We love to entertain at our house. Being hospitable and providing food and fun for the masses is one of my favorite things to do. However, when you’re on a journey to debt freedom and working hard to live on a strict budget, holiday gatherings can put a dent in your debt payoff plan.
We, however, in our creative way, have found some ideas for making your holiday party not just fun, but frugal! Here are our tips for frugaling up your holiday gatherings.
Our Favorite Frugal Holiday Party Ideas
Far too much money is wasted on decor during the holiday season, IMHO. We love to have our home looking festive and fun during the holiday season, but we’re infinitely opposed to spending hundreds of dollars on holiday decor each year. Our solution? Buy a few timeless decorative holiday pieces for the gatherings, and keep them year after year. If you want to do your budget one better, wait until after the holiday to buy your holiday decor off the clearance racks.
One of my all-time favorite Christmas decorations in our house is the little snow village houses I purchased many, many years ago. The name-brand snow village houses can run upwards of $70-$100 each, which means a snow village collection could easily surpass the $1k range. In my infinite creativeness, I scored some beautiful mini snow village houses and building on a clearance table at the local Joann Etc. shop for 75 cents a piece. I created my entire Christmas snow village, complete with fake snow, for less than 20 bucks. I set it up every year, and every year it looks absolutely adorable.
Be choosy about holiday decor and buy inexpensive, timeless pieces for your collection and you’ll save boatloads of money.
There are several ways to save money on food when hosting holiday parties. Here are some tips:
- Plan the menu and shop around the sales, never paying full price for anything. Many types of canned goods have a two-year shelf life and can be purchased at earlier times during the year
- If you’re using a caterer, work to find a local, small businessperson who is just starting out or does their catering on the side. Culinary school students can be a great choice for catering a holiday party for cheap
- If appropriate, make the event a potluck. People love to share their culinary skills with others
- Have one expensive main dish accompanied by cheaper side dishes. Potatoes, rice and pasta all provide for super cheap side dishes
- Cook from scratch. Meals are SO much cheaper when made from scratch. Work to make baked goods and other dishes from scratch
By planning carefully, watching the sales and being willing to do a little work, you can serve a frugal-but-fabulous holiday dinner to your loved ones.
We don’t drink alcohol, so for my family gatherings, I simply don’t serve it, opting instead for coffee, pop, water and milk. Everyone who comes here is fine with that. However, I realize that a no-alcohol gathering might not work for everyone, so here are some tips for serving alcohol at holiday parties without breaking the bank.
- Keep it simple. Provide one brand of quality beer or wine
- Provide non-alcoholic substitutes such as virgin margaritas or virgin bloody marys
- Provide only the mixers and let the guests BYOB if appropriate
Alcohol costs are often the most costly when it comes to hosting holiday parties, so use the tips above to take a load off of your budget.
Some parties are enhanced when hosts provide entertainment. If your gathering is more on the upscale side, here are some frugal entertainment choices.
- Play quality up and coming music that appeals to a wide variety of personality types on a quality sound system
- Invite and pay students who play an appropriate instrument to provide your entertainment
There is no shortage of highly-skilled students where I live that could entertain for hours on instruments such as the piano, the violin, the harp, the saxophone and more. And most times they’ll work cheap, being grateful just for the experience.
A friend of ours has a husband who is deeply immersed in the political world here. Nearly every year they host a formal Christmas gathering, complete with valet parking, coat attendants, caterers and wait staff. The majority of their “staff” comes from the well-rounded group of home schooled students they know because they home school as well.
When hosting a formal party, look for and hire responsible, hard-working students to provide staff services for a formal party. The cost will be astronomically less than you’ll pay by hiring “professionals”, and a mature kid will be thrilled to have the experience – and the paycheck.
No matter what type of holiday party you’re hosting, there are ways to reduce your expenditures and save money while still hosting a fine and fabulous gathering. Simply use the tips above and see what kind of creative you can get. 🙂
*Photo courtesy of Wilson Hui