Take it from a host of large crowds, roaster of oven-busting turkeys, payer of big bills, and washer of a million dishes: Thanksgiving doesn't have to destroy your budget or your spirit. It's probably just me, but I'd love if Thanksgiving got a little bit less about massive, expensive meals and 24 hours of football (maybe just 12?) and a little more about being with the people we love.
If you're feeling something similar, here are a few ways to save money and time without sacrificing a great holiday.
Borrow Don't Buy
I look back on holidays with my grandparents and I realize they weren't wasteful at all. They shared serving dishes, utensils, baking dishes, and decorations. If you don't have a massive turkey platter, chances are someone in your family does. The same goes for gravy bowls, pie servers, cake plates, and holiday decorations. If you've got older relatives who don't want to cook, reach out and ask if you could borrow an item you need for the holiday. You can make sure they take their things home in good condition on Thanksgiving, ready to share again next year.
This is a no-brainer and lots of families do it. Not only will you balance your budget better if your guests are bringing side dishes, you'll save a lot of time and stress. Potluck gives your guests the chance to share everyone's favorite foods. A word of caution: your guests will probably be happier if they bring their favorite dish. Avoid the temptation to pass out lists with side dishes or desserts you select and telling guests what to make and how much to bring. Get some inexpensive side dishes or snacks to serve "just in case."
Coupon Search and Swap
Manufacturers issue twice the number of coupons at Thanksgiving as they do at any other time of the year. If you get coupon mailers, don't throw them away, look through and choose any you think you or your guests might use. You can also find online and mobile coupon deals through your grocer or coupon boards on Pinterest and other social media.
Look for the Best Turkey or Vegan Deal
Our family has vegans and vegetarians so Tofurky (or other substitutes) are on the menu. Most of them are happy with an all-side-dish meal. But for the turkey-eaters, grocers all offer deals starting three to four weeks before the holiday. Some of them even offer free turkeys with a grocery purchase (usually $100 and up). Others offer low-priced turkeys for $1 a pound or less. Plan on about 1 pound of uncooked turkey weight per guest. You'll have leftovers, but not an insane amount.
Bring Your Own Bottle
Another no-brainer. Stock up on mixers. Let your guests bring any alcohol or non-alcoholic beverage they like. You can supply ice, serving ware, and refrigeration. Offer mixers and cut-up lemons and limes. Have plenty of fun drinks for the kids.
After so many stressful Thanksgivings, I really wish I'd known some of these tips before. Even if you try only a couple, I'll guarantee your Thanksgiving will be happier and easier on your budget.
Amy Sterling Casil
Amy Casil is a single mom, college teacher, business planner and affordable housing executive who lives in Southern California. She loves outdoor living and animals and is passionate about helping women to avoid her financial mistakes and learn from her successes.