Don’t let holiday gobble up your budget

We love the turkey. We love the pie. We love all of the special fixings and especially the time spent with our families.

But the cost of Thanksgiving can add up so quickly. With way too many classic dishes to choose from, decor and all of the special touches, you could love celebrating the season but hate your checking account balance. Especially since Christmas is right around the corner, it’s wise to pause and reflect on these budget tips for an affordable Thanksgiving dinner before it’s too late.

Write it down

If you hang around with me at all (online, in person or through my books), you know that I’m a huge fan of having a written plan for everything that I do. This practice will not stifle your creativity, I promise.

But heading to the grocery store without a menu plan or a list basically reduces you to begging the clerk to empty your wallet and then bop you on the top of your head with its empty shell.

So I’d highly recommend you sit down with your favorite pen and notepad or iPad to begin your plan of attack.

Make your written plan a two-prong attack: Begin with the meal and then build your grocery list.

Stick to the basics

For every family, Thanksgiving looks a little bit different. However, I’d encourage you to set a baseline of expectations by asking everyone who will be attending what their favorite dish is. You might find that you can whittle down the menu based on the items that don’t rank.

With any meal, I suggest a main course or meat, a veggie and a fruit. With a holiday meal, you should probably adjust your thinking to include a main course or meat, two or three veggies and/or fruit, a bread item and a dessert. You don’t have to go overboard. You won’t ruin anyone’s life if you don’t have the jello mold this year.

If you do want to expand the menu, you need to ask for help. But instead of assigning dishes to everyone, ask them to bring their best to the table. You’ll end up with much better fare and a happier dinner party.

Guard your heart

Making a plan simply isn’t enough. The grocery store is a dangerous place, creating unnecessary desires, especially during the holiday season.

Each cute centerpiece cries out for your attention. Every disposable paper good with a cornucopia printed on it seems to jump into your cart. If you can say no to the simplest of things, you can say no to the greatest of things.

Guarding your heart seems vague and philosophical, but practically speaking the best way to do this is having a written plan (see above) and setting a time limit to be in the store. Wandering around in circles creates what I like to call “What in the world did I buy?”-itis. Don’t tell me I’m the only one who has suffered from it, please.

So either plan to go to the store in a specific window of time (i.e. you have to pick up your kids in 45 minutes) or set your phone’s alarm and get after it.

Borrow, when possible

Of course, I’m not talking about money. Thanksgiving is a time of the year when you realize you don’t have everything you need to entertain large groups of people. Card tables and extra chairs, large serving dishes and more — suddenly you have a need and you need it now. Don’t force your poor spouse to head to a store filled with crazy last-minute shoppers. Take an inventory now and begin asking if you can borrow once-a-year items.

You don’t necessarily have to invest in a set of your own. Social media is a great place to see who has what. I’ve found that friends are more than happy to lend a hand, and not everyone needs everything every year.

Time around the table recounting your blessings shouldn’t be clouded by thoughts of overspending. This year, keep things simple to ensure a happy Thanksgiving.