Five Holiday Spending Tips … for Thanksgiving
When we think about holiday spending, it’s usually Christmas and Hanukkah that come to mind. Thanksgiving doesn’t involve the same temptation to dip into your savings to buy a pile of gifts.
But along with stuffed turkeys and pumpkin pies, Thanksgiving presents its own set of potentially thorny spending decisions. Here’s a look at a few of them, along with tips to help keep your finances from taking an early holiday dive.
Should I bring a gift for my significant other’s parents or other Thanksgiving host?
If your host is a family member, there’s generally no expectation that you’ll bring a gift. (You may be asked to prepare a dish, though, so be ready to roll up your sleeves and hit the kitchen.) In other situations, expectations vary.
Folks who write about manners say that, although a gift may not be expected, it’s never inappropriate to show up with one. But you don’t need to max out your credit card. Spending about $20 is fine — that’s enough for a flower arrangement, bottle of wine or other token of your appreciation.
Is it appropriate to go shopping on Thanksgiving Day?
Until a few years ago, retailers typically shut down on Thanksgiving to give their employees a day off and to prepare for the madness of Black Friday. But increasingly, stores kick off the cavalcade of consumerism early, opening their doors on the holiday itself.
Although there’s nothing technically wrong with shopping on Thanksgiving, your gut might tell you to stave off those door-buster impulses until at least midnight in order to spend more time with your family and friends. Still, if the clarion call of bargains is just too strong, try a compromise.
Last year, online spending on Thanksgiving topped $1 billion. A record amount of that activity happened on smartphones and tablets. Instead of ditching Uncle Bernie and Aunt Margaret to head to the mall before the Cowboys game hits halftime, excuse yourself to the guest room, break out the iPad and scratch that capitalistic itch.
Should I stay with family or book a hotel?
This one can get particularly tricky when there’s a boyfriend or girlfriend involved. You may be tempted to book a hotel room — even at holiday rates — instead of being subjected to separate beds or having to bunk on the foldout sofa.
But, hey, what’s a family gathering without a little awkwardness? Unless you’re trying to avoid some toxic family dynamics, we suggest sucking it up, staying with family and saving that cash.
If I’m traveling, who should pay?
Gas prices have been mercifully low this fall. But whether it’s plane tickets or car snacks, traveling for the holidays always comes with a cost. If you’re bringing along a friend or significant other, don’t hesitate to ask — politely, of course — for some help with gas and other expenses.
Is it OK to buy a prepared dish instead of cooking?
Yes, it would be less expensive to cook up a pan of cornbread at home, rather than springing for it from that fancy place across town. Yes, you’ll have to dodge fewer questions about the recipe if you make it yourself. And yes, Mom will be so proud of your culinary skills, regardless of how the dish turns out.
But if you’re one of those folks for whom the kitchen is a no-go zone — and you’re sure it’s well within your budget — go ahead and bring the store-bought. We won’t tell.
Doug Gross, NerdWallet
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