Best Ways to Save Money During the Holiday Season

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This is a post by MPFJ staff writer, Jeff. Jeff writes about Sustainable living and finances at his website, Sustainable Life Blog. Jeff also really loves the holiday season!

For me, the holidays are one of the most expensive periods of the year.

There’s money spent traveling to visit family and for gifts for loved ones. It seems like that gets me in the “spending spirit,” and I start to buy more things for myself as well. Of course, some of those are purchases that would have been made at some point, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, I just buy things because I’m spending money anyway, and think to myself, “Well, what’s the harm in spending an extra 10 bucks?”

In order to make the holidays enjoyable (and easy on the pocketbook), I thought long and hard about the best ways to save some money this holiday season. While there are things that have to be paid for no matter what and whose price is largely outside our control (mostly plane tickets and gas), there are still plenty of ways to save this holiday season.

Share the Cost and Time Commitment of Making Meals Among Members of the Family

In my family on Thanksgiving, everyone above the age of 12 or so is responsible for a dish to bring to the table. This was one of my favorite traditions growing up, because it was fun for me to make a dish for Thanksgiving, and it really gave me a sense of ownership of the meal. I had something I could be proud of to serve (typically, I made the cranberry-orange relish). As I’ve gotten to the ripe old age of almost 30, I also have noticed that this is a great way to communicate and spend time as a family while working on a large project. Now, my uncle, dad, and I cook the turkey every year, and I look forward to spending some time with them (typically outside) chewing the fat, and babysitting the turkey that we are cooking for the year.

Go See Free Parades!

The day after Thanksgiving, there’s always a parade downtown where my aunt lives. The parade for me is kind of like the kick-off to the Christmas season, and is always fun to see. The best part about the parade is that it’s free, of course! We all dress warm, pile into the cars, and head downtown and find a spot to park along the parade route. There’s usually a group giving out free hot chocolates, and we are able to have a fun, free and entertaining night, after all the stress of putting together a huge meal.

Most towns that I’ve been around on Thanksgiving have a parade. If you’re unsure about your town, check the website for the city, or ask some friends. Those that have lived in the area a while will know. If you look hard and come up with nothing, there’s always the classic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade is typically live on TV.

Take Advantage of the Leftovers

Don’t forget about the staple of everyone’s Thanksgiving, the leftovers. When I was younger, I used to really enjoy the leftovers, then after about a week of turkey sandwiches, it got old fast. One of the best ways to make the leftovers more palatable is to find some unique way to use them in other dishes. There are plenty of great recipes out there, but one of my favorite collections of recipes is from the New York Times Mark Bittman, and here are his 20 favorite Thanksgiving leftover recipes.

Another great place to look is the Food Network. My wife is a vegetarian, so we usually leave the turkey leftovers for some of my other family members, but at our table there’s always plenty of food, and plenty of leftovers!

These are just a few ways to save on holiday expenses. Remember, the weekend is about family and being thankful for what you have – and that’s always free!

What sort of traditions do you have on Thanksgiving? Do you normally stay at home or visit out-of-town relatives? Do you have any great leftover recipes? If so, please share them in the comments!

    ***Photo courtesy of


    1. John S @ Frugal Rules says:

      Good post. We tend to stay home for Thanksgiving but usually have friends we get together with. One of our favorite things to do is go look at Christmas lights either on Thanksgiving night or Friday night.

    2. Shannon-ReadyForZero says:

      Oh, I love Thanksgiving leftovers :). Unfortunately I live across the country from my family and can't fly for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, so my fiance and I are attempting a turkey on our own and inviting other friends who can't make it home. Since there won't be many of us, we can save a lot on the food and I'm more than happy to eat turkey sandwiches for days :).
      My recent post 5 Ways to Get Organized, Save Money and Reduce Stress During the Holidays

    3. sustainlifeblog says:

      We always go look at christmas lights john, just usually a little after thanksgiving. I always enjoy it though john.
      Shannon – that's one of the nice things about getting to stay at home – you get to keep ALL the leftovers!

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