We all know what Thanksgiving entails--turkey, pies, family, friends, acceptable overeating, and leading up to and directly after the event, a whole lot of sleeping. It's a fantastic holiday, and unlike Christmas or the various birthday parties you attend throughout the year, you can typically get through it without spending an egregious amount of money.
Unless, however, you are a frequent Friendsgiving attendee.
Friendsgivings are mini Thanksgivings that groups of friends will throw leading up to the one big, true Thanksgiving. They typically involve everybody bringing a dish to the event to create a potluck-style feast. With no family involved, this means mom and dad aren't around to shell out for the turkey or the mashed potatoes. It's on you to finance your delicacy.
And, if you're a part of multiple friend groups, those contributions can very easily turn into quite the expense. Here's how to make sure that doesn't happen.
1. Emphasize The "Friends" In Friendsgiving
This is going to sound like an awful piece of advice, but it has to be said: You may not exactly be friends with everybody who invites you to a Friendsgiving. Meaning, maybe your coworkers that are kind-of-sort-of-cool are having one, or you get tangentially invited to one by a friend of a friend of a friend.
If you're not close to the host, there's no need to attend that Friendsgiving. The sheer amount of them will eat into your wallet, and you'll likely get tired of making your specialty dish four or five times in a row. All of this just to spend time with people that are just... OK.
I've been in both scenarios, actually. As a Friendsgiving n00b, I attended one a coworker was hosting and one I was invited to by a friend of a friend. They weren't bad by any means--I chatted a little, met a few people, and mingled. But, they weren't so socially enjoyable that I felt the cost of attendance (a nice bottle of red wine for each) was really worth it.
Make sure you do your Friendsgiving with the people that you're closest to. For everyone else, maybe stop by toward the end and bring something small, but if you don't want to go, don't feel obligated to.
2. Cook Something
Once you've decided which Friendsgivings you're actually going to attend, the next logical question is, what are you going to provide? Are you going to attempt to make something from scratch or are you going to purchase a premade something or other?
When it comes to money, the former option is usually your best bet--it's always cheaper to make things than it is to buy them. However, that's contingent on your ability to prepare something that is A). edible, B). transportable, and (assuming you're not making it the day of) C). fridge-able.
If you don't have cooking skills, consider enlisting the help of a more culinary friend. Or, if you're like me and live at home with a mother who basically cooks for a living, then you're all set.
There are people out there who actually enjoy cooking things and don't see it as a chore. Get one of them to help you, and you're well on your way to Friendsgiving success. As soon as you figure out what to cook, that is.
3. Go For The Carbs
When choosing a dish, I've often found that carbs are your best friend, both in terms of preparation and cost. The main mission of Friendsgiving is to assure that you're not the poor soul that gets tasked with bringing the turkey. That's a whole lot of effort you do not need.
When hitting the grocery store, look for things like easy-make mashed potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, pastas (yes, that's a Thanksgiving food in my mind!), or easy-make salads. You may even be able to get away with making a no-frills apple pie. All of these foods will feed the masses, and they are both prep and cost light.
My favorite go-to? A yam and marshmallow casserole. Buy a can of yams, put them in a pan, cover with marshmallows, and bake for a delectable, sweet, calorically rich dessert. Your friends will love you; their waistlines will hate you.
Do you have Friendsgiving survival tips? Leave them in the comments.
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This post was originally authored by SALT contributing writer Michael Restiano. ©2015 American Student Assistance.