How to Host a Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving on a Budget

Whether you’re hosting a big family Thanksgiving or an intimate Friendsgiving, it can be one of the most expensive dinners of the year. The cost can quickly add up as you ring up ingredients for the appetizers, sides, desserts, and turkey — not to mention dinnerware for the table setting and any other festive decor to make the celebration memorable. 

With the right plan, however, you can host Thanksgiving on a budget that’s sure to impress your friends and family. 

Set a realistic budget

For many, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a season full of holiday expenses. Start the holiday season off right by avoiding going into debt from the get-go. Sit down and figure out a realistic budget for dinner and decorations. Factor in how many guests you expect and their respective age groups. Remember, children can be picky so you might want to include some kid-friendly dishes. 

Add a small amount to your budget for unforeseen expenses and begin saving as early as possible. Even if you plan to use your credit card responsibly, you should still have enough money saved to cover the cost of the celebration.

Create a budget-friendly shopping list

Once you have your budget set, stick to it. Start by creating a shopping list you can take with you while making purchases. This helps you avoid mindlessly buying whatever grabs your attention at the store. Use a notepad app on your phone or grab a paper and pen to write down exactly what you’ll need.

Plan out each course ahead of time 

Check your pantry and fridge to ensure you aren’t buying extra ingredients that you already have on hand. Take inventory of any cooking utensils or miscellaneous kitchen items you may need to make your dinner a success, like a specialty baking pan. You may be able to borrow some of these things from a friend or family member instead of investing in expensive cookware that you may only use once a year.

Make a plan for saving while in the store 

Check your favorite shopping app for coupons or discounts on Thanksgiving purchases. Reduce your overall total by choosing generic grocery brands. Your guests will only be focused on how delicious the dinner is, not on the empty boxes and cans in the trash.

You can also save on decor items by shopping store sales right before Thanksgiving, searching your local dollar stores, and using decor you already have at home. With a little planning, you can maximize your budget and still have a delicious meal with great company. 

Get creative with saving money

Hosting doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune. There are a lot of creative ways to shave off extra dollars, so you can stay within budget and set yourself up for financial success for the remainder of the holiday season. Consider some of these cost-saving tricks.

  • Host a potluck. Reduce your stress and keep Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving on a budget by hosting a potluck. You’ll still be responsible for cooking the turkey and decorating for the party, but you won’t have the extra stress of trying to do it all. Have your guests bring their favorite side or dessert to round out the meal.

  • Skip the bird. Consider serving an alternative protein, like ham or roasted chicken, to cut down on your costs. You may want to check with your guests first to ensure there isn’t a strong turkey preference. You could also choose to buy only a cut of the turkey meat, like the breast, which can save you quite a bit of money and satisfy any Thanksgiving turkey traditionalists.

  • Ditch the expensive decor. You can save a lot on decor by making it yourself. Even better, have your friends come over for a night of crafting and wine to prep for your get-together. You can make a big decor statement by using brown craft paper instead of a traditional tablecloth. Draw place-mats for each guest on the paper and then leave the markers out for everyone to leave thankful notes during and after the meal. The cost is minimal, and your guests will have an experience to remember beyond just a tasty dinner.

  • Tell your guests it’s BYOB. The cost of alcohol can easily bust your budget. Have your guests bring their favorite alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage to share. This ensures everyone has a drink they actually like and adds a fun element as your guests discover new brands they enjoy.

When hosting Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving on a budget, the name of the game should be affordable and fun. Don’t let the stress or finances of hosting overwhelm you. 

Put together a plan for the meal and create a loose schedule for the evening. Consider going around the table and having your guests express something they are thankful for. End the night with a game that includes everyone, like charades or a funny card game. Your friends and family will appreciate your effort, regardless of your budget, and look forward to next year.

How to Host a Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving on a Budget is written by The Financial Gym Team for

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