Holiday meals are an easy time to go overboard, whether on your budget or your diet, especially if you plan the food you want without considering the cost of shopping, and even more so if you’re hosting your entire family dinner. That aside, there are plenty of ways to save money on shopping, and we’ve asked some of the top finance bloggers on the web for their own personal methods for saving money on holiday eats. Most of the tips we got were practical, easy to apply, and won’t leave you feeling like you’re missing out on the holidays.
Don’t Supply All of the Food for a Family Gathering
In what is definitely the most popular tip for saving money on holiday meals, most of the bloggers advised asking guests to bring something with them.
Kalen Bruce – Moneyminiblog.com: “If you host a holiday dinner, you’re already providing the place to eat, let the people who are coming bring most of the food. Everybody loves potlucks, unless your family can’t cook…then just take donations for catering!”
Andrew Schrage – Money Crashers: “Make a part of your holiday meal potluck instead of footing the bill for all of the food yourself. You save money and some of the more finicky eaters in your crowd can bring dishes that they will want to eat. Plus, you also save time.”
If you choose to go this route, consider coordinating in advance so that everyone brings a different dish, and there’s something of everyone. Otherwise, you could end up with four plates of devilled eggs.
Make a Budget
Budgeting your holiday meal might not sound like fun, but most of the bloggers though it was a good idea to plan in your budget and stick to it.
Kalen Bruce – Moneyminiblog.com: “The holidays are a popular time for stretching the budget. Be realistic, and adjust your budget if necessary, but once you adjust it, stick to it. It’s easy to go out to eat or order pizza when you don’t feel like cooking on those cold winter days. Plan for that.”
Saving money often means deciding how much you want to spend, and then sticking to that rate. This means deciding how much you can afford, and creating a meal plan based on that budget. Many grocery stores have online websites where you can price check to decide on a meal well in advance of shopping. Plus, if you plan in a little extravagance, like pizza, you won’t feel guilty about it when you end up doing it anyway.
Do the Cooking Yourself
Cooking is a traditional part of the holidays, and according to our finance bloggers, it’s also a great way to save money.
Not everyone can cook, but there are plenty of easy and budget holiday recipes on the web if you want to try your hand at preparing all of the dishes for your holiday feast.
Getting smart with money is an important part of frugal living, and these tips will definitely get you started.
Lazy Man and Money: “For big holiday meals, I’m a huge fan of local grocery stores offer to do the cooking. I’ve found the prices to be quite reasonable, sometimes even less than our date-night dinners at a restaurant. For less money, we can eat for days and, most importantly, save hours of cooking time. It might not save you a single dollar, but I think it is one of the best values around.”
Andrew Schrage – Money Crashers: “Use coupons from the Sunday paper and if you own a smartphone, try apps like Checkout 51 and iBotta for more savings.”
This is great advice, which is why so many people offered it. Plus, buying frozen items, like turkeys and hams, well in advance of the actual dinner is always a good idea. Not only can you look for sales or try to find the cheapest option, you’ll have more choices rather than having to pick out what’s left. Plus, the lines will be shorter.
Save on Alcohol
Alcohol is an important part of the festivities for many, and according to the bloggers, it’s also a big chunk of our budget.
An inexpensive fruit punch or sangria is easy to make, delicious, and fairly inexpensive when compared to the cost of the same volume of wine.
Saving money on your holiday meals is a great way to cut costs over the holidays, save money for something else like gifts, or just keep your spending down. Most importantly, if you plan and make some room for indulging yourself, it’s not even that difficult.
Do you have your own tips for saving money on holiday meals? Let us know.
About the Bloggers
Gretchen Lindow, Retired by 40 blog: Gretchen is a writer, entrepreneur, personal finance nerd, and the founder of Retired by 40!, the blog dedicated to documenting her family’s journey towards early retirement. She is mom to a beautiful little girl, and husband to her soldier. When she manages to tear herself away from her work, she enjoys good books, hard workouts, and as much as sun as she can handle.
Lazy Man and Money was created in 2006 to help people learn how to make their money work for them. You can get to financial freedom faster by working smarter, not harder. Today, I provide commentary on money, consumer protection, and tips for early retirement.”
Rick & Laurie, The Frugal Farmer: Laurie is a wife, mother to 4, and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom, and to a simpler, more peaceful life.
David Auten and John Schneider are The Debt Free Guys who use their blog, Facebook, Twitter and books to help others become money conscious, live debt free and have fun. The Debt Free Guys have published three eBooks in the#MoneyConscious Series and a fourth, hard copy book called 4: The Four Principles of a Debt Free Life.
Miranda Marquit is a freelance journalist specializing in financial topics. She covers money-related subjects for a variety of outlets and has appeared in numerous publications including Huffington Post, AllBusiness.com, Forbes, NPR and U.S. News & World Report. Her blog is Planting Money Seeds.
Kalen Bruce is passionate about helping you master your finances and maximize your productivity. He defies millennial laws by having no debt and four children. You can get two of his books and two personal finance classics, all for free, at moneyminiblog.com.
Brian from DebtDiscpline is a personal finance expert and coach who is the founder of the blog Debt Discipline. Once gaining control of his family’s debt in 2010, and becoming debt free in 2014 he turned his focus to helping others.
Gary Dek, Gajizmo: Gary specializes in personal finance, blogging, investing and entrepreneurship.
Andrew Schrage is the co-owner of MoneyCrashers.com, which is a personal finance site dedicated towards providing readers with practical and valuable financial resources that they can implement in their daily lives. The site writes about everything from when to start saving for retirement to how to raise a family on a budget to the best cash back credit cards.