Money Matters

Hosting Thanksgiving on a budget

November 26, 2013 | Alliant Credit Union

Hosting Thanksgiving can be expensive – and let's not forget stressful! There are ways, however, to plan and host it while sticking to a budget. They requires planning ahead and being organized, but if you follow the steps below, you can plan, host and celebrate this Thanksgiving in style without stuffing your wallet with receipts that exceed your budget and make you go broke.

Step One
Figure out how much you can afford before you decide on the food, decorations, and entertainment. If you plan your menu around goose or duck when your budget calls for turkey, you'll have to start all over and potentially go shopping again, costing you more. It's best to start with a reasonable budget as a blueprint for planning, then work backwards to make choices about your menu, rather than to start out by buying a few things that you want and then seeing what happens with your budget. Think about everything you need, so that both your needs and budget are accurate.

Step Two 
Make a list of who is attending, including age and gender, to have a full count of the number of people you're cooking for and gauge how much they may eat. Teenagers will eat more than toddlers, so the more toddlers there are, the less you'll have to cook and the more you'll save.

Step Three

Make compromises to make your budget work for you. Yes, it may not be exactly what you planned or want, but that's okay. If you really want a specific entree and it exceeds your budget, make adjustments to the side dishes and appetizers to make up the difference.

If your budget is tight, host a potluck style Thanksgiving and ask guests to bring a side dish of their choosing. It'll be easier on your wallet and make the menu collaborative and unique. Another option is just having people over for appetizers or desserts. Yes, it is a little less conventional, but you could offer your home as a stop before, between or after friends make the rounds to other parties during the day or host it on a day before or after the official Thanksgiving to extend the festivities.

Step Four

Once you have your menu set, review your serving pieces, dishes, glassware, seating and cooking tools to take inventory of what you have and make a wish list of what you want. Then call friends and family, especially those that you know are heading out of town, and ask them if you can borrow pieces to complete your needs. Borrowing instead of renting and buying will definitely save you money. And don't worry that everything won't match. Your guests will be so into the amazing meal you prepared that they won't even notice.

If you absolutely have to buy, make sure it is something that you'll use often and can't borrow. There is nothing wrong with getting help and borrowing.

Step Five

Remember that the most important part of Thanksgiving is surrounding yourself with the people you care about the most – not what is being served. Here are tips that can help stretch your Thanksgiving budget even further:

  • Stick to your list
  • Use coupons
  • Buy in bulk
  • Get generic where it makes sense
  • Look for sales, such as buy one, get one free
  • Compare prices – this includes coupons
  • Go grocery shopping alone
  • Use your own or borrowed plates versus paper or foam plates
  • Make your own decorations

Have any tips on sticking to a budget when hosting Thanksgiving? We want to hear them! Just send a Tweet to @AlliantCU.

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