Talking Turkey: 7 Tips to Save on Thanksgiving

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The two biggest expenses for Thanksgiving are food and travel. Here's how to save on both.

Thanksgiving is exactly five weeks away. If you’re cooking, you indeed have a reason to be thankful: Your holiday dinner probably won’t cost any more than it did last year – it may even cost less. But if you’re flying to see relatives and haven’t booked your flight yet, the news may not be so good.

Thanksgiving travel tips

Flying right before and after Thanksgiving this year will cost you $170 more than usual, estimates Travelocity. The travel website calculates a departure on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and a return on the Sunday after will average a whopping $463 round trip. The rest of the month? A mere $293. Here’s what you can do to save…

Act now: If you haven’t already booked your flight, do it today. Waiting certainly isn’t going to get you a cheaper fare.

Stay longer: The two busiest and most expensive days to fly are the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after. Leaving a day earlier and staying a day later can save you more than $100.

Land elsewhere: Most travel websites give you the option of landing at smaller and less-busy airports than the major hubs. If you’re flying to Los Angeles, try Burbank – To Miami, try Fort Lauderdale – To Chicago, try Midway. To New York, try Newark.  You can save some serious cash, and if your relatives really love you, they’ll be willing to drive a tad further.

Get grounded: If you need to travel 300 miles or less, it may be more cost-effective to drive. How do you find out for sure? AAA offers this Fuel Cost Calculator. And if you don’t feel like driving, let someone else do it: check out Can a Bus Beat a Plane?

Thanksgiving cooking tips

For the past quarter century, the American Farm Bureau has estimated the average cost of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner – with turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie, and all the trimmings. In 2009, the total was $42.91 for a table of 10. That was a $1.70 drop from 2008, and the first time prices has dropped since 2000.

Will it drop again? The American Farm Bureau hasn’t released its 2010 calculations yet, but with consumer prices almost flat and federal officials more worried about deflation than inflation, chances are Thanksgiving will still be cost-effective. Here are some ways to save even more…

Don’t get fresh: Everyone from Emeril to the State of Alaska will tell you, “There is no quality difference between a fresh or frozen turkey.” But often, there’s a big price difference. Just remember frozen takes days to thaw out, so don’t wait till the last minute to buy that bird.

Shop smart: Check out our 5 Ways to Save on Thanksgiving Dinner for the best advice on cooking a traditional turkey dinner. Or…

Be unique: If you want to try something different, you’ll have a lot of company. A survey by grill maker Char-Boil claims only 40 percent of Americans “serve the same menu that mom created.” The other 60 percent experiment. Here are three unique ideas. And if you don’t like turkey, a trade group called the National Pork Board is pushing pork for Thanksgiving – and offers recipes like pork and chocolate.
Pork and chocolate?

Stacy Johnson

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