Check out these tips to help you celebrate thanksgiving on a budget. Money saving ideas for hosts and for guests!
The holidays can be an expensive, break-the-bank time of the year, and Thanksgiving is no exception.
Whether you are hosting or a guest, there are ways to celebrate Thanksgiving on a budget. You can still maximize fun, family time, and your waistline while minimizing expenses.
Save money on Thanksgiving as a Host
1. Have a potluck
A potluck, where each guest brings a dish, is the perfect way to include your guests in the making of the Thanksgiving feast and also save a ton of money.
As a host, you may only have to be responsible for the turkey, while your guests bring all the sides and desserts.
Remember, it’s Thanksgiving and most people actually want to cook. Because it’s a federal holiday, many people have this day off of work and have time to cook a holiday dish.
2. Request guests bring alcohol
Alcohol is notoriously one of the most expensive part of any party or gathering. Whether it’s beer, wine, or hard liquor, the costs add up…sometimes equal to or more than the cost of the food (this was definitely true for my wedding!).
I love asking guests to bring alcohol because I don’t have to worry about the expense nor do I have to worry about choosing something they like.
If your guests are bringing the alcoholic beverages, as a host you just have to make sure you can provide water, ice, and a few different types of sodas – that can easily be done for less than $10!
3. Downplay Décor
The excitement of getting together with your friends and family and the smells from the kitchen is enough to get anyone in the Thanksgiving spirit.
You don’t have to decorate your house with ceramic Turkeys, fancy tablemats, or fall colored candles. Just keep it simple or decorate with what you already have.
4. Borrow houseware
We tend to focus on the increased food and drink expenses for Thanksgiving, but the housewares can get expensive too. Table cloths, napkins, roasting pan, roasting rack, extra dinnerware, serve-ware, cooking-ware, or even extra chairs. But if you don’t own an item, or don’t have enough, then borrow from your neighbors, friends, and family. You don’t need to buy anything new for just one day.
This year I am actually short on chairs and am borrowing some from my mom. Yep, she’s bringing chairs from another state (they are folding chairs, so it’s not as crazy as it sounds).
5. Prep and plan
Planning and preparing for Thanksgiving for days (if not weeks) ahead of time can not only save you money, but can also be a time and sanity saver as well.
By planning the dishes you want to make, listing the ingredients for each dish, and making a master shopping list, you can just make one trip to the grocery store instead of multiple. This will save you time and gas money.
With a grocery list, you won’t be tempted to buy anything you don’t need. You are also less likely to forget an ingredient, meaning you won’t have to make another trip to the store.
6. Get a free turkey
Many chain supermarkets have free turkey promotions if you spend a certain amount at their store. Try to take advantage of these deals. If you can snag two turkey (sometimes that happens, especially if you have a large family and spend a lot on food), get the second turkey and freeze or donate it.
7. Leftovers galore
While your grocery bill the week of Thanksgiving will likely be higher than normal, the week after should be lower than normal if you rock the leftovers! Reduce food waste, save money, and avoid cooking – how could you go wrong with leftovers?!
8. Make your own desserts
(warning! I actually don’t follow this tip because there are far too many incredible bakeries in my area).
The cost of desserts can add up – I have seen specialty cakes and pies for $30-40 each. If you have any baking skills, make your own desserts. Home-made pies and cakes can cost as little as a few bucks.
9. Stick with the basics
Stop complicating things. You don’t need to try a turducken recipe or flame torched crème brulee. A simple turkey recipe, pumpkin pie, and sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows will do (and is probably preferred).
10. Make a budget
A special budget just for Thanksgiving? Yep, you
heard read right. Budget a specific amount of money you can afford and want to spend on Thanksgiving and stick to it.
A budget will prevent you from overspending. Expenses won’t creep up on you if you plan ahead of time with a budget.
Save money on Thanksgiving as a guest
11. Bring a cheap dish
A great way to show your appreciation to the host is to bring a dish. Any host will be thankful for one less dish that they have to cook!
But this doesn’t mean you have to spend money on an impressive, 5-star dish. There are so many classic, delicious, cheap(!) Thanksgiving recipes. Casseroles, like sweet potato casserole or string bean casserole, are Thanksgiving staples. The cost of many casseroles are $5-$10. Baked potatoes are always at our table, and they are so cheap and easy to make. Cranberry sauce is another insanely cheap and easy recipe.
12. Offer to help cook, instead of bringing a dish
Alternatively, instead of bringing a dish, you can bring your cooking skills and services. Helping out on such a busy, chaotic day will be much appreciated by your host, and is completely free to you!
13. Stay close to home (or plan ahead)
Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days of the year. That means expensive plane tickets or hours spent on the road (and dollars spent on fuel!). Here are some ways to save money on travel:
- Drive instead of fly
- Use travel points/miles to purchase tickets
- Don’t wait until the last minute to buy tickets
- Time your road-trip appropriately so you minimize (or ideally avoid) sitting in traffic
14. Don’t get a new outfit
While my family never dresses up for Thanksgiving, I have seen other families get into the spirit with nice outfits. Instead of splurging on a new outfit, just use something you already own.
15. Bring cheaper host gifts
If you are not bringing a dish, you can bring an affordable gift for your host. Some affordable gifts to bring (<$10) are flowers, seasonal soap, and fall colored candles.
Thanksgiving dinner on a budget
Time spent with friends and family is priceless…and so is a break from work, if we’re all being honest with each other 😉 Thanksgiving day gives us all three luxuries, but that doesn’t mean it has to cost an arm and a leg.
The bottom line is – Thanksgiving is just a meal. Don’t spend more than you can afford on one dinner.
Wishing you all a happy (and affordable) Thanksgiving!
What are your best money saving tips for celebrating Thanksgiving?