While our bellies may be stuffed on Thanksgiving, our wallets will be thinner — Americans will spend nearly $3 billion on the holiday, according to data compiled by Statistic Brain. Three billion! That includes food, travel, parties and nights out, and various other items. But instead, we could focus on how to save money on Thanksgiving this year.
The average cost of Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people in 2015 was $50.11, an increase of $0.70 from 2014, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. In 2016, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service forecasted that 243 million turkeys will be ready for the holiday, which is up 4 percent from 2015. They also predict we'll consume 859 million pounds of cranberries.
Planning holiday travel
The American Automobile Association estimates that more than 40 million families will travel for the long holiday weekend. We all know that travel around peak times can be expensive and starting your ticket search early is important. According to the website Skyscanner, the best time to book a Thanksgiving flight is during the week of October 31 for a potential savings of 7.73 percent.
But savings can be dependent on your travel days and what market you're talking about — New York City to Los Angeles or Tallahassee to Nashville. If you're adamant that you must fly on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, you probably should have purchased your tickets in July for larger markets. Still, there's a slight chance you could luck out on cheap fare if the airline scheduled too many flights for that market.
We checked flights from Boston to Los Angeles, leaving the Tuesday before the holiday and coming home the Sunday after, and we added a rental car because Grandma doesn't like driving to the airport to get us. We found round trip fares and an economy car for two adults for as low as $728 to as high as $1,200.
Finding holiday savings
For more ways to save money on Thanksgiving, we asked Kendal Perez, a Savings Expert for CouponSherpa.com, for three tips for a thrifty Thanksgiving:
Look for free or discounted turkey deals.
When shopping for your Thanksgiving Day menu, compare turkey deals between grocery stores by reviewing circulars online. Sometimes a grocer will offer a free turkey when you purchase $100 to $150 worth of groceries in the same trip. This is relatively easy to do when you're hosting a big crowd. If you find it difficult to reach this amount, consider stocking up on holiday dinner staples to use at Christmas too, since items like onions, sweet potatoes, stuffing mixes and pie fixin's are on sale during this time anyway.
Stay home and shop online.
Thanksgiving is the new Black Friday, but that doesn't mean you have to forego the feast to get the best deals. Instead of shopping in-store, snag top deals online without leaving your living room. Most Black Friday offers are available online starting Thanksgiving Day, making it easy to shop for desired items between touchdowns and cook times. To ensure the deepest discounts, use CouponSherpa.com to find extra savings in the form of coupon codes, including free shipping.
Pack snacks and an empty water bottle for air travel.
Thanksgiving is the busiest time for airlines and airports, and unfortunately this means increased chance for delays (especially if you're traveling to or from a destination prone to winter weather). Don't get stuck paying a premium for food and water. Come prepared with snacks and an empty water bottle. You can easily pack an apple, tangerines, mixed nuts, protein bars, beef jerky, pretzels and dark chocolate in your carry-on bag; and an empty water bottle will make it through security for free fill-ups at your gate.
We also asked our friends on the Get Rich Slowly Facebook page for their best Thanksgiving thrifty tips. The overwhelming favorite was: Eat at everyone else's house and take home all the leftovers.
How are you planning to save money on Thanksgiving this year? Share your tips in the comments below!
Author: Elissa Bass
Elissa Bass is a nationally award-winning journalist who has been a reporter and editor for both print and online publications for 30 years. After a layoff in 2013, she now runs her own marketing/social media/PR company. Born and raised in western Massachusetts, she makes her home in Stonington, CT with her husband, their two children, and their rescued pit bull. Visit her website at http://www.elissabass.com/ to learn more.