How to Save Money This Thanksgiving

As store displays convert from Halloween decorations to Christmas, you begin to think about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Who is coming to dinner, what will you serve, and which traditions will continue. Even though Thanksgiving does not get the marketing power of Christmas, most families spend hundreds of dollars on food, travel, and entertainment the last weekend in November.

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service predicted this year 243 million turkeys would be available for purchase during the holiday season, which is a 4% increase over 2015. The USDA also predicts Americans will consume 859 million pounds of cranberries. Add sugar ham, biscuits, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and your favorite holiday casserole, and there is a lot of food to prepare. Add the cost of getting to the event, hostess gifts, and other entertainment and you could wind up spending several hundred dollars before the holiday is over.

Here are a few ideas on saving money this Thanksgiving season.

Save Money on Turkey Day Travel

The day before Turkey Day is one of the ten busiest days to fly and the American Automobile Association predicts nearly 40 million families will travel during the holiday weekend. Higher travel volume raises the cost of getting to your destination, clogging roads, and airports, often leading to frustrating delays.

Airlines use dynamic pricing which fluctuates with demand. The result is higher ticket prices on flights taken on popular days. Airlines For America Trade Association expects 27.3 million people to travel between November 18 and November 29, with the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and the Sunday and Monday after, being the busiest days for flying. To combat this, consider traveling on alternate days, including Thanksgiving Day.

Compare the cost of driving to the flight. While driving takes longer, it can save money if the budget is tight and you only need to travel a reasonable distance. When traveling with multiple people, the savings are exponential.

Prepare for delays and pack patience. The planes and roads are full and weather delays common. Packing snacks and drinks (an empty water bottle when flying) will reduce food costs. Good snacks include apples, oranges, nuts, beef jerky, pretzels, protein bars, or dark chocolate.

Black Friday Discounts

The day after Thanksgiving produces masses stampeding retail stores looking for discounts. Online research and trip planning will help you capture discounts without overspending. Some retailers have upped sales to Thanksgiving Day, leading to shopping sprees after the big meal. In an effort to compete with growing online stores, some retailers are making deals available online, eliminating the need for a trip the store. Now, instead of running out at 3 am the day after Thanksgiving, you can shop online while waiting for the turkey to cook or watching football.

While door buster deals typically require a visit to the store, combining coupons with sales could lead to enough savings to avoid the after Thanksgiving chaos. Website such as CouponSherpa and Retail Me Not will help you find extra discounts at your favorite stores.

How to Save When Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner

Hosting dinner often means a lot of money to purchase dinner for a crowd or spending a day or more in the kitchen preparing food. Being the host of this mouthwatering holiday feast does not need to break the bank if you take advantage of potential savings.

  • Find Sales on Turkeys. Turkey is the main dish at most holiday feasts and goes on sell for pennies a pound at many grocery stores. There is usually a spending threshold which is easily met if you are hosting a family dinner. If you need more than one turkey, consider spreading your shopping over more than one store. The low-priced turkeys are frozen leading to an earlier purchase than fresh turkeys.
  • Grocery Savings. In addition to the turkey, you must make or buy side dishes and dessert. Stores put family favorites on sale, and you can shop with coupons and price matching at stores to increases food savings.
  • Simplify Decorating. It is not necessary to overspend on decorations. Have family members bring a favorite centerpiece or involve children in making place settings. Some scented candles and holiday greenery can create a homey feel on a budget. Sometimes the simplest decorations bring the most warmth to your home. Use leaves, pinecones, or branches for a natural fall feel or purchase pumpkins or gourds, common in the fall, as a
  • Potluck Thanksgiving. Having guests bring a side dish or dessert will save you time in the kitchen and reduce the food bill. It is also a chance to enjoy the cooking of others. This option may not be practical, depending on how far family must travel.
  • Prepare a Traditional Meal. Foods required for a traditional Thanksgiving meal hit rock bottom prices the week before Thanksgiving. Food such as turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin, and apples, go on sale. Deviating from these items add interest at the dinner table but may require more costly ingredients driving up your overall cost of food.
  • Plan for Leftovers. Find ways to use leftovers that create more meals and reduce food waste. Convert leftover turkey into tacos, stir fry, or soup. Leftover mashed potatoes can become potato cakes.
  • Do Not Be a Bartender. Serving alcohol can sharply increase the cost of hosting a large meal. Instituting a BYOB policy will allow family members to bring their favorite beverages without impacting your budget. If you want to serve alcohol stick with bottles of wine or beer rather than serving several cocktails and mixed drinks.

We want to enjoy time with family, yet all the preparations can lead to an increase in stress and spending. Set a budget before you shop and work with what you have. You can adjust the menu to fit your budget and ask for help where needed, to ensure money is not among the holiday stresses you experience. By spending less on Thanksgiving, you will have more for the rest of the upcoming holiday season.