5 Tips for an Inexpensive Thanksgiving Table Setting 


As Thanksgiving approaches, many people are looking for ways to celebrate without breaking the bank. Here are 5 tips for creating an inexpensive Thanksgiving table setting.  These tips save money while ensuring you have a pretty table setting.

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​The holiday season can be stressful and expensive!  So here are some tips on how to create a beautiful Thanksgiving tablescape without spending a lot money. These tips are especially useful if you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner for a large group of people. 

5 Tips for an Inexpensive Thanksgiving Table Setting 

Thanksgiving always seems to be a big event in our family.  Although the setting varies from year to year, we usually have between 4-10 people celebrating the holiday and eating a meal together.   I enjoy setting the table for Thanksgiving since it allows me to be creative and, more importantly, it makes guests feel welcome. Having a beautiful Thanksgiving table setting always seems to be appreciated by friends and family members. 

Having said that, a beautiful setting can be expensive.  Over the years, I have learned a couple of tricks that allow for creating a beautiful yet cost effective Thanksgiving table. While it is nice to order floral centerpieces from your local florist and buy a matching set of china that will serve 10 or more people, these things aren’t always in the budget. So it was with this in mind that I thought I would share 5 tips for creating a beautiful table setting while still staying within budget. 

1. Use What You Already Have

It can be challenging to come up with a set of matching china, that include plates, bowls, cups and more, when you have a large group of people to serve.  The easiest solution is to use what you have while mixing and matching solids with patterns or colors.  If you have a good selection of white plates and dishes, they act as a great foundation for accent plates and bowls with colors and patterns.  

Inexpensive Thanksgiving Table Setting

For example, this summer I purchased a set of 12 bread plates, a set of 14 large bowls and a set of 12 berry bowls in a brown transferware pattern.  However, I don’t have any dinner plates in this pattern.  So, I simply layered these smaller plates and bowls on top of existing white dinner plates.  An added bonus is that white dinner plates are fairly affordable and easy to find.  See tip #5 for more information on where you can find solid white dinner plates. 

The same is true for napkins and table linens.  If necessary, I will mix and match cloth napkins in coordinating colors.  This year, I had plenty of white cloth napkins to use. 

2. Pick a Color Scheme

Limiting your range of colors will help to ensure a cohesive and intentional look for your table setting.  

Pick a color scheme

This year I wanted to use brown transferware and accent it with the rust colors and golds from natural elements outside.  However, you could also chose neutral colors such as whites, creams and tans.  Or you could embrace the fall season by choosing oranges, reds and yellows.  Selecting a color scheme will help you identify other foliage, linens, plates, and glasses you want to use for your dinner table setting. 

3. Forage Outside 

While I love buying floral arrangements from my local florist, sometimes it’s not in the budget.  To create a centerpiece or table runner for the table, I went outside and clipped Azalea branches, which had leaves turning fall colors, and some fern leaves that had recently turned a rust color due to a frost.  

Forage outside for natural elements

Natural elements bring character and beauty to a table setting. Here are some other items you can gather from outside for a floral arrangement:

  • pine cones
  • dried grasses
  • fall leaves  – in the northeast Maple leaves always look pretty this time of year
  • dried thistles
  • herbs 
  • acorns
  • dried hydrangeas

In addition to using the azalea branches and ferns, I also gathered bunches of fresh rosemary. 

If foraging outdoors isn’t your cup of tea, going to the grocery store is a great option.  You can buy mini pumpkins, fresh herbs, and even bags of pine cones at many grocery stores.  There are so many options for creating an easy Thanksgiving centerpiece that doesn’t cost a lot of money.

Along with the azalea branches, and ferns, I tucked in small white pumpkins and gourds as the floral centerpiece for the dining room table. You can use medium sized pumpkins and gourds too! In general, I try to keep the decor in the center of the table low enough so people can see the person sitting across from them during Thanksgiving dinner.

4. Think Outside the Box

Let me be the first to say, you do not need 10 napkin rings for Thanksgiving.  Buying 10 or more napkin rings can add up quickly.  

Little deer and ribbon for napkin ring

So, this year, I used velvet ribbon instead. Thinking outside the box is a great way to save money while cultivating a unique table setting.  Another example of thinking outside the box was the addition of the little deer that were tucked into the velvet ribbon for the napkins and which was then set on top each place setting. These little deer are meant to be toys but I thought they were charming and perfect to use for our simple Thanksgiving table setting.  You can find similar deer HERE. I also decided to add a generous sprig of fresh rosemary.

You can also tuck name cards into ribbon wrapped napkins or natural elements such as small pine cones or acorns.  There are so many creative ideas you can use.   None of which need to cost a lot of money.

5. Visit the Dollar Store

Our local dollar store (Dollar Tree) has saved me many times when it comes to entertaining a large group of people.  Some of the items I have purchased in the past for entertaining 10 or more people include plates, coffee mugs and water glasses.  At $1.25 each I can have a matching set of 10 drinking glasses for $12.50.   For consistency and to ensure harmony among the dinner table items, I buy all plates and mugs in a solid white.   

Water Glass from the Dollar Store

During the summer months when I am out at antique shows, fairs, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets, I keep an eye out for large sets of china and glassware that can be purchased at a good price. This is how I stumbled upon the set of brown transferware dishes that I am using this year for our Thanksgiving place settings. 

Use Candles

One more suggestion for the road. If anything brings that sense of magic to a meal- it’s candles.  In my mind, it’s difficult to have too many candles.  

Use candles scattered down the table

You can use tall taper candles to create height in your Thanksgiving tablescape or you can opt for small votive candles scattered down the center of the table.  You can usually buy a pack of votive candles for less than $10 like THESE.  You can also pick up a packet of 6 or so votive candles at your local dollar store.  Using candles is one of the best ways (and most inexpensive ways) to have an elegant thanksgiving table. 


If your Thanksgiving table isn’t perfect and isn’t up to your desired standards – don’t worry! The whole point of Thanksgiving is to spend time with those we love and to be grateful for all we have in our lives.  Ultimately it is the time you spend with people that matters most.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like the following:

Mixing Vintage and New Items for the Holiday

Mixing Vintage and New Items for Holiday Decor

Collecting Brown Transferware Platters

Collecting Brown Transferware

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  1. Just lovely, Anna!!
    I ADORE all of those transfer plates…what an amazing find! Super great advice on clipping things from nature to use on a table, too. That really saves so much money!! The colors of your table are moody and so fantastic for the season. Great job, friend!!

  2. Hi Anna! Beautiful table setting, love the simplicity and especially the colors. You got me at the ferns and rosemary, my favorites. My home has so many of both, they are so handy for decorating. Simple, classic and cozy. Wishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. So lovely and I so agree – it’s hard to have too many candles. Like your ideas: layering plates, foraging outside, and incorporating little toys for inexpensive flights of fancy. Beautiful tablescape!

  4. Hi Anna! I hope you had a fabulous Thanksgiving! Your table looks so pretty! Brown transferware is my favorite and I adore the ones you found! Thanks for all the great tips! Take care, Donna

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