Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holiday Parties that Don't Break the Budget

Trimming Holiday Entertaining Expenses

I just came back from a holiday party that the hostess must have spent hundreds. It was fun, but it was so over the top, and the food was barely touched because there was so much of it. My first thought was she could have cut expenses, and it would have still been a wonderful party.

1.       Alcohol is a major expense-not only are you buying liquor, you also purchase mixers, fruits, even barware if you don’t already have it.  A major savings is possible by dropping down to wine only, or a spiced punch. When you send out the invitations, indicate it is BYOB (bring your own bottle.) If you’re not comfortable with that, you can go alcohol-free.

2.       Sodas-some people stock up on a variety of sodas, which while not as expensive as alcohol, does add up. A selection of ice tea or hot apple cider, or even hot chocolate, or coffee is enough to satisfy most folks.

3.       Invitations don’t have to be fancy to get your point across-many people are using email invites sometimes featuring PDFs attachments. Got a smilebox account? Then get the most out of it by using it for Christmas cards, and holiday invites. It will save you on stamps too.

It is certainly more tactful than handing out invitations.

4.       Food-most people are under the mistaken impression that catered food is better. Usually, it’s worse and you just paid more. I would not recommend a full scale sit down dinner, unless it is for a group of eight or less. This is just too much work. A buffet with finger foods usually works much better. Places such as Gordon Food Service, Costco, Aldis, and Sam’s Club sell the large portions of the holiday fare at discount price.

5.       Fancy yourself a gourmet cook, and then you can cook ahead provided you have freezer space.

6.       Don’t be afraid of her old-fashioned pitch-in, or a cookie swap.

7.       There is also a cooking party. A theme such as Mexican or Italian is your base. You assign ingredients to the attendees. As the host, you always provide the most expensive ingredient. Then you prepare the meal together, which can be fun.

8.       You can also choose easy meals such as soup or chili. These are always winter favorites.

9.       Most people already have their house decorated for the holidays. Therefore, you really shouldn’t need anything else. Festive napkins and paper ware might add some color and make cleanup easier.

10.   Games might be nice depending on the crowd. You know your friends best. Offering small prizes might be a nice touch too. Remember keep it whimsical and cheap.

11.   Party favors can take the shape of brownie or cookies wrapped up in a bag with a ribbon to take with them.

12.   Holiday music when the first guests arrive is a nice touch, but make sure to turn down the music as more guest arrive so it won’t seem so chaotic.

13.   Make sure to take plenty of pictures. You can email them to various attendees, but I’d would advise against posting them on Facebook and tagging the people. Trust me; many folks actually resent this type of behavior.

14.   While this will not help you this year, purchase holiday paper ware and favors at 50% or below after the holidays for next year.


While it is a bad deal to run out of food or drink, make sure you don’t overbuy. Holiday goodies that you don’t normally eat won’t help your budget or waistline.  You can manage a holiday party without destroying your budget.

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