The real cost of Thanksgiving turkey on your wallet - November 2016

Americans to spend over $1.05 billion on Thanksgiving turkey this year

Credit card debt is expected to reach new highs as the silly season swings into gear!

The humble turkey dinner on Thanksgiving is a staple for most households across America. In fact, 85 percent of Americans will consume 45 million turkeys on Thanksgiving day, according to a 2015 report by the National Turkey Federation. This trend is likely to continue, with an expected 276 million Americans enjoying the festive feast once again this year.

So how much will this tasty poultry feast cost? We crunched the numbers and found that Americans will be spending over $1.05 billion turkeys alone this Thanksgiving, on November 24. That’s before any of the trimmings and beverages they’ll also consume. estimates that a 16 pound turkey will cost $23.44 this Thanksgiving, projected based on the past five years of data from the American Farm Bureau Federation.

And being the month before the biggest holiday season of the year, November is one of the most expensive months for credit cardholders. Last year, Americans’ combined credit card debt reached $733 billion in the last quarter of 2015 (October-December) – an increase of $19 billion from the previous quarter. We’re expecting November to be an even bigger month of credit card spending this year.

How does Thanksgiving spending compare to Christmas?

The week of Thanksgiving is one of the highest-selling weeks for all food and beverage categories combined in the U.S., second only to the week of Christmas, according to Nielsen’s Advanced Fresh Perspective data.

Despite this, turkey sales just top the amount of money spent on candy at Christmas time, with $1.049 billion spent on the seasonal sweet stuff compared to $1.054 estimated to be spent on turkeys this Thanksgiving.

Copy of Fall Festival

Our fave Thanksgiving turkey recipes:

  1. Watch Wolfgang Puck’s turkey recipe and tips
  2. “The best turkey in the world” according to Jamie Oliver
  3. Martha Stewart compiles a neat gallery of her favorite Thanksgiving turkey recipes
  4. Rachael Ray’s cider-soaked spatchcock turkey recipe
  5. Essential turkey tips and tricks from kitchn
  6. Juicy Thanksgiving turkey recipe
  7. This “best turkey recipe ever”

Tips for choosing a Thanksgiving turkey

  • Aim for at least one pound of uncooked turkey per person. This should be enough to feed everyone as well as provide leftovers.
  • Fresh or frozen? Either is just fine, so base the decision on what works best with your schedule, but always check the sell-by date if you’re buying it fresh, and give yourself at least 24 hours refrigerator thawing time for every five pounds of frozen turkey.
  • Prices per pound can range from as low as $0.59 in some supermarkets to $7 and higher for heritage turkeys, so shop around for the best deal based on your tastes, farming philosophy and wallet. Here’s a look at the average cost of 16 pound turkey:

Cost of thankgiving turkey 2016 proejcted4

Thanksgiving Turkey facts:

  • 77% of whole turkeys sold throughout the year are sold during the month of November and nearly 400 million pounds of turkey are sold in November, according to Nielsen.
  • President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863.
  • The White House tradition of “pardoning” a turkey has been traced to President Lincoln in 1863.
  • A baby turkey is called a Poult.
  • June is National Turkey Lovers’ month.
  • Minnesota produces the most Turkey of all the states.
  • Turkey is healthier than any other protein source, according to the National Turkey Federation. A three-ounce serving of cooked skinless turkey has fewer calories from fat, zero saturated fat and 8% more protein than chicken.

Not sure how to pay for Thanksgiving this year?

There’s no doubt that thanksgiving is an expensive holiday for many families across America. And lack of funds can dampen the festive season.’s Money Expert, Michelle Hutchison, says it pays to shop around before hitting the mall or your favorite online store.

“Thanksgiving is a special day for enjoying time with friends and family but it is also one of the most expensive days of the year for many families, especially if you are the one hosting. Turkey prices vary from store to store, with some as low as $0.59 a pound if you spend a minimum on other produce, so it pays to shop around.

“But what is really going to save you money in the long-term is setting a budget ahead of time. Creating a budget can help you avoid having to use your credit card and accruing interest if you don’t pay it off in time. If you do find yourself using your credit card more than usual and struggle to pay it off, it’s worth considering a balance transfer where you can transfer your debt to another card with low or no interest for a certain period of time.

Compare balance transfer credit cards

Rates last updated April 19th, 2018.

Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard®

Low 13.99% APR for purchases, BT and cash advances

January 8th, 2016

View latest updates

Jonathan Choi Jonathan
Table Image Product Description Intro APR for Balance Transfer APR for Purchases ( Purchase Rate ) Annual fee Minimum Credit Score
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express Earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive the $150 back in the form of a statement credit. 0% Intro APR for 15 months (with whichever is greater, $5 or 3% balance transfer fee) 14.49% to 25.49% variable $0 Fair (660-699) More info
The Chase Freedom® Unlimited™ credit card The Chase Freedom® Unlimited™ credit card Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase – it's automatic. No minimum to redeem for cash back. 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles (with whichever is greater, $5 or 5% balance transfer fee) 16.24% to 24.99% variable $0 Fair (660-699) More info
Chase Slate® credit card Chase Slate® credit card Jumpstart your financial fitness! 60 day introductory balance transfer offer, save on interest, and get your free monthly credit score. 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles (with $0 for transfers in first 60 days. Then $5 or 5% balance transfer fee) 16.24% to 24.99% variable $0 Fair (660-699) More info
BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card Earn more cash back for the things you buy most. 0% Intro APR for 12 statement closing dates (with whichever is greater, $10 or 3% balance transfer fee) 14.49% to 24.49% variable $0 Good (700-739) More info
HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. See Rates and Fees 0% Intro APR for first 15 months from account opening (with whichever is greater: $10 or 4% balance transfer fee) 14.49%, 18.49% or 24.49% variable $0 Fair (660-699) Go to site More info
NASA Federal Platinum Advantage Rewards Credit Card NASA Federal Platinum Advantage Rewards Credit Card Enjoy perks and save money while gaining points that never expire with every purchase. 9.9% Intro APR for 90-days 11.40% to 17.99% variable $0 Fair (660-699)
DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card A great way to establish or improve your credit history. 13.00% variable $0 Poor (Below 660) More info
primor® Secured Visa Gold Card primor® Secured Visa Gold Card Fast, easy application process. No processing or application fees! 9.99% variable $49 Poor (Below 660) Go to site More info
Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® A low, variable APR on purchases, balance transfers and cash advances. 10.49% variable $0 Good (700-739) More info
Discover it® Secured Credit Card Discover it® Secured Credit Card 2% Cashback at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus 1% cash back on all other credit card purchases. 10.99% Intro APR for 6 months (with the amount of each transfer, 3% balance transfer fee) 24.49% variable $0 Poor (Below 660) More info
Fifth Third Secured Card Fifth Third Secured Card Build, or rebuild, your credit with each purchase. 25.49% variable $24 Poor (Below 660) More info


  • To calculate the total spend on turkeys this Thanksgiving, projected the average cost of a 16 pound turkey ($23.44) based on the average growth of cost over the past five years (1.72%) sourced from the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual informal price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table, 2015 report.
  • In November 2015, it was estimated that 45 million turkeys will be eaten on Thanksgiving Day according to the National Turkey Federation.
  • We multiplied the projected cost of a 16 pound turkey ($23.44) by 45 million turkeys to find a total of $1,054,582,037 or over $1.05 billion expected to be spent on Thanksgiving turkeys this year.
  • Credit card debt was sourced from the Federal Reserve Consumer Credit data, revolving credit, month-on-month growth from October-November 2015.

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.
Go to site