, Easter falls on April 1st, which is National Atheists Day. The last time this occurred was 1956, and it won’t happen again until 2029. If you’re wondering why April 1st is National Atheists Day, The Bible makes this clear. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good” (Psalm 14:1). The Bible says that anyone who denies God is a fool! So Happy Easter and April Fool’s Day!

Easter is the third-largest celebration right after Christmas and Thanksgiving, especially in Christian countries – like the US. Although the origins of Easter are religious, and are supposed to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it has become more commercialized and now seems to concentrate on the candy aspect. Although candy is dandy, and not to mention  a very big business, God is awesome! ALL THE TIME.

Easter: Good For Business

Easter spending is expected to total $18.2 billion this year, the second-highest level on record, according to the annual survey conducted for the National Retail Federation by Prosper Insights & Analytics. A total of 81 percent of Americans will celebrate the holiday and spend an average of $150 per person. Last year was slightly higher $18.4 billion in 2017, which is approximately $152 dollar a person. The NRF survey has been tracking consumer spending since 2003.

This money will be spent mainly on food and candy, but other categories include clothes, gifts, flowers, decorations, greeting cards, and travel.

In the USA popular candies include my three favorites: Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs, Cadbury Creme Eggs, and the ubiquitous chocolate bunnies in various sizes and shapes. (I prefer a solid white chocolate bunny.) Jelly beans are still around but not as popular with the current generation. Marshmallow Peeps are another very popular candy, but I can’t eat them because they contain gelatin.  Plus all this sugar is really bad for my diet.

One Cadbury Creme Egg packs about 20 grams of sugar, and four pieces of the mini version has around 21 grams.

Sugar-coated marshmallows like Peeps, however, have 34 grams of sugar in the suggested serving size of five traditional chick-shaped candies. So perhaps it’s best that the aforementioned gelatin prevents me from eating Peeps.   

What candies or Easter foods are popular in your country? I’d love to read about them in the comments.

Easter Themed Seasonal Treats

As you may recall, I have been in the process of trying to start a coffee shop for some time now, with little success and a lot of lost funds. I haven’t given up, it’s still on the back burner while I regroup and try to rebuild my cafe investment egg. Seasonal holidays can present exciting opportunities for small business specializing in food and drink . Tailoring special menu items can generate new sales. Peanut Butter Mocha! Coconut Cream French Soda. Maybe a bunny shaped cookie, or one frosted like a Easter egg.  Maybe make a special chocolate peanut butter sandwich cookie. Be creative!

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Placement of impulse items on counter tops near the register can bring increased revenue. Chocolate covered coffee beans anyone?  Use your imagination! One cleaver local cafe owner had a basket filled with plastic eggs on the counter in an Easter Basket. Patrons were encouraged to ‘try their luck’ and choose a plastic egg which contained a coupon for either a free item or a discount. A wonderful idea! If you have a cafe or food business, I’d love to hear some of your Easter-themed seasonal items and suggestions! Happy Easter, and as always, I wish you happiness and success!    

Deck the Halls!

It’s Christmastime- Budgeting 102!

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“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.” 
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and the average consumer tends to blow their budget to smithereens as they get carried away by the holiday cheer.  Each year Christmas spending has been increasing, usually prompted by Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.  This is good news for retailers whose profit earnings during the Christmas season can be significant, up to and even exceeding  half of their annual profits. Christmas is big business, but it can land consumers in the poor house.

Haunted by ‘The Ghosts of Christmas Past’?

According to The American Research Group Inc. the average American spends almost $1000 on Christmas gifts. If you add other seasonal expenses like decorations, food, and expenses associated with traveling to visit distant friends and family, the amount can easily skyrocket. Most of this is rung up on plastic.  Let’s not forget about charitable donations either. How much pocket change did you throw in the Salvation Army Kettle each time you passed a bell-ringer? Till it’s all said and done, the end-of the-year shopping spree spreading Christmas Cheer is followed each January by the real ‘Ghosts of Christmas Past’ – the credit card bills!

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” 
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

At the end of A Christmas Carol Ebenezer Scrooge learns the true meaning of Christmas. You don’t have to go overboard and be a miser to avoid the consumer trap, you just need to plan a budget and  stick to it.

Naughty or Nice?

Do you honestly have to buy something for EVERYONE you know? It may be sad to say, but there are many people we know who deserve a lump of coal for Christmas. If you have little or no money to spend, you have two choices:

  • ‘Everyone’ doesn’t get a gift.
  • ‘Everyone’ gets a share of the pot.

I’m not a fan of  cutting people out because I feel mistreated or cheated. Everyone we know is facing some inner turmoil we know nothing about.  If someone gives you a gift, you don’t have to automatically reciprocate with an equal or even more expensive gift.  Just say ‘thank you’.  A gift is a gift, not an obligation.  I have almost a thousand regular customers at my day job. I treat them all the same. A very small few give me Christmas gifts. I don’t expect anything from them, but I always thank them.   I know that in many cases, some of my elderly customers are on fixed incomes and have very little money. I worry about accepting gifts from them, and I sometimes ask ‘are you sure?’ or state that they ‘didn’t have to do that’. It’s rude to refuse a gift. Be grateful, smile and thank them. They appreciate it far more than you know, and it costs NOTHING to be kind!

Set limits!

I budget for Christmas. I have a set amount ear-marked for the season, and I stick to that limit. Everyone on my list gets something, even if it’s only a card. It’s the thought that counts. I mail out almost 50 cards, each with a printed annual newsletter. It’s an expense, but I enjoy doing it. I have not been able to see some of the people on my list in years because I am so busy, and they are busy, and our schedules don’t mesh. A Christmas greeting in the form of a card and newsletter is a nice way to let people know you still care. Only about 20% of them mail me a return card, but that’s okay. Gifts are gifts, no obligation remember?

Keep gifts appropriate

Always consider that just because you like something doesn’t mean everyone will like it. Take fruitcake for example. Some people think it makes a great gift. Others feel it’s great for propping open the door. Some people have food allergies or special diets.  Some parents don’t allow certain toys. NEVER GIVE PETS AS GIFTS! Give cash or gift cards and let the recipient purchase what they really want.

Christmas Club!

During the Great Depression, banks first started the idea of seasonal savings accounts earmarked for Christmas. These are still offered by some financial institutions. In many cases you can even arrange for automatic payroll deductions to make saving for even Christmas easier. Christmas Clubs usually send out checks or electronic bank deposits of the entire amount at the end of October, in plenty of time for Christmas.  

Grandma hates me!

Children do not understand gifts of socks and underwear. I grew up poor, and Christmas was about getting toys. Very few children have the understanding and level of maturity to understand that they may be poor, and don’t get why ‘Santa’ didn’t bring them a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle, opting instead for much needed clothing. I was always disappointed by clothing. I also had too many toys.  I didn’t play with the ones I had, or need new ones. I don’t have kids, but let me tell you, if I did they wouldn’t be spoiled with showers of toys. Yet each year, I see friends and relatives spoiling their kids.  Some elderly people have a dozen or more grandchildren. They can’t afford a gift for every grandchild. If there is some special must-have toy that is quite expensive, consider pooling resources, and just labeling the one gift ‘From Santa’.   

Visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads

Instead of buying gifts, throw a small dinner party. I do this each year for a few close friends who live local.  Arrange party games and take pictures to make it memorable.    

Made with Love

 Maybe there is nothing in the store they need, but what about some token of love? Bake Christmas Cookies, or give a handmade gift like a decorated mason jar filled with coffee or cocoa mix, or a handmade ornament. Send cards to let them know you care. What about just love itself?, Share friendship, understanding, consideration, a helping hand, a smile, and a prayer. You can’t buy these things in any store , but these things are what people need the most. As always I wish you happiness and success!  And God bless us, everyone.         

The Best Part of Waking Up !

Could I have a little more coffee in my coffee?

By now, you may have been wondering about the title of my weekly blog. Instant Coffee Wisdom seems counter intuitive but I chose that name for two reasons. First it’s a bit of a play on words. Have you ever observed someone make a painful mistake that had an instant penalty? Like for instance, missing the nail when you swung the hammer and hitting your finger instead? Or maybe pulling a prank that backfired? I could go on, but the point in doing something like that is you instantly realize the error of your ways and take steps to ‘never do that again’. Some people refer to that as a dose of instant wisdom, or instant karma. Take your pick. Pain is a teacher and painful  lessons are rarely forgotten.

“The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” 

― Stephen McCranie

One thing I learned early on is that it’s much better to learn from the mistakes of others and avoid doing what they did. It was the driving force I used growing up poor that led to my current state of success. I’ve made a few mistakes along the way, and I’ve learned from them. I’ve also learned a lot by studying success experts, and their methods have helped me avoid many other errors. I’ve been poor and now I’m richer than everyone in my family, and most of my peers. Trust me, richer is better. Now I’m trying to distill what I’ve learned to help pass that knowledge unto you so that you too may grow and prosper.  The reason it’s ‘lonely at the top’ is because so few strive to reach the peak of their potential.  According to research by the University of Scranton, only 8% of people who set goals each year achieve them.  92% is a pretty large failure rate.  Success takes work,  and never happens instantly.  So that covers the instant wisdom. Next up the instant coffee.

Two sugars, extra cream!

Coffee is the most traded food or drink commodity in the world. The first successful method of creating a stable, soluble instant coffee was invented in 1901 by Japanese-American chemist Satori Kato. Growing up, my mother loved Taster’s Choice. I think Folgers has a better catch-phrase though it’s still inaccurate. The best part of waking up is not the coffee, especially if it’s instant coffee. The best part of waking up is waking up!  Have you ever drank instant coffee? No matter what anyone says,  instant coffee is NOT good coffee. It’s cheap, and it’s fast. You don’t need any equipment to make it. All you need is hot water, a cup and a spoon to stir it with. My mother never even boiled the water, just ran the hot water tap for a minute. It’s NOT good coffee, but as far as I’m concerned, even bad coffee is better than no coffee and you can kill the aftertaste with copious amounts of cream and sugar.

All good things take time!

 Better coffee requires better beans, better roasts, fresh grinds, and better brewing methods.

I’ve had many different kinds of coffee drinks in my life made by many different methods including the now popular cold brew method that’s sweeping the nation. One of my favorite methods for making coffee is campfire coffee, (also called cowboy coffee) which is boiled to perfection on an open flame.  That’s one strong cup o’ joe that will put hair on your chest!

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I’m not even going to acknowledge hyper expensive exotic refinements like Kopi luwak or Black Ivory. You want to throw away a day’s pay or more for a cup of ‘so-called coffee’, go right ahead.

That cup of coffee cost how much?

I had my first cup of espresso in the 90’s at a long defunct cafe called The Munk’s Tunic. Needless to say it was a wake up call to a kid raised on instant.  Compared to most ordinary restaurant coffee at the time, it cost twice as much,  was severed in a tiny demitasse on matching sized saucer, with a sliver of lemon zest. From there I sampled cappuccinos, lattes, iced coffee drinks. It became quite the expensive drinking habit.   I quickly realized that if this was going to become my new life-long obsession,  I would need to start learning to make these drinks at home. So I brought my first espresso machine. It paid for itself the first year.

Home espresso machines range in price from a $50 Mister Coffee,  to certain Breville and De’Longhi models that run in the hundreds of dollars. Not one of them can hold a candle to a Nuova Simonelli Aurelia Semi-Auto Espresso Machine, but you’re not going to spend $9000 to buy one unless you are going into the cafe business. That’s why customers go to their favorite cafes, because you can’t get the same coffee at home.  So the reason you actually buy lattes at cafes is because they have the specialized equipment, the training  to operate it,  and ‘hopefully’ the freshest beans available.  And that’s why the coffee tastes so good. The very best coffee will never be instant coffee,  and now you are wise to that.

So think of Instant Coffee Wisdom as an easy reminder that the best things in life never happen instantly. Happiness, success, and wealth all take time to ‘brew’. Don’t settle for instant. There are no shortcuts to success, and if you settle for ‘good enough’, you are cheating yourself, because ‘good enough’ is NEVER ‘good enough’.  As always I wish you happiness and success!