How to Throw a Holiday Party on a Budget

It’s hard to believe that our December calendar is already beginning to fill up. There doesn’t seem to be enough days in the month to attend each program, host and attend fun gatherings with family and friends, and of course squeeze in a party or two with colleagues from work. The holiday season is packed with unexpected expenses and unanticipated extras and can break even the tightest of budgets. Luckily these money saving tips will ensure that you can entertain during the merry and bright season while keeping your budget intact. Plus, these party planning tips will work any time of year, no matter what sort of soiree you throw.

Begin with a Budget
The worst thing anyone who wants to stay within budget is to shop blindly. You have to have a target amount in mind of how much you want to spend, whether you’re attending or hosting a holiday party. This requires you to plan in advance and consider each potential expense. As you begin a budget, answer these questions:

What will you wear?
Are you hosting the event in your home or do you need to rent a larger space?
Will you serve food?
Do you need to purchase a host gift?
What paper goods or consumables will be required?
Are you sending invitations?
Will there be entertainment?
Do you need to decorate your home or another venue?

While these questions may not include every area of your budget, thinking through each query will engage your thinking as you choose how much you would like to spend. If budgeting isn’t a strong spot for you, ask a friend or coworker to help you with the process. The may be able to bring a unique lens to your planning.

Simplify Your Menu
Overspending and overeating seem to go hand-in-hand during the holidays. If possible, plan a party that doesn’t require a full meal. Your guests are unlikely to go hungry thanks to the abundance of the season. Try some of these ideas to help minimize spending without compromising flavor.

Have an appetizer party. Prepare an assortment of crowd favorites like mozzarella sticks, meatballs, crock pot dips, and bread sticks.

If you’re a hosting a celebration that’s more laid back, order in pizza. Instead of having the traditional triangle shaped slice, request that your pie be cut “party style,” This will create more square shaped pieces from on pie. Plus, guests will less likely fall victim to the “eyes bigger than the stomach “ syndrome where they pick up slices that end up getting thrown away.

Instead of serving full portions of desserts, serve mini-dessert options. Bite-sized cheesecake, layer parfaits in small cups, or maybe even a milk and cookies bar with a variety of holiday classics all will delight your guests and remain cost effective.

If your event is immediately following work and requires dinner, consider hosting a potluck and ask your friends or family to bring their best dish. You can even theme the night’s food or divide the alphabet having A-M bring a salty dish to share and N-Z bring a sweet dish.

Serving food buffet style? Place the most economical items (bread or rolls, chips, veggies) at the head of the line. Guests can fill up their plates with these items first, allowing you to stretch costly foods like meat and desserts further.

Limit Beverage Options
Open bar? Cash bar? No alcohol at all? Tea, cider, hot cocoa, soda, water? Bottled beverages or cups and ice? Just considering what drinks you’ll serve at your party can make your budget dwindle down to nothing quite quickly. If at all possible, limit the beverages to 2 or 3 choices If your event is less formal, you might even consider asking your guests to bring their own favorite beverage. Dress up water with fresh fruit. Put cider or hot cocoa in a crockpot in a crockpot that doesn’t require tending to. Invest in a thermal dispenser that you’ll be able to use time and time again.

Make Digital Invites
Skip traditional paper invitations and opt for online evites instead. Not only will you save money on postage and printing, you’ll have a handy platform that will allow you to send your guests organizational information and last minute details. If you require a paper format, consider printing postcards which require less preparation (no envelope stuffing) and lower postage costs.

Limit the Guest List
When it comes to family or work events, you can’t really pick and choose who you to invite to a holiday party. However, other gatherings do have more leeway, allowing you to trim the number of guests to invite. If you’re concerned about hurting feelings, instruct those on the invite list to keep the affair Social Media “dark.” Collect phones at the beginning of the party so no one is tempted to post photos on their feed. Help invited guest feel special and remind them what it feels like to be left out.

Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing
Remember that the purpose of a holiday party is to spend time together. It’s not about flashy decor or pricy food. It has nothing to do with DJs or paid entertainment. Spending time together always trumps spending money. People remain more important than things, throughout the holidays and every other day of the year.

How do you save on holiday celebrations?

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