Thanksgiving on a Budget: 12 Tips to Help You Host

12 tips for hosting Thanksgiving on a Budget

Are you anxious about hosting Thanksgiving on a budget?

This is the time of year when friends gather around the table, each sharing what they’re most thankful for, and we dress in our beautiful fall clothes hoping to dress up our “stretchy” pants

It’s a joyous time, but it can also beat up your wallet like a bookie does someone behind on their payments. 

Don’t let money knock you out of your thankful mood. Instead, follow these few tips to save money and have a marvelous Thanksgiving on a budget.

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1. If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It


The best way to save money when hosting Thanksgiving on a budget is to start your grocery trip in your own pantry. Most of us are guilty of pushing items to the back of the shelf and forgetting they’re available.

Break this habit. Instead, look at what you already have and figure out how to incorporate it into your Thanksgiving meal

If you preserve your own foods, put them to use. Have you stocked up on sale items lately and shoved the excess to the back of the freezer? Pull those goods out and serve them on Thanksgiving.

Why spend money on buying more,  if you already have usable items in your pantry? 

2. Champagne Taste…Not When You’re Hosting Thanksgiving on a Budget

You know the saying, “You can’t have champagne taste on a beer budget.” It may not be your favorite saying nor do we know who actually said it, but there’s truth in it. 

Therefore, it’s vital to look at your Thanksgiving menu and realize when you’re dining above what you can afford.

Some foods are cheaper than others. For instance, you can create delicious glazed carrots for a fraction of the cost of other dishes.

Buy less expensive foods, cook with less expensive foods, and you’ll find success creating a Thanksgiving meal on a budget. 

3. Check the Flyer

grocery sale

One of the best ways to save money when grocery shopping is to shop the sales. This all starts with checking the weekly sales flyer. 

Find out what items are on sale and only purchase those items. Most grocery stores offer amazing sales during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. 

Be mindful of these sales and save yourself a wad of cash in the process. Your wallet will thank you for your efforts. 

4. Clip Away Your Worries When Hosting Thanksgiving on a Budget

I can’t suggest you shop sales without mentioning the idea of shopping with coupons and using rebates in conjunction.

I’m not an extreme couponer, but I do believe in saving money by clipping coupons. It’s easy to do and won’t take much time.

I utilize sites, such as Southern Savers, to help match coupons with local sales and only use printable coupons. 

From there, I take it a step further and see if I can cross reference any sales (or any remaining items on my list) with rebates from Ibotta.

This allows me to shop sales, buy sale items using coupons, take advantage of any additional grocery store offers, and earn rebates. 

5. Less May be More When Hosting Thanksgiving on a Budget

I hate to mention this considering it is a holiday, but you need to consider it if you’re trying to host Thanksgiving on a budget.

You may want to consider not hosting such a large get-together if you’re concerned about saving money on your Thanksgiving meal.

I’m not suggesting you disinvite your best friends and closest relatives. However, I am suggesting that you not feel pressured to host a large get-together if you simply can’t afford to.

Thanksgiving is meant to be a time of enjoyment. It isn’t intended to stress you out or send you into debt over a meal. 

6. Share the Load When Hosting Thanksgiving on a Budget

pot luck

If you have a large family, you don’t wish to downsize (or aren’t able to), or you need help saving money when feeding a small crowd, consider hosting a potluck.

This is when you have each guest bring a covered dish. In most cases, the host is providing a place to eat and the meat.

However, you may have people who wish to bring the main course since you’re opening your home. Either way, make a list of what everyone is bringing and share the responsibility of Thanksgiving dinner. 

7. Manager’s Specials

The next time you stroll through your grocery store’s meat department see if there are any packages of meat that have a special stamp on them. This stamp will frequently read “Manager’s Special” and have a discounted price listed.

Don’t be afraid of these meats. They’re getting ready to expire, but it doesn’t mean they’ll spoil. Instead, you purchase the meat at a discounted rate and place it in your freezer until you’re ready to prepare it on Thanksgiving.

It may prove difficult to find a discounted turkey near Thanksgiving, but you may find other cuts of meat which would be a delicious addition to your meal.

8. Scratch Made is the Best Way for Thanksgivings on a Budget

Most people would agree that eating homemade foods surpasses the quality of any box made food. 

Instead of purchasing expensive boxes of processed mashed potatoes or macaroni, make them from scratch.

The price per unit for noodles, cheese, milk, or potatoes is much cheaper than buying multiple boxes to equate to the same amount of food. 

Give homemade mashed potatoes or homemade macaroni a try. You may love it, and it could save you money too. 

9. Stay Ahead of the Game

If you’re reading this article in hopes it’ll bail you out of a financial hardship this Thanksgiving, this point won’t help you.

However, keep this tip in mind for next year’s holidays. If you have a green thumb, consider growing much of your own food and preserving it.

You can grow vegetables for little money, preserve them via freezing or canning, and have them ready to roll next Thanksgiving. 

10. Break Tradition

It’s considered tradition to fix a large turkey and multiple side dishes for Thanksgiving. Who says you must stick with tradition when you’re trying to host Thanksgiving on a budget?

If you’re having fewer people, consider cooking a hen instead of a turkey. You could make chicken, beef, pork, or even fish for Thanksgiving. Change the entire theme and go with pasta. 

Instead of making a multitude of side dishes, why not make larger quantities of fewer recipes to insure there’s still enough to go around.

This will require fewer ingredients, and you can choose the least expensive sides to make for your meal. 

11. Create a Stockpile 

You may find you love couponing, shopping sales, and cashing in rebates so much that you decide to do it on a regular basis.

This is a great idea because you’ll begin to stockpile certain items. In turn, you fill your pantry which makes holiday meals less stressful on your wallet.

By filling your pantry throughout the year in a frugal manner, it makes Thanksgiving feel like another meal with family. There’s no extra financial planning required. 

12. Special Orders

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but I refuse to make 20 side dishes, have a large turkey, and spend a week’s pay doing it.

Instead, I’ve implemented a rule around my house. If we have many guests, we stick with hosting a potluck.

However, when it’s just my immediate family I take special orders. We vote on a meat and everyone gets their favorite dish for a side.

This gives us a well rounded meal, it doesn’t require cooking for two days to pull it together, and I save money. It’s a true win for everyone.

Good luck to you as you bring your Thanksgiving plans together.

Hopefully these tips will allow you to spend more time being thankful and less time worrying about how you’ll pay for your holiday gathering.

Happy Thanksgiving from our crew to yours! 

Check out my series on quarterly grocery shopping to save money on groceries all year long!

Learn why I started quarterly grocery shopping!

And how I quarterly grocery shop!

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