budget thanksgiving

A Thanksgiving You Can Afford

Don’t let the economy and rising inflation keep you from enjoying Thanksgiving this year!

With Thanksgiving nearing, you have every right to look forward to the holiday. After all, it isn’t every day that you can enjoy a nice turkey (or tofurkey, fish or whatever I won’t judge) dinner in the company of your friends and loved ones, and perhaps there’s an added sense of security we could all benefit from by hanging out with family and friends, maybe even more so this year than most.

Unfortunately, hard times befall the best of us. It isn’t uncommon to find a household struggling financially, especially with inflation, market anxieties, and rising gas prices. All of these can compound and cause families to pinch pennies at the expense of get-togethers like Thanksgiving.

Implement these actionable tips for a fun, memorable, and, most importantly, affordable Thanksgiving celebration.

Plan Ahead

Planning is a crucial step when you’re preparing for Thanksgiving. When you plan your Thanksgiving dinner, you need to include your menu and the ingredients. Right off the bat, the following ingredients and items are likely on your shopping list:

  • The turkey (or other meats)

  • Spices and herbs

  • Frozen vegetables

  • Broths or stocks

  • Mashed potatoes

  • Butter

  • Ingredients for baking

You should also consider where to buy your ingredients. As much as possible, include items in your menu that you can prepare with the cooking implements you have. After all, you’re trying to save money, and buying a new oven will cost a lot.

Also, take stock of ingredients you already have, so you won’t have to purchase all the necessary items. Check the menu and see which ingredients are already at your disposal. Then, of course, replace ingredients nearing their expiration dates (if any).

Lastly, compile a guest list to see how many people you will serve. While generosity is the spirit of Thanksgiving, try not to flood your guest list. Your family and a few of your closest friends will more than suffice.

Check Prices

Once you’ve planned your menu, you’ll know what to grab when shopping. However, before you drive to the grocery store, compare prices.

You have two options when shopping around for bargains. You can drive around or check prices online. We recommend the latter because it will save you gas money.

You can download apps that can help you check prices. Major retailers like Walmart have apps for this purpose, but you can also use InstaCart, SoftShopper, and PriceCruncher.


They say that you should wait for the price of something to drop. While this statement is true most of the time, it’s not the case when shopping within a budget for Thanksgiving. When you’re celebrating Thanksgiving on a budget, it’s best to buy items early. Here’s why:

Thanksgiving is important to many consumers. As a result, the demand for items like food products and cutlery increases up to Thanksgiving. Recognizing the demand spike, most retailers will increase prices as Thanksgiving draws nearer.

Hence, if you want to increase your chances of buying food items at a bargain, it’s best to shop farther from the week of Thanksgiving.

Entertain the Idea of Swapping Out Turkey

Besides pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes, no other food product is as central to the Thanksgiving tradition as turkey. If you need proof, here’s an interesting statistic:

According to Time, 88% of American households serve turkey during Thanksgiving dinner. This figure amounts to more than 108 million households following suit on the Thanksgiving Turkey tradition.

Yes, the numbers can make it tempting to do as the Thanksgiving revelers do. However, turkey is one of the most expensive parts of the Thanksgiving meal, so it only makes sense to have it if you’re not on a budget.

Turkey is fine if you can get it for a lower price by shopping around and shopping early (see the earlier tips). Nevertheless, there’s nothing wrong with considering cheaper alternatives like chicken, red meat, or goose, especially if your friends and family prefer those.

By considering other options besides turkey, you’ll serve a Thanksgiving dinner everyone enjoys and save some money. That’s a win in our book.

When in Doubt, Go Generic

Grocery stores have massive selections of condiments and food items for your Thanksgiving dinner. Often, the abundance of options will leave you with a bad case of paralysis-by-analysis.

In such a situation, just remember that you’re trying to celebrate Thanksgiving on a budget. For this reason, avoid branded foods (for now), and choose generic food items.

Generic food items are likely to be a few cents to a dollar cheaper than their branded counterparts. Indeed, a few pennies and a buck or two won’t seem like much. However, the costs and savings will add up when you’re buying in bulk.

Go Easy on Your Beverage Options

By “going easy,” we mean limiting your beverage options. The number of drinks you’ll be serving will be a personal decision on your part. However, we recommend having a few budget-friendly juices and carbonated beverages.

Refrigerate Leftovers

After a Thanksgiving meal, there will be leftovers. The best thing to do would be to refrigerate them immediately.

Refrigerating your leftovers minimizes wasted food. At the same time, you wouldn’t have to spend on additional food if you get hungry after Thanksgiving. Who doesn’t look forward to a week of turkey sandwiches, turkey and potatoes, and turkey smothered with gravy?

Thanksgiving Is About Family

A lot of focus goes into shopping and preparing the Thanksgiving meal. While these are pivotal to the Thanksgiving celebration, always remember that it’s not the meal that makes the holiday special. Instead, it’s the experience of sharing a meal with your friends and family.

Once you realize this, you’ll realize that you’ve got a lot to be thankful for despite having to save money. And when you think about it, that’s what Thanksgiving is all about!

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