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Throwing a Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving Without Breaking the Bank

The holidays are a time for family, friends and feasts. Time spent together is the most important part of gathering together during the holiday season, but most people admit these gatherings wouldn’t be the same without the food – turkey, pumpkin pie, ham, mulled wine, rum balls and sugar cookies. But somewhere along the way (can we blame Instagram and Pinterest?), you may feel every holiday meal should look like it belongs in a magazine.
Free-range turkeys dressed in epicurean herbs, 12 organic sides and elaborately crafted baked goods are delicious, but they’re a lot of work and frankly, they’re expensive. When you’re gearing up for arguably the most expensive months of the year, it’s not always wise – or possible – to empty your bank account for one meal.
Thankfully, it’s also not necessary. It’s still possible to do a big, traditional Thanksgiving dinner on a budget.

It’s All in the Planning

The best advice we have for hosting a fantastic Thanksgiving meal without breaking the bank is simply to plan ahead. Once you know how many guests to expect and which ingredients you’ll need, it’s easier to prepare. You can also space out your Thanksgiving purchases – many of them freeze well, so the holiday costs won’t hit your budget all at once.
Considering it’s already November, however, that well-intended advice probably doesn’t do you much good at the moment. Here are some tips you can use to make sure this year’s Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t break the bank:

  • Assign dishes to your guests. They’re going to ask what they can bring – don’t be afraid to let them contribute! Ask your mom to bring the pie you love so much, your best friend to bring rolls and your brother to bring a couple bottles of wine.
  • Stick with tradition. A budget Thanksgiving doesn’t have to mean gourmet. Turkey, gravy, stuffing and mashed potatoes are actually pretty inexpensive. 
  • Minimize the amount of sides – just make larger amounts of each one. Nobody needs 12 different sides on Thanksgiving so stick with two or three favorites.
  • Hit up stores like Costco and Sam’s Club with a friend. Basics such as butter, eggs, sugar, flour and potatoes cost less there, but you’ll still pay more if you have to buy twice what you need. By splitting costs with someone, you’ll both get what you need for less.
  • Watch store coupons and weekly specials. Take the time to visit four grocery stores in the area if you need to – the savings will add up.
  • You’re probably going to spend almost half your money (more than 40 percent, according to expert analysis) on a turkey. And how that turkey tastes really doesn’t depend all that much on how much you spent – it’s all in the preparation and the cooking method. Buy a store-brand frozen turkey and brine the heck out of it.
  • In fact, buy frozen whenever you can. When you smother your green beans in fried onions and cream of mushroom soup, whether or not you bought them fresh won’t really matter – promise.
  • Stores often have fresh cranberries or canned cranberry sauce and pumpkin on sale the week before Thanksgiving.  
  • Rather than stocking up on cases of wine and bottles of scotch, make an alcoholic punch.
  • Don’t worry about decorations. Light some candles and don’t worry about ceramic pumpkins, bouquets of autumn flowers or gilded napkin rings. Once everyone sits down to eat, you’ll hardly be able to see the décor anyway.

Do you have any other tips on hosting a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner on a budget? We’d love to hear them!
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