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Feast Mode on a Budget: How to Host a Thrifty Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving feast doesn’t have to mean financial famine—or sitting through your uncle’s latest hot take on “kids these days”. These days, Friendsgiving is just as popular—if not preferred over an annual family gathering.

Thrifty Thanksgiving: Feast mode on a budget

You might be looking to host your first Thanksgiving for close pals. But let's face it… we're all about making memories that don't cost us our future savings goals. This isn't your grandma's Thanksgiving (no offense to her legendary stuffing).

We've got the hacks to help you host a Thanksgiving dinner that's rich in flavor, but not in cash. Whether you’re bringing together all the girlies or having a cozy one with your beau, this is your guide to surviving the Thanksgiving holiday without breaking the bank.

Budgeting like a badass

Get ready to host a Thanksgiving without burning through your budget. We’re talking smart spending, potluck vibes, and enough savvy deal-hunting that would have your parents wishing they were 20 years younger 👁️👄👁️

Be realistic

Kick things off by setting a budget that won’t ghost like that guy from the summer. Figure out what you can afford after your monthly essentials (because rent and Spotify subscriptions wait for no one), and work out what’s important for you to spend on for this Thanksgiving party.

Make it a potluck

Why shoulder the financial burden alone? Get the group chat going with a Thanksgiving potluck, so friends can bring sides, desserts, and booze. Use a shared Google Doc or a budgeting app like Cleo to track who’s bringing what so you have all the bases covered.

Look for deals and discounts

Embrace the power of coupons and loyalty programs. Sure, every company on earth might be trying to get their hands on all of your personal data, but at least it comes with chunky savings for your Thanksgiving feast. Also, think beyond the big box stores. Local markets and farmer’s stands often have deals on fresh produce, and you get to feel like you’re in a literal romcom 💅

Psst - need a hand with budgeting? Cleo is your new bestie. She’s ready to help you stay on track with your spending with a personalized AI budget to fit your needs (read: regular little treats).

Meal planning masterclass

Of course, you want your Thanksgiving to be special— but have you seen the price of eggs these days? 

Chill. Think less is more, with a twist on tradition that's as easy to make… (as it is on your pocket.) You can find plenty of little hacks to save the cents while impressing your guests. Buckle in for a crash course on saving bank for a Thanksgiving budget dinner.

Simplify the menu

Your Thanksgiving spread doesn't need to look like a Pinterest board to impress. Curate a menu focusing on a few standout dishes rather than an overwhelming variety, a la Monica from Friends.

Go for a main, a couple of sides, and a dessert that screams “Thanksgiving” without an entire day’s prep. That’s more time for cocktails and hanging out with your guests.

Alternative showstoppers

That oversized turkey? Maybe not this year. Consider less expensive cuts of meat or even a smaller bird. A roast chicken, for instance, can be just as festive and kinder to your wallet. 

Go greener with a plant-based centerpiece, like a stuffed squash or savory lentil loaf, to start new traditions.

Focus on sides and apps

Side dishes and appetizers are the real MVPs of any budget-friendly Thanksgiving. Get creative with seasonal veggies—think roasted Brussels sprouts or a spiced butternut squash soup. 

Crowd-pleasers like homemade rolls or a flavorful cranberry sauce can be made for cents per serving. And the best part? Leftovers for days.

Budget decor

Don’t compare yourself to those perfect TikTokers with amazing tablescapes and perfectly mismatched glassware. Repeat after us: “I don’t need to buy extra sh*t for my Thanksgiving to be amazing.”

That said, there are still ways to get creative and decorate for the season without blowing the budget. Let’s get into it.

DIY decor

It’s time to enter your DIY era. Craft your own centerpieces with hand-painted mason jars, adorn the walls with colorful craft paper or hand-design your guests’ table place cards. These inexpensive touches make all the difference in creating a festive vibe.

Nature’s offerings

Step outside, and you’ll find a treasure trove of fall décor. Pinecones, acorns, and colorful leaves can create a rustic, earthy table setting or door wreath. It’s sustainable, it's accessible, and best of all, it’s free. 🍂

Digital decor

You’ve heard of cozy cardio, and now it’s time for cozy Thanksgiving. Project autumn landscapes or a crackling fireplace video onto a blank wall for a comfy ambiance.

Use apps to control smart bulbs in your home to bathe your space in warm, autumnal colors. Not got any of these? Go wild with the candles and fairy lights.

If you want to save up for some swanky decor for next year’s Thanksgiving, Cleo’s ready to help. She can set up savings goals and round up your everyday spending to grow a little pot ready for the season.

Love your leftovers

When the fun of Thanksgiving has faded, you’re left with a sh*t-ton of washing up and food to sort out. But leftovers are the sequel to your Thanksgiving budget food—and deserve their own spotlight.

Try new recipes

Second helpings giving you the ick? Get on board with new recipes to make the most of your Thanksgiving feast. Mash up those potatoes and mix them with some veggies for a quick patty ready to be pan-fried, or turn the turkey into a comforting pot pie. 

Budget Bytes and other recipe websites have a million other ways to turn excess food into something delicious.

Share the love

If your fridge is bursting, see if your friends are interested in taking some portions of food home with them—chances are they’ll be up to the task. Another option is hosting a casual day-after brunch where the menu is made of leftovers. Chic and economy-friendly? The vibes are ✨unmatched✨

Preserve and plan

Some leftovers freeze better than you think. Pack portions of turkey or ham, label them, and pop them in the freezer. Next week, when you're tired of cooking, you'll thank yourself. It’s frugal and tasty AF.

Cleo’s here for the budget girlies 👀

Ready to take your finances seriously? Meet Cleo. She’s your financial hustler using smart algorithms to track your spending, offering personalized advice, and helping you save for that next big adventure—or just a rainy day.

With AI-powered features for budgeting, Cleo can categorize your Thanksgiving expenses, nudge you when you're splurging too much on PSLs and even round up your change for savings. We stan a multi-tasking queen.

If you want to go in-depth on your budget, she’s also around for gentle motivation—just text Cleo “hype me”. Need some tough love? Try messaging “roast me” instead and see what happens.

Ensure your Thanksgiving is on point with Cleo without tipping the scales of your bank balance. It’s the smart way to party hard this holiday season and pay rent on time. 💸


Finally, a budgeting app that understands your real essentials—iced coffee.

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Still have questions? Find answers below.
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