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Thanksgiving on a budget


Photo of a Thanksgiving dinner buffet in the kitchen

There is so much to celebrate this time of year, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s! But when you’re in charge of the budget, festivities can quickly get expensive. Here are 15 ideas to reduce costs so you can focus on what really matters—gratitude.

The best bet: Think outside the box

Don’t let tradition limit your creativity. Who said you have to cook a huge turkey or dress the table with fancy china and cutlery. Think out of the box!

Ideas to consider:

  • Potluck Thanksgiving: Ask each person to bring a dish to share. Everyone contributes to create a meaningful sense to the celebration.
  • Modern twist on tradition: There’s no need to cook a whole turkey. What about turkey sausages, turkey slices, turkey burgers or even turkey tacos.
  • Share the cost: Discuss splitting expenses with your family and friends in advance. Your gift could be the cooking while everyone chips in on the budget.
  • Give back: Volunteer at a soup kitchen or retirement home in your community. Some organizations even welcome children and give them special roles setting the table or decorating the room.

Setting the mood:

  • Decorate with nature: Create a festive centerpiece with colorful autumn leaves or pine cones.
  • Feel cozy: If you’re in the mood for a fire but don’t have a fireplace, you can stream this eight-hour fire on your TV, complete with crackling noises.
  • Repurpose Halloween: Do you still have a pumpkin from Halloween? Turn the carving against the wall to enjoy the smooth side during Thanksgiving.
  • Double up on décor: Choose decorations that will work throughout the holiday season.
  • Dress to impress: Everyone could dress a little nicer, wear a Fall color or a tacky sweater for laughs. This can give your celebration a vibe that sets Thanksgiving apart from other days.

Thanksgiving feel-goods

Consider activities that make the holiday special

  • Create a Thanksgiving trivia contest or quiz on the history of Thanksgiving.
  • When everyone is seated, go around the table sharing what you are most grateful for this year.
  • Cut out leaves from construction paper and have guests hang them from a branch after writing something they are grateful for on each one.
  • Take advantage of being together to plan a gift exchange for the holidays. Write each person’s name on a piece of paper and everyone draws a name (or use DrawNames.com). Set a spending limit on the gift.

After the celebration

  • Thanksgiving leftovers are delicious: Invite your guests take home what you won’t be able to eat in your household. Make new recipes out of the old, including turkey sandwiches, tacos, and enchiladas.
  • Be careful on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Focus on the spirit of Thanksgiving and being grateful for what you have instead of giving into the desire to spend money on things you don’t really need.

Last wish: Enjoy Thanksgiving!


The information in this site, including any third-party content and opinions, is for educational purposes only and should not be relied on as legal, tax, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Oportun product or service to your unique circumstances. Contact your independent financial advisor for advice on your personal situation.

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