Go Cheap This Thanksgiving and Save Money

My favorite day of the year is coming up: THANKSGIVING!  A day full of football, family, amazing food, and great memories. A day of thankfulness for what we have.  The all-American holiday.

With such a big holiday comes big expenses.  Travel costs are the big expense for some families, but for others it’s the big dinner.  Thanksgiving dinners can cost a pretty penny but they don’t have to.  I’ve had the blessing of watching the frugal ways of my mom and the things she did to save money during Thanksgiving.

I wanted to pass on some of these tips so you can benefit from them.

Thanksgiving Turkey

Don’t Cook

Yes, don’t cook if you’re the host. Sounds odd, I know.  But if you’re hosting the event, see if everyone wants to bring their own dish.  This was a great money saving as well as time saving strategy for my Mom during Thanksgiving dinners.  It’s just flat out ridiculous to ask one person cook the entire meal if you ask me.  Instead of coming off as lazy, turn it into a fun event and make sure to mention that you’re excited to taste dishes from other family members.

All you need do is email out the list of dishes that are needed and you can manage responses and who is bringing what.  It can be a fun, family bonding experience.

Cheap Wine Rules

Don’t go out and buy the most expensive wine this Thanksgiving.  Unless your family is some sort of connoisseur group, ditch the expensive stuff and grab some bottles at the end of the aisles.  It’s going to be mixed with so many flavors and foods it won’t really matter what the wine taste like as long as it’s drinkable.  If you really want to go cheap, go with some off-brand boxed wine for $15 or $20. Surprisingly, many box wines are pretty good.

Store Purchased Decorations Are Overrated

Stores make such a big push to get your business for ornaments and decorations for a single day.  Avoid the temptation this Thanksgiving.  In fact, why don’t you use a combination of decorations you’ve used in the past?  Or better yet, grab some flowers and greens from your back yard.  These are easy solutions for Thanksgiving decorations. There’s no reason to spend a hundred dollars decorating your home with a bunch of trinkets.

Cheap Entertainment Is Key

Avoid the “big box” entertainment like movie theaters and football games.  I know these are fun events, but is it really worth the money?  Why not stay in and play some games?  Using existing, free entertainment is something I grew up doing and plan to do the same with my family.  Stay inside this Thanksgiving and avoid the crowds and your wallet will smile while building those bonds with family.

Don’t Have A Dinner

This option is pretty bold but can be a change from previous years.  Why not do something that will shock your family?  You could skip the dinner altogether and go serve downtown and volunteer for the day.  Do you know how many homeless people there are these days?  I’ll be honest, I haven’t done this yet, but I’m planning to.  Another option would be to get the whole family to join you.  It could be a fun bonding time while serving your local community.  The sky’s the limit.

See, Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be expensive.  All you need to do is think outside of the box a little bit and you can save big this year. And above all, remember, it’s a time to spend with family.  Who knows, you may find that these frugal ideas are actually more fun than what you’ve done in the past.  Don’t wait to find out, act on these tips.

READERS:  Do you have any other tips that you’ve incorporated into your family gatherings over Thanksgiving?  Share your thoughts below!



Whether we decide to potluck or not, everybody decides to bring their own food anyway. Thanksgiving is the time to give thanks and to give back anyway.


I’m suddenly craving for turkey and pecan pie. Yum! The key is in the planning. Make the most of what you already have at home. Don’t purchase new ones and use those utensils/decorations that you’ve been keeping for a special occasion because Thanksgiving is a special occasion. It’s that time of the year when you are all gathered and catch up with each other.


Although it is good to be frugal, don't overdo it in front of your close families and friends. At the same time, you do not have to go all out and spend a lot on Thanksgiving dinner. If you are so worried financially, hopefully you will get invited instead of being the host.

I really like the cheap wine and cheap entertainment ideas.


Shelters and community kitchens are typically oversaturated with volunteers on holidays, because people look at it as a "family bonding" activity on that one day, but never come again for the rest of the year. If you really want to help, have a quiet Thanksgiving dinner at home, and then pick some non-holidays to do some unglamorous but much needed volunteer work. Soup kitchens are open and in need of volunteers right now, but they're likely already full of volunteers for the holidays this year.

C in DC
C in DC

Thanksgiving was always a low-key turkey and tv event in our house. The turkey was usually the only big expense. If you watch your flyers, you can usually get a frozen turkey cheap or free.

Also, for cheap wine, check your local wine stores. We have one nearby that often does promotions comparing cheap versions to expensive favorites. It's how we found our favorite champagne - that costs less than $20/bottle and tastes like one that's closer to $100/bottle.

A good cloth tablecloth and cloth napkins will see one through many dinners, so investing in ones appropriate to the season is worthwhile.