10 Tips to Help You Stay on Financial Track this Thanksgiving Weekend
Thanksgiving is our annual break from the routine. We gather with friends and family and say thanks for all the good things we have in our lives. This tradition of coming together for Thanksgiving dinner spans centuries. The menu has changed a little. For instance, they didn’t have tofu turkey back in the old days. Yet, the theme of the holiday remains unchanged.
But, Thanksgiving has also come to mean travel, vacation, and…shopping! Thanksgiving is the official start date of the shopping season and every retailer, from the shopping mall to the digital marketplace, is banking on turning your Thanksgiving holiday enthusiasm into the best revenue performance possible. This means you will be inundated with savvy sales promotions and special store hours, all designed to move money from your pocket to theirs.
Now is the time for fiscal discipline and a return to that great budget you prepared at the beginning of the year. Speaking of which, now is also a good time to review that budget and see how you did.
- Bring dishes to share. If you are hosting friends for Thanksgiving dinner, consider asking everyone to bring side dishes and desserts to share. You can be responsible for the main dish. Go easy on wine and other alcoholic beverages. This can eat up a huge portion of your budget.
- Be creative and cost-conscious with the menu. Before heading to the store, plan the menu down to the last detail. Calculate the budget. Prioritize. Use past experience to pare the menu down to items that your guests are actually going to eat. With list and budget in hand, head out to the grocery stores now. The closer you get to Thanksgiving weekend, the greater the risk that you won’t find the items you need at your favorite, affordable stores. You will be forced to go to more expensive outlets, ruining your budget.
- Compare prices and shop around. Stores such as Walmart, Target, and T.J. Maxx have everything you need at the most affordable prices. You may even be able to add some special treats to the menu. Costco is a great place to find pumpkins and pies which are much more expensive in the regular grocery stores. If you live near a Farmer’s Market, go there to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. You can save money and support your local growers.
- Grab a free bird. Many retailers are throwing in the turkey if you spend a certain amount on the rest of the groceries. Keep a close eye on the inserts in your local newspaper for free deals, such as a complimentary bird and buy-one-get-one-free offers. If you miss out on the print ads, go to CouponMom.com to download coupons and learn about special sales at your favorite grocery outlets.
- If you didn’t carve up your pumpkins for Halloween, you can now use them for your Thanksgiving dinner table. Head to the Dollar store for additional items to transform your place into a Thanksgiving showcase. DIY is a great site for ideas. Be creative and use items that can be recycled. For instance, you can fill small colorful jars with multi-colored beans. After the holiday, you can cook the beans!
Thanksgiving Weekend Travel
For many Americans, Thanksgiving weekend means travel. Whether you are traveling to be with family and friends for dinner or taking advantage of the long weekend to sneak in a mini-vacation, a careful eye on your budget is key to your long-term financial health.
- Book now. Airlines expect a 3% increase in traffic from last year. More demand equals higher prices. The sooner you book the greater will be your savings. If you are going to use the weekend for vacation, consider an overseas trip. Domestic travel is more in demand, making overseas fares cheaper.
- Travel on off days. If you don’t need to be there for dinner, consider traveling on Thanksgiving Day itself. If you can take an additional day off from work, book your return for the Monday following Thanksgiving.
- Carefully check the flight rules. An economy ticket on some airlines does not include baggage. This could leave you paying as much as $60 per bag at check-in.
- Depending on where you are going, driving could be much cheaper. Take advantage of Google maps and travel apps to avoid traffic jams. Sitting in traffic will increase your fuel budget. Use GasBuddy and Route4Me to find the best gasoline prices on your route. If you are renting a car, avoid toll roads. The major rental agencies will charge you per toll or hook you into a toll road package deal. Take advantage of any special offers, such as discounts if you prepay. Alternatively, book and pay your car rental through Costco.
Thanksgiving Weekend Shopping
- Black Friday was traditionally the kick-off date for the holiday shopping season. While it continues to be an important day for retailers, holiday sales have been advertised since the beginning of this month. In addition, many stores will be open on Thanksgiving Day itself. Plus you now have Cyber Monday, where you can stock up on savings from online retail sites. If joining the crowds of shoppers on Black Friday is a family tradition, then enjoy. But keep in mind that your best savings may not be on this day.
Next week we will talk more about Black Friday, Cyber Monday and how to get the most out of your holiday shopping budget.