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7 Holiday Tips for a Thankful Wallet

Do you feel that familiar, faint chill in the air? Has premature Christmas radio driven you to the brink of sanity yet? Ah, yes, it’s almost that holly-jolly time of the year! But first, we’ve got to survive the Thanksgiving gauntlet. 

It’s time to fill our hearts with love and our bellies with turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes—the whole shebang. But with a cart full of groceries and wallet full of mysterious lint where you swear your dollars were just a second ago, it’s hard to have a bank account full of thanks. 

Is holiday spending bringing your finances down? Keep reading for some sweet-as-pie Thanksgiving savings tips.

1. Pick a budget and stick to it.

The only way to prevent overspending is to calculate your limits before you hit the grocery store.

    • Create a flexible food budget that gives you enough room to cover other expenses. Unfortunately, gas and rent don’t go on holiday hiatus.
    • How many people are coming for dinner? If you’re planning on five attendees, you probably won’t need a 25-pound turkey, three cans of cranberry sauce, two boxes of stuffing, and a sack of potatoes. Trust me—it doesn’t take much to slip into a turkey-induced coma (thanks, tryptophan!)
    • Consider buying cheaper, smaller alternatives like a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey. You could even opt for chicken if you find the price of turkey is gobbling up a hefty portion of your budget.

2. Ditch name brands.

Generic brands are often considerably cheaper than popular name brands. Unless you’re Martha Stewart herself, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference between gourmet broth from your local grocery’s generic brand.

3. Remember, it's cool to coupon.

Couponing can be a valuable resource if you’re able to keep your eye on the prize.

    • Avoid getting swept up in the craze—only clip coupons for things you need, not random items that boast a considerable discount.
    • Take advantage of deals like buy-one-turkey-get-a-ham-free—you can always freeze food to cook any other time of the year. Plus, if it’s a BOGO free deal, you wouldn’t be spending more money than you would have in the first place.
    • Be sure to peruse your store’s circular and take advantage of membership rewards. During the holidays, many stores offer a discounted and even free turkey/ham/lasagna to loyal customers.
    • Step outside of the boundaries of your “home” store and check out different deals in other stores. If you can save more on produce or meat somewhere else, go there.

4. Never underestimate the value of dollar store decor.

Embrace frugality. Why spend $20 on a festive tablecloth that you’ll only use once a year when you could go to the dollar store and pick up a disposable tablecloth at a fraction of the price? Get a pack of 100 festive napkins for $2. Who cares if you use them after the holidays as long as your hands are clean? Do you want a cute centerpiece? Head outside and gather some pinecones, acorns, and fall leaves to arrange together. Get creative with the free decor mother nature has to offer.

5. Ask guests to contribute to your cornucopia.

Are you dying to try to recreate grandma’s signature stuffing? Don’t. If grandma has a seat at your table, ask her to prepare and bring it. Don’t shell out extra cash if you don’t have to.

If you have the main events like the turkey and green bean casserole covered, don’t be scared to ask your guests to bring side dishes, appetizers, desserts, or drinks. It’s no easy (or cheap) feat to host a Thanksgiving feast. More than likely, your guests will be happy to contribute to your spread—especially if they get the chance to bring their favorite dish, wine, or pie.

6. Don't make more than what you or your guests will gobble.

I come from an Italian family that lives and dies by the idea that “too much food is not enough food.”

    • While cooking large meals for the sake of having leftovers is a great way to stretch out your weekly budget, some of that money can go straight into the garbage once you’re sick of turkey for lunch and dinner four days post-Thanksgiving.
    • Be mindful of what guests in the past have or have not eaten. Does that plate of brussels sprouts go untouched year after year? Don’t waste your time or money by making it this year if it’s not a fan favorite. Don’t worry about pleasing the garbage can.

7. Relinquish hosting duties.

If you find that you’re strapped for cash come Thanksgiving or that hosting is more stress than it’s worth for you, pass the torch onto someone else who is more willing. Odds are, you’ve probably already been invited to various friends’ and relatives’ houses. Just don’t forget to contribute to their wine, dessert, or appetizer menu!

Above all else, focus on what’s important: family. Sure, tradition is tradition, but it all started somewhere. Start your own traditions that work better for you and your budget.

Happy holidays from Quontic!

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