The holidays can be a sticky time for people with a strict budget. It’s hard to get into the festivities when you’re trying to watch your spending, and it’s even harder still to throw a party. If you’d rather be jolly than Scrooge, however, you can still have a low-key gathering that will be fun for everyone without overspending or breaking the bank. The key is to plan ahead, perhaps setting aside some money for a holiday fund. If you haven’t done that this year – or you still don’t have much in your budget, the idea of a holiday party might be a wistful wish. There are ways around it. Opt for a modest event that focuses more on spending time with friends and family than spending money having the most spectacular bash of the season. Here are 5 steps to throwing a holiday party on a tight budget.
1. Time it carefully. The date and time of your party will affect what type of party you have and what refreshments you serve. The type of party you have and the refreshments you serve will greatly affect your spending. You can keep it simple and cheap with an afternoon event with punch and cookies or serve some hors d’oeuvres. If you’re looking at hosting a meal, the starting time should be either lunchtime or between 5 and 7 for dinner. This could cost considerably more. A pot luck is always an option, but you’ll need to coordinate who’s bringing what to make sure that there is enough food for your guests. The type of beverages you serve will also affect the grand total, so plan that carefully as well.
2. Keep the guest list small. Come up with the number of people that you can reasonably accommodate and make a list. You don’t have to invite everyone you know. Whittle it down to the magic number with perhaps a few extra names and the expectation that not everyone will be able to attend.
3. Invitations can be sent out for free by email or on social media channels. They can also be done by phone. If you like the old-fashioned form of sending out written invitations or you don’t have updated contact information for people, buy a cheap pack of party invitations in bulk. Either hand them out or mail them. Don’t forget the stamps.
4. Holiday party decorations are a key element in having a great party. Use what you have on hand and supplement with a trip to the discount store. Use garlands, ribbons and bows. Decorate columns, doorways, stair banisters and windows. This is part of the fun, so put on some holiday music while you decorate for the party to get yourself in the spirit of things. Wrap your hanging artwork, mirrors and picture frames like presents with colorful wrapping paper, complete with ribbons and bows, to serve as wall decorations.
5. If you celebrate Christmas, you’ll probably want a tree. Put it in a place where it won’t be in the path of foot traffic. If you’re sparse on ornaments, either pick up some inexpensive ones, or hang some lights and bows and invite guests to bring one ornament of their choice to hang on your tree. This is a great idea for family members, with potential to be a long-standing tradition. It’s also a great photo op.
5. Will there be games and gift giving? Decide what type of music to play and whether there will be any special forms of entertainment. One popular option is to invite guests to bring a wrapped gift for an exchange. Set a manageable spending limit and inform your guests ahead of time. Everyone draws a number and chooses in order – a basic game idea with many variations. Appoint a specific person to handle the exchange during the party if you don’t feel inclined to do it yourself. You can create and decorate a gift table with ribbons, bows and garlands, or put presents under the tree. Spread some holiday cheer with party favors if it’s in your budget. A box of decorative ornaments can go a long way.
If you find yourself going over budget for your event, go back and take a look at how you can cut corners. Remember, throwing a holiday party doesn’t have to be extravagant, it just has to be fun.
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Nikki is an independent writer for DollarTree.com. Dollar Tree offers great deals on office supplies, party supplies and more.