One of the most-celebrated holidays of the year, Thanksgiving can cost a fortune if not planned properly. Before you let the cost of food, entertainment and travel cut too deeply into your monthly budget, consider these expert tips to get more holiday for your money. (We give you a list of informative and entertaining reads that you'll want to share with others this season. Check out Top Tips For Sticking To A Thanksgiving Budget.)

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Be Choosey
Who says you can't have to have it all? In addition to resolving how you'll pay for the meal, accept the fact that it may just not make sense to have more than three or four side dishes. If everyone agrees that green-bean casserole is the "it" dish to serve, then make sure plenty is available, and serve just one or two affordable sides to go along with it.

Potluck is Popular Again
There was a time when asking your guests to bring a dish was considered tacky or cheap. As we head into the holidays with many families facing financial difficulty, the sentiment of sharing can be easier to swallow this year. The host or hostess should probably still serve up the main dish, usually the most expensive, as well as the main dessert. Asking guests to pitch in with a salad or bread, especially if they are family, is an acceptable way to spread the cost burden around, without sacrificing the foods everyone loves.

To avoid duplication of efforts, ask your guests to self-assign their dishes. This will provide the variety people are expecting, without throwing your menu plans into disarray. (For more great ideas, read Host A Holiday Party For Less.)

Find Drinks at Half the Price
Myscha Theriault of We Be Sharin' recommends that you give a good look at the timing of your event, and how the refreshments are served.

"Plan hot beverages for your before and after dinner cocktails. This makes a dramatic statement without breaking the bank because people can't drink hot beverages quickly. Also, beverages that can do double duty as both non alcoholic and alcohol based keep the cost down, as well, because you are not planning for more than one option."

For even more splash at significant savings, don't forget to jazz up your non-alcoholic drinks, too! By adding a splash of cranberry juice to either iced teas or inexpensive champagne, hosts can keep things festive and elegant without having to dish out for multiple bottles of expensive wine. For more flavor, freeze juice or your beverage of choice into ice cubes. It will keep the drinks from becoming watered down, and it could cut back on refills.

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Think "Petite" for Your Sweets

Some of the most wasted foods at a Thanksgiving meal are the desserts! While guests can arrive to the sweets table stuffed, many will make room just to sample the flavors. (Don't fall prey to these blunders! Check out Top Holiday Spending Mistakes.)

To make it easier for diners to try a little bit of everything - and avoid the high cost associated with pie in the trash bin - consider making "mini" versions of Thanksgiving favorites. Tiny pumpkin pies can be made in muffin tins, small bites of puddings can be offered in ramekins, and baked goods (like cookies) can be served up extra small. To further encouraging the smart-sizing of dessert, offer smaller plates for the sweets, instead of full-sized dinner plates.

Shop Local and On Sale
Whether you're solely responsible for the menu, or are getting by with a little help from friends, choose to shop when items go on sale. Most stores will advertise the turkeys, hams and other trimmings within seven to 14 days of the holiday, giving you plenty of time to plan. Additional items that go cheap this time of year include whipped topping, marshmallows, cranberries, creamed soups and dry stuffing kits. Planning on pumpkin pie? Relax. Reports are in that the pumpkin shortage is over, so buy it with confidence! (Keep those bills in check with these tips. Don't miss 12 Ways To Shop Smarter.)

The Bottom Line
Are you worried about how you'll manage this holiday season? Grab the family and get around the table. This year's feast can be affordable and tasty, leaving you with more time and money to enjoy the things that really matter!

For the latest financial news, check out Water Cooler Finance: The Post-Stimulus Slump.

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