Fun and Frugal Holiday Parties

By Mike Peterson
In December 25, 2012

The holiday season is here, and that means one thing:  Parties.  Chances are, you’re planning at least one holiday-themed party this year – and if you’re like most folks, you’re looking for a way to cut costs – without cutting the fun.


No worries.  Whether you’re planning a casual get-together for the gang from work or a fancy New Year’s Eve bash, there’s a way to do it without spending your life savings.  Here are some great tips for throwing a super-frugal (and super-fun!) holiday party:


  • Skimp on invitations.  Sure, there’s something elegant about a personalized invitation on nice, heavy paper – but unless you’re planning a pricy, black-tie affair, there’s no reason to spend a ton on invitations.  If you’re planning a laid-back gathering, consider sending invitations via email.  If you don’t want to skip the formal invites altogether, use your computer to create custom invitations for a fraction of what you’d pay at stationary store.  You can even buy slightly sturdier paper and create postcard-style invitations – there’s no need to shell out the extra money for envelopes!


  • Go potluck.  A potluck is a great way to keep costs down.  Ask each guest to bring a favorite appetizer, side dish, or dessert to share.  Serve everything buffet-style, and voila!  Instant dinner party.  This is a frugal alternative to doing everything yourself – and it’s also a nice way to distribute the workload a bit.


  • Skip dinner entirely.  If you’re trying to keep costs down, you might want to consider alternatives to a full, multi-course dinner.  Instead, consider throwing a more narrowly focused party.  Go retro and host a 70’s-style fondue party.  Invite friends for a night of wine and cheese pairings, or host a cocktail or dessert party – you and your guests can still eat, drink, and be merry at a fraction of the cost.


  • Don’t deck all of the halls.  Decorations can send a party budget way out of control – especially if you try to turn your entire house into a festive holiday wonderland.  Limit your decorations to the places that your guests are most likely to notice, like the front door, entryway, powder room, and the buffet table.  And remember, decorations don’t have to cost a fortune:  A few candles or a glass bowl full of inexpensive ornaments in bright colors can help set just the right mood.


  • Keep drinks simple – and inexpensive.  Drinks – particularly fancy alcoholic drinks – can drain a party budget pretty darn fast.   If you plan on serving alcohol, choose a festive “signature drink” for your party instead of offering guests access to a full bar.  Or, keep things basic:  limit drink offerings to water, non-alcoholic punch, and red and white wine.


  • Use real dishes.  Yes, it’s very easy to buy disposable plates, forks, knives, and cups for your holiday party – but it’s much cheaper to use your real stuff and commit to spending a few hours on cleanup.


  • Set a budget.  Before you start shopping and decorating, it’s important that you sit down and figure out exactly how much you want to spend.  Consider how many guests you’re inviting, what food or drinks you plan to serve, and how you’d like to decorate.  Do some comparison shopping to find the best prices before you buy anything.  And once you decide on a party budget, stick to it – don’t let a few impulse purchases ruin your plans.


Are you planning a holiday party this year?  How do you keep things frugal and fun?  Leave me a comment and let me know!

Mike is the author of “Reality Millionaire: Proven Tips to Retire Rich” and he has been published in a variety of local and national publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, Deseret Morning News, LDS Living Magazine, and Physicians Money Digest. He holds a B.S. in business administration from the University of Phoenix.

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