Looking to save money on Thanksgiving? While it may seem difficult to do Thanksgiving on a budget, there are a ton of cheap tips and tricks to be frugal – while still having an amazing fall holiday season!
That’s right: you can still have a Thanksgiving feast.
You can also decorate your home to the nines.
And, most importantly, you can share the time with friends and family to give thanks for what you have.
At the same time, just by making a few changes, you can make sure that the holiday doesn’t involve a budget blowout – which is something to really be thankful for!
OTHER TIPS AND TRICKS FOR DOING THANKSGIVING ON A BUDGET
- 25 Cheap Thanksgiving Home Decorations For You To DIY From Dollar Tree
- How To Do Thanksgiving Dinner On A Budget (For Less Than $10 Per Person!)
- 21 Keto Thanksgiving Recipes That Will Save You Money
Save money on Thanksgiving dinner
1. Do a Thanksgiving potluck dinner
It’s clear that one of the major expenses over the Thanksgiving period is food. So saving money in this area is one of the best ways for you to limit your costs.
A great way to do this is to make your Thanksgiving dinner a potluck. Just ask your dinner guests to each bring a dish of their choosing (although it’s best to tell them what type of dish to bring so you “unfortunately” don’t end up with five different desserts).
This will help to not only share the costs, but also the time and stress of preparing the dishes!
And if you’d rather make the whole meal, at the very least ask your guests to bring the drinks. No one will consider it rude or demanding – in fact, I’d consider it the norm these days.
2. Only make what you actually need
We’re often encouraged to have five types of side dishes, six different desserts and the world’s biggest turkey just for it to be a “real” Thanksgiving.
In fact, having a mountain of leftovers after Thanksgiving has almost become a part of Thanksgiving itself!
While leftovers can be good to save you money on office lunches for the next few weeks, it’s pretty rare for every single piece of leftover food to be eaten.
And all of that food that’s not eaten is money that you’re throwing away.
So instead, only make what you actually need.
Don’t feel pressured to serve eight different types of each dish, as people don’t care.
Seriously, as long as they’re in good company and feel full at the end of the meal, they couldn’t care less if there’s only one type of side dish.
And for an entire Thanksgiving meal plan to make dinner on a budget, check out this article: HOW TO DO THANKSGIVING DINNER ON A BUDGET (FOR LESS THAN $10 PER PERSON!)
Your guests will be more than satisfied and you’ll save a heap of money in the process!
3. Have a plan for any leftovers
Despite the above point, it’s probably inevitable that you’ll have some leftovers.
So have a plan ahead of time on what you’ll do with them.
For example, any leftover turkey meat can be used in a casserole. And the remains of the turkey carcass can be used to make stock.
Got some leftover vegetables? Add them to the casserole too or throw them into a soup.
(And all of those things can be frozen after they’ve been cooked, so are perfect for you to make ahead of time and then pull out of the freezer when they’re needed!)
4. Only make what your guests actually like
There’s absolutely no reason why you have to serve certain dishes for it to be a “real” Thanksgiving.
For example, if half of your family hates green beans, why serve them even if it’s “traditional”?
On the same point, if your family love pumpkin pie and always eat the whole thing whether or not the filling is made fresh or is from a can, then you should definitely choose the cheaper option.
By simply giving them what they like rather than feeling like you “have” to serve certain foods, your guests will definitely be satisfied with their Thanksgiving dinner.
RELATED ARTICLE: HOW I SAVED $300 ON MY GROCERY BILL IN ONE MONTH
5. Plan ahead
Starting to think about your Thanksgiving dinner ahead of time can result in serious savings for you.
For example, buying a frozen turkey in advance (if you have the space) can be far cheaper than buying one just before Thanksgiving – and it tastes just as good as a non-frozen one.
In fact, in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, some stores even offer a free turkey if you spend a certain amount of money!
You should also keep an eye out for deals on other ingredients, particularly those in cans or that can be frozen.
For example, frozen vegetables are just as healthy and taste the same as fresh ones once cooked. They’re also perfect to buy ahead of time if they’re on sale weeks beforehand.
It’s also great for your stress levels if you can prepare food ahead of time. Things like casseroles can easily be cooked weeks beforehand to be frozen then reheated on the day.
That will free you up to do the other 4,681 things that will need to be done on Thanksgiving!
6. Use a meal plan and shopping list
As covered in this article, another great way to save a ton of money (not only at Thanksgiving!) is to always make sure you meal plan and to never step foot inside a supermarket without a shopping list.
It’s been shown time and time again that not planning exactly what to buy will cost you more overall.
This is because you’ll either forget things and have to go back to the supermarket, which always results in spending more than you have to, or you’ll buy too much and have to throw food away when it goes off.
So take a good look at exactly what you need and start planning.
And to help you do just that, here’s a meal plan and shopping list to make sure you save money this Thanksgiving!
7. Get cash back on your groceries
Whether you buy your groceries in-store or online, did you know that you can get cash back on those purchases?
And given that you tend to buy more food in preparation for Thanksgiving, this can really save you a ton of money.
Ebates is a free app that gives you money as a percentage of what you paid for your groceries. It’s a great way to save money as you don’t have to change your spending habits – so you’ll get free cash for doing nothing different!
Better yet, it takes 5 seconds to sign up – and if you do it through this link, you’ll get a $10 welcome bonus!
RELATED ARTICLE: 12 EFFORTLESS WAYS FOR YOU TO MAKE MONEY WHILE SHOPPING
8. Buy food that’s in season
This is another one of those money saving tips for food that works all year round, so it’s great for Thanksgiving too!
Not to state the obvious, but you’ll pay far less for fruit and vegetables that are in season.
They’re cheaper to buy, but they’ll also last longer than out of season produce, so there’s less risk that they’ll go off before you can use them.
(Which shouldn’t be the case if you’re meal planning, but accidents happen!)
However, we’re here to help!
Take a look at this list of seasonal produce and see just what you should be buying to save money this Thanksgiving.
9. Make your menu from scratch (…within reason)
When a crusty baguette that can be frozen and then whipped out to make stuffing costs around $1 and a bag of “stuffing mix” that is mainly made of bread costs three to four times as much for less product, there’s a problem.
In many cases, with barely any more effort, the time spent making your own food from scratch can save you some serious cash.
Stuffing is a great example. In our Thanksgiving on a budget meal plan, we have a super simple recipe for stuffing that only costs $0.36 per person! That’s WAY less than if you were to buy it ready-made.
So there really is money to be saved by doing it yourself.
That said, there are some cases where you should consider whether it’s actually worth it, especially when there’s not a huge price difference.
One example used in that meal plan is the pie shell for the dessert. If you love baking and would rather make it all yourself, then great!
But the cost of buying all the ingredients for the pastry and then the time spent to make it can be close or even equal to just buying a pre-made shell.
So take a good look at your menu and the cost of the ingredients to make it. Then you can make the final decision on just how much is worth making from scratch.
10. Don’t be afraid to make changes to a recipe
(…I don’t mean halving the time for cooking the turkey, unless food poisoning is a Thanksgiving tradition in your family.)
But some recipes ask for four different herbs to be used when just using the one that you already have in your cupboard (or even just salt and pepper) would taste just as good.
Or the recipe may call for a specific type of potato, while you already have another type in your fridge or that particular type of potato is three times the cost of the others.
It’s perfectly fine to make changes like this as your guests won’t know and the taste of the dish won’t be affected.
For example, you probably don’t have turkey stock in your cupboard for making gravy but you probably have chicken stock, which is absolutely ok to use instead.
And if you have neither, just add flour and water to the pan with the turkey in it to make some simple yet delicious gravy.
As long as people have a full plate at the end of it, they’ll have no idea that you added your own flourishes to the recipes!
11. Use smaller plates
This is a nifty little trick that’s healthier for both your body and your wallet!
It’s been shown that using smaller plates encourages people to eat smaller portions. This is because they’re less inclined to fill their plate with a towering pile of food that they probably won’t eat all of.
So if you provide your guests with slightly smaller plates, they’re more likely to eat less but still be satisfied – saving you money in the process.
12. Keep the drink options simple
There’s no reason to feel like you have to serve every type of drink ever invented to your guests. Just having some wine (preferably supplied by your guests!) is more than enough.
And you could stretch it even further by making a signature drink to serve on the day.
For example, our Thanksgiving dinner on a budget meal plan has a delicious recipe of sangria.
This is a great way to stretch your wine to last longer. And the best part about it is you can use a super cheap wine (seriously, boxed wine is the way to go here) and your guests won’t even be able to tell!
RELATED ARTICLE: HOW TO GET MONEY FOR BUYING ALCOHOL
Decoration ideas for doing Thanksgiving on a budget
13. DIY Thanksgiving decorations
There’s no reason to pay a lot of money for Thanksgiving decorations when you only use them once per year.
Instead, having DIY Thanksgiving decorations can save you a ton of money while still looking amazing.
And they don’t even have to take a long time to do!
These 25 cheap Thanksgiving decor ideas for you to DIY from Dollar Tree will each only cost you a few dollars to make.
They’re also incredibly simple to do – even for those of us who are, ahem, less creatively inclined.
14. Less can be more
It can be tempting to cover every inch of your home with turkey and pumpkin decorations.
But less can absolutely be more. As you’ll see in this article, the combination of some apples, candles and branches can make a lovely table arrangement.
Or with some twine and pine leaves, you’ll instantly have a simple yet elegant napkin ring.
Not only will this save you money, but your home will look beautiful as well!
15. Use what you have on hand
There’s no need to go crazy buying decorative items when what you already have may be enough.
For example, do you have a vase? Go find some branches and pine cones and with a bit of arranging, you’ll have your table centerpiece.
Or put the kids to work cutting out paper in the shape of their hands to become a turkey. They color it in, you add each guest’s name and voila, you have place cards that your guests will love (and that will keep your kids out of your hair for a few hours while you cook).
Other cheap ideas to have a frugal Thanksgiving
16. Don’t go crazy at Black Friday
It’s probably an understatement to say that Thanksgiving and Black Friday now go hand in hand.
And now that some stores are offering pre-Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving night, it can be tempting to leave the dinner table early to go shopping.
Stores have started doing this to make you feel like you HAVE to go shopping as soon as the deals are live to not miss out. But it’s this (false) sense of urgency that actually results in you spending more.
Keep in mind as well that most of the best deals you can get at that time are during Cyber Week.
Not only does this mean that you can take advantage of these deals from the comfort of your own home (no car park wars!), it also gives you time to compare prices across multiple web sites to make sure that you’re actually getting a good deal.
So consider simply staying home this Thanksgiving to enjoy the day.
You’ll save money, avoid shopping mall stress and you’ll get to spend more time with your friends and family (and have more time to get a second helping of pie!)
MORE INFORMATION: 7 SIMPLE STRATEGIES FOR YOUR BUDGET TO SURVIVE BLACK FRIDAY
17. Turn the heater down
Even if you do make some food ahead of time, there’ll probably be some cooking to do on the day of Thanksgiving itself.
This means that your oven will be working hard, making the house become hotter as well.
And if you plan to have a few guests, all that extra body heat will also warm things up.
So turn down the thermostat a few degrees and save a few dollars on heating costs!
How do you save money during the holiday season to make sure you do Thanksgiving on a budget? Share your number 1 idea in the comments!