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Episode 150: Laissez les bons temps rouler

How much New Orleans Carnival costs
Episode 150: Laissez les bons temps rouler


This “Money With Mak and G” podcast episode, I look back at my time in New Orleans, the main drivers of the New Orleans economy, and how much money is spent on Mardi Gras each year…

New Orleans is known for its parties, events, culture, and of course the notorious Mardi Gras.

After a wonderful time there I look at the financial side of the city, what types of jobs people have there, and how much money Mardi Gras adds to the economy…

“If you want to ride a float you’ll need about 500 dollars worth of beads, cups, and souvenirs to throw into the crowd during the parade.”Ben Jones

Time Stamps:
01:57 – Some of the best parts of New Orleans.
03:00 – How many jobs the tourism industry in New Orleans brings in.
03:39 – The dirty side of New Orleans and how much the US bought the land for from France.
04:11 – New Orleans Carnival and Mardi Gras.
04:55 – The French roots in Louisiana.
05:32 – How much money Mardi Gras adds to the economy.
06:34 – The banning of masks in Louisiana and how much it costs to run a float.
08:20 – Where the bead craze at Mardi Gras started.
09:30 – The last time Mardi Gras has been canceled.
10:48 – The Mardi Gras festivities in Alabama.

Rock and Roll 5K

Connect with Ben Jones:


Welcome back to Money with Mak & G. Don’t forget to Like, Subscribe and Comment. What a week! It was pretty exciting with the snowstorm, but it was fun to hop a plane after the 12” was over and then knock down a goal for 2022. Mak & G are back at home, so I’m on my own.

I was lucky enough to run the Rock & Roll 5k and ½ marathon in New Orleans, baby. I was hoping for great weather. The average starting temp is normally around 60 degrees, but NOPE, more like 32 and crazy windy day one, then, on day 2, it was 4 degrees warmer, but a lot less wind.

So, how is your year going? Are you focused on your financial goals, saving a bit more here and there, making sure to invest, and enjoying the satisfaction of taking control. For me, when I get to take control of something, like my health, in this case, it has been fantastic. It really helps your view on life, gives you energy so you can accomplish other goals like taking control of your finances.

Ok, for those out there who want to recognize their significant others for Valentine’s Day with chocolate, flowers, or something unique, you have less than a week. Remember, PLANNING is the key to building wealth. It’s just like budgeting. Have your plan before you spend the money. And, when you don’t you’ll pay more when you don’t plan. So, get on it. I’m locked and loaded, great price, and it should be a nice day in the Jones household.

Ok, I’m still in a bit of pain from the runs, but when in New Orleans, I kept looking around thinking about money. Why, because that’s what I do. Katrina, the water issues, the cost of living in a flood plain, and more. But, I tried to think of some more positive things. If you haven’t been there, it does have some outstanding stuff. Crazy good food. Crawfish, with the sucking at the end. By the way, not for me.

Shrimp etouffee, which is a fancy way of saying “smothered” in sauce, with the holy trinity of onion, celery, and green peppers. Yummy. Charred oysters with butter, garlic, spices, and cheese. Only really ate oysters one other time, that was on another visit, but great stuff at Acme. The Beignets cafe served up beignets which are like donuts with powder sugar. Those are yummy too.

Anyway, tourism is huge here. Jazz, Mardi Gras, food, creole, and a flair that’s pretty original. But, from a money perspective, it made me think. Tourism, when people come to see the city and spend money is big. It appears that New Orleans has about 400,000 residents and there are about 100,000 who work in tourism. That’s only the city because the area connected to the city means there is about 1 million. People work in hotels, restaurants, selling gifts, bars, tours and more. That’s a lot of people, but it’s estimated working in a restaurant is a bit over $30,000 and if you work in a hotel it is a bit over $40k. These wouldn’t be considered high-paying jobs. I did read on one website that it’s ranked the dirtiest city in the US. It’s definitely not the cleanest place I’ve ever been.

Ok, talk about something crazy. The French sold us the land for 3 ½ cents an acre, which was $15 million. It almost doubled the size of the US at the time. It’s calculated to be somewhere north of $300 million in today’s dollars. That’s still less than $1 an acre. That is a BARGAIN!!!

We just so happen to be in the city during Carnival. Hey, I didn’t know this, but the word Carnival comes from the Latin “Carne Vale”. Which means “farewell meat”. It’s literally preparing for lent

Carnival always begins after the 12th day of Christmas, which is January 6th, and ends with Fat Tueseday or Mardi Gras, which is the day before Ash Wednesday which changes each year. This year Carnevall is over 50 days, but it can be a lot less. So, Carnival is the build up with more parades and festivities each week that you get closer to Mardi Gras. Since Louisiana was bought from the French, it has some deep French roots. “Mardi” in French means Tuesday and “Gras” in French means Fat. That’s the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which starts Lent. Christians fast like Jesus did in the desert for 40 days. So, you have one HUGE party the day before where you eat and drink like crazy. You go over board and live life indulging. Then, you have to cut back and eat less and also cut out meat from your diet, which is a requirement of lent. CARNE VALE.

I’ve read that Mardi Gras and the associated sales and parties with all the festivities adds $1 billion to the economy. Another website says it adds about $500 million. So, either way, it’s A LOT. Check this out. The King Cake, is an essential part of the experience. It is a cake and is circular, or braided to resemble a crown. There is a hole in it where they put a small baby Jesus in it. Whoever gets it, has good luck and brings the cake next year. It’s sprinkled with the colors of Mardi Gras, with tastes of cinnamon and vanilla. Can you name the colors? Purple is for JUSTICE, Gold for POWER, and Green for FAITH. The average cost is around $40 and it’s estimated to sell about 500,000 of them That’s $20 million. $20 million!!!

Masks in New Orleans are supposedly illegal to wear other than on Fat Tuesday, and they are MANDATORY when riding a Mardi Gras float. In 2018, the Corps de Napoleon were fined $100 because 23 unmasked riders didn’t have theirs. I guess when the law started, you weren’t allowed to wear masks in public in order to deter bad behavior. People who wear masks are naturally up to no good. With COVID, masks were everywhere. I guess they never thought about that. The average price for a Carnival or Mardi Gras mask is right around $6 unless you want to buy a really nice one and they are out there!

Rooms will cost you around $300/night. If you attend the big parties, they’ll cost you around $200. And, if you want to ride a float, you’ll need about $500 worth of beads, cups, and souvenirs to throw in the crowd during the parade. Yes, really. First, you have to be part of a K-R-E-W-E. That’s a Krewe, which is an organization responsible for planning and executing parades and masquerades balls. Each Krewe creates their own “throws”, which is their special trinket. It’s been going on for over 130 years. It can be anything from purses to cups, beads, and doubloons. One of the most prized trinkets comes from the oldest African American Krewe, known as the Zulus who have a painted coconut. It’s handed down from the float and not thrown for obvious reasons.

Believe it or not, Santa Claus, or at least a guy dressed like one, started the bead craze at Mardi Gras in 1880. It’s estimated that 25 million pounds are thrown each year. If my math is right, it’s around $1/pound, that’s over $20 million. What? If you want some, then you say “Throw me something mister”, I’m not kidding. Beads are a serious deal. When the city tried to unclog storm drains following a flood, they sent crews out who flushed out these storm drains and cleared over 93,000 pounds of beads. That’s over 46 tons of beads. What does that cost? Well, the emergency group who did it, were paid $7 million to clear the clogs. So, it’s literally money going right down the drain.

It was definitely an interesting couple of days. It’s hard to believe the amount of money involved. Last year Mardi Gras was canceled due to COVID, and it hasn’t been canceled since 1945, which is over 75 years. One of the highlights for us, was seeing the Krewe of Chewbacchus. You know, like Chewy from Star Wars. They have fun running a parade that was over 2 hours. We had to leave before it was over. But it a clear Star Wars theme, there was a kid next to us, who was dressed as baby Yoda.

I have to admit I’ve never seen a pink Chewbacca before. NOISE. Or a group of dancing Princess Leighs. There were many aliens and space guards, UFOs and also an interesting troop of Wonder Women. She was flying in an invisible jet. Not sure how that fit in, but this is New Orleans. If you want to buy your way onto a float, that’s around $3 grand, and if you want to build a float, you better start saving. It starts around $30k and goes north of $100 grand. That’s a lot of money for sure, for a day, right.

If nothing else, New Orlean’s and Mardi Gras are back, but don’t tell them in Mobile, Alabama because they have the oldest Mardi Gras festivities. It’s strange but true. If nothing else, your stomach will be full, you’re head will be pounding, and you’ll be left with some interesting memories. There’s a reason they call it the “Big Easy”. Let the good times roll. Laissez les bons temps rouler!!

Thanks for being here, we’ll see you next week for more Money with Mak & G.


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