By Martin A. Smith, CRPC®, AIFA®, President, Retirement Planning Financial Advisor™, Wealthcare Financial Group,...
The holiday season is upon us and our wallets are dreading it. Hosting family and friends for Thanksgiving and preparing for the Christmas season are definitely challenges to most budgets. However, it is possible to host a bounteous and delicious Thanksgiving dinner for family and/or friends without breaking the bank.
1. Go traditional
Start by planning a traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu. Serving turkey, gravy, dressing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie are all economical recipes. We tend to spend more money when we seek to impress our guests with fancy side dishes and desserts. Also, plan to make more of fewer dishes, instead of smaller amounts of many dishes. It’s economical and less stressful.
2. Or go non-traditional
Who says you must eat turkey on Thanksgiving? Lasagna, bread, salad, and a dessert are just as lovely, economical, and maybe even more delicious, and less stressful on the chef. Gauge your guest list to see if a non-traditional menu will be a pleasant surprise or an unwelcomed shock.
Don’t be afraid to ask guests to bring a dish to share. If your aunt is famous for her apple pie or sweet potato soufflé, then by all means, ask her to bring it. Chances are your guests will be happy and flattered to help.
4. Choose budget-conscious recipes
Choose recipes that call for ingredients you have or will likely use again. Purchasing expensive spices or other ingredients that will just sit in your spice rack or pantry, never to be used again, adds unnecessarily to the grocery bill.
5. Let’s talk turkey
The turkey alone can be a large part of your spending. Save money on your bird by buying a store-brand, frozen turkey instead of fresh. Pay attention to sales and shop early. Be sure to plan ahead to ensure the turkey thaws in time; the savings will be worth it. You can also save money on the preparation. Roast the turkey in the oven, or if you own a smoker, smoke it. Frying a turkey peanut oil can increase your cost by around $20 or more.
6. Shop early and wisely
About 3-4 weeks before Thanksgiving, consider creating two grocery lists: one for perishable items and one for non-perishable items. Look out to coupons and sales ads, and shop for non-perishables as early as possible. You may get a better price, plus you’ll be sure to get the ingredients you need ahead of the holiday rush. Buy generic items instead of the name brand–they are often the same quality, and where possible, choose frozen vegetables and dried herbs over fresh vegetables and herbs. You’ll find similar quality (or even better in the case of vegetables) and will save money.
7. Minimize appetizers
It’s nice to greet guests with appetizers while they are waiting for the meal. Small bowls of mixed nuts, jarred olives, or a simple tray of (inexpensive) cheese, crackers, and fruit are quite sufficient. Cheddar, gouda, or a bar of softened cream cheese topped with pepper jelly are crowd pleasers.
8. Serve less expensive drinks
Don’t feel inclined to provide a bar or a huge selection of beverages either. Iced tea, water, and coffee are plenty, and you can dress up the water with a few fresh cranberries or orange slices. If serving wine, don’t be afraid to try some of the bottles priced at $10 or less at a grocery or liquor store. Consider making a punch instead of mixed drinks. Your alcohol will go further when mixed with sparkling water and fruit juice.
9. Use simple décor
You can create a beautiful and festive tablescape using items you already have. Cover the table with an earth-tone tablecloth, or purchase some inexpensive fabric from the craft store. Create a table runner with a length of burlap. Then decorate the middle of the table with a combination of white or cream-colored candles, and natural elements such as apples, pinecones, small pumpkins or gourds, clementines, figs, or small branches.
Enjoy the day by creating memories with family and friends instead of stressing over the cost and preparations.