With Veterans Day and Thanksgiving in November, it’s a month full of holidays and events. For many of us, it’s a time to both honor and give back to the veteran community, as well as connecting with loved ones. And while the holiday season is a time for celebration, it can also be a meaningful experience to host a dinner for your friends and family. However, that could be financially challenging.
Hosting a Thanksgiving dinner can get expensive very quickly, especially when the guest list gets long. But fortunately, there is no need for that! Even if you’re on a tight budget you can host a party or dinner that your family and friends will talk about for years to come. And the only thing you need for that is a solid action plan!
Because we want everyone to have a stress-free holiday season, no matter how you wish to enjoy yourselves, we want to give you some easy-to-follow budget-friendly hosting tips. These tips are a short write-up of creative ways in which you can enjoy yourself and host a Thanksgiving dinner or party without it being a huge financial burden. Let’s dive in!
#1 – Potluck Style!
The most straight-forward way in which to cut back on the cost of hosting a Thanksgiving dinner is to ask your guests to bring a dish or dessert. (And also extremely fun if you ask me!) This spreads out the cost of the dinner over all guests attending and allows everyone to bring their favorite recipe. That way everyone can enjoy their own favorite dish, while you save a lot on food in the process. Win-win!
A great way to prepare yourself for this is to pre-plan a list of items you’d like others to make. Then, if someone asks, “what can I bring?” you have an answer ready. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family to bring a dish. Most people like to contribute something to a Thanksgiving meal.
And to add to that, your guests can also contribute to the Thanksgiving dinner by bringing their own drinks. Even if your guests don’t like to cook, they can contribute by bringing things like soda, beer, and wine. That way you keep it fun for everyone!
#2 – DIY Decorations
Another great way to save money while hosting a Thanksgiving dinner is to make the decorations yourself. Don’t buy everything you can get your hands on at Home Depot, as this can get out of hand pretty quickly. Try using natural materials like leaves, pinecones, and branches to decorate your home to make it Thanksgiving-ready for only a little money.
And even more fun: you can get your kids to join in crafting paper turkeys or paper garlands! Apart from saving money, making the decorations together with your family is another opportunity to spend meaningful time together this holiday season.
Oftentimes you don’t even have to buy things to make your decorations or table settings—just use what you already have! You probably have some old jars sitting around in your house that can be used as candle holders. Or some scrap fabric which you can use as table runners or rustic napkins. Get creative!
#3 – Thrift Shopping
Even if you’re short on time or don’t like to craft decorations yourself, you can get your decorations and flatware for a fraction of the cost of new ones at thrift stores. Getting amazing Thanksgiving plates and napkins, and festive holiday decorations like vases, napkins, and table runners can likely be found at a nearby thrift store. For just a few bucks you can make your home completely ready for Thanksgiving. Also, you can view it as a sport to make your home the most beautiful it has ever been for the smallest amount of money possible. Happy hunting!
#4 – Shared Entertainment
Another way to save your hard-earned cash and still host a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner is to ask your guests to bring their own entertainment. For example, ask them to bring board games, musical instrumentals, or get that old karaoke machine out of the garage! It’s about the time spent together, not about the cost of the entertainment while hosting a party.
The same as with food and drinks, most people love to contribute to the Thanksgiving dinner they are a part of—even if it’s in the way of providing something fun to do in the evening. Don’t be afraid to ask!
#5 – Simplify The Menu
The costs of a Thanksgiving dinner can get out of hand quickly if you want to offer your guests an extensive menu. Instead of offering a wide variety of dishes, try focusing on a few key options that will leave a lasting impression on your guests. Pick the ones you’re good at cooking and that include items that you can easily buy in bulk. Having fewer dishes means buying fewer different types of groceries, which ultimately leads to less stress (even apart from the financial side of things!) and less money spent on buying food.
Simplifying your menu and buying items in bulk, such as beverages, grains, or even vegetables not only helps you save money per item—but also gives you leftovers to enjoy for weeks after your dinner or party (win-win).
#6 – Budget Your Holiday Season Expenses
Ultimately, it’s inevitable that you’re going to spend some money to host a party or dinner during the upcoming holiday season. And if you’re going to do so, the best way to do so is in a controlled way.
A great way to be in control of your expenses is to budget them. Even more so when you have a big expense coming up such as hosting a Thanksgiving dinner or party. Make a plan for how much you want to spend on food and decorations and stick to it! Try coming up with a reasonable budget based on the number of guests and your available funds.
If you’d like to go over how to go about budgeting (and take a look at the budget sheet I use), you can join the Financially Bulletproof webinar for free! In this webinar, we go over how to get rid of debt, budget your expenses, and bulletproof your finances for the future. This is a great opportunity if you would like to get better at budgeting and keep your finances under control. Register here!
A Party Can Be Meaningful Without Extravagance!
In this article we’ve gone over how to host a party this holiday season without stressing about the financial side of things. The most obvious (and also extremely fun!) way to keep your expenses in check is to host a potluck-style dinner. Get your guests to bring their favorite dish and enjoy each other’s food! And even if your guests don’t like to cook, they can bring their own drinks.
Also, getting your home Thanksgiving-ready doesn’t have to be expensive. Make the decorations yourself, get your kids involved, or go to a thrift store to buy your decorations and tableware for a fraction of the price of new ones.
By asking your guests to bring their own entertainment, you can have a fun night without having to spend heavily on entertainment. And then, when the inevitable expenses are going to be made, try to budget and stick to it. That way you don’t get overwhelmed by the financial side of hosting a dinner or party and keep your finances in check.
All in all, hosting a Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t have to be expensive. Get creative and use the tips in this article to your advantage to host an unforgettable night, while keeping your finances under control. Let this be your reminder that the holiday season is all about being thankful for the wonderful life we are given and celebrating with friends and family. A party doesn’t have to be extravagant or expensive to be meaningful and one that you and your guests can talk for years to come!
About the Author:
Marc Russell is a top financial educator and coach. After college, he climbed the ranks at top financial institutions including The Vanguard Group. Over his career, Marc earned his stockbroker and financial advisor licenses before he became a full-time business owner.
Despite his career success, Marc struggled with debt until he used his own financial tips to pay off $80,000. His business, BetterWallet, teaches new investors how to manage their money strategically. Marc’s work has been featured in numerous publications, including Time Magazine, CNBC, Harvard Business Review, Bankrate and USA TODAY.