Oh do I love Thanksgiving! I think it’s my favorite holiday because I love to eat. Every year I try to perfect my turkey cooking technique, so I was happy to find this article – 10 Common Turkey Mistakes. I’ll be studying it before it’s time to put my bird in the oven (and which is currently defrosting in the refrigerator).

I like having a lot of sides such as classic green bean casserole, crescent rolls, cranberry sauce, etc. but one of my favorites is this Sweet Potato Casserole from The Pioneer Woman. Only she can come up with a dish appetizing enough to make me eat the dreaded sweet potato! Ever since I discovered the recipe I make it for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

What are your favorite Thanksgiving dishes?

Tis the season to be giving back. With Thanksgiving later this week, now is a perfect time to reflect on the things we have and feel grateful for them. It’s also a time to think about those who are less fortunate and give to charity. We give money to the Northern Illinois Food Bank during the holidays so needy families can enjoy a special meal together, but any charity would welcome a donation!

Note: Charity Navigator is a site you can visit to research your charity of choice to ensure your donation is truly going to a cause and not being wasted. Unfortunately some charities can be scams, so this is a good place to start before opening your wallet.

This may come as no surprise to anyone else, but I recently learned that the fastest and most cost-effective way to make mashed potatoes is to buy whole potatoes in the can. I store them in the pantry and can whip up a batch of mashed potatoes with no pre-planning. I love that!

All you have to do is heat up the pre-cooked potatoes, drain them, and add butter, milk, and/or sour cream and mash those babies up. Look, the recipe is even on the back of the can!

Canned Whole Potatoes

Sure, it’s cheaper if you buy a bag of potatoes, peel them, and boil them, but who has time for that these days? Even if I use two cans of whole potatoes (which serves at least 4 people) I’m still saving at least a dollar, if not more, versus buying the frozen Steam and Mash potatoes from Ore-Ida. Plus I’m not taking up valuable space in the freezer. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this sooner!

There are tons of articles out there about how you’ll be happier spending your money on experiences verses material items, and I couldn’t agree more. But… I also see the benefit of buying items that will enhance your experiences. For instance, I own a nice digital SLR camera and a few lenses as well as some other accessories. These were acquired over time and were not cheap. But I love capturing moments and being able to look at them later. I love having a physical (or digital, if you want to be technical) representation of the experiences I’ve enjoyed over the years. There’s just nothing like it in the world and to me that is priceless. Feel free to visit my photography website, Perfect Pixels.

This is why I can completely understand why someone who is barely making ends meet still owns a smartphone. Sure, it may be because their priorities are out of whack, but perhaps it’s because they are a parent, or pet owner, and they use that phone to capture moments with their loved ones. Smartphones these days not only take great photos but video too. Who can resist and all-in-device that can enhance their experiences?

Another example is games. I prefer board games, but this could apply to video games too (assuming you’re playing them with others and not alone). I love discovering and trying new board games. I don’t go overboard by any means, and almost always buy when there’s a sale, but I still end up picking up 1-2 “new” board games a year to add to our collection. As for video games, we try borrowing most games from the library first to try, and if it’s a game we really like and know we would like to play frequently, we’ll buy it once the price drops or there’s a good deal online.

Side note: Half Price Books sells used board games, many of which are in excellent condition. Even though they are technically used, I recently purchased a game where all the pieces were still in their original packaging. You could tell it had never been played. And they carry video games too, not to mention CDs, DVDs, and vinyl records.

I could go on and on but I think you get the message. So while I agree that if you have the choice between a new “toy” and going on a trip, you should choose the trip, that doesn’t mean buying that toy is necessarily a bad thing. I guess it just depends on whether that new toy will enhance your future experiences or not.