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Have a happy Thanksgiving without going broke

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Updated: 11/24/2013 1:19 pm
From $50 turkeys to just the right Napa wine, ingredients for the perfect Thanksgiving feast can put a hole in any budget, especially in these hard economic times.

But don't lose heart. Regardless of your financial means, you can have a great meal and spruce up your home, too, said Shelley Wolson, author of "Budget Celebrations: The Hostess Guide to Year-Round Entertaining on a Dime."

"The basic rule is you have to allow people to bring food," said Wolson. "I think people are expecting to help out this year, especially."

In addition, she said, hosts also can decorate on a dime, and bringing the outdoors in is really a great way to be festive without spending any money.

"You don't have to be Martha, but you have to be a little creative," she said.

Other tips for an inexpensive Thanksgiving feast, according to Wolson, include:

Decor

Make simple homemade decorations, using the family to help. This offers a personal touch and makes it festive.

Bring the outdoors in, with leaf place cards using real leaves or cardboard cutouts covered in fancy gold-covered tissue paper.

Add real acorns or inexpensive acorn ornaments from a craft store. The advantage to those is that you can reuse the craft-store acorns every year.

Make a banner in fall colors to hang on a banister or over the fireplace.

Use colorful leaves that aren't dry or little colorful Chinese paper lanterns that can be purchased at low cost from a craft store.

Food

Let everyone help. No one expects you to foot the entire bill for dinner, especially in this economy.

You do the turkey, maybe the stuffing, one side and one dessert. Assign everyone else something to fill in, especially desserts and sides. Beverages and wine, too.

If you're having people over who are not family, have guests bring their families' favorite or traditional recipe they always make.

Use more veggies. They're more cost-effective. Do a nice salad with homemade dressing and toasted pumpkin seeds. Make a vegetable-based soup. It's filling and inexpensive.

Don't try out a lot of new recipes this year; you'll end up buying a lot of extra ingredients you may not use again.

Alcohol

Try offering a "signature drink" -- a special festive concoction instead of a full open bar or expensive wine.
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