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4 Steps to Budget for Thanksgiving

Budgeting with Personal Finance Software


According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the cost of Thanksgiving goes down some years, but the traditional meal is still expensive when you're feeding a crowd. Here are four steps to use your personal finance software to budget for and save money on Thanksgiving every year along with some great ideas for saving money so next year's expenses are more manageable.

This tutorial requires the use of personal finance software with a budgeting feature. If you don't have this software, try a selection from this list of free personal finance software, or check the links at the bottom of this page for software options that are priced right.

1. Track Your Thanksgiving Spending

Full Thanksgiving meal.
Getty Images / Steve Baxter
To start your Thanksgiving budget, open your personal finance software and create a spending category called 'Thanksgiving'. You will use this category to capture expenses in account registers related to the holiday. You can probably create this category in the software's budgeting tool, but check the documention under Help if you're not sure how to do so.

If you really go all out for Thanksgiving and host big get togethers, consider using subcategories to budget individually for food, decorating, school items and anything else you typically buy for this holiday. By using subcategories, you can easily determine where you can cut back to spend less on related items next year.

When you make Thanksgiving purchases, record them in the software's account register using the Thanksgiving categories. You will need to use split transactions when you buy items from different budget categories at one store.

2. Analyze Your Spending

After a long haul of grocery shopping, take a break.
Getty Images / Peter Cade
Now that you've set up the budget, it goes without saying that you need to try to stick to the plan. But, the next step to effectively budgeting for Thanksgiving actually happens after the left overs are in the refrigerator, the dishes are washed and the guests have left.

After you've entered all Thanksgiving expenses in your personal finance software, run a budget report or a category report that shows planned vs. actual spending. If you're not sure how to do this, check the Help resources in your software. Set up the report to select only the spending categories created in the first step so you can focus just on the Thanksgiving expenses. Chances are, you need to make some adjustments for next year.

3. Budget for Thanksgiving Expenses

Dog licking his chops at Thanksgiving turkey.
Getty Images / Nicki Pardo
Now that you know how much all the Thanksgiving food and fun cost this year, you can set up next year's Thanksgiving budget in your personal finance software.

Whether you blew your budget or your spending was under budget, you need to make some adjustments for next year. If you overspent, consider whether your budgeted amounts are realistic, or take a look at ways to save money on the holiday next year and come up with a plan to avoid over spending in the next step. If you came out under budget, congratulations! Depending on how much less you spent compared to the budget, either adjust your planned numbers down a notch or just leave them as they are in anticipation of higher prices next year.

You can account for rising prices next year by multiplying this year's spending by 1-1.5%.

Enter the amount you plan to spend next Thanksgiving into the budget setup in your financial software. Doing this will help you to commit to spending less next year and will help you to stick to the spending plan.

The easiest way to avoid going into the red in your Thanksgiving budget is to deposit a monthly amount into your savings that is designated for the holiday so you have the funds available next November.

4. Plan for Holiday Spending

Pie is the best part of a Thanksgiving meal.
Getty Images / Lisa Peardon
Learn how to spend less for Thanksgiving celebrations with these money-saving ideas.

Now that you know what you spent on Thanksgiving, you may be unpleasantly surprised and want to take action to reduce spending next year and in years to come. To get some help with this, read the following articles for some great idea for saving money next Thanksgiving:

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