Thanksgiving Dinner on a Budget

Connie J. Schlosberg

Thanksgiving is almost here. Are you ready? When you’re dealing with debt or living on a budget, having a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner can be very stressful especially if your extended family is coming over. Don’t worry, DebtMD has your back. If your finances are tight this year, here are some helpful tips for a stress-free, budget-friendly Thanksgiving.
Did you know that you can cook a Thanksgiving dinner on a shoestring? Last year, my daughter and her friends couldn’t go home during Thanksgiving break from college. They were determined to prepare something that resembles a traditional turkey complete with dressing and all the fixings. The only issue was they had no extra money. So, they made a pact to cook the best meal they could with what little they had and learned quickly how to cook by watching YouTube videos.

How to save money on Thanksgiving dinner

Last year the American Farm Bureau found that the average cost for a classic Thanksgiving dinner was $48.90. If you are feeding 10 people, that averages to less than $5 per person. That’s good news considering the cost is down from the previous two years. However, families are still struggling to get by.

Whether you are hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for family or a Friendsgiving like my daughter, you can enjoy a hearty meal even on a college student’s budget. Try these tips for your Thanksgiving meal even if you are on a tight budget.

1. Keep the menu small.

This is a Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends. You’re not running a diner or working as a short-order cook for them. Keep your Thanksgiving menu to a minimum: 16-pound turkey, gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, dinner rolls, cranberries, and for dessert, good ole pumpkin pie.

*Try these budget-friendly Thanksgiving recipes.

2. Have a potluck dinner.

If limiting your Thanksgiving meal to just the classics makes you groan, why not host a potluck? Potlucks not only save you money but keep your stress level down. Hosting Thanksgiving dinner can be chaotic. You’re already stressing about your finances. Why add more to your life? You provide the turkey. Your guests bring the side dishes, bread, and desserts. Ask your guests to bring a bottle of their favorite drink to share with the group.

3. Forgo the fancy decorations.

Don’t go crazy buying fancy Thanksgiving-inspired decorations and dinnerware from a department or specialty store. You can use your everyday dishware and utensils. If you absolutely must have Thanksgiving-themed decorations, buy it from the dollar store or shop at a thrift shop. We know those adorable turkeys make all the difference at a Thanksgiving party for some of you, but do you need it?

4. Look for free turkey with purchase at grocery stores.

Many grocery stores offer a free turkey with a purchase. Getting a free turkey certainly will help you save money on your Thanksgiving meal. Plan your grocery shopping carefully. You don’t want to overspend on groceries simply to get a free turkey. One does not outweigh the other. Check out Good Housekeeping’s “9 Ways to Score a Free Turkey for Thanksgiving” for ideas.

5. Save the leftovers.

Believe it or not, some people don’t save Thanksgiving leftovers. What a waste! You can use the turkey bones to make a stock, breakfast hash with the extra stuffing, the ideas are endless. Have your guests bring plastic ware to take some leftovers. Make sure you keep some for yourself!

Try these Thanksgiving leftover recipes.

Get Stress-Free, Debt-Free Before the Holidays End

With the holiday season here, it’s easy to get caught up in the “bigger is better” mindset. It’s not. Take a moment and recognize Thanksgiving for what it truly represents: a time to be thankful for what you have. But that can be difficult when you are merely getting by. DebtMD offers free tools and resources to help you manage your debt. Don’t let your debt consume you. Get help.

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