Whether you’re traveling home for Thanksgiving or starting your own family traditions, it’s easy to go a little overboard on the spending. And is it any surprise? Up until 1939, the US celebrated our version of the holiday on the *last* Thursday of the month. (If you bother to keep track instead of using Google every year to figure out when it is, Thanksgiving is on the second-to-last Thursday in November, now.)
So, why did FDR decide to make the swap?
It turns out that retailers wanted to make sure there was as much time between Thanksgiving and Christmas as possible. Thus, the shift was made and now we get the delight that is a Black Friday that starts…Thursday afternoon, for some retailers.
But it’s not just the winter holiday present-shopping extravaganza that can add up. Between trips out of state and complicated recipes you’re trying your hand at for the first time, you might even find yourself going into debt before you can say ‘gobble, gobble.’
In the spirit of a stress-free holiday, we’ve pulled together a few of our tips to help you save money this Thanksgiving.
Score Your Bird For Free
You can search for different options at your local grocery store, but to get you started here’s a list of the bigger supermarket chains offering a free turkey this month. Most of these come with a shopping minimum (that doesn’t include the regular price of the bird) so make sure you know what that is going in. Pick a store that sells the other Thanksgiving staples, like stuffing and cranberries, at a reasonable price. And don’t go unprepared! You’ll need a good list and a calculator so you’re not left confused in the aisles.
Make Informed Travel Decisions
Heading home for the holidays? If you haven’t booked your flight yet, chances are good that you’re staring at a pretty big price tag. The Sunday after Thanksgiving is often the busiest travel day of the year. People might trickle home over the Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday leading up to the main event, but everyone heads back to reality on Sunday.
If you’re within driving distance, you might find that it’s a cheaper option. Gas prices are falling (as they often do in the Autumn). We’ll take this as an opportunity to throw in a plug for plug-in-able cars as well. An electric or a hybrid is the perfect compromise on saving the planet and saving yourself from your mother’s ire if you don’t make it home this year.
Don’t be afraid to look at other options, either! The train can be lovely in the winter, and it’s one of the safest way to travel. Even safer? The bus! Companies like Bolt Bus have some pretty swank seats, WiFi and WALL PLUGS for charging your phone and laptop.
Borrow, Don’t Buy
Have you ever cooked a piece of meat that weighs 30 pounds? If you have, we request a potluck at your house (kidding). But seriously, brining, preparing and cooking a giant bird – along with everything else – can require some extra equipment. If you’re having friends over, see if you can borrow any extra items you need, like a roasting pan, meat thermometer or turkey baster, from them. Since they’re partaking in your festive food, they probably won’t need it.
Opt For A Potluck
Speaking of sharing responsibilities, potluck-style Thanksgivings are a time-honored tradition. You get to relax a little bit while the bird is cooking (turkey is usually the host’s responsibility due to logistics) and there are no complicated oven-timing diagrams or spreadsheets.
As an added bonus, you also get to see what everyone else grew up eating for Thanksgiving. You can mesh your partner’s family traditions with your own. You can see how many of your friends are committed green bean casserole aficionados. And if you’ve invited a guest who didn’t grow up celebrating this holiday, you can just ask them to bring a dish that’s meaningful to them.
Cool It On The Cornucopias
Look, we’ve all been there. The cute little decorative pumpkins call to us from the checkout stand at Trader Joe’s. Target’s dollar section is filled with Autumnal banners. The WinCo has an aisle with goblets and serving bowls. Wherever you go, you will most definitely be within viewing range of Thanksgiving decorations that call to you. Remember that this feast lasts for one day, though. After the sun sets, we all know it’s time for winter holiday music until the next year. Plus, all that decor just gets in the way when you’re trying to cram your dining room table full of plates, cups, bowls, trays, wine glasses, the adorable flatware you received for your wedding, and maybe even a napkin (we’re classy like that).
There you have it! Go forth and celebrate. Your wallet will thank you for not going too overboard.