Giving Thanks While Saving Money: How to Cut Costs for Thanksgiving

For many, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a costly holiday season. Many shoppers brave the cold and deprive themselves of sleep to take part in Black Friday deals. However, gifts aren’t the only way to cut costs for the holidays. The savings can begin on Thanksgiving, often without too much sacrifice.

Save money this Thanksgiving

These money-saving tips for Thanksgiving can help throughout the entire holiday season.

The Food

As Thanksgiving’s main event, dinner is likely the first place to consider reducing your spending.  Don’t assume that spending less will mean a lower-quality meal. Here are a few food-related ideas to implement for this year’s Thanksgiving:

Keep it simple. We all like variety in our food selections, but sometimes less is more. Thanksgiving is a prime example. Try sticking to a few staples (perhaps turkey, potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, pie) rather than experimenting with many different dishes. No one will complain if these basics are done well, and you’ll save money by limiting the required ingredients.

Shop intelligently. We all know that buying in bulk can save money, so don’t forget to do so on this most tasty of holidays. Flour, sugar, butter…really anything you can realistically use and/or store safely for future meals would be a candidate for this shopping strategy. Be careful not to go overboard, though. Buying food in bulk that will later spoil or go unused is money wasted rather than money saved.

Support your community. If there’s a farmers market nearby, try to take advantage of the fresh, locally grown produce this Thanksgiving. Not everything will necessarily be cheaper than at a grocery store, but the food will likely be of higher quality and there’s the possibility of bargaining for lower prices. If you visit towards the end of a market’s hours, vendors may be looking to unload excess product at a discount.

Plan and prepare for leftovers. This is a no-brainer, but you may be surprised how many meals you can squeeze out of one Thanksgiving dinner. Take time to properly store uneaten food to ensure maximum lifespan, and consider prepackaging food into personal-sized containers for easy work or school lunches.

The Event

Not everyone is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to food. So, rather than straining to juggle multiple dishes at once, try organizing a Thanksgiving potluck among friends and family. It can save you all money while also improving the quality of the food, since each person or family can focus on what they do best in the kitchen.

Travel

Those taking to the road or skies this Thanksgiving face a unique set of challenges when it comes to saving money. If you are flying, you’ve hopefully purchased tickets already, but you should also plan ahead for airline fees. Airlines are increasingly charging for checked bags, choosing a seat assignment, and other previously free services. If you are driving and have any sort of flexible schedule, avoid traveling on Wednesday and the following weekend. Traffic jams could end up costing you in fuel and headaches.

All of these tips can help you save money this year, but too much preparation and worry can take away from the true spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday. However you choose to prepare the big meal, share the holiday with loved ones and get to your final destination, take the time to be thankful for what you have. Happy Thanksgiving!

John Gower is a writer for NerdWallet.com, a website that provides tools for consumers to compare financial products. He is currently reviewing the best Black Friday deals to compare the good and the bad of the popular shopping day.