Conscientious Entertaining: How to Spend Less Money this Holiday Season

There's a lot of pressure during the holiday season - and at Thanksgiving in particular - to throw the most extravagant, impressive dinner parties possible. This can leave many of us torn between holiday entertaining and our bank account. But there are definitely ways to throw a fun holiday dinner party without going overboard. Here's how...Set a Budget Before you go to the store, make of list of everything you need to buy and their approximate prices. Don't forget to include spices and pantry staples, any disposable tableware you may need, and decorations. Prioritize what you need and cross off any extras if your budget feels too high.

Last but not least, stick to your list and your budget when you go to the store!

Ask for Help
There's nothing shameful in asking family and guests to bring a side dish or dessert to share. This takes the pressure off of you and shares the cost of the meal among everyone.

Personally, we also feel that it's ok to ask for money - as long as it's done in a tactful way. Adding a note at the end of an invitation saying "We'd appreciate a contribution of $10 toward the meal" is a friendly, subtle way of asking for help. You could also give people the option of either helping pay for the meal or bringing their own side dish.

Don't Cook a Thanksgiving Turkey
Some might consider this sacrilege, but we think it could be a smart idea. Buying a turkey for a large family gathering can start costing you upwards of $40! Think about roasting a few chickens or making a nice pot roast instead. If this doesn't sound feasible, consider this:

Cook a Smaller Thanksgiving Turkey
Most sources recommend one pound of uncooked turkey per person as an estimation for what size turkey to buy. But instead, you could buy a turkey half that size and then supplement it with a small cooked ham or extra side dishes. That way everyone still gets a taste of Thanksgiving Turkey and goes home happy.

Check the Farmer's Markets
Most markets are getting ready to close for the year and farmers are selling their end-of-season produce for cheap. We've seen several stands with discounts on bulk purchases, like $5 for 5 pounds of brussels sprouts or 2-for-1 deals on squash. If you stock up on these vegetables now, many of them will last you through Christmas.

Save on Decorations
If you're the decorating type, skip buying everything new and head to the thrift stores. You can often find nice table linens and last-season's decorations for significantly less than new.

Decorations are another place where you can ask for help. Guest can bring a bouquet of flowers or let you borrow a favorite table runner for the evening.

Also don't forget edible decorations like apples and squashes! Fall fruits and vegetables make beautiful centerpieces when arranged in a nice bowl, and then they become meals for your family after the party is over.

What other tips do you have for saving money while entertaining during the holidays?

Related: Conscientious Cook: How to Start Saving Money this Weekend

(Image: Flickr member jenn jenn licensed under Creative Commons)

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