How To Host Thanksgiving On a $200 Budget

Cropped shot of a couple taking a selfie while eating outside.
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Thanksgiving is supposed to be all about family, friends, feasts and gratitude. But for the host, stress, anxiety, and turkey-sized credit card bills are what’s really on the menu — but it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little planning, preparation and imagination, it’s more than possible to throw a Turkey Day bash for the ages on a double-digit budget. 

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Use Ibotta To Get the Whole Thing for Free

This is not a misleading headline. 

You can get an entire Thanksgiving dinner for free by using the cashback/rewards app Ibotta without jumping through hoops. The offer covers a free turkey, corn muffin mix, gravy mix, and more. You’ll just need to download the app, add the cashback items from your favorite retailer to your list, and upload your receipt.

Make Your Money Work for You

There are no catches, but there are a few things to know. For example, you must add the offers to your list before you buy, not after. Find out more on their blog before you head out.

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Get a Free Turkey Through a Store Promotion

According to Forbes, inflation has caused the price of turkey to rise higher and faster than most other traditional Thanksgiving favorites, so the centerpiece dish is really where you want to save money. If supplies run out with the Ibotta deal before you have a chance to cash in, you can still score a free bird to help keep your feast inside of $200 through promotions from your food store of choice. In most cases, you just have to buy a certain amount of groceries from the supermarket you shop at anyway between now and the big day:

  • BJ’s: Between November 1st and 10th, spend $150 in the same transaction at BJ’s (can be online or in-store), and get a coupon for a free Butterball whole turkey that you can redeem between November 12th – 23rd. The turkey can be fresh or frozen.
  • Foodtown: Get a free turkey when you spend at least $400 with your Club Card during the weeks before Thanksgiving. 
  • ShopRite: Spend $400 and get a choice of smoked ham, turkey breast, roasting chicken, Stouffer’s party size lasagna, or a frozen 56oz Tofurkey.
  • Weis: Earn a free turkey when you rack up 400 Weis rewards points on your Weis Market rewards card through November 24.

Two Words: Pot and Luck

Even if for some reason you can’t score a free bird, you should still be well inside your $200 budget if you have to spring for a turkey yourself. But what about the green bean casserole, pumpkin pie — apple pie, too, for that matter — mashed potatoes, candied yams, and cranberry sauce? 

Well, that’s where your guests come in. 

Thanksgiving is the ultimate potluck holiday, and not only is it not tacky to ask people to bring a dish, but you’ll probably find that most of your guests will jump at the chance to chip in and show off their specialty. Make the night a winner by following these tips from Better Homes and Gardens:

  • Assign categories to avoid duplicate dishes.
  • Concentrate on making sure you don’t run out of adult beverages — booze, beer and wine all are expensive, so consider keeping it BYO.
  • Be aware of dietary restrictions and allergies.
  • Ask your guests to label their dishes and know the ingredients.
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Cook a Beautiful Dinner with Ugly Food

Maybe you have guests coming from far away or there’s some other reason that a potluck just isn’t in the cards. No problem. You can still save big on the ingredients you need to do all the cooking yourself. 

Sign up with Misfits Market or Imperfect Foods to save as much as 40% on fresh, local, organic produce and pantry staples. They take the ugly, but perfectly good, food that doesn’t meet the strict cosmetic standards of supermarkets — think straight bananas and curved carrots — and sell it at a steep discount.

Both are free to join, come with no obligation, let you cancel any time and deliver your order right to your door. Not only will you stretch your $200 much farther, but you’ll do your part to support local farmers and reduce food waste.

A Few Money-Saving Suggestions

According to Forbes, you can save money no matter what your budget is with the following tips: 

  • Create a plan and start shopping early.
  • Buy the biggest turkey you can afford, even if it’s too big for your party — you’ll get a better deal than you would on a smaller bird.
  • Buy directly from local farmers.
  • Keep your guest list as small as possible.
Make Your Money Work for You

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Sam DiSalvo and Andrew Lisa contributed to this article.

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About the Author

Jami Farkas holds a communications degree from California State University, Fullerton, and has worked as a reporter or editor at daily newspapers in all four corners of the United States. She brings to GOBankingRates experience as a sports editor, business editor, religion editor, digital editor — and more. With a passion for real estate, she passed the real estate licensing exam in her state and is still weighing whether to take the plunge into selling homes — or just writing about selling homes.
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