How Inflation is Creeping Into Our Holiday Joy

Painting potatoes instead of eggs this Easter? Here are a few simple ways to ease sticker shock during the holidays, cut costs, and still have a celebration to remember.

Mother with two boys coloring Easter Eggs.

Sean Locke / Stocksy

With inflation on the rise, I've found myself second-guessing plans and purchases that I'd normally not even question. This week, I was positive I was being punked seeing that a carton of a dozen large eggs clock in at around $8. They weren't even organic, extra large, or specially farmed. Just your run-of-the-mill, generic eggs from a grocery store chain.

I'm not alone in the sticker shock. I laughed at suggestions on social media that perhaps it would be cheaper to decorate and hide potatoes instead of eggs on Easter. Then a few friends confessed they were going that route, feeling too guilty spending almost triple what they normally would on Easter eggs that wouldn't even be eaten. As long as their kids had something "egg-shaped" to decorate and hunt for, they wouldn't even notice.

Easter Potatoes?

Potatoes USA, a national marketing board representing growers and importers actually joined in on the trend, offering tips on painting and using the hashtag #easterpotatoes.

My family celebrates Passover and eggs hold great significance. On the seder plate, an egg represents Spring, rebirth, and the circle of life. Once the seder ends, but before the main meal is served, it's traditional to eat hard-boiled eggs in salt water to remember the tears of the ancient Israelites and the destruction of their Temple. Depending on how many people attend a seder—I have friends who host well over 20 people—you could easily go through three or more cartons. Not to mention, there are a lot of eggs used in cooking that holiday meal as well as in Passover desserts.

Cutting down your grocery bill for a holiday meal

As it turns out, egg prices have shot up more than 70%, according to the latest Consumer Price Index. It's not just eggs that have us feeling the effects of inflation. Produce, meat, and dairy are more costly too, which means if you're hosting a big, festive meal, you're on the hook for a large quantity of food and subsequently a high grocery bill. But you don't have to go into debt over one, albeit important and significant, meal.

Jessica Bane, the director of business operations at GoPromotional, suggests choosing cheaper cuts of meat or considering adding more plant-based dishes to your menu. "Picking seasonal produce and buying in large quantities can further cut down on expenses," she suggests.

If you're not willing to swap eggs for potatoes, many families find it cheaper to shop in bulk at big box stores like Costco. Others have found stores like Trader Joe's, Aldi, and Lidl to still be affordable—even with items such as eggs, though the selection can be limited,

Another suggestion? Rather than put the responsibility of food solely on the host, consider celebrating with a pot-luck-style meal where every guest is responsible for one dish. That way the cost is spread out a bit.

Trimming travel and other holiday expenses

Then there are the other aspects of holiday planning that are being hit by rising inflation costs—we're talking gifts, holiday attire, and of course travel expenses. I have a friend who was so happy that after two straight years of virtual holiday gatherings (thanks to COVID), she could finally book a trip to celebrate with her family in person. But the price of plane tickets, car rental, and hotel for her family of four would cost "more than my mortgage for the next three months combined," she texted me in despair. She ended up with a Zoom gathering, not because anyone was sick but because it was a lot more affordable than the travel it required.

It's why Bane suggests planning travel as far in advance as you can—and being flexible with travel dates—which can open up more flight options at lower fares. "As for lodging, explore alternatives to hotels, like staying with relatives or friends, or looking into Airbnb or other home-sharing services," she says.

Advice to make your holiday special despite high costs

Your holiday gatherings don't have to feel less special or like you're compromising just because inflation is presenting some challenges. Trinity Owen, a consumer expert, founder, and CFO of The Pay At Home Parent, recommends adopting a practical approach to mitigate the effects of inflation.

"Create a detailed budget, outlining your holiday priorities, and adhere to it diligently to prevent overspending," Owen says. "Be resourceful when planning your festivities, seeking out discounts and sales—and consider reducing non-essential expenses, such as decorations or elaborate gifts, to make the most of your available budget."

But most of all, keep in mind the reasons behind your holiday celebrations. "The essence of holiday celebrations lies in the connections we forge with our loved ones, not in the material items or extravagant meals we share," says Owen. "In these trying times, refocus on the relationships and experiences that bring joy and fulfillment. By embracing a spirit of togetherness and reevaluating our priorities, we can create meaningful and lasting memories without straining our finances."

After all, your kids won't remember if their Easter eggs were potatoes or if their seder plate featured a toy egg (another hack from a mom friend who refused to pay over $5 for eggs out of principle). But, they absolutely will remember the memories made with family and friends along with all the fun had during the holiday seasons.

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