For the third consecutive year, LendEDU has conducted a survey of 1,000 adult consumers to uncover how much Thanksgiving will cost the average American.

You might be thinking to yourself, “How much money can a person possibly spend on Thanksgiving?” But in reality, that special Thursday in November is not only one of the biggest travel days of the year, but it also requires a lot more food than your run-of-the-mill dinner.

And the Thanksgiving spending statistics we've come away with might surprise you.

Average American to spend $186 on Thanksgiving

Respondents were asked the following: “How much do you expect to spend on Thanksgiving this year?”

After averaging together answers from 1,000 adult Americans who intend to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, we found an average expenditure of $186.05 per person. The median value was $100.

This year’s figure represents an increase of nearly 6% compared to last year, when the average Thanksgiving expenditure was $175.65. In 2017, the figure was at its lowest: $165.14.

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So where is all this money being spent?

According to data collected from our respondents, 18% of the average American’s total Thanksgiving expense will be going towards travel in 2019, or $33.49. The remaining 82%, or $152.56, will be used for food, drink, and other costs associated with the Thanksgiving feast.

One of the biggest costs associated with Thanksgiving is traveling. Whether it's by plane, bus, car, or Uber, millions of Americans will be hitting the road to celebrate the holiday with loved ones. AAA estimated that 50.9 million Americans journeyed at least 50 miles away from home last Thanksgiving, in addition to 4 million traveling in the sky and 1.5 million by train. Not to mention, average car rental rates spike to $70 per day during Thanksgiving.

Making the annual pilgrimage from Chicago to Texas each Thanksgiving, Stacey Caprio knows just how costly this holiday can get.

“As a consumer, I spend more on Thanksgiving travel and food. I always travel from Chicago to Texas to spend Thanksgiving with my immediate family and relatives, which includes a round-trip plane ticket,” says Caprio.

“Food is the next biggest expenditure since we feed a large family of up to 14 people,” she says. “I never regret the spend on this holiday since it brings family together in such a wonderful way.”

How to have a thriftier Thanksgiving

While the average Thanksgiving expenditure may seem a bit high, it is important to remember that this is an average figure.

Some people have more extravagant Thanksgiving parties with more than 20 guests and a smorgasbord that will require a more generous budget. These respondents would bring up the average Thanksgiving expenditure more so than those folks who enjoy just having a small group join them on Turkey Day.

With all that said, it is important to budget for Thanksgiving expenses, especially if you are hosting, so that costs don’t get away from you quickly.

Chris Tuck from SJK Wealth Management offers some tips on managing your money for the Thanksgiving feast: “Thanksgiving costs can get out of hand if you host, especially with the popularity of cooking shows and organic options. Depending on the size of your family and friends, budgets for hosting average around $500. But that can go much higher quickly.”

“It is important to first set a budget and then get creative on how to stick to it,” said Tuck. “Asking people to bring sides is always a big help. When building your budget, put a cost to each dish you plan to make and each accessory or feature (like tablecloths, flowers, etc.) and then start eliminating them to hit your budget.”

Methodology

All data found within this report came from a poll commissioned by LendEDU and conducted online by polling company Pollfish. In total, 1,000 adult Americans were polled on questions related to Thanksgiving. Respondents were screened to ensure they were planning on celebrating Thanksgiving in 2019 and Pollfish’s age filtering feature ensured that all respondents were at least 18 years old. If respondents met the criteria, they were selected at random from Pollfish’s online user panel of over 100 million.

Respondents were asked to enter in an exact dollar amount when answering how much money they were expecting to spend on Thanksgiving-related expenses in 2019. After we collected 1,000 individual responses, we were able to calculate the average expenditure and the median expenditure. Respondents were also asked to enter in an exact proportion for both Thanksgiving travel and feast expenses. These respective values were also averaged together for each category. This poll was conducted over a two-day span from October 7, 2019 to October 8, 2019. All respondents were asked to answer each question truthfully and to the best of their abilities.

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