Personal Finance

Thanksgiving's $165 tab may not leave you feeling thankful

Key Points
  • Americans dish out $97 on eating and hosting, and around $67 on travel over Thanksgiving.
  • Here's how you can celebrate without depleting your bank account.
bhofack2 | Getty Images

Thanksgiving is a day to be grateful — and, of course, giving. But you may not feel so festive "giving" to the supermarket, the airline and the gas station.

Thanksgiving will cost the average American $165 this year, including food and travel expenses, according to a new survey by LendEdu. The poll surveyed 1,000 Americans who plan to celebrate the holiday. Around 40 percent of that price tag — or $68 — will be spent on travel, such as plane tickets and hotel rooms.

We want to have a Thanksgiving table that is overflowing, with five deserts and all different sides. People overbuy.
Phil Lempert talked with money-saving experts about strategies to celebrate without depleting your bank account:


Exercise restraint, advises supermarket shopping expert Phil Lempert. This is just the start of the holiday season, and other big expenses are around the corner, he said. Scale your menu to the guest list.

"We want to have a Thanksgiving table that is overflowing, with five deserts and all different sides," Lempert said. "People overbuy."

Consider asking guests to contribute a dish.

"We don't have to stand on the ceremony our parents did — [Thanksgiving] is more group-oriented now," he said.

Thanksgiving cost breakdown

Be on the lookout for deals. Joanie Demer, co-founder of, said traffic to her website goes up around 30 percent in the lead-up to Thanksgiving.

"This is the time of year people spend the most attention on saving money," Demer said. "And there's more deals this time of the year than at any other time."

Look for bulk savings on items you need in quantity. For example, if you buy more than six bottles of wine at Whole Foods, you'll receive a 10 percent discount, she said.

Supermarket savings
Supermarket savings

After alcohol, your second biggest meal expense will probably be a turkey, which costs an average of $15, Demer said. But many supermarkets offer deals where you can get a free turkey if you spend a certain amount of money. For example, at many Acme locations, if you spend $100, you can get a complimentary turkey weighing up to 22 pounds.

"If you can find a promotion at a store you already shop at, it makes a lot of sense," she said.


As the economy continues to improve, more people are traveling to celebrate Thanksgiving. According to AAA, the most popular Thanksgiving destinations last year were Las Vegas, San Francisco and San Diego.

"If you're looking for flights, be flexible. Consider flying on the holiday," said Jeanette Casselano, director of public relations at AAA. "You avoid crowds and flights are cheaper."

If you're driving, she said, "plan your trip ahead to get a better idea of what gas prices will be along your route."

An advance plan can also help you avoid time spent idling in traffic. The roads are most likely to be clogged around 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 21, navigational app Waze found.

51 days till your toys now
51 days till your toys now