How to Have a Happy, Debt Free Thanksgiving Weekend
Thanksgiving isn’t the most expensive holiday, but it does set the tone for the official start of the holiday shopping season.
Holidays can be hard on your budget, particularly if you have a habit of going overboard on decorating and entertaining. That’s true even with “inexpensive” holidays like Thanksgiving, where the average household spend was just under $60 in 2017. Even for people living on tight budgets, that amount usually won’t break the bank. But again, that’s just the average and if you go nuts, decorating and dinner can quickly stack up the costs.
There’s also a unique challenge with Thanksgiving, because it marks the official start of the holiday shopping season. You have pre-Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving night, then Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and even Giving Tuesday. So while Thanksgiving isn’t insanely expensive, the weekend can be.
The articles below help you stay frugal during the Thanksgiving holiday and on into the extended shopping weekend. And if you end up overspending over these four days, remember Debt.com is always here with credit card debt solutions that can help you pay off those balances.
6 Tips for Saving Money over Thanksgiving Weekend
#1: Don’t get crazy with Thanksgiving decorations
With a few tweaks, you can just leave up many of your Halloween decorations through November. Anything with pumpkins, scarecrows and the like can work for Thanksgiving, too. You can also use post-Halloween discounts to your advantage. Hit up home improvement stores and craft stores after Halloween to take advantage of harvest-themed markdowns. And, if you love to decorate and can’t give it up, buy your decorations for next Thanksgiving after this Thanksgiving. You can score amazing decoration discounts after any holiday, including offers up to a crazy 80-90% off. This is the smartest money-saving way for extreme decorators not to break the bank.
#2: Portion control, People!
The biggest waste of money during Thanksgiving usually comes in the form of food waste. You cook dinner for twenty to feed six people. You have multiple options for every course and your family can’t possibly consume all that food.
Each year, Americans throw away about $165 billion of uneaten food, and $293 million of that happens on this holiday. So, the easiest way to avoid overspending is to avoid food waste by limiting course options and portioning correctly.
The average eater consumes about 1.2 pounds of Turkey over Thanksgiving weekend. So, count your guest, multiply by 1.2 and that’s the size turkey you need. Avoid offering multiple options for courses. You don’t need an extra protein and you probably also don’t need three or four different options for dessert. Your guests will also only eat 2-3 side items.
Meal plan carefully, count guests and cook only the food you need. This will help keep your grocery bill under $100.
#3: Use your leftovers
Even with portion control, you’ll probably still have leftovers. So, use them to your advantage and think beyond the turkey sandwich! You can go online and find a range of Thanksgiving leftover recipes (search for those words) using all your leftovers. Stuffing, cranberries, mashed potatoes… they can all be used again if you get creative.
The more leftovers you use, the less food waste and money burned. This also helps you keep your monthly grocery budget within reason during November. You don’t have to buy food for the weekend, because you’re eating the leftovers.
#4: Make your Thanksgiving weekend shopping plan early
Thanksgiving weekend is the biggest shopping weekend of the year in the U.S. and you can score some great deals. But that’s only true if you understand when and where to shop so you can make a strategic plan. So, let’s break it down:
- Pre-Black Friday Sales on Thanksgiving night now often offer better value than what you get on Black Friday. It’s basically retailers rewarding crazy shoppers who are willing to leave the dishes dirty to start shopping at midnight.
- Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year, for good reason. However, be smart about it (more tips below). Make sure deals are deals and that you have to go out to get them (some sales are available online).
- Small Business Saturday is not about saving money. It’s literally a marketing campaign started a few years ago by American Express. It’s meant to encourage people to support local businesses. Amex even used to offer special rewards when you used their credit cards on this day; however, they don’t even do this anymore. The only way to get discounts on Small Business Saturday is if the store itself offers them. Check local deals to find any discounts. Outside of the that, supporting small businesses is great, but it’s not designed to help you save money or spend wisely.
- Cyber Monday is a bit redundant, but still a good way to save for online shoppers. As we mention above, many Black Friday discounts are available online, which makes Cyber Monday a bit moot. Still, this is a big day if you’re an online-only shopper (find more tips below).
- Giving Tuesday isn’t about saving money either. Again, this is an admirable reason to spend money – giving to charities is good. However, it’s not about saving you money. That being said, if you plan on giving charitable donations in someone’s name as a gift, this is a good day to do it.
#5: Be smart about Black Friday
So, here’s some things you might not know about Black Friday:
- It’s becoming less popular
- It’s been largely diluted between pre-sales and Cyber Monday
- You’re not always guaranteed to get a deal.
- In fact, the hottest items of the year can be marked up.
Black Friday was created by retailers to spur holiday sales early. They did an excellent job of this and it quickly became the biggest shopping day of the year. Then they ruined their own shopping holiday by cannibalizing it, first with Cyber Monday and then with pre-Friday sales on Thanksgiving.
That’s not to say you still can’t get some great deals. But it’s no longer solely based on getting to the store at 6AM and fighting the mob.
- A lot of the Black Friday deals are available online
- Early opens at midnight on Thanksgiving are common, so you can actually finish all your Black Friday shopping on Thursday.
Also keep in mind that it’s not worth the shopping hassle and stress to do all your holiday shopping on Friday. Only hit the stores for in-store discounts that are worth your time. Leave the rest of your shopping for a less busy day.
One last thing – not all discounts are really discounts. The most classic case was that one year (2012) when UGG boots were all the rage. Retailers marked UGGs up right before the holiday shopping season once they saw the trend. Then they offered “EXTREME Black Friday discounts” but the price was actually higher than what you would have scored if you purchased the same boots in September or October (or December or January).
So, the moral of this Black Friday story? Make sure deals are really deals before you fight the crowds to get it.
#6: Shop strategically on Cyber Monday
Although most retailers now let you take advantage of Black Friday deals online, Cyber Monday remains a thing. And, some retailers have one-day-only online sales that can offer some pretty sweet deals. Here’s the best way to take advantage:
- Sign up for emails from your favorite retailers to get all their Thanksgiving weekend sales.
- Compare Cyber Monday offers to Black Friday offers available online.
- Check special up-sells, like free shipping; if it’s only available Cyber Monday then take advantage.
- If there’s not free shipping at your item is heavy, opt for in-store pickup
- Only shop secure websites – the last thing you need is ID theft.
- Don’t get fired – if you’re at work and shopping online, your IT department can catch you if your computers are networked. Know your company policy, since some bosses give you permission to shop.