Keep your finances in the black this Thanksgiving weekend

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Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season and many people start their holiday by serving a delicious Thanksgiving dinner and end it by shopping. In fact, the day after Thanksgiving is commonly known as “Black Friday,” meaning the day retailers go from being unprofitable (in the “red”) to profitable (in the “black”).

Unfortunately, a costly Thanksgiving weekend means less money left over for the weeks ahead. Like most expenses, there are quite a few ways to keep costs down, and as usual, the most important one is to plan ahead. To help trim the fat from your Thanksgiving weekend budget, consider the following tips.

Start with a thrifty and tasteful meal. Start the holiday off on the right foot by serving a budget friendly Thanksgiving meal. Consider making your meal pot-luck. If you must prepare everything yourself, serve inexpensive foods such as turkey, chicken, and fish. Keep your eyes open for coupons and specials at nearby grocery stores. Also, avoid expensive name brands where it really won’t make a difference.

Develop a plan. If you do plan to shop for holiday gifts, you’ll need a plan. First, figure out who’s on your gift list and determine how much you plan to spend for each person. To prevent the urge to overspend, consider using cash and leave your credit cards at home. Realize that the holidays involve many more expenses than just gifts. In fact, studies show that consumers budget more than $500 for non-gift expenses such as travel, entertaining, and decorations.

Consider cyber-shopping. If you can’t resist the urge to shop, try shopping online. You will save a lot of time and comparison shopping is a breeze. Warning! Most online purchases are made with a credit card so be sure to monitor your spending. Any time you shop online, you should take precautions to protect your identity. Take the online shopping quiz to find out if you’re a safe online shopper.

Think outside the mall. You don’t have to spend a fortune to give great gifts. Some of the best gifts are those that are hand-made and from the heart. Gifts of your time are free to give and valuable to the recipient. For example, give vouchers good for five hours of yard work, ten back-rubs, or a weekend of baby-sitting. Create and print your personalized gift certificates for free at

Lastly, if you plan to shop Black Friday deals, be sure to practice safe holiday shopping procedures. For instance, only take the cash you budgeted to spend and not large amounts. Be vigilant against holiday shopping thieves and always keep an eye on your purse or wallet.