How to host Thanksgiving on a budget! Here are 15 tips for how to save money on Thanksgiving dinner.
We all know how expensive the holiday season can be. The gifts, the gatherings, the decorations, and the food can REALLY add up.
And if you’re in charge of hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, you may wonder how you can fit it into your already strained budget.
Since cooking dinner for all those people is challenging enough, I thought I’d put together some easy ways that you can host Thanksgiving on a budget!
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This post may contain affiliate links. You can view my full disclosure policy here.
How to Host Thanksgiving on a Budget
1. Decide what you can spend
Instead of being surprised at the total cost at checkout, decide in advance what your budget will be.
What can you reasonably afford, without getting behind on bills, or putting Christmas gift-buying in jeopardy?
That way you can keep tabs on what you’re spending as you shop. Just write down the cost of the item next to it on the grocery list when you put it in the cart. Then keep a running total while shopping.
If you find you’re going over budget, you can make adjustments before checkout.
2. Plan your menu carefully
Don’t go all crazy looking on Pinterest and thinking you need to serve every appetizer, cute Thanksgiving treat, or fancy beverage.
Stick to the Thanksgiving menu basics that you know everyone loves.
The rest of it will only serve to add stress to your life and drain your budget faster.
3. Try order pickup
Many grocery stores offer a service where they’ll grocery shop for you. You choose a time to pick it up, and they even load it into your car!
Some stores charge a small fee ($5-7), but usually offer a free trial.
You’ll save money even with the fee though, because you won’t be tempted by impulse purchases.
(You know, like when you walk through the store, getting tempted by Christmas candy and good-smelling candles?)
Totally avoidable with grocery store pickup!
The other benefit is that you can actually see your total cost as you get your order ready online. That definitely helps you stay within your budget!
Plus, you get to avoid the grocery store craziness that happens Thanksgiving week.
4. Check your pantry
You might already have some items in your pantry that you can turn into dishes for Thanksgiving.
This is the perfect time to do a pantry cleanout!
That way you’ll have room for the stuff you need to buy for Thanksgiving dinner. And you’ll know exactly what you have.
You could even save money on your regular grocery bill the week before Thanksgiving by making meals out of what you already have instead of doing a full grocery shop.
5. Host a potluck
Don’t be afraid to ask guests to bring a dish. Most people expect to (and like to) contribute something when they get invited to a holiday meal.
They get to show off a tasty new recipe they found, and like to feel invested in the gathering.
Pre-plan some items you’d like others to make, so that when they ask ‘what can I bring?’ you have an answer ready.
Even non-cooks can contribute store-bought desserts and drinks.
💡Pro-tip: Delegate those dishes that you don’t enjoy making, or that would make you exceed your budget.
6. Do your sales ad homework
Not all stores are created equal with their sale prices.
Before you go shopping, check out all the ads in your area to see which store has the most things you need at the best prices.
And feel free to plan some of your menu around the items that are on sale!
(That’s just a best practice for grocery savings all year actually.)
Some stores even offer a free turkey if you spend a certain amount.
7. Consider going to more than one store
I know, that might be the last thing you feel like doing. But different stores have different rock-bottom prices.
Your regular store might have a great price on a turkey, but stuffing mix and pie crusts are way cheaper at another store.
Take advantage of each store’s best prices to make hosting Thanksgiving on a budget MUCH more doable.
8. Buy generic
If you don’t feel like shopping around to get a bunch of different deals, the easiest solution is to just buy generic.
Brand name products charge more for their fancy packaging, big advertising budgets, and prime shelf space.
Check out your store’s own brand items instead!
Most of them are 30% or more cheaper, no sale required. Or shop at a store like Aldi, where saving money is practically effortless.
Many generic products taste just as good (or sometimes better) than brand names.
9. Shop early as stuff goes on sale
For the whole month of November, stores have different Thanksgiving dinner items on sale.
Stock up on the lowest priced non-perishables throughout the month to take full advantage of these savings.
The other benefit is that you get to spread out the cost of Thanksgiving over several paychecks.
10. Stock up on extras
If pantry staples are at a fabulous price, stock up on some extras if you have room in your budget.
Many of them have a long shelf life, so you can use them for Christmas, Easter, or possibly even for everyday dinners.
If you can adopt a practice of buying as little as possible at full-price, your grocery bill will stay lower all year long!
11. Use apps
Then you can use those gift cards to buy holiday gifts!
With Ibotta, you can link up your loyalty card account from many stores, so you don’t even have to remember to scan your receipt afterward.
Be sure to check the Ibotta app before you go shopping, since they often have cash back on ‘Any Brand’ products.
I wrote a full review and tutorial of Ibotta that you can read to learn more.
Click HERE to get a $10 welcome bonus through Ibotta! (Signing up on the app instead? Use code uwhaflc to receive your bonus.)
Fetch is SO easy to use. Nothing to clip beforehand. Just scan your receipt through the app after you shop, and they give you points for any applicable purchases.
Use code UGY82 to receive 2000 bonus points when you download the Fetch app.
12. Keep drinks simple
The cost of drinks can add up REALLY fast, and totally derail your Thanksgiving dinner budget.
Please don’t feel like you need to offer your guests every type of drink.
Consider offering one main option, like warm spiced cider (in your slow cooker), or a festive punch.
If you’re serving soda, buy 2-liters instead of individual cans. And only buy 2-3 varieties.
Wine can be turned into wine spritzers to stretch it farther.
And remember that when guests ask what they can bring, feel free to say specific drinks!
13. Shop at the dollar store (or thrift store)
To make your Thanksgiving table look decorative, check out a store like Dollar Tree.
You can get lovely Thanksgiving paper plates and napkins (which means fewer dishes to wash), plus festive holiday decor.
The dollar store is also a great place to get inexpensive serving platters and utensils, storage containers (for leftovers), mugs, and wine glasses.
At the thrift store, you can get cloth tablecloths and napkins, decorative table runners, pretty vases, and other fall-themed decor.
For just a few dollars, you can make your home look Thanksgiving-ready.
💡Pro-tip: Feel free to borrow items you don’t have, too! Your mom, aunt, or neighbor probably has a turkey roaster they won’t be using.
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14. Stock up on stuff post-holiday
If you know you’ll be hosting Thanksgiving dinner again next year, shop the clearance prices.
You can stock up on Thanksgiving plates, napkins, and decor at a steep discount.
This will help keep next year’s budget in check.
15. Eat the leftovers
Save money on your grocery bill over the next week by eating and repurposing your Thanksgiving leftovers.
Here are 45 ways to use your leftover turkey for inspiration.
If you can fit it into your budget, buy a bigger turkey than you need. You can freeze the leftovers, and use them for the next 2-3 months.
Ready to save money on Thanksgiving dinner?
As you can see, there are a variety ways to host Thanksgiving on a budget.
I hope some of these ideas will help you save money, and enjoy a tasty holiday meal with the people you care about.
Keep it simple, and your guests will enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.