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Thanksgiving Budgeting Tips

The below content is provided by our friends at Pocketnest, and does not reflect financial advice from Service Credit Union. Service CU’s Fin-Life app for financial wellness is powered by Pocketnest. Download it today on the App Store or Google Play!

Gobble gobble! Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Are you financially prepared?

Part of having a rock-solid budget is planning for seasonal holidays and events. While it’s not every day that you’re serving a big turkey dinner and buying presents for the whole family, this big seasonal expenditure can wreak havoc on your cash flow. Instead of scrambling at the last minute, we’re here to help you plan ahead.

We’ve put together a list of Thanksgiving financial facts and budget tips to review before you chow down on mashed potatoes and stuffing with your friends and family. That way, you can celebrate the holidays while staying on top of your budget.

The (nearly) 8 billion-dollar holiday

While some stores such as REI and Target are changing their Black Friday policies, and opting to close their stores instead of encouraging the mad flock of shoppers, Thanksgiving tends to be the kickoff to holiday spending. And we expect this year to be no different. And why not? It’s the season of giving, after all. But, did you know that in 2018, Americans spent $1.73 billion on Thanksgiving Day!?1 That’s a lot of turkey and mashed ‘taters!

As it turns out, an average American family will spend an estimated $335 or more during the week of Thanksgiving.2

Holidays are an incredible time to spend with friends and family. And, while it’s great to have a nice spread to offer your guests, we encourage you to take a gander at the dinner budget when planning your guest list and menu. Maybe it’s a good year to host a potluck? Or, maybe this year you opt for fewer sides? Whatever you decide, just make sure you’re staying on budget. (Don’t have a budget? We can help. See: how to create a budget.) Because the next day, Black Friday, clocks in at a $2.74 billion day, and Cyber Monday takes the cake at $2.98 billion. 1

Deep fryers can bring deep, $15 million trouble!

That’s right. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, deep fryer fires cause more than $15 million in property damage, the destruction of 900 homes, 60 injuries and five deaths every Thanksgiving.(1) Make sure you have the proper health, home and auto insurance set in place for this holiday—it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Stay safe this Thanksgiving. (And, maybe try an air fryer, instead!)

Shop the sales

Each Thanksgiving, Americans spend an estimated $640 million on turkey, alone!2 That’s a lot of Butterball! When you’re shopping for your holiday meal, take a minute to seek out the deals. While you’re perusing the aisles and comparing costs, consider different options. Some canned or frozen fruits and vegetables can present better cost savings, just as certain fresh items are less expensive than others.

Don’t forget about coupons! These little lifesavers can be your best friend this season. (Psst, did you know that many grocery stores price match? That means, if you have a coupon for one store, you have a good chance of getting your goods at another store for the same discounted price.)

Plan for leftovers

Whether you’re hosting potluck style or serving the entire meal, consider planning for leftovers. Let’s face it: we all know leftovers are one of the best parts of the holiday. After spending that much time in the kitchen, who wouldn’t want to enjoy the fruits of their labor for more than one meal? Not to mention, those turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches for lunch every day for the next week can actually help you save some extra pocket cash on your following grocery bill. Instead of splurging for that one week, you can plan to have your holiday meal fit more closely into your budget. Perhaps you even make larger batches to ensure you have plenty of leftovers—meaning more meals for a fraction of the cost!

The traveling budget

On an average year, 46.9% of Americans travel at least 50 miles for Thanksgiving. The average plane ride costs $169 round trip, the average hotel is $155 per night and the average car rental is $602.2 If you’re traveling for Turkey Day, you may be able to save money by driving—or carpooling!—to your destination and/or staying with relatives.

Dining out

If you’re part of the 9% of Americans who eat their Thanksgiving meal at a restaurant, (3) you already know this holiday meal can get pricey. But, sometimes, dining out for this big, lavish meal can actually be less expensive. Take a look at the menu—and costs—ahead of time and determine if it’s the right plan for you this year. Now, you won’t have that week’s worth of turkey sandwich leftovers, but you might still make out on top, especially if you’re splitting the bill.

When you’re reviewing the menu, keep in mind that alcohol can be the priciest item on the table. Give the restaurant a call ahead of the meal, too, to ask about their cork fee and policies. Some restaurants allow you to bring your own wine, and simply charge a corking fee. Sometimes this can work out in your favor, and sometimes your $12 bottle of wine turns out to be $50, all depending on the cork fee.

How will you be spending your Thanksgiving this year? Download Service CU Fin-Life to stay on track of your budget before, during and after the holiday season.

(1) Money Tips, “Five Fun Financial Facts: Thanksgiving” (2019)

(2) Chief Mom Officer, “Fun Thanksgiving Financial Facts” (2019)