The holidays are in full swing with Halloween behind us, and that means holiday spending is getting into full swing too! Thanksgiving can be a holiday that ends up costing us a lot of money. I mean, most of us struggle with saving money on groceries every month to begin with, add in a massive holiday and there goes the food budget for the month! Plus, that's not even taking into account the added spending (or overspending) on travel, decor, host gifts, and so on. I mean last year, Americans spent nearly a billion dollars on just Thanksgiving turkeys!! With Black Friday and Cyber Monday right around the corner too, let's talk about ways to save money this Thanksgiving so you can properly pace your spending this holiday season!
Before we jump into my tips for saving money on Thanksgiving. I want to thank Lexington Law for sponsoring this post and our entire money saving series! Lexington Law Firm is a trusted leader in credit repair. Credit impacts SO many areas of your life and having poor credit, can actually cost you more money! That's why Lexington Law is passionate about helping their clients repair their credit by helping to identify and address inaccurate, unsubstantiated, and unfair negative items on their credit reports. People who have medical or student debt, recently experience a divorce or identity theft, or been on military leave are particularly susceptible to these types of negative items. If any of this sounds familiar, be sure to click here to receive your free credit repair consultation today! Also, be sure to catch up on all the posts in our saving series posts here!
31 Ways To Save Money On All Things Thanksgiving
List of 6 Ways To Save Money On Thanksgiving Travel
Book your flights early
Try to shoot for September, if not earlier. I like the app Hopper where you can put a “watch” on the flight and it'll notify you when the price has dropped. Generally, flights get more expensive if you're booking last minute, especially around the holidays.
Strategically schedule your flights
If you are looking for a major way to save money, flying on actual Thanksgiving Day is generally going to be the cheapest day. If that's not possible, consider booking one way tickets on whichever airlines are offering the cheapest flight that suits your timing best. Generally you don't actually save money when doing round-trip, it's just more convenient.
Use an RFID protector
Identity theft is real my friends and nothing will throw a wrench in your holiday fun like having to deal with stolen information! What's even crazier: thieves don't even need to get your physical card to steal your information. They can just sit in an airport with a scanner and if you walk close enough to them, BOOM they scanned your wallet and snagged all your credit card information. – I mean it's probably more technical than that, but you get the idea. Airports, bus stops, hotels (all the hot spots for your holiday travel) can be hot beds for identity theft.
Protect yourself using an RFID blocking wallet which makes it harder for the scanners to read your information or by using the Lex OnTrack Identity Theft Protection tool. Lex OnTrack helps you monitor and protect your identity from theft with $1 million in identity theft insurance. The Lex OnTrack tool can help you catch fraud on your accounts and will work with you to quickly rectify the situation.
If you have been a victim of identity theft, give the professionals at Lexington Law a call today! They are here to help repair your credit.
Skip the checked bag
My goal is ALWAYS to travel with just a carry-on. You can avoid baggage fees this way, save time once you land, and reduce overall stress since you probably won't lose your luggage this way.
Carpool or take a bus
In college I would always carpool or take the bus home for Thanksgiving. Both were huge cost savers on gas and tolls. You'll often be surprised by how many people are going in your direction if you just post it on social media.
Do a house swap or rental instead of a hotel
With so many people traveling, that means lots of places to swap or rent. You can find loads of places online, just beware of scams!
List of 16 Ways To Save Money On Thanksgiving Day Food
Get a head count
Determining an anticipated head count can make it a lot easier for all the future money saving tips I'm about to share! The earlier you can get a head count (at least a rough one) the better so you can start planning and shopping accordingly. If unexpected guests stress you out though, read this post on How To Handle Unexpected Thanksgiving Guests When You Feel Alone.
Do an inventory of what you have
Somehow things always get pushed to the back of the pantry and before you know it you have three cans of pumpkin puree you didn't know about and you just bought a fourth! Get into all the nooks and crannies of your cupboards and drawers to figure out exactly what you already have on hand.
Plan your meal
When it comes to Thanksgiving, think seasonal and classic. Personally, I'd skip trying to make the fanciest dish to impress guests. Often these cost more money and take more time. Instead create a menu that uses seasonal items (which are often cheaper) and Thanksgiving classics. People typically prefer and expect the traditional Thanksgiving food anyway. Write out everything you'd like to serve at your Thanksgiving meal and also keep in mind dietary constraints so there is something for everyone.
Factor in leftovers!
If you're spending all of this time shopping, cooking, and cleaning, you better plan on leftovers!! A general rule of thumb I use, no matter if it's Thanksgiving or just any other Thursday, is if a meal takes me more than 20 minutes to make, I make enough leftovers per 20 minutes. For instance, a 20 minute meal can be for just that night, a 40 minute meal, better have at least one round of leftovers, and if it takes me an hour, it better have at least two nights of leftovers! This allows me to shop more in bulk, and in turn, save more time and money on ingredients and utilities (because it costs money when you use your sink or oven friends!).
Choose a few things to cook from scratch
I once went to Thanksgiving where everything was store bought. Potato salad, sweet potato casserole, grilled veggies, even the Turkey just needed to be reheated. My first thought was, “how expensive was that?!” Plus, it didn't save a huge amount of time since the host still had to heat everything up. I also felt like we were missing some classics which I quickly whipped up. Personally, my recommendation is to choose at least 3 items you are going to do from scratch. My go-to's are usually sweet potato casserole (well anything potato related really), green bean casserole, and of course the turkey.
But also get store bought or semi-homemade
Now sometimes it does just make sense to do store bought. I personally love pumpkin cheesecake, so it's a bit more complicated than just whipping up a pumpkin pie… which is an item I'd still recommend doing semi-homemade. When I say semi-homemade I mean you do a mix of store bought hacks and from scratch. It's really my secret weapon to make it look like I create an extravagant feast with as little effort as possible.
For instance, I'll buy store bought pie crust rather than making my own if I'm making pumpkin pie. Or I'll use store bought corn muffin mix to make a cornbread casserole instead of making it totally from scratch. Another fan favorite I do, is purchase an already made loaf of french bread or a baguette or some sort, and then I'll cut slices in it, brush it with a little melted herb butter, stuff the slices with some cheese and bake it for a few minutes as guests start to arrive. YUMMM!!
Buy a frozen turkey, turkey alternative, or go meatless!
Frozen turkeys taste just as good as fresh ones. Seriously, the taste of your turkey really has to do with how you cook it, not whether it was fresh or frozen. One little tip for cooking a delicious turkey, cook it upside down for the first 30-40% of the cook time! The juices all move towards the breast this way and limit the white meat from getting as dried out!
Another thing we've done in the past when it's been just my husband and I is simply pick up a rotisserie chicken instead of a turkey. This saved us on having to make a whole turkey, but got his poultry fix in.
Lastly, feel free to skip the meat altogether and make your own rules! Personally, I'm like 90% plant based, so I don't always partake in the meat. Instead, Thanksgiving dinner is really all about the sides for me. Give me a few good sweet and savory casseroles, some stuff mushrooms and call me a happy camper!
Ask others to bring food too
As people RSVP they will likely ask if they can bring anything and make sure to take them up on their offer! Since you already have your meal plan written out, this is a great time to actually ask for what you'd like them to bring! Most people don't like to show up empty handed anyway, so by asking for specifics, you can ensure you lighten your load financially and don't end up with five pumpkin pies at the end of the night.
PRO TIP: It's always helpful to ask people to bring appetizers and beverages. If you're nervous guests will forget to bring their item, try asking them what their favorite side is, and then assign that to them. I think people are far less likely to forget their side if it's the dish they are the most excited about (at least I am! 😉).
Create a grocery list
Once you've done your inventory, created your menu, assigned your guests dishes to bring, it's time to create your grocery list! Shopping with a grocery list makes it a lot easier to keep track of your progress and stay focused. It's all too easy to get distracted by speciality items during the holidays!
Shop early and often
Most stores start rolling out their sales on holiday staples towards the end of October. As a loose example: they'll do sweet potato casserole ingredients on sale the first week of November, turkeys the second week, and the third week your desserts. Now it's obviously not that clean cut and every grocery store is different, but the idea is the same: stores stagger sales. They assume you'll do your shopping all at once, so you'll only get a portion of your needs on sale. By shopping early and often with your list, you can begin ticking things off as you see them on sale. Eventually you'll have to buy all the things even if they haven't gone on sale, but this gives you the best odds.
If you haven't already, I'd also recommend reading this post on How To Save Money On Groceries Every Month On A Tight Budget in it I share my very specific grocery shopping strategy that's saved me thousands of dollars and loads more money saving tips!
If you follow my grocery shopping strategy I just mentioned (seriously, read it here!), you'll already have a jump on this. For instance, I know which store within a couple of miles of me sells seasonings at the best price, and which sells produce at the best price. Instead of getting everything all in one place, you can save a ton of money by comparing prices and shopping accordingly. Now I don't think it's worth saving a few dollars if you have to drive 5+ miles to another store, but if you can save some money by going an extra mile or two, it may be well worth it financially!
Save your receipts
There are loads of apps out there, like Ibotta, that will give you cashback when you submit and take a picture of your receipt.
Plan your cooking schedule
One of the often overlooked ways that cooking Thanksgiving dinner can get expensive is how you use your utilities! Instead of having your oven run for two days as you cook one item at a time, plan your cooking schedule. This way you can put a few items in the oven at the same time that cook at the same temperature. Yes, it requires a little strategy and shuffling, but it saves not only money, but time too! Read more about sneaky holiday costs from my friends at Lexington Law Firm here.
Use a convection oven
On the note of utilities, don't forget to use your oven's convection setting if it has one! A convection oven simply circulates the air better and in doing so, leads to quicker and more even cooking! In fact, it reportedly cuts energy usage by around 20%! If you don't have a convection oven, maybe consider adding a counter top one to your holiday wish list!
Utilize your dishwasher
For some reason, whenever I watch the Thanksgiving episode of any sitcom, they are always hand washing dishes which I think has instilled in a lot of us, that hand washing dishes on the holidays is just something you do. Like it brings us all closer together? I'm not positive. Either way, I say let's all be brought together over food and games instead of the sink! In fact, hand washing dishes often uses three and a half times more water than the dishwasher and that isn't even calculating the energy used to make it hot!
Skip it all and volunteer!
The biggest way to save money during Thanksgiving dinner is obviously going to be to skip it all entirely! Instead, consider volunteering and giving back. Volunteering is a great way to give back, all while avoiding holiday scams for fake charities. Read more about holiday scams to avoid this season here from Lexington Law.
List of 4 Ways Save Money On Thanksgiving and Fall Decor
Check out the dollar store
It's no secret I love the dollar store! They have loads of items from plates and bowls, to faux fall foliage, to so much for for creating a festive atmosphere. I'll share some ideas in the DIY section.
I love a personal touch around the holidays and Thanksgiving is a stand out one for extra special touches. You can snag some poster board at the dollar store and make little turkey place cards. Get a few faux pumpkins and create a beautiful tablescape, create a beautiful candle set up from the dollar store glassware and candle section and sooo much more!
Dollar store aside, there are tons of print outs online you can download and print for hanging banners, place cards, and so much more. Choose one or two to make or enlist the kids to help!
When I'm shopping for Halloween stuff like pumpkins or hay bales, I try to make intentional purchases I can upcycle for Thanksgiving too. Your mini leftover pumpkins can sit on a sprawling fall tablescape with the hay acting as a runner. You can also place the pumpkins in a cornucopia or use a melon baller to scoop out the top center and place some tea light candles in there like I did with these apples here. You can also take some of the hay and tie it in a bundle to
Scavenge for Thanksgiving decor outside
Mother Nature really provides the best decor in my opinion – and it's free! Head outside and look for some pine cones for your centerpiece. Or some fallen leaves to tie into your napkin rings or around a candle for a festive touch. The possibilities are really endless for how to incorporate beautiful finds from outside.
List of 5 Ways Save Money On Everything Else Related To Thanksgiving
Turn the heat down
November is when it starts to get cooler outside and we tend to bundle up a bit more. Before you go cranking the heat though, remember that cooking and added bodies in the home will naturally raise the temperature. Plus, with people constantly coming in and outside, you don't need your A/C or heating system costing your more money working over time.
For entertainment and fun…
There are so many ways to have some fun for free during Thanksgiving! Have everyone bring a favorite board or card games. Even better, head outside for a game of actual football or a hike. Not only is November fabulous weather, but walking after a meal can help with digestion and lowering blood sugar levels! Win-Win!!
Ohhh and if you really want to get a jump on more money saving hacks for the holiday season, you could also set up a craft corner and have people start DIY'ing your December holiday decor!! Free entertainment for guests and lowers the cost of your holiday decorations for next month!
For your… well everything:
Use a cash back credit card! Cashback credit cards are a great way to earn rewards while spending money you already planned on spending. As a rule of thumb, never charge more than what you can pay off right away. This ensures you won't have to pay interest rates and really allows you to make strategic financial moves that put some money back in your pocket. If you don't already have a cash back rewards credit card and are nervous about applying for one, read this post on What You Need To Know Before Applying For A New Credit Card.
I also recommend that you read the fine print before applying for a new credit card to make sure you meet the requirements for approval. If you have a lower credit score than you'd like and believe there are inaccurate negative items on your credit report, contact Lexington Law firm here. They may be able to help you with the credit repair process.
What hacks do you have to save money around Thanksgiving?
Catch up on the rest of the Money Savings Series here:
List of 31 Ways To Save Money On All Things Thanksgiving
- Book your flights early
- Strategically schedule your flights
- Use an RFID protector
- Skip the checked bag
- Carpool or take a bus
- Do a house swap or rental instead of a hotel
- Get a headcount
- Do an inventory of what you have
- Plan your meal
- Factor in leftovers!
- Choose a few things to cook from scratch
- But also go store bought or semi-homemade
- Buy a frozen turkey, turkey alternative, or go meatless!
- Ask others to bring food too
- Create a grocery list
- Shop early and often
- Compare prices
- Save your receipts
- Plan your cooking schedule
- Use a convection oven
- Utilize your dishwasher
- Skip it all and volunteer!
- Check out the dollar store
- DIY Them!
- Scavenge for Thanksgiving decor outside
- Turn the heat down
- Go for a walk or play outside
- Play a board or card game
- Rent free movies
- Use a cash back rewards credit card