Thanksgiving might kick off the holiday season, but it can also be the start of a season of overspending. Yet hosting the holiday meal doesn’t have to be hard on the wallet. Here are eight ideas to help you host a delicious, enjoyable dinner that celebrates family and friends with some smart spending. 

  1. Think about what you really want your holiday to be. You’ll have a much happier Thanksgiving – mentally, emotionally and financially – if you have a handle on your priorities. For most people, the holiday is about rest, relaxation and spending time with friends and family. Think hard this year about what means the most to you. 
  1. Lighten up the carving platter. The most expensive item on a holiday menu is usually the turkey, ham or other meat of your choice. The best way to save is by planning ahead. Most grocery stores have excellent pre-Thanksgiving sales. Watch for those, buy your frozen turkey and pay attention to the thawing requirements. In general, thawing a turkey in the refrigerator requires one day of thawing for each 4 pounds of weight. That means you will want that 16-pound turkey in your fridge by early in the morning on Sunday, Nov. 19, this year. 
  2. Use what you have. You probably have many grocery staples in your kitchen already. Before you head for the store, plan your menu and check your supplies. Avoid buying new containers of flour, sugar, chicken or vegetable stock, cooking oil, spices and other items you already have. For products you do need to buy, do a search online for printable coupons, and check your grocery store’s digital app. 
  3. Consider the dessert menu. If the tradition of baking your own pumpkin pie is important to you, great. But if not, choose a different dessert, or buy a supermarket pie. Pies can be pricey to make by the time you purchase ingredients for filling, crust and topping. Retailers can often do it more affordably.   
  1. Keep it simple on the sides. The cost of side dishes can add up quickly. Stick to a few basics and try not to duplicate. For instance, go with either mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, cornbread or dinner rolls, and just one kind of dressing/stuffing. 
  2. Share the work (and cost). If guests offer to bring something, take them up on it. Bringing a dish also allows people to meet any special dietary needs without adding to your expense or time to cook additional items. 
  3. Ask guests to bring a beverage. Instead of bringing a food dish, guests could bring beer, wine or soda. It keeps overall expenses down and saves the host from trying to accommodate a myriad of tastes and preferences. 
  1. Weigh the costs of dining in or out. According to the American Farm Bureau Association, the average cost of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for 10 last year was $64.05, a 20% increase over the prior year. With persistent inflation, that number is likely to rise again this year. Consider that in many areas, it’s possible to find a take-home, pre-cooked Thanksgiving meal from a local grocery store or restaurant for around $100-150 for 10 people. Some people wind up leaving work early or taking days off to complete their preparations, or paying someone else to clean their house because they’re too tired after cooking or don’t have time. In those cases, buying a premade dinner might actually be more affordable – and more relaxing. 

With careful planning, you can host a successful gathering of gratitude – while saving yourself money and unnecessary stress. And that is something to be truly thankful for. 

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