Make Merry, Not Broke: A Cheap Guide to Holiday Entertaining

| December 1, 2008 | 0 Comments

christmas party toastYes, you can be festive on a budget.  Holiday parties need not bust your wallet.  Here’s our top ten tips for fun and thrifty holiday entertaining:

1. Create a budget before writing your invite list.  Then you’ll know how many guests you can afford to entertain.  Nothing worse than having the whole neighborhood show up to find you empty-handed.

2.  Go team!  Why burden yourself with all the costs?  Get a friend to co-host the party (and share the expenses) with you.  And of course, there’s the classic potluck party.  Divvy up the main dishes, appetizers, side dishes and dessert assignments among your guests.

3. Be a borrower – chances are, some of your friends and family own some good holiday decor, dishes and table linens they can lend to you for your event.  Of course, you’ll invite them to your party.  Then they can just take their items back home with them.  Also check out your local library for holiday CD’s and movies.

4. Open the cupboard to see what you already have on hand. Then find recipes that use up those ingredients, rather than having to make a big and expensive food shopping trip.  Go to Recipeland.com for ideas.

5. Dessert night.  Dinner too costly a concept?  Invite everyone for dessert.  Have a cookie-decorating party; it’s fun, easy and inexpensive.

6. Deck the halls over brunch. Why not party and get your decorating done at the same time?   Eggs, bagels or muffins, and other breakfast fare is relatively cheap.  And you can scrimp on (or avoid) liquor costs for an early-hours party; at most you can offer a mimosa or bloody mary but even that’s not really necessary.

7.  Save money on booze.  Alcohol is a huge expense when entertaining.  Have a wine/beer liquor potluck where your guests supply the spirits.Or consider serving a spiced cider to reduce your expenses. Old fashioned, non alcoholic holiday punches are another great idea and are typically much more affordable than alcoholic drinks.

8.  Organize buffet food by cost: Put less-expensive, filling foods such as breads and veggies at the head of the buffet table, where guests will start filling their plates. Put the pricier shrimp and meat towards the end of the line. Partygoers will naturally fill up on the less expensive items before hitting the costlier grub.

9.  Dollar stores are your best friend.  For a mere buck, you can find all kinds of party snacks, soft drinks and candy, plus scads of festive holiday decorations, candles, plates, glasses and plastic cutlery.  My personal favorite is Dollar Tree.

10. Organize a volunteer party instead.  In times like these, there are many people in need.  Do some searching, identify a good local volunteer opportunity and invite your friends and family to join you in helping your community.  Try VolunteerMatch.org or RedCross.org.  Or host an event at your home where your guests can contribute to a charity project.  For example, you could collect toys to donate to Toys for Tots.

Dean adds:

-Hosting a holiday lunch is usually cheaper than hosting a holiday dinner.  Something to consider when planning your holiday party.
-Always remember it is not about how much you spend but how much fun you and your guests have.  The best food in the world don’t mean much if the party is dead.  Be creative and plan some social interactive games or ice breakers to entertain your guests.
-If things get tough you can always charge cover at the door.  Just kidding, but if you do hire a bouncer :p

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