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Americans Spend an Outrageous Amount on Thanksgiving Dinner — But You Don’t Have To

Americans Spend an Outrageous Amount on Thanksgiving Dinner — But You Don’t Have To

With Thanksgiving a week away, GOBankingRates asked Americans how much they expected to spend on their Thanksgiving dinner. According to the survey results, Americans plan to spend an average of $142 on the holiday meal. Thanksgiving dinner is actually rather cheap compared to how much debt Americans rack up due to holiday shopping.

Thanksgiving Dinner Survey Results

The first survey question asked, “How many people do you expect to attend your Thanksgiving dinner?” The average number of guests was 10. The second question asked if respondents “plan to have others contribute money or food,” or “plan to pay for everything myself.” In a close breakdown, 53 percent of respondents said they’d pay for everything themselves, while 47 percent said they planned to have others contribute.

When asked, “What steps do you take to save money on your Thanksgiving dinner?” two answers stood out most: “Use coupons when purchasing food” garnered 49 percent of responses and “Plan your menu before shopping,” netted 64 percent.

How Americans Save Money on Thanksgiving Dinner

Planning the Menu Ahead of Time




Making It a Potluck


Buying Early and Freezing the Food




Buying Generic Items






*Respondents could select all that apply.

Related: These Are the 49 Stores Open on Thanksgiving and Black Friday

In terms of what they plan to serve, Americans showed that the staples of Thanksgiving dinner — turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing — are still the most popular items, grabbing 88 percent, 79 percent and 79 percent of responses, respectively.

Here’s a glimpse of the full breakdown:

The Most Popular Dishes Served on Thanksgiving


Percentage of Respondents Serving This Dish



Mashed potatoes




Bread rolls


Green beans or green bean casserole


Pumpkin or sweet potato pie


Sweet potatoes or yams




Macaroni and cheese


None of the above


*Respondents could select all that apply.

How Much Americans Plan to Spend

Here’s a closer look at how much different age groups plan to spend on Thanksgiving dinner. Respondents had the option to select more than one answer choice.

How Much Americans Spend on Thanksgiving Dinner (Average)

Ages 18-24


Ages 25-34


Ages 35-44


Ages 45-54


Ages 55-64


Ages 65+








Look: Your Complete Walmart Thanksgiving Shopping Guide

Arguably, Thanksgiving is the calm before — or amid — the storm that is holiday shopping season. People plan to spend much less on Thanksgiving — even if the cost is $1,000 — than the average amount Americans plan to spend shopping for the holiday season.

7 Money-Saving Tips to Cut Your Thanksgiving Dinner Budget

If your Thanksgiving dinner budget is less than what the average American is planning to spend for it, consider these moves to keep your expenses down.

1. Use Coupons and Promotional Offers

Many grocers will offer coupons, sales and discounts specifically for items needed for popular Thanksgiving dishes. Some stores even offer a free Thanksgiving turkey if you spend a certain amount, which could mean huge savings because the bird is often the most expensive single item on the menu.

2. Shop for Best Prices Early

If you’re shopping around for Thanksgiving dinner ingredients, it can help to start a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving to find the best deals. You might also want to look at circulars from stores you don’t usually visit to see if they’re offering better prices or check for online specials on their websites.

3. Shop From a List

To avoid impulse buys, create a list of everything you plan to purchase before you hit the supermarket, then stick to your list. This approach is especially important if you plan to shop at more than one store because each trip exposes you to alluring extras.

Related: Trump’s Trade War Will Make Your Holidays This Much More Expensive

4. Ask Guests to Bring a Dish

Encouraging guests to bring a dish or a bottle of wine helps spread the costs more evenly between the host and guests. It’s also a way for people to make sure their own Thanksgiving dinner must-haves are included and any special dietary needs, like being vegetarian or having a food allergy, are accommodated.

5. Serve Smaller Portions and Fewer Dishes

The easiest way to cut Thanksgiving costs is to serve less food, both in the size of portions and the dishes you plan to include, unless you’re certain you’ll make the most of the leftovers. Skip dishes that rarely get eaten fully, making larger portions of crowd-pleasers instead.

6. Choose Foods With Less-Expensive Ingredients

Get creative by coming up with less-pricey alternatives to more-expensive dishes. Steamed green beans can replace green bean casserole, for instance, negating the need for extra items like creamy soup and fried onions.

7. Cook More From Scratch

If you have time and enjoy cooking, you can save substantially by making dishes from scratch — especially compared with a Thanksgiving dinner prepared by a restaurant.

Items like homemade pie crust cost significantly less than pre-made. It could also help to plan dishes that use items you already have or choose recipes with ingredients you know you’ll use in the future.

Thanksgiving is a special day when families gather to enjoy a feast. If you’re preparing the meal, don’t let food costs add stress or empty your wallet. Use these ideas to stay happy, satiated and under budget so you can focus on what matters most to you and your loved ones.

Prefer to eat out? Click through to find out which restaurants will be open on Thanksgiving Day.

More on Holidays and Saving Money

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August McLaughlin contributed to the reporting for this article.

Methodology: The GOBankingRates survey posed the following questions to 504 Americans: 1) “How many people do you expect to attend your Thanksgiving dinner?”; 2) “When you do your Thanksgiving dinner shopping this year, do you plan to pay for everything yourself or will other people contribute too?”; 3) “What steps do you take to save money on your Thanksgiving dinner?”; 4) “Would you volunteer and serve food to the community instead of cooking your own Thanksgiving dinner?”; 5) “On average, how much do plan to spend on Thanksgiving dinner this year?”; 6) “What do you plan to buy and cook for Thanksgiving this year?”

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Americans Spend an Outrageous Amount on Thanksgiving Dinner — But You Don’t Have To