Debtor's Diet Week 3: Setting your table on a budget

Chances are you're enmeshed in stuffing turkey, prepping pies and getting ready to set your Thanksgiving Day feast table. And if visions of getting up tomorrow at the crack of dawn to pop a turkey in the oven or to polish your grandmother's silver sound familiar, you're not alone. Scores of turkeys, platters and pies will be carefully tended to tomorrow in the hopes of presenting family and friends with a delightfully delicious meal.

But like any good cook, you know that the presentation can be just as important as the taste, which means you've got to set and decorate your Thanksgiving table. It also usually means needing to run to the store to buy table decorations you'll most likely use just once or twice. And that's an expense you don't need to incur.

Setting a table Martha Stewart would envy doesn't have to drain your wallet. Or blow your Black Friday budget.

These time-honored and road-tested tips will leave your guests thinking you pulled out all the stops -- and broke the bank -- to set a eye-popping table that's kind to your Debt Diet, since none of them cost more than $10 each.

Re-purpose, reuse and recycle
No need to buy tablecloths for each holiday meal. One white one (which can be purchased for $10 or less) is the perfect backdrop to any festive table. It's also easy to reuse throughout the holidays -- and the whole year, too.

"I like to use a white table cloth and add pops and splashes of color with the decorations, napkins and dishes," says Jill Webster. "I found one at the dollar store, and it's lasted longer than others I've spent far more on."

Start at the center
When she's setting her table, Diana Crabb likes to start from the center and work her way out. "I work off of the centerpiece," she says.

To create an inexpensive centerpiece in minutes, pull out that punch bowl that's taking up tons of space somewhere in a closet or pantry and fill it with a variety of colorful gourds. To add a glint of glitter, spray paint the gourds with gold, bronze or silver paint.

Or give your kids something to do while they're (impatiently) waiting for the turkey. "I've put my kids' creativity to use," Crabb says, "having them paint faces on a few pie-sized pumpkins I place on boxes placed under the tablecloth."

Amusing Origami
You or your kids can make origami place cards in the shape of a flower, pilgrim hat or turkey that will surely infuse your table with a unique festive flair. Using napkins, tissue or construction paper, create one of the shapes featured in Easy Origami by John Montroll, a helpful book available in paperback for approximately $3.95.

The bottom line
Before buying new, experts suggest taking a look around your house for items you can use differently to decorate your holiday table. You'll feel exhilarated to stick to your Debt Diet. And your budget will be happy to have a little wiggle room -- something that might come in handy when buying gifts in the upcoming weeks.

Next week, holiday shopping will be in full swing, which means you're going to need even more willpower and support to stick to your Debt Diet. Tune in next Friday for tips to sidestep weekend sales that aren't really "deals." For more tips and support to stick to your "diet" during the week, follow the Debt Diet on Twitter at @DebtDiet.

Gina Roberts-Grey is a freelance writer specializing in consumer issues.
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