Setting a Thanksgiving budget: When to spend out and when to cheap out

Guestpost by Helen Jane on Nov 14th

Thanksgiving at the Trolls © by martha_chapa95, used under Creative Commons license.

This post originally appeared on

You may think I’m a weirdo for putting this much thought into the budget of the glorious meal, but I assure you, if I don’t, I won’t have enough money by the time turkey purchasing day is upon me.

My Thanksgiving budget is $340.

That might sound like a lot for one meal, but consider this:

  1. Wine. I like to have at least three bottles of good wine for Thanksgiving.
  2. No potluck. My brother is flying in from Chicago for the big day (also his birthday!) so there are additional costs of a birthday cake as well as being responsible for all the sides.
  3. I live in Napa Valley, yo. Food, although glorious, ain’t cheap.
  4. It includes food for the next day.

Where do I plan to spend out vs. be cheap? (Naturally) I made a table:

Spend out

Wine: $100

I know, wine seems like a silly thing to spend an entire third of my budget on. That said, I hail from the Napa Valley — good wine does cost a little more than that $6 jug you picked yourself up. It’s only once a year and like I said, it’s also my brother’s birthday.
P.S. My Napa Valley brethren are giggling at me right now for saying that $100 for 3 bottles of wine is my budget. “Cheapo-head,” they just muttered in their brains.

Turkey: $50

Since so much of my stuffing ingredients come from my turkey, I spend a lot of money on my turkey. Yes, it’s a lot for a big piece of meat, but if I want to make sure my turkey was raised in a world with fewer chemicals and breast modifications, I’ll spend my ducats.

Vegetables (roast brussel sprouts, green beans, cranberries): $50

If I want to eat more vegetables, my veggies need to taste better. Good tasting vegetables often come from organic or local sources. And they often cost more. We have a farm stand in town that I adore — and I’m much happier knowing I’m paying the proprietress for my produce than some giant weirdo importer from Chile.

Cheese & Appetizers: $30

The thoughtful Thanksgiving host always has something for the circling sharks to nibble on before the big meal. Mostly light credit, but also a more substantial American cheese. Artisinal American cheeses.

Day after Thanksgiving meals: $75

Your day after Thanksgiving meals are only eaten once a year. Let’s invest in making the most out of these rare and unusual leftovers. Good bread for sandwiches and thick bacon for breakfast maximize those remainders.

Be cheap

Table settings: $0

What with reams of child-produced art, dried gourds from years past and very little spare room on the table, I’m going to go ahead and excuse myself from spending any money on my table setting.

Cornbread & Dinner Rolls: $5

Cornbread is inexpensive to make, so are dinner rolls. And as I use them as a turkey/gravy/stuffing vehicle anyway, I’m fine to go with a less spendy alternative.

Potatoes: $5

Mashed potatoes smashed potatoes. They’re regular. Of course, mine are spectacular. What can I say?

Dessert: $15

One pumpkin pie. One birthday cake. One container vanilla ice cream. One pint whipping cream. Thank you Easter Bunny, bok bok!

Thanksgiving day meals: $10

Thanksgiving day meals, eh, who needs them? Cereal for breakfast, picked on leftovers for the evening, you know it.

What are you spending out on this Thanksgiving? What are you pulling back on?

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About Helen Jane

Helen Jane throws a lot of parties, and puts together ideas for people too busy to entertain.