What are you thankful for? Chances are you're not thankful for the credit card bill that includes the huge Thanksgiving feast that you hosted for your extended family and the friends they invited. Thanksgiving may be a time to reflect on our blessings, but that shouldn't include blowing the family budget on Thanksgiving dinner. (To help you stay on budget this season, check out Top Tips For Sticking To A Thanksgiving Budget.)
TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics
Don't Eat Out
Cooking the meal and preparing the house are labor intensive and it's easy to solve that problem by taking everybody out to a Thanksgiving buffet, but you're going to have to pay up for it. According to Zagat Survey, the average American spent US$35.37 per meal when dining out in 2010. This is a far cry from the cost of an average thanksgiving dinner if prepared at home.
A study done by the American Farm Bureau Federation, found that a Thanksgiving meal prepared and served at home for 10 guests cost about $4.35 per person. The cost of thanksgiving staples like turkey, peas and stuffing mix all came down in price in 2010. The study also indicates the decrease in price was offset by the increase in the cost of goods such as milk, pumpkin pie ingredients, sweet potatoes, carrots, celery and dinner rolls. The average cost per person of a Thanksgiving meal did increase from $4.29 per person in 2009, but it is still clear that eating at home represents a massive cost savings.
Go Outside for Décor
Thanksgiving is all about fall, and where do you find fall? Almost all décor you need for your home can be found by stepping outside the door. Pine cones, leaves and corn husks are free for the taking. Send your children outside to find some perfect decorations.
Make a Little Less
How often have you heard people say that they're afraid of overeating at Thanksgiving? Whether or not they really are worried is debatable, but why not grant them their wish and cut down on the amount of food? Do you really need three types of stuffing and four different desserts? Ask ahead of time for any special dietary needs of your guests and plan the menu accordingly. (For other ideas on how you can save at Thanksgiving, see Thanksgiving On A Budget.)
Everything's on sale at Thanksgiving and that includes food. Take some coupons with you to the store and save even more money. How about saving with a purpose? Teach your children good spending habits by making a game out of finding the best coupons and saving the most at the grocery store.
Nobody likes two weeks of turkey, but how about getting a little creative? The Food Network has a seemingly endless supply of recipes including turkey tacos with corn salsa, BBQ pulled-turkey and Chinese turkey salad with assorted fruits. We don't like leftovers because far too often that includes eating the same turkey sandwich every day.
Time It Right
How many items did you serve last year that were non-perishables? Purchase those right after Thanksgiving when stores want to get rid of their extra Thanksgiving inventory. Is that too early? Start watching for bargains in the summer and buy when the deals are the best.
The Bottom Line
Holidays are not only stressful, they're also expensive. Remember that although you want to be a good host and give family and friends a holiday to remember, your family's budget is more important than that one meal. If you're on a really tight budget, consider making it a pot luck meal where everybody brings something. People love to talk about themselves and will be just as happy to share their "secret" recipes when somebody pays them a compliment. (Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday season for many, for some tips before you enter the holidays, read Last-Minute Holiday Budgeting Tips.)