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Thanksgiving on a Budget

This article was written by in Frugality. 17 comments.

Over the past couple of weeks, six finalists have been auditioning for the opening of “staff writer” at Consumerism Commentary. Each is providing two guest articles to share with readers. After the six writers have shared their guest articles, readers will have an opportunity to provide feedback before we select the staff writer.

This article is presented by Ray, the owner and primary author of Financial Highway, where he discusses investing, saving and practical money management concepts.

Thanksgiving is just a few days away and with the new area of frugality most Americans are looking to enjoy a fun but frugal thanksgiving. A few weeks ago I posted some frugal thanksgiving dinner tips for our Canadian readers (yes we celebrate thanksgiving earlier), but since then I learned a few more tricks to cut down your thanksgiving costs.


Free turkey. Yes I mean FREE turkey! Many stores have promotions during Thanksgiving, where they give away a free turkey if you spend a certain amount on groceries. You will be buying groceries anyways, just make sure you make the bulk of your purchases during this promotion and enjoy the free turkey! Take some time to check out several of these promotions, because every store will have a different spending limit. However make sure you do not make unnecessarily purchases just to get the free turkey.

Avoid buying too much. At almost every thanksgiving dinner I have been to or hosted we have had tones of leftovers, only to have them thrown away. Buying too much and throwing things away is not very frugal, estimating the right amount can be difficult; you can use this turkey calculator to calculate how much turkey you should buy.

Have a potluck dinner. This may not sound appealing to everyone, but for us Thanksgiving dinner is more about friends and family getting together and not so much about the food. If you are hosting the dinner you might want to consider a potluck style thanksgiving dinner where you provide the turkey and assign everyone else a dish. Not only will everyone save money by doing a potluck, but it also saves the host a lot of time.

Use leftovers. No matter how hard you try to have the right amount of food, chances are that you will have leftovers. Do not just throw away your leftovers use them for future meals. The leftover vegetables can be used to make soup and you can just freeze the leftover turkey for future meals.


In Recent years thanksgiving dinner decorations have become more and more popular, these can be a strain on your budget if you are not careful, so here are some tips that can hopefully help.

Make your own. Instead of spending money on decorations, just buy some supplies to make your own. If you have kids this can be a fun family event. You can easily save a large chunk of money by just buying a few supplies from your local craft store and make your decorative items at home.

Forget paper and foam dishes. Paper and Styrofoam dishes can save you some time cleaning up, but is it really worth the extra cost? An easy way to stay on budget is to just use your own dishes rather than paper and Styrofoam – this is also a more environmentally friendly alternative.

Forget the centerpiece. I personally am not a big fan of centerpieces so we rarely ever use one. How many people will really pay attention to the centerpiece? Plus they obstruct your view and often limit conversations. I suggest you forget about it and spend the money on something more important.

Decorate from nature. A great way to have some thanksgiving decorations is to use the nature. Just head out and grab those colored fallen tree leaves and arrange them neatly around the table.

Thanksgiving does not have to be a budget buster; by just using a few of these tips you can trim your budget. Remember to keep thanksgiving about family and friends and enjoy each other’s company.

What are your frugal thanksgiving tips? Do you have any other savings tips or tricks?

This is a guest article by Ray, one of six finalists interested in being Consumerism Commentary’s staff writer.

Updated June 24, 2016 and originally published November 24, 2009.

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About the author

This is a guest article by Ray, the owner and primary author of Financial Highway, where he discusses investing, saving and practical money management concepts. You can check subscribe to his RSS feed or follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

These are some great tips Ray. My family and I use left over turkey for sandwiches – they taste great and we don’t waste the leftover turkey.


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avatar 2 Anonymous

I love potlucks–they are one of my favorite things to do for Thanksgiving, and other times of the year.

One thing I have never heard of are the free turkeys, so I’m glad you brought that up. I will definitely be looking for that this week!

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avatar 3 Anonymous

Yes potlucks can be a lot of fun with little stress.
Often the free turkeys are advertised pretty well maybe you just missed them, now I am hungry

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avatar 4 Anonymous

When I was a kid, I remember eating turkey in pretty much everything for at least a week after Thanksgiving. Sandwiches, soup, turkey salad. My schoolteacher parents let nothing go to waste. Go them.

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avatar 5 Anonymous

Tahnks for the post. I agree with you suggestion about the potluck. Most people actuallly feel better and enjoy it more if they have something to contribute. By allowing them to bring a dish you save money and time and they feel blessed because they were able to make an important contribution.

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avatar 6 Anonymous

Great article Ray! The tip that resonated most with me is to avoid buying too much. I’m always worried about not having enough food and end up over-compensating for it by spending too much.

Another option is to make recipes that don’t require expensive ingredients. Food does not have to be expensive to be delicious.

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