Thanksgiving: A Full Belly Without an Empty Wallet

Five simple tips to help you cut costs and save this Thanksgiving!

November is moving along, meaning colder weather, red Starbucks cups, the occasional Christmas song that jumped the gun and Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, for many, marks the beginning of the holiday season and is a day focused on time with family and counting our blessings. Come November 28, if you will be hosting your family’s celebration, the day can also be an expensive one.  Here are five tips to hosting Thanksgiving without spending too much.

1) More Effort, Less Money

There’s a simple equation to saving more money: the more work and effort you put in to hosting the Thanksgiving festivities, the more you’ll save. Often times what you pay the most for is convenience. Some families do the extreme, either going out for Thanksgiving or hiring someone to cook and prepare the food, costing a near fortune. The more dishes you make yourself, the more you’ll save. By putting the time in to make homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes and pie, you’ll have a much more frugal feast.

2) Naturally Decorated

Go down to the store and you’ll see a wide variety of Thanksgiving decorations. Funny thing is… you’ll see much of the same thing in your backyard. Many Thanksgiving decorations are an attempt to look like real fall leaves, flowers and gourds. Some of these things may be scattered around your own neighborhood.

An idea for a cheap, interactive decoration is a “Thanksgiving Tree”. (No, this is not an early Christmas tree.) A Thanksgiving Tree is a small branch that you put vertically in a pot. Then, cut out many paper leaves. When people come over for the banquet, have them write things that they are thankful for on the leaves, fastening them to the tree with paper clips. The Thanksgiving Tree will look festive and will serve a meaningful purpose.

3) Plan it Out…

Plan out everything you’ll need to make for a successful Thanksgiving dinner, with an emphasis on “need”. Is it really necessary to have four different types of pie? How about three different kinds of salad? Try to figure out just how much food to make, as well. While Thanksgiving is known for gluttonous habits, more often than not you’ll still have leftovers. If this is the case, take advantage of it! Become a turkey innovator. Experiment with turkey enchiladas, turkey sandwiches, turkey salads, BBQ pulled turkey… The list is infinite!

4) …Then Shop Accordingly

Make sure to have as accurate of a head count as possible. Knowing how much to prepare is very important. When shopping, have a list of everything you need. This way you won’t be tempted to buy unnecessary items. Also keep in mind that there really is no difference in quality between a frozen and a fresh turkey. The real difference is the 30-40% savings you’ll receive for buying frozen. Just be sure to get the bird enough days in advance to thaw it.

Make sure you’re getting the best deal out there when you’re shopping. Many stores have great sales or may offer discounts with coupons during the time leading up to Thanksgiving. Be sure to check their websites and the newspapers for these savings. Don’t pay more than you have to!

5) Division of Labor

One alternative to the traditional host-supplies-all method of Thanksgiving is holding a potluck. Delegate someone to bring stuffing, another to bring mashed potatoes, someone else to bring salad and so on. By dividing the responsibilities, nobody will have to bear the entire price tag’s weight alone. Even if you’d like to supply most of the food, another idea to lessen the cost is to have guests bring their favorite desserts or beverages. This way they are contributing to the fun (and the price) while still giving the host the honor of providing for their friends and family.

As you prepare for Thanksgiving, keep in mind the purpose of the holiday. Don’t let prices ands stresses take away from the quality time with your friends and family. Whatever your budget is, keep this advice in mind and you’re sure to find a way to make a frugal and memorable Thanksgiving.

What do you do to celebrate Thanksgiving without spending more than you need to? Share them here, and have a happy Thanksgiving!