Money Health

10 Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving on a Budget

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Thanksgiving is a great excuse to get together with family and friends and to eat, drink, and be merry. But if you’ve taken on the task of hosting this time-treasured holiday, you might have a little stress added on top of the anticipation.

Hosting Thanksgiving requires planning, spending extra time on your feet in the kitchen, and of course, extra expenses. In fact, the average Thanksgiving host can easily spend several hundred dollars preparing for the event.

If you’re hosting turkey day this year, you don’t need to bust your budget to create a memorable family feast. A little planning can go a long way towards hosting a satisfying Thanksgiving on a budget.

1. Create a budget in advance

If you want to save money this Thanksgiving, start by setting a realistic budget. Think of the number of people you’re feeding and how much you’re willing to spend. Take a look at your own pantry and see what dry, canned, and packaged goods you already have so you can save money and time at the grocery store.

2. Stock up and buy in bulk

Many Thanksgiving staples can keep for a while before they expire. Pay attention to the sales in your area in the months leading up to the holiday. That way, you can stock up ahead of time on the dry, frozen, and canned goods you’ll use for most of your Thanksgiving dishes.

Also, remember that buying things in bulk–either from bulk bins at your local grocery, or from a big box store like Costco–can seriously cut down on the added costs of packaging or buying multiple smaller items.

3. Find coupons to cut costs

Clipping coupons may be a family pastime of the days gone by, but that’s because there are so many couponing and deals apps made for smartphones now.

Apps like Ibotta, Coupon Sherpa, SnipSnap, and Saving Star are easy to use and can save you a lot of money at the grocery store—especially during Thanksgiving. Don’t forget to double up on coupons and check the mail for additional ones before you head to the grocery store!

Learn how to coupon like a pro in 4 simple steps here:

4. Cut back on meat

You might be expected to stick to your grandmother’s traditional spread. But if a traditional Thanksgiving meal would break the bank, it might be time to switch up your menu.

For example, there’s no reason to buy a turkey and a ham this year. Most of it will end up as leftovers, anyway. Pick one and save yourself money, time, and effort. Or get creative and check your local butcher shop or grocery store for deals on other kinds of meat. You might be surprised to find reduced pricing on pork, beef, or chicken right around Thanksgiving.

If your family is feeling extra thrifty, why not eliminate the meat entirely and try a vegetarian Thanksgiving?

5. Ask guests to bring a dish or beverage

Potluck-style Thanksgivings are more and more popular these days. Not only can they help you host Thanksgiving on a budget, they’re also a great way for friends and family to share their traditions and favorite recipes with one another.

Additionally, it’s too easy to rack up a huge bill buying wine and liquor for your Thanksgiving guests. To save money, you could ask guests to contribute their favorite beverages to the bar this year. Not only does this ensure you’ll have a nice variety of drinks, it could really cut down on your costs.

6. Shop in season and local

The true spirit of Thanksgiving celebrates the harvest of your region. With that in mind, plan your meal around what’s in season in your area and buy from local farmers. Foods that travel a shorter distance sometimes costs less, so it’s possible to save money and support local businesses by shopping local.

7. Only make what you need

It’s tempting to go overboard on Thanksgiving and whip up as many dishes as you can think of. But then you’ll have to deal with all the leftovers, which often end up in the trash.

If you plan ahead appropriately, you’ll have enough leftovers for a few work lunches, but not so much that you’ll have a wall of leftovers in your refrigerator that go bad before you can eat them.

8. Make everything from scratch

Some packaged foods save you so much time and effort that they’re worth the expense. But it’s usually cheaper to make things like stuffing, mac n’ cheese, gravy, and other food from scratch.

9. Limit your dessert options

Instead of accommodating every guest’s potential dessert preference, a pie and a tub of ice cream might be good enough. A massive spread of everyone’s favorite desserts may look impressive, but focusing on the classics could keep everyone happy and allow you to host Thanksgiving on a budget.

10. Plant a garden in your yard

Growing your own garden is a great way to cut down on food costs year round—not just at Thanksgiving. Do a little research about what grows best in your area. Then, plant a garden in your backyard or put an herb garden in your window box. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around next year, you’ll be ready to truly celebrate your harvest!

The holiday season can bring a lot of expectations, but being savvy about saving money on your celebration doesn’t have to mean sacrificing a great meal. Planning ahead, getting creative, and shopping smart ultimately cut out stress and allow you to truly enjoy the time with your friends and family.

Plan beyond Thanksgiving

There’s a lot to be thankful for these days and taking the first steps toward improving your financial future could be one of them. Happily, learning how to deal with debt, money, and planning for your future doesn’t need to be hard. At Freedom Debt Relief, we’ve developed a simple to follow guide to help you find the tools you need to move to a better financial future. Get started by downloading our free guide right now.

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Kate Robinson Beckwith is a freelance writer who loves to use her way with words to help people get a better understanding of their finances. She lives in the Bay Area where she spends her weekends taking in culture, making books, and hiking with her husband and her goofy three-legged pitbull mix.