Tag Archives: Holiday

The Business Side of the 4th of July

Untitled-logo trustFireworks & Hot Dogs

As most middle-school age kids know, in the summer of 1776, representatives of the 13 colonies considered a resolution that would declare their independence from Great Britain. And on July 2nd of the same year, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence. Then on July 4, 1776, the delegates adopted the Declaration of Independence, arguably the nation’s most historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson.

From 1776 until the present day, July 4th – also known as Independence Day – has been celebrated as the birth of our country’s independence, with typical festivities ranging from casual family barbecues to local town parades to concerts and fireworks sponsored by large US cities and televised worldwide.

As I was munching on a hotdog and listening to my neighbors launch fireworks into the night sky, it got me thinking about the business of fireworks and hotdogs. We have all seen the big fireworks stores scattered throughout the county and open year round, but I am always amazed at how many fireworks tents pop up in local towns starting about June 1st.

So, it got me thinking. Just how big is this industry? How many fireworks shows are put on across the country? And how expensive is it to do? And I’m curious, what about all those hot dogs?

Well, I was stunned to discover just how much we spend on blowing things up in the sky. Here’s what I found according to the American Pyrotechnics Association:

  • The earliest documentation of fireworks dates back to 7th century China and today, China produces almost 90% of the world’s fireworks
  • There are an estimated 14,000 July 4th fireworks celebrations across our country
  • Many small town shows cost between $2,000 and $10,000 for a short show
  • The larger cities – which often incorporate music, sophisticated computer coordination and much bigger shells – cost about $3-$10,000 a minute. And the average show lasts approximately 17 minutes.
  • Last year, we spent over $1 billion on fireworks – with approximately $750 million spent by consumers and the balance coming from what are known as displays – towns, cities, corporations putting on public fireworks displays.
  • That $1 billion bought almost 300 million pounds of fireworks last year, which is basically a pound of fireworks for every person in the US.
  • Those 300 million pounds of fireworks are the equivalent of 200,000 lightning bolts!
  • Walt Disney World buys the largest number of fireworks in the US per year due to their nightly fireworks shows over the Magic Kingdom.
  • The largest show in the country – the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks – is held with New York City as its backdrop and its organizers launch an average of 1,600 shells per minute, which is more than three times the average of an entire local community show. It is viewed by more than 3 million spectators and has a TV audience of more than 8 million. They will launch more than 50,000 shells from six barges over the Hudson River in a span of 25 minutes.
  • The July Fourth Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular – one of my personal favorites – will attract over half a million spectators and another 8 million people tune in to watch on TV.
  • The National Park Service in Washington, DC, puts on an annual Fourth of July fireworks show at the National Mall. The show boasts the most large shells of any show in the country and lights up the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial at an estimated cost of $4 million.

Hot Dogs

Overall, we will spend almost $7 billion on Fourth of July food. And, if you didn’t know, the month of July also happens to be National Hot Dog Month. Curious how many hot dogs we eat?

Well, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council – that’s a real organization – says that in the US, we eat 20 billion hot dogs each year and over 150 million are eaten on July 4th.

You realize that there are approximately 320 million people in the US, right? That means, on average you and I each eat more than 62 hot dogs a year…

Tying it All Together

So how does this relate to financial planning? Well I’m not sure it really does. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy your 4th of July and have learned a little bit about the business of fireworks and hotdogs. Happy 4th.

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Holiday Giving: How to Become a Savvy Charitable Giver

It’s hard to believe there are only 8 days left until Christmas! For many people, it is important to take time during the holiday season to give to those who are in need.  Donating to your favorite cause can be fulfilling, but it’s important to ensure that your gift reaches the intended source. Follow these tips to become a savvy charitable giver this holiday season:

  • Give To an Established Charity
    Unfortunately, there are fraudulent charities that will take advantage of your goodwill.  To avoid this situation, ask for written information about the charity, including name, address and telephone number. A legitimate charity will give you information about their mission, how your donation will be used and proof that your contribution is tax deductible. Find a charity with a proven track record for providing aid.
  • Designate Your Gift
    Some charities allow you to specify exactly where your gift is headed, either to a specific orphanage, to purchase school supplies or to a geographic area in need of relief.  By designating or earmarking your gift, you control where your donation goes and whom it helps.
  • A Proactive Giver is a Smart Giver
    Wise givers don’t give on an impulse or to the first organization that comes along.  Smart givers take time to identify the causes important to them.  Contact a charitable organization, find out their mission and what type of aid and programs they offer.  Work with charities that have targeted outcomes for their giving.
  • Benefits to You
    A donor’s primary motivation may be altruism, but everyone knows there are great tax benefits for those who give. A donation to a qualified organization may entitle you to a charitable contribution deduction.  Remember a contribution to a qualified charity is deductible only in the year in which it is paid, and all charities do not qualify for a charitable contribution deduction.  Always ask for a receipt and save them for tax time.
  • Consider Giving Your Time
    Four out of five charities report using volunteers.  Volunteers are the foundation of many charitable organizations. If you can’t afford to donate money, consider donating your time.  Common volunteer duties include: stuffing envelopes, feeding animals, tutoring, building homes, serving as a museum docent, counseling those in crisis, selling tickets or answering phone calls.

Visit these other sites to find out more on charitable giving:

Resource information provided by the American Bankers Association

Holiday Planning: Make a List and Check it Twice

As the holidays quickly approach, the American Bankers Association is encouraging consumers to plan ahead to avoid excessive debt in the New Year.

“Develop a plan in advance of the holidays, and be sure to check it twice,” said Frank Keating, ABA’s former president and CEO. “Assessing your finances and spreading out your holiday spending are terrific ways to avoid starting the New Year with debt you’ll regret.”

Below are seven holiday spending tips from ABA to help consumers have a financially happy New Year:

  • Plan ahead. Before you start shopping, develop a realistic budget. Consider your income, subtract your normal monthly expenses and then add any savings to whatever cash is left over. If you need to use your credit card, think about what you can afford to pay back in January.
  • Keep track of other costs. Don’t forget costs beyond gifts, like postage, gift wrap, decorations, greeting cards, food, travel and charitable contributions.
  • Make a list and check it twice. Keep your gift list limited to family and close friends, noting how much you want to spend on each.
  • Shop early, spend carefully. Avoid shopping while rushed or under pressure, which can lead to overspending. Make sure to comparison shop online first, or download an app that lets you compare prices before you buy anything in a store. Before you head to the cashier (or online checkout), make sure your purchase is within the budget you set.
  • Avoid traps. Finding a spectacular sale on something you’ve been wanting can easily throw you off course. Stay strong and stick to your budget. And don’t apply for store credit cards you don’t need just to get a one-time discount.
  • Use credit wisely. Limit the use of credit for holiday spending. If you must use credit, use only one card, preferably the one with the lowest interest rate, and leave the rest at home.  Pick a date when you can pay off your holiday credit card bills, and commit to paying off the balance by that time. Be sure to check statements for unauthorized charges and report them immediately.
  • Save your receipts. Not only will you need them for possible returns, you’ll need them to keep track of what you’ve spent and to compare with your credit card statement. Knowing how much you spent will help you plan for next year, too.

Keating noted that banks are committed to helping consumers responsibly handle credit and save for the future.

“Banks offer a wide menu of options to help you save for the holidays and other expenses,” said Keating. “Ask your banker about a customizable savings plan, such as a Christmas account that enables you to set aside money throughout the year for your holiday spending.”

For more information on managing your money – as well as a variety of other personal finance tips and resources – visit aba.com/consumers.

Resource Information: American Banker’s Association