While it might be easy to imagine a Thanksgiving without the in-laws and all the added expenses that come with food and decor, in reality, you will need to budget for a Thanksgiving party that includes the extended family. If that thought stresses you out, you aren’t alone. But to avoid a Clark Griswold-Christmas Vacation scenario in November, you might want to start thinking about how to save money on the holiday now before a letter shows up in the mail that only has a jelly of the month club coupon in it.
Holiday shopping and celebrations are understandably stressful when you are in debt or on a budget. On Thanksgiving, you may have just squeaked through Halloween, unless you took steps to stay on budget. That said, here are 5 money-saving tips for Thanksgiving, including some common sense, but some outside-the-box planning too.
Start with the low-bar effort
Coupons, bulk ingredients, and potluck style are tried-and-true methods for saving money around the holidays. There is no shame in asking family members and friends to bring their favorites, or maybe to merely swing by the store on the way over to pick up things like chips and dip, potatoes, or gravy mix.
Plus, grocery stores are well-aware that Thanksgiving can be stressful, but also that you will be shopping anyway. Some of the best grocery deals of the year are about one month to two weeks before Thanksgiving, when the stores are attempting to clear space for the holiday rush. Keep an eye out for coupons in the mail during this time. Also, life with debt essentially boils down to cost versus effort. Think about it; you buy pre-prepped meals because you don’t want to cook from scratch right? Everyone knows a little hustle can go a long way when you need to make money stretch, and the same principle applies to Thanksgiving preparations.
DIY Thanksgiving decorations
We’ll let you in on a little secret: Holiday decorations, in general, have some of the highest mark-ups of any retail thing you can buy, period. Why? Because you use them just once per year, then pack them for the rest of the year. The materials used to make them are often very inexpensive for the manufacturer, so the manufacturer or brand marks it up knowing you will pay the one-time fee to feel festive.
That said, Do-It-Yourself decor has seen a major movement in recent years, with crafty crafters focusing on cost vs aesthetics and function. Websites like Pinterest have hundreds of ideas with instructions on how to make it happen.
Some of our favorite Pinterest ideas include turkey ribbons around silverware, simple pine cones with a little paint, and popsicle sticks for expressing what you are thankful for.
Decision-making based on the facts
In 2016 US News released a series of facts about Thanksgiving spending, oddities of the holiday, and common purchases like the price of gasoline and hours spent on shopping. One statistic stood out to us; did you know $299.60: The average Thanksgiving weekend shopper in 2015 spent $299.60? US News continued: “That accounted for almost one-third of the average person’s whole holiday budget ($953), and the timing was no coincidence. Nearly one-third of Thanksgiving shoppers said they were motivated by sales and promotions.”
Yeah…so about those coupons and promotions – don’t go overboard! It might be exciting to save money, but you aren’t saving if you end up spending more than you intended to. The true victory in holiday bargain shopping is getting only the things you really need, but for cheaper than you thought.
Here’s another fact, unrelated to spending, from US News just for the fun of it: “$28 million: The number of property losses caused by home cooking fires each Thanksgiving, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Home cooking fires are actually three times more common on Thanksgiving than the typical day, according to the National Fire Protection Association.”
Playing with the margins
Have you ever sat down on your computer to actually plot out your finances? A simple spreadsheet of expenses and debt, compared to your budget and income is a great place to start. If you are confused by all the formulas and cells in an Excel or Google Sheet (it can get complicated) you can try Golden Financial’s Budget Calculator instead.
The reason for plotting out finances around the holidays is simple: Budgets and income are often in flux this time of year. Unexpected expenses pop up but so do unexpected discounts. Maintaining a buffer in your finances throughout the year gives you the opportunity to spend a little more on Thanksgiving if you’ve been good.
This philosophy is shared and detailed by EveryDollar.com: “We all enjoy the holidays more when they’re not crammed with activities and stress! Less really does give us more. As you approach the start of this busy season look for opportunities to slow down. Build space into your day and your budget. Allow yourself a little breathing room so you have the chance to take in and appreciate the joy that’s happening around you.”
Don’t forget your credit score
Yep, the holidays can even significantly impact your credit score. Primarily through your available credit to debt balance. If you haven’t noticed, the entire them of this post is to stay within your means at whatever non-money cost. We don’t need to remind you that your FICO credit score can significantly impact your financial future.
National Debt Relief explains this brilliantly: “The important thing to remember is that financial stability is a means to an end. You want to build a stable life so you can provide for the people that you care about. As long as you have friends and family around you, and you’re keeping your head above water, you’re doing great.”
Have fun, stay financially safe, and above all, make sure your family knows you are thankful for them!
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