Hey Taylor: Got a dilemma. I host a big Memorial Day barbecue every year, always a blast but it usually costs a pretty penny. This year, my wife and I are trying to get rid of all our credit card debt (plenty of which comes from this annual party, tbh). What can I do? I’ve gotta stop spending but this is tradition. — Wyatt
Hey Wyatt: I hear you. You can’t just let go of something important, but you also can’t let a tradition from the past jeopardize your future. Sounds to me like you have to change things up a little, but do whatever you can to keep the essence of your annual bash. A few ideas that could help:
■ BYOM. I’m not sure how your Memorial Day barbecue usually works, but I love going to cookouts with the Bring Your Own Meat theme. It’s a great twist on your classic potluck, because it spreads out the spending, diversifies the menu, and it doesn’t force anyone aside from the host to do any cooking.
You get to be in charge of the grill, which I’m just assuming is your preference, and people bring you all sorts of delicious cuts to cook up. Having hosted barbecues for big crowds myself, I know how high the food bill can go. If people have to bring food for themselves, there’s usually plenty for everyone and it doesn’t all go on your credit card.
■ Change of location. What’s the tradition we’re working with? If it absolutely has to be at your home, then ignore these thoughts. If this is about friends and family spending time together on Memorial Day, are there other places you can make that happen without feeling the financial burden of hosting?
Maybe there’s another family you’re close with that wants to share the hosting duties, or perhaps this could become a day at the river and everyone brings their own cooler.
Traditions are allowed to change and evolve when it makes sense for the people involved; don’t worry about changes making the weekend worse, but rather how a few tweaks can keep this tradition go on without having a negative impact on your finances.
■ Take things even further. Here’s the crazy option. Instead of scaling back, what if you took your event to the next level? Again, I’m not sure what your group is into, but if this is a big gathering and a big deal, what would happen if you brought a band, raised a bounce house and charged a modest entry fee?
Definitely run this idea by some friends before deciding it’s the way to go. But there might be a world in which you do the planning and heavy lifting, and your friends happily cover the cost.
The money is your top priority — you can’t fall back on old habits and run up more debt. There’s a way for you to have your cake and eat it too, Wyatt, and hopefully one of these options will help get you there.