4 November, 2011  |   4 Comments

Setting a Thanksgiving Budget

You may thing I’m a weirdo for setting a Thanksgiving budget this far in advance of the glorious meal, but I assure you, if I don’t, I won’t have enough money by the time turkey purchasing day is upon me.

Happy Thanksgiving

My Thanksgiving budget is $340.

That might sound like a lot for the holiday, but consider this:
1. Wine. I like to have at least three bottles of good wine for Thanksgiving.
2. No potluck. My brother is flying in from Chicago for the big day (also his birthday!) so there are additional costs of a birthday cake as well as being responsible for all the sides.
3. I live in Napa Valley, yo. Food, although glorious, ain’t cheap.
4. It includes food for the next day.

Where do I plan to spend out vs. be cheap?
(Naturally) I made a table:

Spend out

Be cheap

Wine Table settings


I know, wine seems like a silly thing to spend an entire third of my budget on. That said, I hail from the Napa Valley, good wine does cost a little more than that $6 jug. It’s only once a year and like I said, it’s also my brother’s birthday.
P.S. My Napa Valley brethren are giggling at me right now for saying that $100 for 3 bottles of wine is my budget. “Cheapo-head,” they just muttered in their brains.


What with reams of child-produced art, dried gourds from years past and very little spare room on the table, I’m going to go ahead and excuse myself from spending any money on my table setting.

Turkey Cornbread & Dinner Rolls


Since so much of my stuffing ingredients come from my turkey, I spend a lot of money on my turkey. Yes, it’s a lot for a big piece of meat, but if I want to make sure my turkey was raised in a world with fewer chemicals and breast modifications, I’ll spend my ducats.


Cornbread is inexpensive to make, so are dinner rolls. And as I use them as a turkey/gravy/stuffing vehicle anyway, I’m fine to go with a less spendy alternative.

Vegetables (roast brussel sprouts, green beans, cranberries)



If I want to eat more vegetables, my veggies need to taste better. Good tasting vegetables often come from organic or local sources. And they often cost more. We have a farm stand in town that I adore — and I’m much happier knowing I’m paying the proprietress for my produce than some giant weirdo importer from Chile.


Mashed potatoes smashed potatoes. They’re regular. Of course, mine are spectacular. I also cannot abide sweet potatoes. Sorry traditionalists.

Cheese & Appetizers



The thoughtful Thanksgiving host always has something for the circling sharks to nibble on before the big meal. Mostly crudités, but also a more substantial American cheese. I love these Artisinal American cheeses (Thanksgivinggy!).


One pumpkin pie. One birthday cake. One container vanilla ice cream. One pint whipping cream. Thank you Easter Bunny, bok bok!

Day after Thanksgiving meals

Thanksgiving day meals


My day after Thanksgiving meals are only eaten once a year, so I invest in making the most out of these rare and unusual leftovers. Good bread for sandwiches, thick bacon for breakfast, I maximize those remainders.


Thanksgiving day meals, eh, who needs them? Cereal for breakfast, picked on leftovers for the evening, you know it.

What are you spending out on this Thanksgiving?
What are you pulling back on?

4 thoughts on “Setting a Thanksgiving Budget

  1. 1

    […] I said in my Thanksgiving budget post, I budget extra for cheese. (I love it that […]

  2. 2
    nicole says:

    Thank you for this – it’s gotten the wheels turning, even just a week or so out. I’m a vegetarian, so I end up spending more on veggies — though I’m also cooking a turkey, which means more $$ for a (hopefully) ethically raised one from Sonoma or Marin Co. (keeping it local!) — but most will come from my farmers market, which helps a lot. I probably will spend less on wine – or, rather, ask others to contribute. I will make pretty much everything from scratch — cornbread for stuffing, rolls to go with the cauliflower soup — but I know despite my best efforts the cost may creep up … I love to cook, and love to cook holiday meals, so it’s hard to downsize. But I am trying this year!! I’m hoping to keep it to $150-200, for eight. I believe this is possible!

    Might I suggest a sweet potato-chard (or spinach)-Gruyere gratin? I swear it’ll change your mind about sweet potatoes …

  3. 3

    […] in 2011 I set a Thanksgiving budget and we stuck to it. The budget’s a little less this year – about a third less – […]

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