How to Host a Holiday Party on a Budget

During the holidays, expenses can add up quickly.

The holidays are an expensive time of year. There are gifts to buy, events to attend, and family members to visit, and costs can add up quickly before you’ve even had a chance to consider hosting a gathering of your own.

Not to worry—great parties don’t have to include catered food, a full bar, and presents for hundreds. Here are a few steps to hosting a low-stress, limited-budget holiday party you’ll actually get to enjoy.

Forgo the Formal Invite

Save money, paper, and time with a digital invitation. Use a service like Paperless Post or Evite, or, if your friends are social-media savvy, simply create a Facebook event. These platforms make it easy to track RSVPs and communicate with guests.

Cut the Guest List

Instead of inviting everyone you know, stick with an intimate event for close friends, says Natasha Rachel Smith, a personal finance expert at TopCashback.com. “A small gathering will give everyone the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company and keep you from exceeding your budget.”

Use an “Off” Day or Time

If you are hosting at a venue outside of your home, consider planning your event on a weeknight or on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Weekend evenings are primetime for parties, so demand is generally high and prices are at a premium.

Irene St. Onge, an event planner with Soirée Special Events in New York, recommends considering a post-holiday party instead when event venues and restaurants offer discounted rates. With odd days and times, your guests are also less likely to have conflicting events to choose between.

Say “Yes” to Help—and Be Specific

If guests offer to bring food or beverages or assist with cleanup, accept. This takes the pressure off of you to do it all yourself and allows others to feel good about contributing. Don’t be afraid to provide specific suggestions—holiday cookies for dessert or one type of alcohol for the bar—to cover all of your needs and minimize any confusion for your guests.

Pick Potluck

Holiday parties are perfect for potlucks. Provide the main course—a hearty slow cooker stew is simple and inexpensive for a crowd—and ask guests to supplement with appetizers, sides, and sweets. Use a Google Sheet or an invite service like Punchbowl to request specific items and coordinate who is bringing what. Otherwise, you might end up with three veggie trays and no dessert.

Or Skip Dinner Entirely

Cut costs even further with a brunch or dessert party. Brunch food can be less expensive and easier to prepare than dinner, works well as a buffet, and lends itself to an abbreviated beverage menu of mimosas and Bloody Marys. Or host a wine and dessert night and ask people to bring their favorite holiday treat to share.

Save on Alcohol

Instead of opening up a fully stocked at-home bar, offer a single signature drink. This keeps costs down, simplifies glassware and preparation requirements, and leaves room for guests to bring their favorite beverage to supplement.

Keep Decor Simple

Recycle the holiday decor you already own, and focus on decking the halls in which your guests will actually congregate. A little bit goes a long way—a few well-placed vases of flowers from the grocery store are an easy and inexpensive touch. Don’t be afraid to use your own plates, cups, and flatware, even if you have to mix and match. For easier cleanup, opt instead for simple plasticware.

Put Your Smart Home to Work

Stress less about decor and ambiance with a little bit of help from your smart home hub. Ask Alexa to pick your holiday playlist, set the scene with your smart light bulbs, and task your smart thermostat with moderating the temperature as crowds come and go. Home automation allows you to step back and enjoy the party – worry-free.

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