58% of parents say they don’t stick to their budgets when holiday shopping for their kids. This is crazy! So, as much as I want this post to be about pumpkin spice, chunky knit sweaters, and the holidays that are just around the corner, it’s time for a reality check.
Yes, I love Thanksgiving. And Halloween and Christmas. But, all the magic we aim to create over the next three months can financially blindside us if we don’t properly prepare. If you haven’t planned it out, created boundaries, and set yourself up for success, all the little credit card swipes morph into a big pile of crushing debt.
Luckily, we’re at a perfect time to practice our holiday budgets.
That’s why this is my budget goal for October.
My budget goal for October: Incorporate hosting Thanksgiving dinner* and activities into my regular monthly budget – without going over.
*If you aren’t one of the lucky ones who get to celebrate Thanksgiving in October, just apply what I’m talking about to your next big hosting situation (maybe a Halloween party?). Then you can come back and practice again in November when your holiday hits!
How to Stick to Your Budget During the Holidays – Especially When Hosting
This year I’ll be hosting a group of 9-11 adults for Thanksgiving dinner. Normally my tactic is to do everything myself (always saying “no” when people ask if they can bring something) and to make the most delicious looking recipes I can find on Pinterest.
This year, I’m doing things a little bit differently.
I started implementing some changes in my hosting approach during the summer season and it has made me more prepared to host without blowing the budget during the fall/winter holidays.
So, this is how I’m going to do it:
Plan, Prep & Shop Smart
1. Make a Strict Meal Plan
Thanksgiving (and Christmas) should be planned out just like you do your weekly meals. Sure, this is probably going to be the biggest and most labor-intensive meal of the week, but you should attack it the same way.
This will also help you see how the cost of the meal is going to impact your weekly grocery budget. If you’re concerned a big event like this could put you over budget, you may want to meal plan for the entire month to see where you can compensate for such an expensive meal.
(Having to eat Kraft dinner six dinners in a row is much easier to stomach than an extra $150 you don’t have added to your food budget.)
2. Cut Out What’s Not Necessary
Not only should you be meal planning, but you should also be editing your meal plan. This will help you determine whether or not you need to be planning and prepping for all you think you do. And, it will help ensure you’re maximizing your dollars.
You’re the only one that knows who you’re feeding, how you’re feeding them, and what your non-negotiables are. But, use these questions to help review your meal plan and take out what isn’t needed.
- Do I really need this much variety?
- I used to have a BIG problem with too much variety. But, after realizing my hosting evens go perfectly fine (or even better) with 1 – 2 appy selections, 1 entrée with limited sides, and 1 choice of dessert, I’m saving a lot of money and reducing a lot of food waste.
- What do I already have on the shelf?
- Sometimes I sacrifice the perfect side for a side that will do because it’s already something I have. Technically I have already paid for it, but it’s making sure I don’t spend even more money if it’s not necessary.
- Can I make any of these items cheaper from scratch?
- Note – make sure to consider your sanity on this one. Yeah, you may be able to save $5 but if it will but you into stress over drive, it’s probably not worth it.
- Is this too expensive to provide for a large group?
- Sometimes you really just need to change your menu. If it’s too expensive to cook steak and lobster for everyone, then don’t serve steak and lobster.
- What can I ask others to bring or assign to them when they offer?
- Just because you’re hosting doesn’t mean you have to do it all yourself. Most people are typically more than willing to help out or bring a dish. So, take advantage of it!
3. Shop Smart
Holidays have a way of making us sentimental crazies. But, just because grandma used certain brands in her world famous Thanksgiving dinners, doesn’t mean you have to.
A big way to save money when shopping for a crowd is to buy store brands over name brands. Often these fresh foods and canned items are markedly cheaper than big names, plus there’s really not much difference in quality. (And, if there is a difference in quality you need to remind yourself that you’re feeding a crowd and can’t break the bank.)
And remember, look at the flyers, price compare, and shop sales. And, if you have planned far enough in advance, buy the nonperishable ingredients over a series of weeks to leverage your budget.
Holiday Meals Don’t Have to Be Budget Busters
Now that you’re armed with some tips and tricks to get you through Thanksgiving on a budget, start planning.
And, the great thing is that budgeting holiday meals into your regular expenses is a transferable skill. If you really take the time to be strategic in your prepping, it will be even easier in a couple of months when Christmas is full speed ahead.