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Planning Thanksgiving Dinner on a Budget

Cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd can be expensive, so it’s important that you start out with a firm look at your budget. If you’re the one making Thanksgiving dinner, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much can you spend? You may be thinking goose or duck, when your budget calls for turkey.

  • What are the age group and gender of the guests you’ll be cooking for? Teenagers, both girls and boys, can eat, eat, and eat some more. However, tots aren’t going to eat as much.

  • What items can you borrow? Borrowing items can save you a lot of money. For example, if you’re hosting an upscale buffet served on china, you’ll certainly save money if you can borrow the dishes rather than rent them.

  • What are you responsible for cooking? Are you cooking the appetizers, dessert, and everything in between? Or are you cooking only the main course?

  • What can you borrow? You may need extra plates, tables, chairs, glasses, cooking tools, and such items. Borrow them. Don’t waste your budget on items that you’ll rarely use and can borrow from friends and family. Nothing is wrong with getting some help and borrowing things you need instead of buying them.

Planning a budget doesn’t have an exact formula, because a number of factors come into play. Remember that your budget should be a relatively firm guideline for how much money you spend — not necessarily 100 percent set in stone. The idea is to come up with a budget that helps you have a great event without maxing out your credit cards. Keep these issues in mind:

  • Before you start planning anything, think about your bottom line. Don’t start with what you’d ideally prefer and then see what happens with your budget — you won’t like the results. Rather, start with a reasonable budget and work backwards.

  • Plan the event according to your budget, not the other way around. You want something really elegant, but your budget won’t allow you to prepare everything you want. Instead of overspending, find ways to compromise. You may spend more on the entree and try to find a few less expensive side dishes and appetizers to make up the difference. Remember, you can cook great food without breaking the bank, so think about how you can find a win-win resolution with what you want and what your budget will allow.

  • Watch out for budget creep. As you plan, think about everything you need to buy so that your needs and budget are accurate.

  • Be reasonable and flexible. You may try to tackle the world with the best crowd meal ever, but be reasonable about what you can spend and what you can prepare.

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