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Six Tips for Saving Money this Thanksgiving Day

by Vanessa Trevino

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Between my immediate and extended relatives, my family is quite large. We enjoy hosting Thanksgiving dinner whenever we can, but it presents its challenges for my husband and me because of our work schedules. Trying to entertain our guests with their wants and needs, while also taking care of our children can be a handful for both of us. With a little bit of preparation and consideration though, we’ve discovered that we don’t have to put all Thanksgiving dinner preparations on our own shoulders. Here are six tips that will help you save more time and money than you thought possible this Thanksgiving.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Dish)

Between the shopping, cooking, cleaning, and decorating for the big day, the cost and time spent preparing for Thanksgiving can add up for a single family. But, what if you asked your family and friends you’ve invited to bring a dish each to share for dinner? Your best bet is to request types of dishes – salads, desserts, breads – as opposed to specific ones – chestnut salad, pumpkin pie, corn bread. You’ll be respecting a wider variety of tastes and each guest’s budget this way. Are your guests from different parts of the country or of different ethnic backgrounds? You will have a unique Thanksgiving compared to previous years when they bring their specialty recipes.

Mix Things Up

Your family and friends may feel at some point (if you haven’t already arrived at that point) that you’ve had every variation of Turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce possible. So, try something different this year. As I mentioned above, asking everyone to bring a dish they like is a great way to ensure that what is brought is eaten. Think back to what people normally eat whenever you host Thanksgiving dinner. If yams are part of your meal each year just because you think you need to make them, yet few guests actually eat them, don’t waste your time, money, or resources continuing to make them. And, many families prefer ham, duck, or even wild game for Thanksgiving. As Taylor Swift says – shake it up!


The Holidays are one of the best times of the year to give back, so consider volunteering to help feed the less-fortunate this year. Soup kitchens and Meals on Wheels are always in need of volunteers on Thanksgiving Day. Not only would volunteering allow you to skip out on all the buying, cooking, and cleaning, but giving back is also one of the best reminders (especially for kids) to be thankful for what you have.

Buy Now

Begin buying your food and decorations for Thanksgiving Day right now. You’ll find the best deals on non-perishable goods and decorations if you shop ahead of time as opposed to waiting until the last few days leading up to the holiday. Make sure to check your local newspaper for coupons to get discounts on the most common items families buy for their Thanksgiving dinner.

Keep it Simple

Traditional meal ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner are the primary expense of this holiday. As mentioned earlier, don’t just cook dishes for the sake of tradition if your guests don’t eat them. Save money and consider including your favorite fall recipes such as stews, root vegetables, squashes, and other similar dishes, instead.

Decorate your Home Naturally

Save yourself the hassle of making a trip to an arts & crafts store to buy decorations that you’ll just have to store away each year. Instead, think natural and use anything you can find on your own property. Leaves, branches, acorns, pine cones, pine needles, the list goes on. Do you have a garden in your yard? Consider harvesting any fruits or vegetables you’ve grown to feature as a centerpiece in a handsome bowl. You’ll also give your home a little bit of regional flair by decorating with items native to where you live.

A few more Tips to Consider

  • If you bake pies for dessert, plan to put all of them in the oven at the same time. This will keep energy costs down.
  • Do you really enjoy the food from your Thanksgiving meal each year? Cook double portions of your favorite dishes. You’ll be able to bag and freeze the food to have leftovers for months to come.
  • Make your own pie crust. It’s significantly cheaper than buying pre-made crusts. Find whatever recipe freezes well, make it ahead of time so you’re not stressed, and store it away until it’s time to make your pie. You’ll also find it more flavorful than store-bought crusts.

Whatever you choose to do with your Thanksgiving celebration this year, keep in mind that the most important part is being able to enjoy the celebration with family and friends and give thanks for all that you have received. Don’t sweat every small detail, it will ultimately leave you bitter. Relax and have fun with the people you love. And remember, the more you plan in advance the less stress you’ll face once Thanksgiving Day comes.

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