Alright, alright. With Thanksgiving time nearly upon us, I’ve been thinking a lot about how much money Americans spend on turkey time each year.
About $165, with nearly $68 of that going to travel.
In my mind, this number is the problem with averages. If you are flying your family across the country, you’re spending a lot more. If you’re on the hook for the entire meal and all the beverages, you could easily clock in well beyond this number. If you’re that one relative that always shows up with nothing except bags for the leftovers, well, we won’t go there….
While you can’t do much in terms of geoarbitrage-ing your holidays in one week’s time, I do have four other tips to share that might help you keep some of this cash in your wallet this year.
Find a frugal wheelhouse.
I am not in charge of the turkey. As a guest, I fall into a different camp. My mom is the only dinner guest I know who brings a whole ham, but I digress. This is one area where you can move from frugal to cheap real fast. Showing up with a six-pack of dinner rolls to feed 12 or more is cheap. Or as my nana used to say, “Skimpy. It looks so skimpy.”
Instead, find something that you and other guests enjoy and see how you can optimize it. Shop sales (fresh cranberries can be had for a screamin’ deal as a loss leader and they freeze for a really long time) or do more from scratch. I make a tray of taco dip and a double recipe of brownies (from the box!). It costs us maybe $15, but people request both the appetizer and the dessert over and over again.
I didn’t choose the offerings because of their price points; I just figured out where to buy the ingredients more cheaply once I realized what a hit they were. (Let me spill my taco dip secrets since you’re here: one part sour cream, one part cream cheese, and a packet of taco mix – or make your own! Top with whatever fixings you want or serve as is. It’s so good, so frugal, and so stupid easy. And if you want a real recipe, this one from Skinnytaste is awesome.)
Pull from your shelves.
OK, so this one isn’t entirely helpful for this year, but it’s definitely a trick worth filing away. This is going to sound a lot like regifting, but it isn’t. It’s shopping so far in advance you might think you had access to a time machine.
Because most of my friends and family drink alcohol at celebrations, I stock up on a few bottles of wine throughout the year when they go on sale. A local liquor store chain has percent-off stock-up sales, and I try to combine those with manufacturer rebates or Ibotta deals. Then, I just pull from my shelves whenever we are headed out somewhere.
Related Post: Using Ibotta for Some Extra Holiday Jingle
This is also an awesome way to never be caught empty handed due to a last-minute invitation. And there’s no need to be someone you’re not or try to make your fellow revelers into different people either. I’m not a wine drinker, so I used to equate expensive with good. Now, I just buy a few of the brands that I know my family and friends actually like.
If alcohol is not big in your family or friend group, you could easily do the same thing with coffees or teas. Both have long shelf lives and could be consumed at the end of meal on Thanksgiving, the next morning, or anytime .after
Know thy host(ess).
I’m Italian-American, and we show our love with saturated fat. It’s just what we do. But even if I am absolutely positively forbidden from bringing any food items, I cannot show up empty-handed. It’s just not how I was raised. However, I know what it’s like to battle clutter, so I try to be really mindful of what I’m giving and whether or not it’s an actual gift.
Depending on who is hosting, my go-to items are either wine (see aforementioned booze-y trick!) or plants. Not fresh flowers. Not only are plants usually a lot cheaper, they make so much more sense than fresh flowers. No one has to scramble for a vase, and if you opt for a poinsettia at Thanksgiving time, the host can use it all through the holiday season. I also like to give fresh basil or rosemary plants when I know the hosts cook with fresh spices and have the counter space.
Dress up, not new.
I’m a pretty big fan of leggings and sweater dresses (more room for food!), but you won’t catch me buying anything new for Thanksgiving. In fact, none of us are wearing things we don’t already own.
Related Post: Everything I Tried to Buy My Son in the Past 24 Hours
I’d like to say that this was simple. It wasn’t. I come from the mindset that if there’s a photo of you in an outfit, you can’t be photographed again in it. Honest to social media gods, that’s how my brain used to work. It took years to break my compulsion to buy something new on holidays (or most days, if I’m being totally frank), and it’s been equally challenging to convince myself that my son doesn’t need a special turkey day shirt either. Yes, he’d look freaking adorable in a Everyone’s Thankful for Me jumpsuit, but that $10 is going right to his 529 instead.
So Tell Me…How do you keep your expenses in check without crossing the line from frugal to cheap?