Money Monday: 6 Ways to Make Your Thanksgiving More Meaningful – and Less Expensive

Three friends making Thanksgiving Meal

Key takeaways

  • One way to feel especially fulfilled is to incorporate “giving” into your budget.

  • Gifts of time are priceless. Offering to help a friend or a neighbor with a task can be much appreciated.

  • Consider whether a well-produced family video might be a better gift than boxes of items shipped all over the country.

Turkey. Stuffing. Mashed potatoes. Sweet potatoes. Green bean casseroles. Cranberries. Pumpkin pie. Parades. Football games. And then the shopping.

The Thanksgiving holiday may be replete with food and tradition, but also can get the holiday season off to an expensive start. This year, as we deal with persistent inflation and an uncertain economy, may be the year to learn to create a truly meaningful Thanksgiving that’s also easier on the wallet.

Ready to do the holiday on your terms? Consider these tips

1. Plan ahead. If you are days away from the holiday with a long list of things to do, human nature says that you will be more stressed – and more likely to run to the store and load up on random items for a traditional meal.

2. Write out a simple holiday budget. Calculate how much you can and want to spend on Thanksgiving. Remember it’s OK to keep the meal simple. Do you really need multiple side dishes and types of pies?

3. Incorporate giving into your budget. Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for what we have. One of the best ways to do that is to help others. That could be a cash or in-kind (tangible items) contribution to a local food bank or other organization. It could also be a gift of your time. Serving a Thanksgiving meal at a shelter is popular (and requires advance planning and sign-up), so you also could consider an activity at a retirement home or hospital. Some organizations host food or clothing drives over Thanksgiving. Or perhaps it’s helping someone closer to home, such as inviting a single friend or elderly neighbor to dinner.

How rising food costs may affect how you celebrate.

4. Start in on holiday gifts – homemade, together, as a family. Use the long weekend to make a video for far-away family instead of shipping off boxes of wrapped gifts in December. For tips to service providers, consider baking a small, thoughtful batch of cookies (remember that some people, such as teachers, mail carriers, delivery personnel, doctors and coaches, are prohibited from receiving cash gifts).

And if you are planning to give gifts of time this holiday, Thanksgiving is a perfect time to start. You could make plans to shovel snow, do grocery shopping or run errands for a neighbor or family member. You could spend time cooking someone healthy, freezer-ready meals for an older person living on their own. For others, you could offer babysitting services during the holiday season or even plan a neighborhood caroling party.

5. Go outside. Take the family to a local trail for a hike or walk. If you live where there’s already snow, try snowshoes. Turkey Trot walks and runs of many distances abound.

6. Put together a care package for American soldiers who are away from their families. Sites including Supportourtroops.com and Military.com offer ideas and ways to create and mail packages. With Wreaths Across America, you can sponsor a veteran’s wreath at a cemetery near you, or volunteer with a local sponsorship group. The organization works to place wreaths at more than 3,400 locations in all 50 states, at sea and abroad.

This Thanksgiving, remember what’s really important. For most people, it’s about being together with others, giving thanks, resting and relaxing. Focus on your priorities, and you’ll likely come away with less stress, and more money in your pocket.

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