Thanksgiving on a Budget

3 min read


✔Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be expensive to be memorable

✔ Save on the meal by planning ahead, building your menu around what’s in season and making plans for leftovers

✔Save on decorations by making your own, and look for deals to make travel less expensive


Thanksgiving is one of Canadians’ favourite holidays. And, while it’s about giving thanks and spending time with family and close friends, it can come with a hefty price tag.

Here are some money-saving tips to keep your costs low this holiday season and keep you on budget.

Save on the meal

Usually, the biggest event of Thanksgiving is the dinner, with all the fixings and usually a full crowd around the table. Here are some ideas to help you save:

  • Make a plan and write a list. Take stock of what you already have, what ingredients you need to make dinner and look for deals and sales.
  • Build your menu around what’s in season. Sweet potatoes are but asparagus is not. Don’t pay extra for out-of-season produce.
  • Make it simple. Choose sides that have few ingredients and opt for quality over quantity.
  • Buy your turkey frozen and shop for sales. Some stores might discount before Thanksgiving but you might also get great deals after Thanksgiving. Celebrating the holiday the week after the actual date could save you lots on items such as turkeys, cranberries, gravies and desserts.
  • Consider a potluck. This way everyone brings something and the cost of the meal is shared among many.
  • Stock up on alcohol early, when there are sales, and have people bring their own booze.
  • Make plans for leftovers. A turkey dinner with all the trimmings can become very economical if you can make a number of meals from it throughout the week after.

Save on the decorations

From centerpieces to candles to turkey-themed dishware, it’s easy to spend a lot on creating that holiday feeling. Try these cheap or free decorating ideas:

  • Make your own. You can get crafty with make-your-own centerpieces (raid nature or your garden for free fall squash, dried flowers, evergreen boughs and pine cones) and consider making your own place cards and napkin rings.
  • Shop the dollar store. For under $20, you can get themed napkins, tablecloths, candles and more.

Save on travel

If you and your loved ones live far away from one another, you have probably spent thousands of dollars over the years to see one another over the holidays. Flights are expensive during that time and rewards companies often have blackouts that won’t let you redeem rewards points. Consider these budget-friendly travel ideas:

  • Book flights early and shop for sales and scour discount sites. When you book a long time in advance, you’ll get a better deal.
  • If where you’re going is in driving distance, consider making the drive instead of flying. It’s bound to be cheaper. If you can take other family members with you, you can split the cost and all save money.
  • Celebrate remotely. If you really can’t afford it this year, consider forgoing the trip and use Skype or Face Time to visit with family and friends.
  • Think about celebrating an off-season Thanksgiving. The cost of travel (and the cost of dinner) will be cheaper when you celebrate on days everyone else isn’t. Maybe make Sept. 30 your “Thanksgiving” this year.

Finally, if you really want to skip the expense of a big Thanksgiving dinner, consider taking the family to volunteer at a soup kitchen or church. You’ll still be together, you’ll avoid all the cooking and cleaning, and it’s a great way to really give thanks for the blessings you already have.

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