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Winner, Winner Turkey Dinner: Thanksgiving on a Budget

Being a host on Thanksgiving can be stressful and costly. Even though Thanksgiving is about gathering with family and friends, some people tend to overspend for the dinner’s preparation. You can still have a great Thanksgiving without spending too much money and increasing your credit card debt. Here are some tips to save money and enjoy a (relaxing) Thanksgiving on a budget.

thanksgiving on a budget

Choose the right turkey size.

To celebrate Thanksgiving on a budget, make sure you don’t buy too much turkey. If you are a party of four, don’t buy a huge 12-pound turkey. Figuring out the size of turkey you need is very simple: you multiply the number of people attending by 1.5 to determine the weight of the turkey you should buy. For example, if you are a total of six, 6 x 1.5 equals a nine-pound turkey.

Tip: Defrost your turkey in refrigerator 24 hours for every 5 pounds of meat.

Don’t buy new dishes.

There is no need for a new, expensive roasting pan. The pan should be as big as the bird. If you don’t have one, you might consider a disposal aluminum pan for $1. Additionally, your parents, foodie friends or a thrift store might also have just what you need. If you already have a roasting pan, great! Older pans become more seasoned over time, so that’s another reason not to buy a new one.

Waste nothing.

A good cook wastes nothing. Save the turkey drippings for another time and you can find tons of recipes with leftovers. Every part of the bird can be cooked in different methods. If you feel that there is no more room on the table for other dishes, stick it in the freezer for later.  

Keep it simple.

Thanksgiving is not a Masterchef contest. You don’t have to make a Michelin star dinner by spending a fortune. Limit the number of side dishes to 3 or 4 frugal dishes, like mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce. Potatoes are always a cheap option, and if fresh green beans are a little pricey, you can use frozen or canned green beans instead.

Though you could use a cheap can of cranberry sauce for a dollar, a bag of fresh cranberries is not that much more expensive (usually around $2.50), plus it tastes better and is healthier. If you want to try making the cranberry sauce yourself, here’s a quick recipe:

In a pan, combine 12oz of fresh cranberry, ½ cup of sugar, squeeze an orange and zest, one cinnamon stick, 2tbs of water, simmer for 7 minutes on medium heat and wallah, cranberry sauce is ready!

The plate will look amazing with all the colors!


It’s easier to buy decorations, but the cost of decor can add up. Decorating with DIY decor is a fun and frugal alternative. All you need are some leaves, brown paper, and scissors! Check YouTube and social media for easy DIY Thanksgiving decorations.


Thanksgiving is about gathering with family and friends, having a good time together. It is unnecessary to increase your debt and get stressed out when you can enjoy a delicious (budget-friendly) dinner full of joy and love!

If you struggle to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Call 800-769-3571 to speak to a certified credit counselor


Andi is a Marketing Assistant at ACCC. He is passionate about supporting financial literacy efforts and helping to educate people on the Talking Cents blog!

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