Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner on a Budget

Let’s face it; there are a lot of expectations around Thanksgiving Dinner. Quite often those expectations carry a pretty hefty price tag. In an annual report put out by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner will be about 13% higher than last year. They claim the average cost to feed 10 people will be almost $50 which honestly feels a little light to me.

The thought of hosting Thanksgiving can be a little overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. There are a number of things that can be done to spread the cost. Don’t use (or let others) the excuse that you can’t change things because “that’s the way it’s always been done”. It’s a fact, life changes.

I understand that telling family and friends that putting on the dinner may be a hardship is not pleasant or something anyone wants to do. However, wouldn’t it be better to get some help rather than stressing about it? If you are attending a dinner where you know this may be a hardship, go ahead and offer some assistance. Just make sure that you are delivering the message in a non-insulting way. Saying “you host every year, let me help out by providing the turkey” comes across much better than “I know you don’t have any money so I’ll buy the turkey for you”. Same result but the delivery is a little more tactful.

Here are some ideas on how to cut back on expenses; I’m going to save the most controversial one for last.
  • Commit to providing the meat but have everyone else contribute a dish. So what if no one makes the mashed potatoes like you do. If the potatoes turn out lumpy you’ll have something to talk about for the next 20 years (been there done that!)
  • Let someone else provide the turkey. One of your guests may get a free turkey from work or else would prefer to supply the meat versus cooking a dish.
  • Leave non-essential items out. How many items do you put on the table that barely gets eaten? If no one really likes cranberry relish than leave it off the table. If Uncle Ron is the only guest eating the pecan pie don’t provide it. Of course something like pecan pie can be controversial so you may want to give Uncle Ron the heads up so he can be prepared. Who knows, he may offer to supply the pies!
  • Make less food. How many years do you have so many leftovers you can barely eat them all? Cutting back on the amount of food you make will help shrink the budget.
  • Plan in advance. I know we’re awfully close to Thanksgiving and there isn’t time this year to prepare ahead but I would guess that everyone has almost the same items year to year. Make your sweet potato casserole in September and freeze it. If you have the freezer space you could pretty much buy or make one item a week leading up to the holiday spreading out the cost over several months as well as cutting down drastically the work to put on such a big dinner.
  • Open up a Thanksgiving Club. Ok, I made this one up but if you really put on a big spread and it costs you hundreds of dollars think about opening up a savings account just for Thanksgiving. $5 a paycheck doesn’t sound like a lot of money but if you get paid 26 times per year you could have $130 to spend for Thanksgiving.
  • Don’t serve turkey. I’m a diehard turkey for Thanksgiving fan but if all these options don’t work then you need may need to take drastic measures. Consider making something liked stuffed chicken breasts instead of the turkey. Price your different meat options and go with whatever will have the least amount of impact on your pocket book.
How do you save money at Thanksgiving?

I’ll be linking this up over at Life as Mom , Crystal and Company and We Are THAT Family

You might also like:

Spending Less at Christmas
Saving for Christmas


  1. We do the same thing...every guest family brings something. I like a lot of your ideas. (We could do without the cranberry sauce.) One year I got a honey baked ham instead of a turkey. Because I just can't help that I like it so much more. And you don't really have to cook it. Not a good way to save money. And a good way to get everyone mumbling behind your back. :p

  2. These are excellent tips that can certainly be applied in many homes.

    I love the idea of everyone bringing a side dish or dessert if I am making the turkey. I think we just put too much on ourselves.

    Thank you so much for linking up and sharing this on my mommy solution meme. I am going to share a link over on Facebook as well. Many can benefit from this!