With the right hacks, holiday hosting can be a breeze. But just because you plan to host the party of the year doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune. Don't start the New Year with a dent in your pocket. Follow these tips to host an affordable holiday party.
Set a budget
Before you make any plans for your party, assess what you'll need to host the celebration. Once you have a theme or an idea in mind, it's time to set a budget. Having a strict spending limit before you begin your shopping will guarantee you're not left with a dent in your bank account you didn't see coming.
Make a priority list
Now that you have a budget, it's time to think about what you'll need to purchase. Create two lists, one dedicated to what you absolutely need and one to what you want if there's money left over in your budget. A new Christmas tree or holiday-themed dinnerware sounds great on paper, but chances are you won't need it to throw a great party.
Keep your guest list small
Don't go crazy with the guest list. Inviting that friend you haven't spoken to since high school or that distant cousin might sound like the polite thing to do, but more guests equal more money you'll have to spend to keep everyone entertained and fed. Invite your closest family and friends and people you know will show.
Opt for digital invitations
Designing custom invitations and mailing them to your guests adds up. Instead of spending money on this process, send digital invitations. It's free, and it eliminates the chance of anyone's invitation getting lost in the mail. It also allows guests to RSVP faster, which will help you when preparing the appropriate amount of goods for everyone.
Shop your pantry
Prior to heading out to the grocery store, take a look through your pantry to see which ingredients you have at the ready. Not only will this prevent you from wasting money on duplicate items, but you might be able to prepare a few dishes with what's hiding in the back of the cabinet. Check the expiration date and put those items to use.
Shop for discounts
When planning a holiday party on a budget, the dollar store is your best friend. It's affordable, convenient and many items you'd find at an expensive retail store will also be available there. No one will judge you for making smart decisions.
Receive rewards on purchases
Once you've purchased all that you can from the dollar store, it's time to branch out and do some more smart shopping. An easy way to earn while you're spending is to shop at stores that are partnered with your credit card company and offer rewards with every purchase. A 10% cashback reward might not sound like a lot, but it adds up. Plus, using your credit card wisely is just one way to improve your credit score.
You can easily cut your bill in half by using coupons. Browse your local newspaper for deals. And if you don't have the paper on hand, plenty of popular chains like Target have apps with daily deals.
There are certain items that you should always buy generic, like baking supplies and canned vegetables, but consider adding a few other generic items to the list. Heinz ketchup might be your favorite condiment, but if your local store is having a sale on store-brand ketchup, go the cheaper route. No one will be able to tell the difference once you add your creative spin, and the cash saved here will be able to go toward something you really want.
Don't overspend on alcohol
If you're tempted to make your favorite cocktails for your party, chances are you plan to load up on booze. But the cost of alcohol adds up fast. Instead of buying different types of liquor, stick to one and have a signature drink for the night along with beer and wine. And don't overspend on pricey brands just because of the name. Buying generic is fine here as well.
Or make it BYOB
Everyone has different tastes, and if you feel like only having one type of liquor will put a damper on your party because it limits guests, consider making it BYOB. Purchase a bottle or two of your favorite drink and tell your guests to bring a drink of their choice. Chances are they might be planning on bringing something anyway. Bringing something is definitely one of the ways to be the ultimate holiday party guest. Just asking in advance will put your mind at ease and save you from overspending for the sake of appeasing everyone.
Have a hot chocolate bar
There's no beverage that screams "holiday" more than hot chocolate. And if you want a holiday-themed drink for your party without the headache of excessively spending on alcohol, a hot chocolate bar is the perfect way to go. Prepare a large batch of hot chocolate in a slow cooker and arrange toppings like whipped cream and marshmallows in a separate bowl. Guests can pour and decorate their own drinks throughout the night.
Prepare appetizers rather than dishes
Your mother's famous lasagna might be a crowd favorite, but cooking a full-course meal large enough to satisfy every guest is expensive. Appetizers are simple, tasty and affordable, and you can prepare as many as you'd like without wasting money. Southern-inspired sausage balls, fresh tomato bruschetta and macaroni and cheese bites are just a few appetizers that your guests will rave about.
Make it a potluck
When in doubt, make your holiday celebration a potluck. Preparing dishes that fulfill everyone's needs can get pricey. And whether it be because of food allergies or health issues, one or two of your guests are bound to have dietary restrictions that prevent them from diving into your meal. With a potluck, your guests can have fun showing off their culinary skills and you'll save big in the end.
Bake your own desserts
There are several holiday dishes you should just buy, like cornbread and glazed ham, but items like baking mixes shouldn't be purchased from the grocery store. Cakes, cookies and brownies are easy to make from scratch, and the ingredients are cheaper than buying boxes of Betty Crocker cake mix.
Make it a brunch
Switch up the narrative and make your holiday party a brunch. Breakfast dishes, like eggs and bread, are low-priced, and you can buy them in bulk. And just because your party is brunch-themed doesn't mean you have to host in the afternoon. Brinner, or breakfast for dinner, is always a great option. Planning the perfect menu is easy, just be sure to be a smart holiday shopper.
Host at home
Renting space for your holiday party is a cool idea, but it can cost anywhere between $100 an hour to $2,000. Add in the cleaning fee, and you're looking at an expensive bill. Hosting at home is free and you'll be in the comfort of a space you know best. It'll make decorating and planning that much easier.
Reuse old decorations
This might sound like common sense, but if you have old decorations from a previous party, don't trash them, reuse them. Your guests won't notice, and you'll save. Items like tinsel and garland can be reused at a New Year's Eve party and pine needles from your wreath can be used in a festive potpourri.
Put your craftiness to the test and make your own party decorations. Paper snowflakes, coffee filter garlands and snowball wreaths made from styrofoam balls are easy to make, and the entire family will have fun on the arts and crafts project.
Use Christmas lights as decor
Spending extra cash on a few lamps that will illuminate your home might sound good, but there's a simpler and more affordable option: Christmas lights. Christmas lights are inexpensive, and they make any space magical. You can either go bold with large, colorful lights or use small gold or white lights for an elegant look.
Skip the disposables
Disposable dinnerware does make tidying up much easier, but using the dishes you already have in your home is money saved. Mismatched cups or plates are fine. Guests will care more about what's going on the plate than whether it matches or not.
Borrow don't buy
Asking for help when we need it most is one of the many lessons our parents taught us, and it should be applied even when hosting a party. If you don't have enough seating at your home, ask a family member if you can borrow a few chairs. And if you need a punchbowl or slow-cooker for your drinks, reach out to a close friend. Don't spend money on extra items that'll end up in the back of the garage once the party's over.
Keep the entertainment fun but simple
Once everyone is full and satisfied, play fun and free games. Never Have I Ever, charades or YouTube karaoke are great forms of entertainment that will keep the party going and cost you nothing.
Create your own photo booth
Photographs give us the chance to look back on a special time and remember the great moments we had with our loved ones. But hiring a photographer can be expensive. Create a DIY photo booth by hanging decorations on the wall in your home and adding a few holiday props.
Keep party favors simple
Thanking your guests for taking the time to show up to your party is holiday hosting etiquette 101, but if you want to go the extra mile and give small gifts, don't overthink it or overspend. Something as simple as holiday socks are affordable, adorable and thoughtful. And if you're artistic, get creative and make your guests a party favor. Who knows, you might be able to use your skills and start a holiday business.
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