How Much Does Christmas Dinner Cost?

Last Updated on February 22, 2024
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

The holidays are a time for joy, togetherness, and festive meals. But with inflation on the rise, many families are wondering – how much does a Christmas dinner really cost nowadays? Whether hosting a small gathering or a grand affair, the expenses can add up quickly.

However, with some planning and budgeting, you can still create a delicious holiday feast without breaking the bank.

In this article, we’ll break down the average cost of Christmas dinner and the many factors impacting the overall price tag. You’ll discover budget-friendly tips for menu planning, shopping, recipes, and more.

We’ll also look at whether to prepare the meal yourself or hire catering help. Our guide will ensure your holiday table overflows with Yuletide flavors, all while keeping your spending in check.

How Much Does Christmas Dinner Cost?

The cost of Christmas dinner varies widely depending on the size of the gathering, types of food served, and preparation method. For a family of four, expect to spend $100-150 on a holiday meal with turkey, ham, sides, desserts, and beverages. For a party of 8-10 guests, budget $200-300. Larger gatherings of 20+ people can cost $500-800+.

Formal catered events with upscale menus, full-service staff, and holiday decor can run into the thousands of dollars. However, with smart planning, it’s possible to serve gourmet food on any budget.

When estimating costs, factor in ingredients, beverages, decorations, serviceware, and any hired help. Even small extras like candles, crackers, and favors impact the bottom line. We’ll explore easy ways to scale back while preserving the merry mood.

Dalhousie University reports that a traditional Christmas meal for a group of four to six people will cost consumers approximately $104.85 on average.

In the UK, on the other hand, BBC News reports that a typical Christmas dinner costs around £32.35 this year, which is a 4.3% increase from £31 last year.

Factors Affecting the Cost of Christmas Dinner

Several key factors influence the total spend for festive dining. By understanding these cost drivers, we can make adjustments to stay within budget.

Number of Guests

The guest list size is the biggest cost determinant. Expenses scale linearly – double the diners, double the overall price. Buy ingredients, beverages, decor, etc. accordingly.

Food Choices

Seafood, prime meats, and imported delicacies hike costs quickly. Choose more economical proteins like ham, turkey, or chicken. Embrace seasonal produce for savings on the sides.

Homemade vs Store-Bought

Preparing dishes from scratch takes more effort but saves substantially versus ready-made options. However, quality convenience foods can streamline busy schedules.

Organic & Special Diets

Organic, gluten-free, vegan items often cost 20-50% more. Balance pricier selections with budget ingredients.

Hired Help Costs

Catering staff, servers, and chefs add convenience but inflate the bill. DIY hosting saves big if you have the time.

Tips for Budgeting Your Christmas Dinner

With some savvy planning, you can delight guests without draining your holiday funds. Follow these useful strategies:

  • Set a per-person budget and make choices to meet it. Allow $15-30 per guest.
  • Embrace potlucks – ask attendees to contribute dishes.
  • Seek out supermarket sales, coupons, and loyalty deals. Shop early for the best selection.
  • Buy ingredients in bulk quantities and reuse leftovers creatively.
  • Save on beverages with self-serve drinks, house wines, or punch.
  • forego fancy chairs and stemware. Thrift store dishes add charm!
  • Make the event child-friendly to save on a sitter.
  • DIY inexpensive decor using greenery, candles, and wood slices.
  • Send digital invites instead of paper and postage costs.

Typical Christmas Dinner Menu & Costs

Christmas Family DinerChristmas dinner menus vary by region, but most include festive staples like roast turkey or ham paired with classic sides, breads, desserts, and drinks. Here’s a breakdown of average costs for holiday meal components:

Main Dishes

  • Roast Turkey – $15-20 for a 10-12 lb bird.
  • Baked Ham – About $30-50 for a 6-8 lb spiral cut ham.
  • Prime Rib Roast – Around $100-150 for a 4-6 lb standing rib roast.
  • Goose/Duck – $40-60 for a 5-7 lb bird.


  • Mashed Potatoes – $3-5 for 5 lbs to serve 6-8.
  • Stuffing – $8-12 for ingredients to serve 8.
  • Green Beans – $3-5 for 2 lbs.
  • Cranberry Sauce – $2-3 for a 12-16 oz can.
  • Gravy – $3-5 for 2-3 cups.
  • Rolls – $5-8 per dozen.
  • Salad – $15-20 for greens, veggies, dressing for 8.

Desserts & Breads

  • Apple or Pumpkin Pie – $8-12 each when homemade.
  • Christmas Pudding – $4-6 per portion.
  • Yule Log – $25-35 from a bakery.
  • Fruitcake – $15-20 for a classic cake.
  • Cookies – $10-15 per dozen if homemade.


  • Wine – $5-15 per bottle. Go for house wines.
  • Eggnog & Cider – $3-5 per quart.
  • Coffee & Tea – $15-25 for service for 8.


  • Flowers – $15-30 per centerpiece.
  • Candles – $2-5 each, purchase on sale.
  • Crackers – $2-3 per multi-pack.
  • Table Linens – $10-15 each, buy discounted.

DIY Cooking vs. Catering

Preparing Christmas dinner yourself saves substantially, but requires significant effort. Hiring caterers or a private chef adds convenience at a premium price.

Catering costs typically run $50-150+ per guest including food, service, linens, and equipment. To serve a party of 10, expect to spend $700+.

You can trim catering costs by:

  • Choosing menu items that are less labor-intensive. Avoid individual plated dishes.
  • Serving family-style instead of plated.
  • Opting for lower service levels like delivery vs. full-service staff.
  • Providing your own alcoholic beverages and desserts.
  • Decorating the space yourself. Use your own plates, glasses, etc.
  • Skipping chair and table rentals.

With a DIY dinner, you’ll spend $20-50 per guest. Time and effort replace monetary costs. Reduce hassle by:

  • Making dishes ahead of time and freezing.
  • Assigning guests to bring key items like appetizers, bread, and wine.
  • Using disposable plates and cutlery for easy clean-up.
  • Simplifying the menu – focus on holiday classics.
  • Recruiting help to cook, serve, and clean up.

Either way, embrace the holiday spirit – the joy of the season is priceless!

Additional Expenses to Factor In

While the food takes center stage, don’t overlook peripheral costs that enhance the ambiance and festivities:

  • Holiday Decor: Decking the halls can range from thrifty (greenery, string lights) to thousands for all-out trimmings. Focus finery on key gathering spots.
  • Table Settings: China and glassware rentals cost $5-20 per guest. Buy disposable or thrift for vintage flair. Linens run $15-$30 each – buy discount or recent-use fabrics.
  • Beverages: Offer a signature cocktail, hot mulled wines, or spiked cider. Factor $5-$10 per guest for a full open bar.
  • Entertainment: Musicians, carolers, or magicians spread cheer for $150-$500 per hour. Make your own playlists.
  • Valet Parking: $100-$300 for service at larger gatherings. Could be essential in winter weather.
  • Invitations: Paper invites cost $1-$5 each. Save with email, calls, social invites, or DIY notes.

Trim expenses without sacrificing enjoyment by getting creative. Your thoughtfulness will shine through.

You might also like our articles about the cost of a rehearsal dinner, Easter dinner, or Valentine’s Day date.

Tools and Resources for Holiday Meal Planning

To plan an unforgettable and on-budget Christmas dinner, leverage handy resources:

  • Apps and Online Tools: Use meal planning apps to create grocery lists and budgets. Allrecipes, Paprika, Mealime, and Food on the Table all have handy holiday features.
  • Supermarket Circulars: Check weekly sales at grocers and stock up on discounted items. Look for holiday cooking wines, baking needs, etc.
  • Coupon Sites: Use online coupon sites like Groupon, RetailMeNot, Coupon Sherpa. Search for grocery, recipe, catering, and restaurant deals.
  • Cookbooks: Get inspired by holiday cookbooks from the library or secondhand shops. Find new recipes and advice for streamlining.
  • Pinterest and Food Blogs: Follow Christmas food boards and blogs to discover recipes, decor ideas, and more seasonal inspiration.
  • Spreadsheets: Make meal planning spreadsheets to organize your menu, guest list, budget and track expenditures.

Getting into the holiday spirit doesn’t have to drain your budget. With some strategic planning and creative solutions, you can serve up a festive feast filled with Christmas cheer! Focus on the memories made, not the money spent.

How do you budget for Christmas dinner?

When budgeting for Christmas dinner, first determine the number of guests and set a per-person dollar amount you can afford, generally $15-30 per person. Review menus and prices to select budget-friendly dishes like roasts, hams, seasonal sides and homemade desserts.

Look for supermarket sales and coupons to lower costs. Buy non-perishables in bulk quantities for savings. Minimize beverages and ancillary costs with self-serve and potluck options. Set up a holiday meal planning spreadsheet to track expenses versus allowance.

Get creative with inexpensive decor using items on hand. Recruit guests to contribute time, food and talents to trim labor costs. Focus more on the festive spirit than lavish trimmings. With some planning, you can host splendid Christmas dining on a budget!

What is the standard Christmas dinner?

The standard Christmas dinner menu often consists of a centerpiece roast like turkey, ham or prime rib. Classic holiday sides include mashed potatoes, stuffing/dressing, green beans, cranberry sauce, and bread rolls.

A salad course adds greenery. The meal ends on a sweet note with desserts like pumpkin pie, fruitcake or Christmas cookies, plus festive beverages like eggnog. Regional dishes like tamales or seafood may be swapped in.

But most Christmas dinners star nostalgic favorites, especially when shared with friends and family. Creating new traditions while embracing old ones makes the holiday meal meaningful and memorable.

Is Christmas dinner on 24 or 25?

Christmas dinner traditions vary across cultures. In many parts of Europe, the big celebratory meal falls on Christmas Eve, December 24th. Families gather to feast and exchange gifts after midnight mass. Roast beast and fish entrees are common. But on Christmas Day, December 25th, lighter fare is typically served.

In the United Kingdom, North America, and other regions, the holiday dinner takes place on Christmas Day. The menu often features roasted turkey, ham and classic hearty side dishes.

Timing also depends on family customs. Some enjoy Christmas dinner mid-day as the big event. Others opt for an evening supper gathering. Casual buffets or open-house events may span both days.

While the exact day and dishes vary, the importance of spending time with loved ones remains universal. Whenever Christmas dinner is served, the real gift is cherishing connections over food and giving.

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