Thanksgiving

How to do Thanksgiving on a budget

Let’s be honest, Thanksgiving is expensive. From the turkey to its trimmings and everything in between, celebrating our nation’s most cherished holiday can be taxing on our bank accounts.

While you want nothing more than to make Thanksgiving special for your family and loved ones, sometimes there’s a fine line between cutting costs and hosting the perfect holiday dinner. We feel your pain, so we’re here to help you determine where that line is and help you host Thanksgiving on a mindful and easy budget. 

Keeping your costs down doesn’t have to mean settling for inferior products or limited quantities, though, and we spoke to contributing writer David Bakke at Money Crashers Personal Finance about easy and creative tips that will help you be frugal this Thanksgiving. Bakke and the team at Money Crashers are constantly thinking of ways to save when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, and they shared some of their ideas with us.

These tips are simple, and they’re all about planning and cooking smart. For example, while it might save you money to make most things from scratch, you’ll also cut some dollars by knowing when to buy canned or frozen foods, too, so be smart when you’re shopping and pay attention to price tags. Hosting Thanksgiving on a budget is also about knowing how to take charge, like deciding what your guests will drink rather than wasting money on alcohol that no one wants, and asking family to pitch in and bring over a side dish or two.

Thanksgiving doesn’t have to deplete your bank account, and you’ll see that with smart planning and a head start, you’ll be thankful for Thanksgiving this time around.

  • 1. Go Potluck

    Go Potluck

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    Making your Thanksgiving feast a potluck affair is one of the best ways to save. Potlucks are entirely acceptable and they give guests a chance to show off their epicurean prowess. Just keep a running list of who's bringing what so you don't end up with duplicate dishes or missing entire courses.

  • 2. Feature Fresh Alternatives

    Feature Fresh Alternatives

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    You can save time in the kitchen, or you can save money. It's a tough decision. If you decide to go the latter route, skip the pre-cut cheese and veggie tray and prepare your own. The same concept applies to any dish, appetizer, or dessert you plan to serve. Accept the inevitability of kitchen time (you agreed to host, remember?) and have fun with it. Invite friends or family over to help if doing all the prep and cooking alone is intimidating. Or prepare dishes in advance to save time on the big day and money."

  • 3. But Know When to Go Canned or Frozen

    But Know When to Go Canned or Frozen

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    While you’re certainly cutting some dollars from your bill by creating the crudité platter yourself, there’s also sound reason for buying some canned and frozen foods for your Thanksgiving dinner, too. Just because everyone’s gone organic these days doesn’t mean that fresh is always better. Frozen foods are actually healthier than most of the fresh varieties on the stand, and usually cheaper, too.

  • 4. Reduce Your Grocery Bill by Spending It in Increments

    Reduce Your Grocery Bill by Spending It in Increments

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    It’s never too early to start planning for Thanksgiving — seriously — and that goes for grocery shopping, as well. One of Bakke’s tips is to start making your grocery trips weeks or even months in advance. Pay attention to sales that are going on and collect coupons. You’ll be capitalizing on great deals that may not occur during the holiday season, and you’ll cut down your spending by doing it in increments rather than all at once.

  • 5. Don’t Make It Complicated

    Don’t Make It Complicated

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    We know — the way Ina Garten put together that sausage and sage cornbread stuffing in her beautiful kitchen in East Hampton, N.Y., was so inspiring, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it exactly the same way, and at the same price. Take inspiration from recipes that you find but don’t get bogged down by the specifics of them if they’re going to rack up the grocery bill. Make smart choices, like instead of buying fresh sage, use the dried jar you have in your pantry, and maybe your mashed potatoes don’t need that truffle oil.

    Check out more ways to save money this Thanksgiving.

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