How To Have an Affordable Friendsgiving Potluck

Group of diverse friends enjoying summer party together.
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Friendsgiving is a relatively recent trend where people celebrate Thanksgiving with their friends instead of their families, sometimes before Thanksgiving and sometimes on the actual holiday. While no one is quite sure where the concept originated — possibly as a marketing ploy, or from “Friends,” according to Real Simple — it certainly seems to be here to stay.

The average U.S. host of Thanksgiving spent $448 on the holiday in 2021, according to Statista. Unsurprisingly, 2022 is anticipated to be higher than that due to inflation, according to Fortune, which went as far as suggesting it may be cheaper to eat at a restaurant for the holiday this year.

While everyone does Friendsgiving differently, the general idea is that a group of people share the costs and the cooking, often in potluck format, or sometimes buy ingredients and cook together. We asked experts for tips on how to hold or participate in a Friendsgiving and make it financially worth your while — by saving substantially on the typical costs of Thanksgiving.

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Determine Guests, Give Advance Notice

A good place to start with your Friendsgiving budget is figuring out how many people are attending, said Jake Hill, CEO of DebtHammer. “Obviously, if more friends are invited, you’re going to need more food, which means more money. However, when you’re attending a potluck, you’re generally only responsible for one dish, which will cost significantly less than cooking an entire Thanksgiving dinner.” 

He recommends giving as much advance notice to the invitees as possible. “You can work in individual ingredients needed into your weekly grocery budget easier if you have a few weeks to gather everything needed.”

Think Outside the Stove

Not everyone enjoys cooking or even wants to bring food to a Friendsgiving, said Matthew Appleton, e-commerce manager of Appleton Sweets. However, there’s always something that needs bringing and it doesn’t always have to be food.

“We get that even if you don’t enjoy cooking, you still want to be included in the potluck festivities. That’s totally OK. Bring paper products, such as cutlery, plates, cups, and napkins. Choose beer or wine if you wish to bring something to drink.”

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Make the Main Course

If you’re going to be the host of Friendsgiving, consider taking care of just the main course — be that turkey or Cornish hens, said Michelle Chu, Founder and CEO of Kono’s Kitchen. “It’s OK to rely on friends to bring all the sides and dessert.”

Split the Bill, Share Cooking

The easiest way to organize cost sharing is for people to bring their own dish, said Chu. “However, I’ve also had potlucks where I bought the ingredients for side dishes and friends came over to cook. In those cases, we can split the bill or pay each other back with apps such as Splitwise or Venmo.”

Focus on Friendship, Not Food

At a Friendsgiving potluck it’s important to remember that the focus should be on spending time with friends, not just the food, said Gregory Lenzo, CFO of IBR Investing. “With that in mind, don’t worry too much about spending a lot of money on your dish. Instead, focus on bringing something that you know everyone will enjoy.”

This may mean simply bringing an easily shared, popular and not-too-pricey side dish like pasta or rice.

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Make Sure Everyone Shares Costs

However, Lenzo does add a suggestion: “When it comes to how much to spend, it’s important to remember that this is a potluck. This means that everyone is contributing something to the meal. When it comes to splitting the cost, it’s a good idea to either split the cost evenly or to ask each person to bring a specific dish. This will help to ensure that everyone contributes something to the meal.”

Reduce Stress as Well as Costs

Uchechi Kalu, financial advisor at Abacus Wealth Partners, reminds us that the goal of Friendsgiving should be to reduce the burden on everyone.

Kalu said, “While the holidays are a great time to show generosity, it can also be stressful because people feel like they have to break the bank in order to make a meaningful contribution. While we think it’s the food, the most memorable thing from a Thanksgiving gathering is actually always the company, fellowship and togetherness. So the answer is always — spend only what you can afford.”

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