How to Host Thanksgiving on a Budget

Enjoy giving thanks with family and friends without going into debt. Find out how to host Thanksgiving on a budget.

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate family and be grateful for everything and everyone in your life. But the big feast can often be expensive and stressful if you don’t plan for it carefully. It is possible to host Thanksgiving on a budget. Here are some tips to help you think about the gathering ahead of time and get organized so you don’t go broke before the next big holiday:

Craft Your Budget

It’s a good idea to sketch out a basic budget for Thanksgiving so you know what to expect and can make informed decisions on what to spend on food, entertainment and activities, and decorations. Make a list of everything you need and how much it will cost before you take a trip to the grocery store. Really plan your menu out in your budget and stick to it.

Ask for Help

Now that you have a preliminary budget, you may want to cut back on some of the costs by asking your guests to contribute. You don’t have to do it all yourself. A potluck-style dinner is a good way to accept help, get everyone involved and keep costs low. Guests may want to share the delight of one of their family recipes. Split up some of the prep work, ask guests to bring side dishes or desserts, or have them create decorations. Sharing the responsibilities for the festivities may even start a few new traditions, so don’t be afraid to give in to the spirit of giving when it’s time for you to host Thanksgiving on a budget.

Make Dinner From Scratch

Don’t buy anything canned or in packages because pre-made items usually cost more. Instead, use the spices you have at home, buy real potatoes instead of a box of instant, make your own pie crusts, or make your own stuffing with leftover bread. You get the idea. Also, consider trimming your menu down. Hopefully you’ve already asked for friends and family to contribute to your meal. But by cutting back on what you make, you’ll be more likely to spend the time creating fresh, high-quality dishes and less tempted to buy pre-made options.

When it’s time to purchase all the fresh ingredients, take a moment to look through your local paper or online at places like for any deals that might be available for items on your list. Check to see if your local stores are having sales as well. Grocery stores often run special holiday promotions.


Drinking is a tradition at Thanksgiving, but buying alcohol can become expensive very quickly. Ask your friends and family to bring a six-pack of beer or a bottle of wine to dinner. If everyone contributes, the costs will be minimal and the booze will be plentiful.

Decorate With Nature

Host Thanksgiving on a budget by enlisting the kids to gather nature pieces for display and decoration.

Buying decorations can get just as expensive as the food items if you aren’t careful. Try purchasing a few set pieces that you can use every year and fill the rest of your home with free or inexpensive items from nature like dried grasses, herbs, leaves and gourds. You can even enlist help from your kids or your guests’ kids by having them create holiday decorations. That can be a really fun activity at Thanksgiving for the little ones.

Thanksgiving doesn’t have to break the bank. With some planning, budgeting, sharing and a little frugality, you can make this year’s holiday fun and festive.

Gear up for the holiday season by reviewing your gift budget and reading “6 Ways to Save Money During the Holidays.”  


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