How Are You Spending Thanksgiving, And What Will You Spend?

Rachael Maddux:
My husband and I are driving up to Tennessee for a double-duty feastravaganza: lunch with my folks, then dinner with his. (This is shockingly doable as long as you don’t start drinking at 11:30 a.m. — unless you WANT to be hungover in your childhood bedroom by 9 p.m., then that’s actually the best way to start.) Also Friday we’re driving over to North Carolina to visit more family. Food cost: $10–15 for the pickled vegetables my mom has requested, and then his folks want to do steaks instead of turkey and they like these particular hangar steaks from a butcher shop near our place in Atlanta, but my dude is the meat-buyer of our household and I honestly have no idea how much they cost. We’ll probably also get some beer to split the difference between my parents’ tendency towards oppressive Belgian ABV and my father-in-law’s Bud Lite partiality. Transport cost: A tank and a half of gas, maybe? And six or seven hours in the car — plenty of time to think about how I reached a point in my life where family holidays require more alcohol-related strategy than college ever did.

Sam Biddle:
I’m in D.C., where I grew up and can stay for free. The train ticket here set me back about $140. I bought a horrible Amtrak chicken salad sandwich en route — I forget how much that cost. I’m planning on eating my mother’s groceries as much as possible while I’m here, though I am taking her out to dinner tomorrow night. I will only let her order an appetizer and tap water to keep costs low. It’s possible I’ll black out with some high school friends and run up a big stupid bar tab for idiots before puking all over my childhood floors, but other than that, it should be a cheap week.

Dan Nosowitz:
I do Thanksgiving every year up in Northampton, in Western Massachusetts. My parents live in Pennsylvania and pick me up in Brooklyn on the way up there, because they are really very nice people, and because we’re pretty much all convinced you can’t get good bagels or lox in Pennsylvania. (My Thanksgiving has a lot of Jewish food. I think I was about 15 before I realized that most Thanksgivings don’t include chopped liver.) So I don’t pay for transit at all. I do bring some kind of side dish, and since there are usually 15 or so people at the table, that means a lot of food. This year I am snootily making roasted fall vegetables and walnut romesco sauce, the ingredients for which run me about $40. I might get a bottle of wine too? Probably not. Also I’m not paying for the bagels. So, $40.

Brooke Hatfield:
I am thankful because this will hopefully be a cheap Thanksgiving: I am driving 30 minutes south from Atlanta to Jonesboro, Georgia, where I will be the happy bearer of hippie food at my grandparents’ house on a street where, allegedly, more and more people “don’t care about how their yard looks.” My set-in-their-foodways family actually really likes this roasted cauliflower in lemon-tahini sauce. (It’s also way cheap!) I’m also in charge of buying and preparing asparagus — I offhandedly told my grandmother I liked once in, like, 1998, and it’s been on the menu at every holiday meal ever since. I will also probably drop $8 for an eyebrow wax so that nobody hassles me about getting one.

Mark Armstrong:
We are going to a potluck at my cousin’s house in Burlingame, and our assigned dish is pumpkin pie. So let’s say $20 for homemade pumpkin pie ingredients and $20 for our wine contribution? Or is that too expensive for the pie, too cheap for the wine? So many questions!

Megan Reynolds:
My sisters and my roommate and I are hosting our third annual Orphansgiving this year. We’re doing the bulk of the cooking, and other people are bringing other essentials, like alcohol and mashed potatoes. I had a harrowing experience at Foodtown while shopping yesterday in which the cashier used the wrong customer loyalty card, nearly dashing our hopes of getting the free turkey, but we prevailed. The customer service there is really and truly top-notch. My roommate, sister and I split the bill, which was $200, so I think we’ve each spent a little over $60 each, which isn’t terrible. I also made the adult decision to buy myself a roasting rack and a bigger Pyrex pan to roast this thing in, so that ran me about $28. I still need to run to the store to get anise seeds, a spot of bourbon and perhaps the ingredients to make a chess pie, since we might be lacking in dessert options, but am not anticipating to spend more than, say, $40? I spent most of yesterday tending to the turkey and its defrosting needs, so today I will lovingly caress the turkey(Team Popcorn(, btw) in a dry brine, make a turkey stock for gravy, prep some vegetables and listen to a lot of Beyonce. Gobble Gobble.

Sarah Sluis:
I’m driving to Providence, Rhode Island, from NYC for a friendsgiving weekend with some other family-less West Coasters. Transportation is a biggie, but my fiance and I are borrowing a car and paying our friend 25 cents a mile for the trip, around $125, to cover some of the wear and tear, plus another $140 for gas, tolls, and train fare to pick up the car. The friends are putting us up for a few nights, so I assembled a hostess gift with a bottle of wine and a few culinary-themed extras, including an excellent knife I’m excited to gift ($60). I also put some ingredients on her shopping list that we will pay for ($50). We’ll probably be going out to eat at some point, and grabbing snacks on the road, so I’d say that will end up being another hundie or two — I prefer to overestimate. Let the holidays begin: $555 for two.

Meghan Nesmith:
I’m staying in the city, dining out with a dear friend’s family. They are very generously (Thank you! I am thankful!) covering my meal, so I’m coming up roses this year. Unless you count the $9.00 I spent on a used copy of The Birth Partner– my friend is due any day now, and I wanted to be ready should I have to deliver the baby in a taxi. Fingers crossed!

Kase Wickman:
2012 Kase went to her boyfriend’s parents’ place last year and brought pie. 2013 Kase is going to her future in-laws’ place, because those pies were apparently so delicious that she got engaged the next day. Same crew, same panicked precautionary purchase of 2 lb. of unsalted butter ($4.29/lb) earlier this week, different pie varieties. I just got the Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, so I’ll be making the brown butter pumpkin pie and the black bottom oatmeal pie. No apple peeling for me this year. I’m the type of lady who has cans and cans of pumpkin sitting around the house, so we’ll call that free. I’ll likely have to buy more heavy cream, so we’ll call that another $3. Maybe some more oatmeal ($2?), but I’m otherwise stocked. The entry fee of the Turkey Trot I signed up for in Prospect Park was $30, but I feel like the actual psychic cost of running 5 miles in the bitter cold on, uh, no recent running will be immeasurable. Let’s say roughly $50 for ingredients and the race, plus a billion dollars of mental agony and regrettable decisions.

One of the few benefits of flying cross-country for a Thanksgiving that involves both of your acrimoniously divorced parents, your father’s brother (with whom he doesn’t get along), a tent, your step-grandmother’s parents, and your cousin, who is a nineteen year-old white rapper, is that the obvious horror and inconvenience of the whole scenario means you definitely aren’t bringing anything.

E.A. Mann:
This will be my daughter’s first Thanksgiving, and the first one since 2000 that I won’t have to spend on the parking lot that is the Mass Pike trying to reach my parents in Western Mass. For all the challenges of raising a newborn (they’re basically incontinent dictators), there are plenty of perks, and one is that no one expects you to travel anywhere for any reason. So this year my wife and I are staying in and hosting one of those small, ultra cool “Friend Thanksgivings” that was always denied to us because we were saddled with a loving family that we wanted to visit. On the menu we’ve got turkey, roasted brussels sprouts, stuffing (my grandmother’s italian recipe), butterscotch pie and some great local beer. The whole thing totals to around $55.

Nozlee Samadzadeh:
Sometimes the biggest blessing of all is being a first-generation American. Thanksgiving isn’t that big of a deal in my family, so I’ve done it all — turkey in July so my visiting Iranian grandmother could join in on what she calls Jashn e Booghalamoon (“The Celebration of the Turkey”), Thanksgiving falafel at Mamoun’s with my little sister, Thanksgiving for one all alone (a tiny Cornish hen, creamed pearl onions, roasted baby brussels sprouts, mini pumpkin pie), and Thanksgiving the day after Thanksgiving because that’s when all three of us kids could make it home. This year, though, will be extra special, because this year my only-child of a boyfriend is not going home for Thanksgiving for the first time in his life and we’ll be starting our own tradition: no Thanksgiving at all. We’ll be spending zero dollars while we give thanks, and I am so thankful for that.

Emma Carmichael:
I hope to spend very little, helped by the fact that I got a “your debit card may have been compromised by an unknown third party” alert from my bank yesterday and my debit card is now dead. RIP. I drove from New York to my parents’ house in Vermont last night, and split gas with four passengers, so I was only out about $10 and the years of your life you lose from driving 4+ hours through an ice storm. Now that I’m here I plan on contributing some booze and some pie fillings. Maybe even boozy pie fillings. OK, maybe just booze.

Cord Jefferson:
For the first time in my whole life I’m not doing a damn thing on Thanksgiving, and I am so excited. I’m not going to any airport or driving on any freeways. I’m not packing any suitcases. I’m not going to any grocery store. I’m not cooking anything. I’m not feigning interest in a football game to appease my older brothers. I’m not explaining why I’m a vegetarian to anyone when they bust my balls for not eating turkey. I’m not doing the thing where everyone goes around in a circle and says what they’re thankful for (though I tend to like this part). Nothing. I’m going to buy an ambitious amount of pizza tonight and then I’m going to eat that pizza for the next 24 hours while occasionally taking breaks to do what feels good: go for a run? Get a massage? Do some writing? Go see this movie, which my friend says is exceptional? Who knows! Maybe none of that stuff, or maybe all of it. I can’t wait. Please don’t take any of this to mean that I don’t like my family or friends, because I love them all very dearly. But I will see everyone next month for that holiday; this one I think is better spent sitting in a room by myself. I assume the whole day might cost me somewhere between $20 and $100.

Emily Gould:
I bought bus tickets for me and Keith to go to MD, $200 round trip. That’s more expensive than other buses, but the bus (Vamoose) goes straight to Bethesda, saving an extra hour of dicking around getting into and then out of DC, so it’s worth it. On the bus I am going to watch 2 episodes of American Horror Story: Coven, which was free because Ruth shared her iTunes password with me. Then for the next 4 days the only thing I plan to buy is a ticket for Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which is good because I have $129.50 left til my paycheck clears.

Abby Dalton:
Bottle of wine to consume evening before departure: $10

Two round trip tickets to Charlotte, NC: $634

Rental Car to drive to Greensboro, NC and Abingdon, VA (to see both parents and in-laws): $150

Milkshakes from Cookout: $6

Catsitter (including holiday surcharge): $90

Total: $890

Lindsey Weber:
I am taking Amtrak home this year, because I am an adult with a job and I deserve it. Also because last year (or was it the year before? I forget) I took Bolt Bus and our luggage fell out, mid-ride, onto the highway. One guy in the back of the bus just happened to notice the trail of bags that we were leaving along the pavement and we had to turn around to retrieve them. So this year I’m taking the train, which ran me around $200, but will hopefully be worth it. When I get home I plan to money solely on new tights from Target, a drink at The Cheesecake Factory and a screening of Black Nativity at the Showcase Cinema de Lux in Dedham’s Legacy Place.

Blair Thornburgh:
So I was all set to write this cute little thing about how I came to work today with a quart of lard in my backpack for eventual piecrusts at my parents’ house because I’m a ~wacky foodie~ or whatever. But then I got on the subway, and I was listening to the Sufjan Christmas album (like you do), and I was thinking about this big fight I had with my roommate last night (sorry Shannon!) about Christianity (among other things), and then this man in a wheelchair rolled onto my car, and he had one leg and a big rip in his shirt and a dirty Dunkin’ Donuts bag strapped to the side. And I thought about everything that I have, which at this point is everything I’ve ever wanted. And I thought about that line from the Bible about doing unto the least. And I thought about the luxury of paying fourteen dollars for rendered organic pig fat — a nonessential foodstuff, fatty gobs of non-staple nutrition. And then I got off the train and came into work and sat down and tried to focus my instincts in a non-soup-kitchen-y way (they always have too many volunteers at Thanksgiving; I don’t want to be like that). And then I gave $100 to Philabundance. It is a lot of money and also not a lot of money, but I won’t miss it at all.

Julie Buntin:
I’ll be giving thanks with my boyfriend’s lovely family in Ohio, and I plan on spending as close to zero dollars as I possibly can. So far, the only major expense of the trip has been paying the person who’s harboring my slightly psychotic but oh-so-adorable kitten for these five days ($120). In retrospect, I should have paid a lot less for this, but I was desperate and know how annoying she can be at 6am and so paid what my guilt (at leaving her, at potentially annoying someone else over the holidays) demanded. I also spent $7 at the airport on a banana, a large coffee, and a water. I should probably also come clean about having downloaded the Divergent trilogy ($25) to read in the airport/on the plane/during conversational lulls. I HAVE PLANE/SOCIAL ANXIETY GUYS. But really, that’s it. That’s all I’m spending. If you could see how stocked the fridge is here you’d believe me. I’ll be here until Sunday so $150ish (ha, math) for five days = not so bad?

Jake Mohan:
Because we hate ourselves but love our families, my wife and I are flying into a snowstorm on the day before Thanksgiving. Skies are clear in Minneapolis, where we live, and it’s snowing in Atlanta, where we’re going. Down is up; black is white; cats and dogs are living together. For the first time ever, I was able to cover the entire cost of my plane ticket by cashing in frequent-flyer miles; It will probably be years before I can do this again. I am psyched about using my electronic devices during takeoff and landing, and less psyched about the prospect of the stranger next to me talking on his cell phone during the flight. My expenses will probably be minimal during our visit with my in-laws, as they are consummate hosts and generally refuse our offers to buy dinner or pay for groceries. After the trip I will probably send my in-laws some nice chocolates and a card as a small token of my gratitude for hosting me (along with two other brothers-in-law, four nieces and nephews, five dogs, one cat, and their four daughters. This is not a sitcom pilot about how I dislike my in-laws — I love them all very much.

I will not pay for in-flight wi-fi.

Taylor Jenkins Reid:
I’m hosting Thanksgiving at my house (Thanksgivingkuh, specifically) and I went to Trader Joe’s yesterday to get the turkey. They didn’t have one for less than thirty dollars. So I promptly turned around and went home sans turkey. Now it’s the day before Thanksgiving and I have yet to buy a turkey to feed eight people tomorrow because I’m too cheap and lazy. So I guess what I’m saying is: don’t be like me.

Rebecca Pederson:
I’m going to my boyfriend’s mom’s house, who has tasked me with making a pecan pie. I just came back from Whole Foods, where I meant to purchase a small amount of pecans from the bulk food aisle but wasn’t paying attention and accidentally bagged an entire pound. It cost me $9.99. I also bought a ceramic pie dish earlier today from Sur La Table for $20. This was an arguably unnecessary expense, but this pie dish is pretty and has a wavy border, so I won’t have to bother with doing any fluting myself! It’s important to note I’m not good at fluting, or really pastry decorations of any kind; also, I will be welcoming the first day of my period on Thanksgiving. This means that if/when my self-fluted pie crust turned out to be crooked, I am 100% confident I would have cried and cried at the dinner table until everyone’s holiday was irremediably ruined. So basically, me buying a pie dish is me being thoughtful.

Katherine Coplen:
I’ll drive the 25 minutes from my Downtown Indianapolis to my parents’ house in the suburbs, where we’ll host my mom’s extended family. ‘Bout $3–5 in gas, which is already in the tank. The real cost? The bonkers desserts that I fully plan to take over the kitchen all Wednesday night for. I am a Dessert Queen with a penchant for midnight baking. On the list: pineapple upside down cake (a request), sugar cream pie, possibly dark chocolate bourbon bread pudding or Nutella cheesecake. Cost? Who honestly knows? I go all in for Thanksgiving.

John Wenz:
For Thanksgiving, I’ll be spending it with my my girlfriend and her family in Jacksonville. Thankfully, her mother picked up the tickets, so I don’t have to worry about that. My goal is to spend as little money as possible because rent is due as soon as I get back and I’m re-entering a magical world of funderemployment in December.

Sarah Todd:
I’m flying to Nashville to visit extended family ($275 round-trip from New York). I’ll probably pick up a house gift of some kind for my aunt and uncle ($20? but what?) and since it’s the miraculous holiday of Thanksgivingukkah I also need to get a gift for my mom ($20? but what?). Since I’ll be in Nashville for a long-ish stretch, I’m also driving to Atlanta to visit a few pals. I’ll be borrowing my parents’ car (free) and I guess gas will cost… $60. I don’t know if that’s realistic. Other than that my plans include helping my parents move a mysterious family heirloom desk from point A to point B, which my dad is guessing will occupy all of Friday; catching some country music; and plowing through The Goldfinch.

Shannon Palus:
I am going home via NYC, even though my family lives approximately 1 hour via slow, winding, public bus route ($1.80 for a token) from where I live downtown in Philadelphia. The plan: megabus from downtown Philly to NYC on Wednesday afternoon ($25). Wandering around until I can meet up with a roommate from college, who is experiencing his first Thanksgiving in the US. Staying with that friend, who blessedly has an apartment in Manhattan (minimal additional travel). Going to the Macy’s parade on Thursday morning. Taking Amtrak back to Philly (with friend in tow) on Thursday afternoon ($40). Then taking regional rail (free, some tickets that my mom gave me are still kicking around my wallet) or a cab (don’t want to calculate) to the suburbs where my parents live. I am mostly apprehensive about all the traveling on/near the holiday. Didn’t seem too bad from the safety of October, when I booked the tickets. (A thirty second decision, the only 30 seconds of my life in which I have ever thought: “sure, watching a parade could be fun,” which I think just got mashed up with my actual thought which was, “hey spending some time with David, cool!!”)

Cara Dudzic:
I’m at my parents’ house in Richmond, VA for about 24 hours, and then I’m going to my in-laws in Columbia, MD for a couple of days. In between trips back to Baltimore to take care of my many terrible pets. (Pets: don’t start.) My parents insisted on covering the cost of rental car, even though there are more or less reputable buses and trains that run between the cities in question, because other family are in town, and it’s already complicated. I will still probably spend gas money, and if I’m ambitious, money for fixins for scones for post-Thanksgiving breakfast at my in-laws. And booze, probably. Let’s say $50.

Christian Brown:
So my wife and I live many thousands of miles from our family now, and this year we’re staying in LA for Thanksgiving. That means we don’t have to spend much money on things like “planes” or “anti-anxiety medication,” but also means we’re participating in our friends’ semi-traditional Orphans Thanksgiving. Anyone still in town goes over to one dude’s house, and he makes a turkey and traditional Thanksgiving food that doesn’t really make sense to eat if you’re not trying to put on a warm parka of living fat before the frost giants arrive. Everyone else makes whatever they want! Last year I think we did four cheese mac and cheese, and this year we’re making a sweet potato type thing and also roasted brussels sprouts, because nobody else will bring a vegetable. This will cost, like, 15 dollars in groceries and a morning’s worth of cooking.

I also plan on getting some wine or something? The point is this is a cheap turkey day for us, which is good, because lately we’ve been shoveling money into the furnace that is home-ownership. I am thankful for living in a climate where our lack of any functioning heating is not a danger to life and limb.

Heather Sundell:
I’m going to my boyfriend’s parents house in San Diego to act like a 28 year old baby: be fed, play Wii, and not have to spend a dime. I only date men with the best parents in the world; it’s a deal breaker.

Brendan O’Connor:
Thankfully (ha ha) my only expense will be a round-trip ticket on NJ Transit’s scenic North Jersey Coast Line. From Penn Station to Red Bank and back is just under $30 — which is not inexpensive! But, I don’t plan on needing to spend any more money than that as it’ll be a pretty quick trip: a friend who is coming down for dinner needs to be back at work on Friday, so we’ll come back to New York in the morning. Possible expense: $20 on gas if we end up driving somewhere on Thursday night? But that seems unlikely. I will be full and sleepy.

Chanel Dubofsky:
I’m in Massachusetts, so my number one plan every single day is to convince someone to drive me through the Dunkin Donuts Drive Thru (I don’t have a license or a car) so I can procure a medium coffee. ($2.02) I don’t know what it is about the Drive Thru, but it has something to do with my soul? I’ve managed to get this done twice, so that’s $4.04.

William Foster:
I’m spending the long weekend in a cabin on Mt. Hood with a group comprised of two married couples and another single dude with whom I’ll be sharing a bunk bed. I’ve already called top bunk. One of the couples has a one-year-old son, which will make this the first time in at least a decade that I’ve been in prolonged contact with a small child. These folks are into cross-country skiing, so I’ll be doing that for the first time in my life (around this rotten lake), in addition to hiking and cooking and drinking and eating and sitting in a hot tub under the cover of massive fir trees. My expenses will be: my share of rent: $116; food/drink ($114.21 in groceries purchased tonight + $24 for three Salt & Straw pints purchased yesterday + estimated $35 for remaining ingredients to be purchased tomorrow [coffee + bread + Oregon black truffles]); ski rental: $40; diesel to propel myself to and from the mountain: ~$40. Total: ~$370. Holy hell.

Meaghan O’Connell:
We’re doing Thanksgiving at our place. My mom is coming to visit, Dustin’s dad, who lives in town, is coming over, and a few friends are coming by with their corgi (yesss). So aside from the emotional toll of my mom staying on our couch for a few days (jk love u mom), it’s just groceries. We spent probably $60 between us at the farmer’s market over the weekend (milk, eggs, onions, garlic, squash, yukon golds, celeriac, sage & thyme, leeks, apples, brussels sprouts), I just spent $40 at the grocery store (pumpkin pie stuff, vegetable broth, all the awful ingredients for green bean casserole, cream, butter, a loaf of bread for stuffing, etc etc), and somehow in the next 48 hours we need to find frozen cranberries, apple cider, booze for the cider — oh and Pillsbury crescent rolls which my guilty subconscious probably made me forget at the store today, but I am saying fuck it I’m not making homemade rolls for Thanksgiving, I want the good stuff I was raised on. So that will be another $30.

OH, and I bought an inflatable turkey online for $12.99 + shipping because we are vegetarians and while it sounds kind of sad as I type it out right now, I thought it was hilarious at the time.

Logan Sachon:
I am working in the morning at the restaurant where I’m a hostess; I’ll be answering phones and wrapping up little muffins that we’re presenting at the end of the meal and then also being paid to eat what I am assured will be an epic family meal before service starts. Then I get to leave and go to my friend Rebecca’s house to eat her leftovers, as she has assured me that her Thanksgiving meal starts at noon and will be over by 2pm. But leftovers are the best part anyway, so. At some point I will call my family and be a little bit sad that they are all together and I’m not with them. But only a little bit! I’ll see them in a month.

Mike Dang:
I waited 45 minutes in line this morning in an attempt to score a whole pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds, a much loved pie shop in Brooklyn that I learned about this week through friends:

I was able to get their salted caramel apple pie, and it was $38, but I’m mostly relieved I have my contribution for Thanksgiving this year, which I’ll be spending with some cats, and at a Friendsgiving.

Support The Billfold

The Billfold continues to exist thanks to support from our readers. Help us continue to do our work by making a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time-only contribution through PayPal.