By day, Shameeka Ayers is the mother of a teenage son, a wife and a professional developer of training materials designed to enhance sales for a pharmaceutical company.
On the surface, she bears little resemblance to the woman many Atlantans have gotten to know as The Broke Socialite, a lifestyles blogger with “champagne taste” but no desire to entertain guests, shop or socialize on a champagne budget.
“I never pay full price for anything,” Ayers said. “It really offends me to do that.”
Whether it’s a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes, a bag of groceries or a dinner party, Ayers seeks out ways to save. What began as a way to share some of her tips with friends and family has expanded into a steady diet of tweets and blogs.
When she and her husband, an application developer, were both laid off five years ago, Ayers became “really creative” when it came to spending. That eventually led to the blog’s launch in 2007.
And that has led me to Ayers in a search for ways to host a stylish Thanksgiving meal without spending a lot of money — a Martha Stewart meets Everyday Hostess affair.
Tip 1: Consider brunch instead of dinner. Breakfast is almost always cheaper than dinner, so combining breakfast dishes with a lunch menu will save money.
Tip 2: Use pumpkins to accentuate your table setting. Why buy costly table settings when you can use inexpensive pumpkins or gourds, setting the tone for a fall feast and cutting costs at the same time.
Tip 3: Shop bargain stores. You can indeed have a classy gathering on a bargain budget. Ayers frequents the Dollar Tree, Big Lots and Ikea for items such as the ones she recommends for this brunch: a white tablecloth or table mats, white candles and white dinner and salad plates.
Tip 4: Cloth napkins deliver a special touch. Ayers says she pays $6 to $8 for cloth napkins. “It lends a very rich look,” she said.
Tip 5: Table favors allows a host to make the guests feel special. Ayers often uses small picture frames that she collects from discount stores, and writes everyone’s name on nice paper tucked into the frame.
Tip 6: Fresh flowers can cost a lot — or not. In Ayers case, she first searches the day old flower bucket a a local grocery store and pulls off the aged petals. “For $5 to $8, you can have a nice bouquet.”
Of course, none of this addresses the food, which is front and center on Thanksgiving. You can save there, too, by making some smart choices.
Plan ahead: Think about what you want to serve and begin looking for coupons and sales announcements on those items. You’ll save a lot more money by thinking ahead, rather than waiting until a day or two before to rush into the grocery store.
Ask for help: These days, no one will mind if you ask your guests to bring a covered dish. This will save you time and money.
Make a choice: Do you really need a ham and a turkey? Choosing one is a good cost-saving measure.
Start from scratch: In the rush of our daily routine, it’s easy to pick up ready-made food and pop it in the microwave. To make the occasion special — and save money — make your food, like fresh breads and pies, from scratch.
Give thanks: It has been a rough year for countless people. Floods and unemployment, to name only two factors, have made life difficult. In the end, what has sustained us is the love and support of family and friends.
What tips do you have for hosting a Thanksgiving feast?
Follow me on Twitter @atlbargains