If you are living the frugal life by choice or by necessity, it doesn’t mean you have to totally cut off celebrations and fun during the holidays. There are plenty of ways to cut corners and still throw a memorable party with your friends and loved ones. In fact, having your friends and loved ones around you during the holidays is the most important thing regardless of what kind of food you serve or what type of decorations you hang.
Here are 17 ways to throw a holiday party on the cheap…
1. Get Menu-Specific
Food is usually the most expensive part of planning a holiday party so nip this expense in the bud by tailoring your party to a specific type of food. Only serve hors d’oeuvres and drinks for a few hours or make the party menu dedicated only to desserts. You can also warm up a cold afternoon party with several types of soups and breads.
2. Stick with Finger Foods and Carbs
If you plan to do a more extensive menu or plan on having a larger group of people, consider having only finger foods that promise to be filling laid out buffet style. Finger foods you can make in bulk can be laid out with smaller-sized plates or make large quantities of cheaper meals like spaghetti.
3. Do the Work
When you are shopping for your party foods, don’t cave to convenience. Buy produce for the veggie tray that is not pre-cut and therefore more expensive. Use ingredients you already have at home to make homemade desserts rather than spending a fortune for already-made items in the bakery aisle.
4. Skip the Invites
When inviting your friends and family, get on the phone to do the inviting. Paper invitations are expensive as are the stamps you need to mail them. Call your guests by phone or send an email when necessary to save more money.
5. Ask for RSVPs
Make sure to stress to your guests the importance of RSVPs. In order to effectively plan for the party, especially where food is concerned, you’ll need to know how many people are planning to come. Follow up as necessary to get a proper headcount and buy food accordingly. If someone volunteers to bring a dish, accept it graciously.
6. Make It BYOB
If you plan to serve alcohol, you can provide a few bottles of wine or a specialized drink to serve guests. If you do not want to provide alcohol at all –perhaps you don’t drink – you can always request your guest bring their own alcohol. Have plenty of cups and ice and be sure to make some room in the fridge to accommodate beer and other drinks.
7. Make Less Expensive Non-Alcohol Signature Drinks
Don’t blow your budget on cases of soda and other high-priced drinks for the non-drinkers and kids. Make large bowls of punch and offer water. Not only will this cut down on the cost of drinks, it will reduce the likelihood that drinks will be wasted.
8. Invite on a Pot Luck Basis
If your party guest list consists of your closest family and friends, coordinate a potluck-style dinner menu. Supply the main dish and let everyone else fill in the blanks.
9. Party While You Cook
For smaller gatherings, invite your loved ones over for an afternoon of cooking before a nice sit down dinner. Instead of guest bringing the finished dishes to your house, offer up your kitchen and supplies to create a meal for everyone. Have guest bring ingredients. This is a great way to sip wine, learn new cooking skills, and enjoy quality time with your friends and family. Before the party ends, everyone gets to sit down to a nice meal.
10. Shop for Pennies
Don’t underestimate the power of a discount or dollar store. Merchandise is getting better as more people rely on these stores for their weekly needs. You can find candy, decorations, plates, cups, serving bowls, napkins, and so much more to help you pull off a party on the cheap. No one will need to be the wiser and you can keep everything for next year’s gathering.
11. Decorate Lightly
While you want to provide a nice space for your gathering, you don’t have to go overboard on festive decorations. Decorate as you normally would or shop for additional accent items at the local thrift store. Oftentimes when people pass away, their estate donates items to the local thrift and charity shops. You might be able to find the garland, tree trimmings, and table décor for way less than you’d pay for them in brand-new condition. Since holiday décor is only used once a year, secondhand items are often in great condition.
12. Keep Tabs on Store Circulars
When you know the date of your party, start clipping coupons based on your party menu. You should also make a point to track store circulars so you know where the deals are and when. Even a few weeks before the party you can start stockpiling non-perishable items as they go on sale.
13. Be the DJ
Technology today allows us to entertain ourselves quite easily and affordably. You can download your favorite holiday and party tunes to your iPad or live-stream apps like Spotify where you can make a playlist for the evening.
14. Think Off-Peak Party Hours
If you plan to host a holiday party that is not held at your home, consider having the party during so-called off-peak hours. Hall rentals and other accommodating locations for a party may have cheaper rates if you reserve a less popular day than Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Ask about discounts during the off-peak hours before reserving your party space.
15. Hit the Streets (Think Outside the Box)
If you want to have a fun get together but don’t have the means to have a full holiday house party, gather your friends for a different kind of party. For instance, take your party to the street by inviting friends and family caroling. Provide the song sheets for everyone and consider setting up a hot chocolate bar at your home for afterwards. Make crockpots full of hot chocolate and provide toppings like chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and marshmallows to warm up guests.
16. Make It a Movie Night
Another outside of the box idea is to have a holiday movie party. Provide the space, the movie, the candy, the popcorn, the pillows, and the blankets. Invite your guests to bring their own snacks to share. Rent several classic holiday movies, turn out the lights, and enjoy your company.
17. Throw Down After the Holidays
If you really want to go all out for the holidays, just wait. Plan your holiday party after the actually holidays. Most everything will be on clearance and much more affordable than before the holidays. You can likely stretch a dollar much further when New Years has passed. Plus an after-the-holidays party may be more convenient for your family and friends after the madness of the holidays is over. It will give people something to look forward to and a chance to relax together in your company.
What about you? Do you have other fun ideas for throwing a holiday party on the cheap?