One Expensive Bird: The Rising Costs of Thanksgiving for 2012

by David Sung

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and you know what that means: more time with the family, the food comas, and the intense football rivalries with yearlong bragging rights on the line. But before you even get there this year there is one more thing you should be thinking about – the costs.

This is the time of year when many retailers and other companies raise their prices in order to take advantage of the holiday rush. In previous years, spikes in travel costs have kept many at home – while increasing food prices had families skimping on the fixings. With various sources offering conflicting views of America’s economic state, what will the costs look like for Thanksgiving 2012?

Travelers can always expect travel prices to increase during the holidays, and this year won't be any different. Last year, more than 42 million people used some form of major transportation during Thanksgiving. USA Today reports that average flight prices are already up 9% from 2011 to about $386 for a roundtrip ticket. If you're not careful, waiting until the last minute can add another $200 or more.

Other than the increasing demand for seats on these flights, airlines across the board have implemented a fare increase. The industry has also seen its operating costs increase from fuel prices and other amenities. Because American Airlines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year, consumers may see less flexibility with those flights and may have to look at other options. Travel experts recommend that you start booking your flights now and use discount sites like Travelocity, Orbitz, and Kayak for the best deals.

If flying isn't practical, travelers can consider taking to the road instead. Gas prices have been steadily falling since September because of the downward trend in global prices. According to Patrick DeHaan of Gas Buddy, gas prices will continue to fall as we get closer to Thanksgiving. Some are estimating that prices will be less than $3 a gallon – numbers we haven't seen since 2010.

For those who elect to stay home and host Thanksgiving this year, be prepared to pay a little more for the big turkey dinner. Last year, shortages in crop and livestock production were to blame for high food prices, but this year it’s all about the big bird.

The price of poultry has increased, and you can expect to pay 6.9% more for turkey this year. An extended drought earlier this year created meager supply levels that have also affected beef, eggs and dairy production. In 2011, the average turkey dinner cost almost $50.

So, what can you do to curb your Turkey Day costs? Start stocking up now while demand is relatively low and prices have not been inflated. You don't want to be in the grocery store the week of Thanksgiving looking for the key ingredients to your family’s secret recipe. That’s just not a risk you want to take with hungry people.

You can also try throwing a potluck dinner where each of your guests brings a side dish. You don't have to bear the full financial responsibility, and it gives you some extra time to enjoy the holiday.

We can't mention Thanksgiving without Black Friday – the most infamous shopping day in America. Some retailers open their doors super early on Thanksgiving Day to accommodate the increased demand from consumers, and by offering amazing deals on a small number of items, they generate extra customer interest. While camping for a week to get the latest deal from Best Buy can be thrilling, you may be better off skipping the lines this year.

Last year, a record $52.4 billion was spent by 226 million customers during Black Friday weekend, and retailers are already gearing up for this year. Best Buy and Wal-Mart have already released attractive plans, from price matching to layaway. The saying that “everything is bigger in Texas” is also true for the state citizens’ spending habits. Texans spent the most during the weekend with Austin, Texas, leading the way.

If you decide to stay away from the Black Friday antics, you can still find plenty of great deals online on Cyber Monday. While retailers are certainly not giving away items during the shopping weekend, you can check off big-ticket items like electronics and jewelry. Black Friday can be a success if you know where to go and when to shop, so pay attention to sale details.

Do you have any tips you would like to share for Thanksgiving? Leave a comment and we just might share it with our fans.

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