Thanksgiving is a great time to gather with loved ones, but it can certainly come with a steep price tag. Whether you’re hosting family at your place or flying home for the weekend, you may be concerned about costs — especially this year. Though inflation is slowing, many consumer’s budgets are already stretched, and costs for food and travel remain stubbornly high.
Fortunately, you don’t have to go into debt to have a memorable holiday and enjoy a delicious spread. We’ve got 23 ways to keep your Thanksgiving costs under control and still enjoy an incredible meal surrounded by your favorite people.
23 Ways to Save Money on Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is often the kickoff to the holiday — a.k.a. spending — season. But don’t stress. Below are some simple strategies for doing Thanksgiving inexpensively this year. Bonus: These tips can also help you save time — and stress.
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1. Making a Budget
Whatever your holiday plans, it can be a wise idea to make a simple budget. Come up with a total amount you can afford to spend on Thanksgiving. You can then make a list of expected expenses, and determine how much you can realistically spend on each item.
Recommended: Building a Line Item Budget
2. Stocking Up as Stuff Goes on Sale
Throughout November, stores typically have different Thanksgiving dinner items on sale. Grabbing nonperishables whenever you see them on discount can save a bundle, and also help spread out the cost of the meal.
3. Making It a Potluck
Whether you’re having family over or hosting your first friendsgiving, you can make Thanksgiving inexpensive by asking your guests to each contribute a dish. You can coordinate who is bringing what in advance to make sure there are no overlaps or gaps.
4. Collecting Coupons
Before heading out to the grocery store, you may want to check out coupon websites like Coupons.com , LOZO , and CouponMom to find deals on the items on your shopping list. It’s also worth checking manufacturer’s websites, such as Butterball and General Mills, for coupons and seasonal promos.
Many supermarkets also have apps that offer coupons and deals. Sometimes you can get a reward just for signing up.
5. Hitting More Than One Store
Going to just one supermarket is obviously more convenient. But if you check the circulars, you may see different items on sale at different stores. Going to a couple of different grocery stores could lead to significant savings.
Recommended: 31 Tips for Cutting Your Grocery Bill
6. Skimping on (or Skipping) Appetizers
When hosting, you may be tempted to wow your guests right off the bat with a beautiful charcuterie board and other special hors d’oeuvres. In a word: Don’t. It’s expensive, and it’ll just dampen appetites for the main event.
7. Buying a Store-Brand Frozen Turkey
Typically, a turkey makes up a big part of your budget for the Thanksgiving meal. Some good news: According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the cost of purchasing a turkey may be lower this Thanksgiving, due to a drop in avian flu cases and a recovery of the turkey population in the U.S. To save even more on the centerpiece of your meal, consider going with a store-brand frozen bird, rather than a fresh one.
Recommended: 41 Budget-Friendly Ways to Celebrate the Holidays
8. Splitting the Costs
You may want to consider teaming up with your bff, a sibling, or another family member to co-host this year’s gathering, even if the festivities will take place at your place. That way you can split all of the costs, rather than foot the entire bill.
9. Buying Basics in Bulk
Buying staples like flour, potatoes, eggs, cream, and butter from a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club can help you spend a lot less on food, as long as you’re not buying more than you need or will use up after Thanksgiving.
Recommended: How to Buy in Bulk: Beginners Guide
10. Asking Guests to BYOB
Wine, beer, and other alcohol can add up quickly. One easy way to save money is to ask your guests to bring their favorite beverage. That way, everyone will get to sip something they love, and you won’t have to shell out all that extra money.
11. Sticking With Seasonal Produce
Vegetables that are in season in November, such as sweet potatoes, squash, Brussels sprouts, and white potatoes, will typically cost a lot less than out-of-season picks, such as corn, asparagus, and green beans.
12. Opting For Frozen Veggies
If you want to use veggies that aren’t in season, you may want to choose the frozen versions, which are generally much cheaper than fresh but are still likely to work well in your holiday recipes.
13. Baking Your Own Bread
While it may sound like more trouble than it’s worth, baking bread can be fun, and it typically involves spending a lot less than buying rolls or loaves at a bakery. After all, many recipes require just flour, yeast, water, and maybe a dash of salt and/or sugar. You can also make bread ahead of time and stick it in the freezer until the big day.
14. Going Simple With Sides
It can be tempting to try a new gourmet recipe you saw online or in your favorite food magazine, but fancy recipes often require specialty ingredients — and can end up costing a lot to make.
Remember, too, that with everything on the plate, including cranberry sauce and gravy, chances are your guests won’t miss that “spicy stuffing with chorizo and chiles” you considered making, but wisely opted not to.
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15. Getting a Bigger Turkey Than You Need
Yes, this sounds like a way to increase costs. Going with a larger bird, however, can pay off by giving you several additional meals, like turkey sandwiches and turkey pot pies, you can make later without going back to the store or spending another dime.
16. Considering Pre-Made Dishes
Sometimes store-made dishes and desserts can actually be cheaper than buying all of the ingredients and making these things yourself. It can be worth doing some quick math at the store. This move can also save you time as well as stress.
17. Going DIY with Decor
A fun way to save money on Thanksgiving is to recruit the kids in the family to create your decorations. They could collect and paint pine cones, create cut-out turkeys (tracing their hands as a template), or make a craft paper tablecloth where everyone can write or draw what they are thankful for.
18. Handing the Reins to Someone Else
Hosting can be fun and rewarding, but if you need a reprieve from the work — and expense — you may want to see if someone else wants to step up this year. You can offer to bring your famous balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts and smashed potatoes to make the host’s job easier.
19. Forgoing Flowers
Yes, stores are filled with pretty arrangements of flowers in shades of red, orange, and yellow. And yes, they make a table extra festive. But you’ll save a chunk of change if you don’t purchase them. After all, your table is likely to be packed with dishes to dig into; you don’t really need a bouquet to fill any empty space.
20. Volunteering for the Holiday
Helping out at a local soup kitchen can be a great way to get into the holiday spirit and have a chance to focus on giving back, rather than spending.
21. Using Up Airline Points
If you need to travel by plane over Thanksgiving, you may want to consider using any points you’ve racked up with the airlines or on your credit card to score a free or discounted ticket.
Recommended: Ways to Be a Frugal Traveler
22. Asking for Travel Discounts
Whether you’re renting a car or staying in a hotel over the holiday, it can be a good idea to ask if you are eligible for any discounts when you book. You may be able to score a lower price if you’re a AAA member, a student, a resident of the state, a member of the military, or over age 55.
23. Checking Warehouse Clubs for Travel Deals
Before you book any Thanksgiving travel, you may want to check for deals offered by your local warehouse club. If you are a member, you may be able to access discounts on hotels, rental cars, vacation packages, and more.
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You can enjoy Thanksgiving (and the soon-to-follow December holidays) without running up expensive credit card debt that you may struggle to pay back.
One great way to keep your costs under control is to set up a simple holiday budget. This can help you determine how much you can spend on Thanksgiving and still have enough leftover to enjoy the rest of the holiday season.
Another smart move is to set up a high-yield savings account designated for the holidays and to start saving up in advance. (Note: Some banks actually allow you to subdivide one savings account into sub-accounts to help you save for different goals). Good news for savers: The Federal Reserve’s rate hikes throughout 2022 and 2023 have translated to higher rates on top-yielding savings accounts.
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