Don't Let Thanksgiving Gobble Your Money!

The holiday season approaches, heralded by cold weather and Thanksgiving. Even (especially) turkeys know the holidays are stressful. Between higher power bills, gathering relatives, mass cooking, and gifts it’s a wonder any of us make it through. Although we’re not quite to Thanksgiving, our winter holidays loom in the background. For now, let’s  make it through Turkey Day with minimal financial stress.

1. What are Your Needs?

In other words, how many people are you feeding? This is a pretty basic question you probably already know the answer too, or could easily determine. For 8 people buy a 12-pound turkey. For 10, buy a 15-pound turkey. (Follow that link for more information.)

What if you have less than 8 people? My mom only had 3 people to cook for, which made a turkey rather excessive. We ate leftovers forever. A few years ago, we switched to Cornish game hens, basically a miniature chicken perfect for one person. They average between $2.50-$5.00 a pound. Turkeys are $1.42 a pound, which makes them cheaper overall, but depending on how many people you’re feeding and how much you love leftovers, it might be worth a switch.

2. Decorations?

 How much décor do you want/need? This is really a matter of preference. If you’re hosting a big gathering, maybe décor and ambiance is more important to you. If it’s a small affair like my family’s, maybe you confine it to a centerpiece or some decorative pumpkins and corn. Maybe decorating is an activity you do with your kids, so you invest more time in it. 

If you want decorations, I challenge you to make them yourself. Our Pinterest Board has ideas for cheap, easy, & stylish crafts you can make, as well as cheap easy recipes (stay tuned for the Winter Holiday addition). This is also a great way to spend time with your family and friends.

3. Activities

Thanksgiving’s best quality is its focus on spending time with your family (the binge-eating is a side bonus). Finding family activities that don’t cost much, or anything, is relatively easy. A lot of folks watch football, which was a new experience for me last Thanksgiving. Perhaps you even play as a family. My family often goes for walks at our nearby river or stays in playing board games, depending on the weather. This can also be a great time to make crafts together, or even make a battle plan for Black Friday shopping if that’s your style.

4. Keep It Simple

Simple is best, easiest, and the least stressful. Before T-Day, make your game plan. What dishes are you cooking? Turkey, taters, stuffing, and green bean casserole, followed by pumpkin pie, is classic. Stick to 3-4 main dishes, 1-2 desserts, and 1-2 sides/extras.

You might even plan a potluck and have everyone bring a dish. This requires more planning, but is easier in overall execution (fewer things to cook=fewer dishes to wash & more time together).

Above all, do your shopping ahead of time. Seriously. Make your list, be sure its thorough and includes all necessary items, and shop competitively (i.e. shop around for the best prices and sales).

While I can’t guarantee this will eliminate all your holiday stress, these tips should minimize the financial stress. Let me know about any of your Thanksgiving hacks and traditions, and enjoy your turkey and trimmings on the big day!

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Written  by Mckenzie Candalot, Staff Writer -- Mckenzie Candalot is a recent graduate of the College of Idaho, with a B.A. for English Literature, and is currently working on a Masters in the Art of Teaching. When not studying for classes or blogging, she enjoys reading, walking her dog, and embroidery.