Tips for Saving Money During Thanksgiving (Budget Dinner and Gifts)

Budget Thanksgiving Dinner


Thanksgiving is one of the biggest holidays in North America. It’s a holiday that we don’t share with the rest of the world, but it’s one steeped in history and family tradition nonetheless. It’s a time when families come together, when bitterness and disputes are cast aside and when everyone forgets their troubles over a big, lavish Thanksgiving meal.

Saving Money on Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving dinner is by far the biggest expense on Thanksgiving. The average family will spend over $100 preparing and cooking this family feast. There’s the turkey, the sides and the sweets to consider, and that’s before you factor in the booze. Everyone expects a feast on Thanksgiving and if you’re the one hosting then all of that expectation is on you.

There are ways that you can bring the cost down without cutting too many corners though:

1. Calculate and Plan

We all have far too many leftovers after Thanksgiving. Turkey sandwiches, cranberry-stuffed everything and Mac n Cheese is on the menu for days if not weeks after the holiday. Some of us will still be eating frozen Thanksgiving leftovers come Christmas Day. But if you calculate in advance, working out how many people are coming, how much they will eat and how much they will drink, you can feast without worrying about leftovers.

2. Bring Booze

If someone asks you what they can bring to your Thanksgiving dinner, ask for booze. Wine, beer, spirits—anything. It’s a huge expense and can add a couple extra zeroes to your budget if you have to buy it yourself. If someone doesn’t ask then don’t request as they might be looking to budget themselves. But if they do, you can’t go wrong with alcohol.

3. Focus on the Turkey

Don’t get your turkey from the same place you shop every week. Don’t rely on the big names and shop around. There is a premium on this poultry in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, so you should also reserve your bird well in advance or buy it and freeze it.

If you really want to cut corners, buy chicken instead. No one buys chicken for Thanksgiving, even though most diners actually prefer the taste. By stuffing a couple of chickens and stacking the pre-sliced meat on the table you’ll get endless praise for cooking a great meal and you won’t have to fork out the extra cash for the pleasure of serving turkey.

4. Create Your Own Decorations

Fancy decorations aren’t cheap and they only serve their purpose for a few hours, after which they’ll either get thrown away or will spend the next 12 months in the back of a cupboard. Rather than splashing out on making your table look like dinner at the Ritz, simply create some homemade decorations.

Get your kids involved. Nothing says “family Thanksgiving” like a table hand-decorated by kids. It won’t cost you anything, it will keep your kids out of your hair and except for a little supervising—and refereeing if things get out of hand—you won’t have to do anything.

5. Stock-up on Coupons

Coupons are in plenty supply in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, but you’ll struggle to find anything worthwhile a few days before. So, plan in advance and get as many offline coupons and online codes as you can. You can buy your dry and tinned goods in advance using these coupons and you can save the fresh foods for closer to the day.

If you shop smartly and spend some time comparing prices and collecting coupons you could knock as much as 50% off the cost of your Thanksgiving dinner. It can be time-consuming, but that’s the sort of saving that’s well worth fighting for.

6. Stick with the Favourites

Cheap Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s nice to offer something a little different and to give guests some variety, but when was the last time your guests favoured your new dish over something more traditional? When faced with piles of traditional, decadent foods that they know, love and have enjoyed for years, as well as a few new dishes that look a little strange and are completely alien to them, they will always opt for the former.

They might take a bite or two, but only when they’ve filled up on everything else and by then there won’t be any room for more food.

7. Use your Pantry

The best thing about traditional Thanksgiving food is that you probably have most of the ingredients you need already. Dig around in your pantry to see if you have the ingredients before splashing out at the grocery store. If you don’t have the exact ingredients you need, then try substituting what you do have to save a few pennies. If no one will notice, what’s the harm?

This works even better with desserts, because by that time they’ll probably be too drunk to notice what you did.

8. Buy Generic

You don’t need brand named food, not when it contains the same ingredients as the genetic stuff and not when you’re going to be using them in combination with dozens of other ingredients. Don’t buy the expensive, brand name stuff when it comes to basics like macaroni and cranberry sauce, and always opt for generic if you can.

9. Don’t Buy Readymade Desserts

Save Thanksgiving Dinner

Buying readymade pies and cakes seems like a quick and easy solution, but you’ll save a small fortune if you make them yourself. Traditional Thanksgiving desserts are easy, quick and very cheap. You can make a few favourites using cheap canned produce, pastry and sugar. Simple, cheap ingredients and a little time is all it takes and that way you also get to claim that everything is homemade.

10. Cut Corners for Kids

Kids tend to be very picky eaters, especially where desserts are concerned. They tend to favour super-sweet, sticky, crispy treats over pumpkin pie, so rather than making extra pies and cakes for them, prepare some Rice Crispy squares, brownies or cookies. Anything that is cheap, easy and can be left to bake while you work on the main course.