10 Ways to Save Money on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving turkey dinner on table

The key to saving this Thanksgiving is to think and plan ahead. It’s never too early to start considering the cost of the holidays, especially when giving yourself some extra time can allow for great discounts and finds. The first step: confirm your Thanksgiving plans. Are you hosting dinner this year? How many people are attending? Once, you’ve sorted out the basic details, use the following tips to cut holiday costs without cutting corners.

Start noticing prices

In the days or weeks before the big holiday dinner, start watching the prices at a few nearby grocery stores. Maybe the local market has a good price on fresh veggies, while the supermarket up the street would be a good place to stock up on pumpkin pie mix and other canned essentials. If you take the time to decide which stores offer the best prices for each item, you could save yourself quite a bit over regular retail prices.

If you’re making dinner, make a list

One of the most common tendencies on Thanksgiving is to overbuy. When many of us think of Thanksgiving, we conjure images of a huge feast which can get exaggerated as we expand our shopping carts to accommodate out-of-town guests. Before you check out, consider what you really need, and what ingredients you might already have in your pantry. It’s best to make lists; one list of all the dishes and beverages to be served, and then another of the ingredients required for each of them. Making meals from scratch as opposed to buying boxed or canned goods can also save money, and it’s possible that a few core ingredients are already in your cabinet. When you know exactly what you need (and what you don’t need) from the grocery store, you won’t overbuy and you’ll be less likely to forget something.

Cut coupons

During the holidays especially, retailers are all vying for your attention with coupons and sales ads. Coupon clippers who start early can accumulate coupons for almost every kind of item needed, from milk, to serving trays, to plastic silverware. Consider the food and non-food items required to host Thanksgiving and clip all helpful coupons, even if it means trying an unfamiliar brand.

Don’t Overdo the Decor

If you don’t have at least ten ceramic turkeys to deck your house with the obvious theme, don’t worry. You don’t need a bunch of overpriced décor pieces specific to the season—just liven up the space with accents. Artificial wreaths of orange and gold colored leaves can be hung or laid across shelves. Purchase a few real, baby pumpkins in different colors and place them around the room. And don’t worry about finding a pricey quilted runner for the table. Instead, lay out fall toned fabric from the craft store or consider some inexpensive place mats to add interest to your dinner table.

Ask for Help

Some relatives are more than happy to bring a dessert to your Thanksgiving dinner, and might have planned to do so anyway. Consider asking people to pitch in on desserts, midday munchies, or even items like loaves of bread or extra dishes. Many Thanksgiving guests just want to help out as much as they can, and their generosity could save you lots of money and effort.

Go all out potluck-style

If you’re only responsible for a small portion of the dinner, the stress (and the bill) won’t be all on you. Talk to your family and friends beforehand and ask if they’d be interested in a different style of Thanksgiving this year. They’ll all be thankful that the burden of buying is dispersed. Instead of spending the whole night at one relative’s house, you could each contribute just a dish or two to the dinner. Get your neighbors involved, and each house on the street could be a stop for friends to enjoy another course of the meal.

Find the perfect bird

Your perfect turkey might be waiting at the grocery store right now, on sale as part of a buy-your-bird-early special. Or, your perfect bird could be a lot cheaper per pound with a coupon you find in the newspaper or online. Some people can even score free or heavily discounted birds by taking part in promotions that aim to get people excited about Thanksgiving shopping. You never know when someone will have a great deal on just the right sized bird, so be on the lookout.

Revert to classics

You might be eager to impress this Thanksgiving, but attempting something complicated is usually a big stress on you and your wallet. Remember not to splurge on specialty ingredients that won’t be noticed anyway. Don’t try that new, complicated recipe that is only going to cost extra time and money to make. Stick with dishes you are familiar with, and do them well. That is impressive enough.

Only bulk buy what you need

Who knows, you might need a super-sized cheese platter and twenty pounds of mashed—but chances are you don’t. You can definitely save some money by purchasing items in bulk, but get only the essentials this way. You might need plenty of paper towels, frozen appetizers, and wine, but fresh and specialty ingredients can go to waste if you get too much.

Use leftovers wisely

Save yourself some money by reusing all leftovers well. You don’t have to serve the same old turkey with gravy or plain sandwich on Black Friday. Repurpose mashed potatoes into a filling, savory pie. Try turkey paninis with some leftover Thanksgiving bread, and use the cranberry sauce as a spread. Even leftover veggies could be rolled into a wrap, or sprinkled onto a salad. Making your leftovers more appetizing will keep your family from being tempted into going out for lunch.

Lastly, consider yourself on Thanksgiving. Yes, it is a time of giving and sharing, but the hostess or host also needs to be comfortable on the day of the big dinner! Your family and friends know Thanksgiving can be a financial burden, so ask for their help buying and prepping the dinner. Who knows? You could start a new tradition.

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5 Responses to 10 Ways to Save Money on Thanksgiving

  1. Stephie says:

    This is such great advice, thank you! I love using grocery coupons and online coupon codes to help save me money during this time of the year. My thanksgiving shopping is already done and I saved over 50% with all of the great coupons this year. I just started on my Christmas shopping.

  2. We do watch sales for the turkey and ham since we buy it fresh, but everything else I buy in advance as it goes on special. I also grow and can most of our vegetables, so that helps a lot.

  3. honour says:

    The1st year I hosted Thanksgiving dinner I rejected all offers of help or support dishes…but I learned that was really stupid on many fronts. Our guests love to say…”I hope you like yadda yadda, it’s been a family tradition for as long as I can remember, or ‘we have so much fun making yadda yadda,’ it’s fiddily but this is Thanksgiving after all.’

    One year I had two neighbors in an we made desserts and shared them between us. One kitchen, one mess and 3 sets of hands to clean up.

  4. We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but I really enjoyed reading your Thanksgiving posts. That delicious turkey really looks yummy, I saw some of my relative posts about their Thanksgiving pictures.

  5. Kostas says:

    Stephie, awesome job! I need to take some tips from you, and this post on how to save with holiday meal costs! I’ll definitely consider some of these ideas.

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