Taking Stock and Making Stock

Both are Pretty Easy

It’s the holiday season, when we often celebrate the non-monetary things in our lives (other people, and possibly pets) by giving them monetary-based things (gift cards, scarves, etc.) I’m not going to declare that consumerism destroys the actual care we have for other people—the persons trampled in Black Friday sales speak volumes with their silence. You don’t have to go all DIY or give gifts like “one free backrub” unless you want to. As I’ve noted before—money doesn’t do anything unless you spend it somewhere. So if you want to give your mom the gift of a decent cup of coffee, then so be it; feel good about that decision.

After awakening from your holiday food coma, dear reader, tackle your last assignment of the year. It is to take stock of your past year from a financial standpoint. Take an hour or two to reflect on your highs and lows of your year with money. Maybe you got a sweet deal on a pair of shoes; maybe you planned ahead and got a decent 20% discount on your textbooks. Maybe you built your first budget (and your second, and your third—revision is common and encouraged.) Maybe you paid off some credit cards, or avoided putting a balance on them in the first place. Perhaps you took my fantastic advice and started setting a few bucks aside in a savings account or (gasp!) retirement account. Such innocuous delights should bring a smile to your face, for you showed wisdom and intelligence in both feats.

Ponder, too, the dark times—an unplanned flat tire; a parking ticket, a sudden sickness that put you off work for a few days (and boy, you could’ve used the money.) Prepare yourself for the next time—there’s always another flat tire. There’s also another opportunity to learn how to fix a flat.

In the interest of good holiday food and puns, here’s a tip on making stock while you’re taking stock: Save the Christmas dinner’s chicken bones or ham hock or whatever (sorry vegans) and put them in a big pot. Pour in water until the bones are an inch or two underwater. While the water is heating, throw in a dash of vinegar, and add some veggies like carrots, celery, and onions. (Bonus points for cutting them up first.) Bring it to a boil, then turn it down and simmer for at least 6 hours. Check on it every hour or so—you might need to add water, too.)  When it’s ready, let it cool and then strain out the solid bits. Put the stock in the fridge overnight, so the fat will rise to the top and harden. The next day, spoon off the fat, and your stock is ready for use (or save it in the freezer.) Use it to make soup, or substitute it for water when you cook rice. Financially, you just got good use out of something you were going to throw out anyway (the bones and the veggies. Kidding!)