thanksgiving on a budget
Updated December 01, 2021

Thanksgiving on a Budget: 7 Ways to Save Money on Your Turkey Dinner

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Thanksgiving is the perfect time to spend with friends and family, but it’s also an easy time to burn a hole in your wallet.

In fact, a 2019 LendingTree survey found that the average Thanksgiving host will spend more than $300 when you count up food, drink, and decor expenses for around ten people.

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend that much money to put together an unforgettable dinner.

Here are the 7 most effective ways to cut down on your Thanksgiving expenses.

1. Use Shopkick at the Supermarket

use shopkick at supermarket

Shopkick is a cash-back service that gives shoppers rewards when they make online or in-store purchases from certain brands.

You can also earn rewards by scanning the barcodes of specific products or even just walking into a particular store. My video shows exactly how to do it.

Whatever you’re planning to buy for your Thanksgiving dinner, you can get cash back effortlessly by signing up for Shopkick and checking their offers before buying groceries.

You might even be able to earn enough for a gift card to save money while Christmas shopping.

2. Don’t Feel Obligated to Buy a Whole Turkey

homemade turkey

Holiday traditions can be fun, but there’s no reason to buy an entire turkey if it’s more than you need.

An average Thanksgiving turkey weighs roughly 15 pounds, which should be enough to feed at least 10 people.

If you’re serving dinner for a smaller group, consider buying a whole or half turkey breast instead.

You’ll spend less money and time, since turkey breast won’t take as long to cook or prepare.

Whole turkey breast feeds 6-8 people, and half sizes are often available too.

3. Make Mulled Wine

mulled wine

It’s easy to spend a lot of money on beer, wine, and liquor for the Thanksgiving holiday, particularly if you’re hosting a large gathering.

Consider mulled wine, a unique festive drink that matches the season and just about any budget.

Making mulled wine is as simple as simmering red wine with a combination of ingredients that might include lemon, orange, sugar, honey, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, star anise, nutmeg, and others.

The added flavors mean that you won’t notice much of a difference between mulled wine made from a cheap or expensive bottle.

Best of all, you can usually prepare it with ingredients that are already on hand.

4. Grow Your Own Herbs

grow your own herbs

If you already grow your own herbs, you know how much you’re saving compared to buying herbs at the store.

A small potted herb plant can be the same price as the plastic packet of harvested herbs in the produce section.

But long after store-bought herbs are used up, a healthy herb plant will continue producing.

This tip will help you save money on Thanksgiving, but it will keep paying off for the rest of the holiday season and beyond.

Your potted herb plant could help you avoid countless trips to the store for herbs, which often spoil before you can use the entire packet.

5. Save Ingredients for Homemade Stock

homemade stock

Between gravy, stuffing, and other dishes, you could end up going through a lot of chicken or beef stock while cooking your Thanksgiving dinner. You can always buy stock at the grocery store, but you’ll end up spending extra money for a product that’s usually better when it’s homemade.

Stock is usually made with beef or chicken bones plus vegetables, herbs, and other basic ingredients. Most of the time involved is simply spent waiting for the stock to simmer, so it’s an easy thing to put together while working on other dishes.

6. Ask Guests to Pitch In

guests pitch in

If you’re hosting an entire gathering, you shouldn’t feel bad about asking your guests to pitch in. The extra help will distribute the evening’s costs more evenly, and it also gives your guests the chance to show off their best dishes (or bottles).

For example, you might want to handle main dishes like the turkey, potatoes, and stuffing in your own kitchen.

Guests can bring dishes that are easily transported, like salads and desserts, or highly dependent on personal choice, like alcohol.

7. Avoid Buying New Kitchen Tools

avoid buying new kitchen tools

Depending on your typical cooking habits, you may be short on some of the specialty kitchen tools that sometimes only come out on Turkey Day.

Cooking the meal might require a roasting pan, meat thermometer, or potato masher.

To serve it, you might need extra large bowls, platters, or a gravy boat — not to mention glasses and silverware for all your guests.

Rather than buying a brand new set of kitchen equipment, start by asking around with friends, family members, and neighbors who aren’t hosting to see if there’s anything you can borrow.

If you need to make any purchases, look for used kitchen tools at yard sales, estate sales, and digital platforms like Facebook Marketplace.

They might sound simple, but these seven tips can help you save a surprising amount of money around Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season. With the average host spending hundreds of dollars on their Thanksgiving dinner, saving as little as 10% can leave you with a nice chunk of change for your holiday gift fund.


Logan Allec, CPA

Logan is a practicing CPA and founder of Choice Tax Relief and Money Done Right. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.

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