Paycheck Chronicles

Thankful for A Frugal Thanksgiving


Because we have lived all over the world, we try extra hard to spend holidays with family when we can.  And because we just built this ridiculously large house, we're hosting Thanksgiving dinner.  I'm thankful for the opportunity to have our family gather together in our home, but I'm aware that Thanksgiving can be a huge expense.

The Food

Many families have a long list of things that they want to have in their Thanksgiving dinners.  Add in a few "wow, that looks good" recipes and it's easy to have twice as many dishes as people.  Look critically at your menu, and ask your family about their favorites, to see if there are things that could be eliminated.  Do you really need to have mashed potatoes and stuffing and bread rolls?  Maybe.  Or maybe not.

Unless you adore leftovers, consider rounding down your quantities.  One planner I read suggested two pounds of turkey per adult.  This is significantly more than the general recommendation of one pound per person.  Even though turkey is cheap, there's no reason to be swimming in turkey for the entire month of December. The same goes for other dishes; most people aren't going to eat a full serving of everything offered at Thanksgiving. Our bellies are only so big!


Beverages can be expensive, especially if you enjoy beer or wine.  Those autumn craft brews are tasty, but not necessary if you have a crew that's just as happy with something more basic.  There are many less expensive wines that taste just as good as their more expensive counterparts.  A really great wine may actually be lost in a big dinner anyway, so save those rare picks for a time when they can really shine.

Consider your non-alcoholic options, too.  Sparkling cider is cheaper than sparkling wine, and sparkling water is festive and very low cost.   Fancy options like Izze are fun, but not a good value when the kids go through a case in five minutes.

The Other Stuff

There are 100 other ways that you could spend money on hosting a Thanksgiving party.  If they are important to you, then do them, but don't feel pressured into something that just isn't you or isn't in your budget.

Specialty table linens, turkey shaped plates and embossed gravy boats are cute, but not essential. (Plus, you'll have to store them during the rest of the year.)  One planner that I read was sure to mention that you should order your flower centerpieces early.  Seriously?  I don't need to drop $50 on flowers to have a lovely dinner.

If you don't have enough seating for your guests, see about borrowing before you purchase tables and chairs.  Friends and neighbors may be able to share, or you can rent them.  Some base Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) rental facilities even have them.  Plus, again, less to store.

I'm not saying that everything should be as cheap as possible, though that might be the right choice for you. I am suggesting that you can have a great Thanksgiving dinner without breaking the bank. Making a few easy choices can help you enjoy your friends and family and protect your wallet at the same time.

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