Thanksgiving can be expensive if you’re the host, and this is true whether the gathering is small or large. If you want to save money because finances are tight or if you just want to save more cash for holiday shopping, use these Thanksgiving money saving tips to make your gathering both fun and affordable.
1. Ask guests to bring desserts and drinks. If you serve alcohol or special drinks, your Thanksgiving shopping bill can get expensive fast. Quality desserts can be expensive if you buy them, and they are time-consuming chores if you make them from scratch. If each guest brings either drinks or a dessert, you may be able to cut your grocery bill in half as long as you use some of the other tips in this guide.
2. Have everyone contribute to the party. One of the best ways to host Thanksgiving on a budget is to arrange a potluck. If you’re worried about what your guests may think, turn it into a fun contest or a themed non-traditional dinner instead. For example, you can ask everyone to bring a different type of ethnic dish. One person may bring Chinese food, another may bring an Italian dish and another may bring Greek fare. For a contest, you can offer a modest prize such as a $10 gift card, and every guest can vote on their favorite dish to determine a winner.
3. Plan budget-friendly foods. Skip the duck and other expensive foods this year. Opt for traditional dishes such as stuffing, potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, and an affordable turkey. As you plan your menu, estimate the ingredient prices to stay within your budget.
4. Try to cut or substitute ingredients if necessary. This won’t work for everything. However, you can determine which ingredients are optional in a recipe. For example, you can cut the expensive pecans from a yam souffle. If you have oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter on hand, you can substitute a delicious crumb topping. Read your recipes carefully, use your imagination and watch your grocery bill shrink.
5. Strictly stick to your list when you shop. It’s easy to feel tempted to buy extras. The stores place the most attractive nonessential products at the front to make sure that you walk past them as you look for your inexpensive Thanksgiving ingredients. Stay focused on your list at all times. If you have a weakness for shopping, bring a friend or a family member who can help you stay focused.
6. Don’t make too much food. Plan to make enough food for everyone without a large amount of leftovers. If you plan to provide table service instead of a self-serve buffet, you can cut down on overeating and leftovers. When you see that you also have to buy less of each ingredient, you’ll want to use this Thanksgiving money saving tip again next year. In some cases, hosts make foods that aren’t too popular with guests. Ask your guests ahead of time what they like. This helps you avoid wasting money on foods that they won’t eat. To make it fun, you can send out an email with a poll that lets them vote on their favorite food options.
7. Decorate your house modestly. If you have some decorations from last year, use them again this year. You can also ask your kids to make some decorations. Your guests will likely enjoy their handmade artwork and your commitment to hosting Thanksgiving on a budget. If you must buy decorations, focus on decorating the dining room, the living room and the kitchen. Don’t worry about giving the entire home a makeover.
8. Shop at a dollar store for essentials. You may be surprised at how many high-quality items are in dollar stores. For example, stores such as 99 Cents Only or Dollar Tree have everything from foil and disposable roasting pans to themed disposable dishes and inexpensive Thanksgiving decorations. If you have a store nearby where everything is a dollar or less, start there after you make your list. Since it’s easy to get carried away when everything is so cheap, set a budget for each category such as disposable dishes, decorations and food.
If you want to save even more, look online for coupons before you shop. Also, check other discount sites such as Groupon and Ebates to see if you can get anything on your list for less. Watch for items that are on your list to go on sale in local grocery stores during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. When Thanksgiving arrives, turn the heat down to save money. Since your oven will likely be on all day, you won’t need to keep the thermostat high.