10/07/2013 12:14 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Have a Credit-Friendly Turkey Day

Does Thanksgiving dinner leave you feeling like a turkey? Hosting dinner for friends and family can leave you feeling thankful, but let's face it, putting on a Thanksgiving spread isn't exactly cheap!

Turkey alone can run you upwards of $50, and when you included all the trimmings -- stuffing, potatoes, veggies and wine -- the costs can quickly add up. And with the winter holidays right around the corner, the last thing anyone wants is for their budgets to fowl with Thanksgiving credit card debt.

But what if there were a way to cook for a crowd without spending a bundle this year? With these tips you can have a fun, festive and frugal holiday dinner without sacrificing taste or quality.

Let's Talk Turkey

There may not be anything quite like the scent of a turkey roasting in the oven, but there is no steadfast rule that says we must serve turkey on Thanksgiving. While it may be tradition to have a turkey as the centrepiece to your holiday meal, it is also the centrepiece of your Thanksgiving expenses. Try frozen over fresh to minimize these costs, and look for Thanksgiving promotions that will reduce the price of your turkey.

If you're looking to make a big cut to your holiday budget consider alternatives, like pasta, fish or chicken. Or get creative with your turkey options instead of going for the whole bird.


Bring Your Own Dish! If you're cooking for a crowd this year, consider a potluck dinner to reduce your culinary costs. Sure the turkey is expensive, but the cost of the trimmings can also take a gobble out of your budget.

Consider supplying the main dish (the turkey), and invite guests to bring the sides. Have some fun by suggesting everyone bring one of their traditional or favourite dishes -- and don't forget to include desert! If you are serving wine or alcohol with Thanksgiving, asked your guests to BYO in that department as well. A few bottles of wine or other beverages can really increase the tab.

Coupon! Coupon! Coupon!

The holidays are a prime time to break out your couponing skills. Around Thanksgiving, companies are eager to earn your shopping dollars and quite often offer coupons and promotions for the products you need for your holiday feast. Get online to sites like Frugal Frieda, flip through flyers and check out corporate social media pages for great money-saving Thanksgiving deals.

You're No Martha Stewart

OK, well maybe you are! That doesn't mean you have to run yourself ragged making some fancy dish you found on the glossy pages of your favourite cooking magazine. If you're sticking to a budget, then stick to the staples. Thanksgiving is all about tradition, so dishes like mashed potatoes, green beans and butternut squash will leave your guests both thankful and full.

Want Not, Waste Not

One of the easiest ways to bust your budget is to waste food, but for some reason there is a Thanksgiving inclination to cook as much food as possible. Try to cut down on waste by reducing your overall quantities. Do you really need to make a triple batch of grandma's sweet potato casserole? Would a double batch do?

Alternatively, you could reduce the number of options you serve. Offer one type of squash instead of two, or get rid of an old warhorse (like brussels sprouts) that nobody eats anyway.

Be Thankful

Although most Canadian Thanksgivings centre around the big -- and delicious -- family meal, don't forget what the holiday is truly about. Who cares if you have the most decadent dinner around? Instead, concentrate on spending time with your family, friends and loved ones. After all, isn't that what you are thankful for?

Jeffrey Schwartz is the executive director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada and president of the Credit Association of Greater Toronto. Consolidated Credit is a national non-profit credit counselling organization that teaches consumers about personal finance. Visit for more information on credit counselling, debt management and budgeting.

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