Holiday Entertaining on a Budget

homemade snowglobe for holidays on a budget

The festive holiday season is a time for celebrating with friends and family. But the costs of hosting even a small gathering can quickly add up, a daunting thought at a time of year when your budget is already stretched thin. But don't let money concerns deter you from planning a fun get-together. Consider a few of these helpful tips for holiday entertaining on a budget.

Plan a budget-friendly feast.

Show off your kitchen skills with some low-cost fare. Maybe you won't be serving lobster tail and filet mignon, but there are plenty of delicious options that won't break the bank.

  • Pasta is a budget winner---a pound of pasta feeds about eight people and can cost as little as one dollar! Make it fun with a pasta bar; set out different shaped kinds of pasta, a variety of sauces and add a big salad.
  • Baked ziti and chili are reliable favorites that can feed a crowd. A plus for the cook: these meals are simple to prepare and won't leave you slaving in the kitchen all day.

Think outside the box.

One of the best ways to have the best holiday entertaining on a budget is to be creative. Consider options that will be kinder to your wallet than a fancy, multi-course dinner:

  • Host a holiday brunch with budget-friendly favorites like pancakes, French toast, and egg bakes.
  • Skip straight to the sweets course with a dessert party. Delicate pastries, trendy macrons, fancy cookie plates…store bought baked goods are enticing but pricey. DIY dessert to save cash. A box of brownie mix costs a couple of dollars and doesn't require any baking skills. Who doesn't love a warm, gooey brownie?
  • Treat your guests to a wine tasting party. Ask everyone to bring a favorite vintage, and offer some cheese pairings.
  • Organize a potluck dinner, or ask guests to bring an appetizer, dessert or side dish while you prepare the main dish and provide drinks.

Stretch your bar budget with crowd-sized cocktails.

There's no need to offer a fully stocked bar:

  • Skip the pricey Cabernets and Pinots and head straight for that oversized jug of cheap red, the perfect basis for mixing up a batch of refreshing sangria or mulled wine.
  • Offer one signature cocktail or traditional holiday treats like spiked eggnog.
  • Skip the alcohol altogether and offer a hot chocolate bar or fancy coffee drinks.

Save on décor.

Avoid splurging on decorations. After all, your home is probably already decorated for the holidays.

  • Add a few items that you already have around the house: mason jars filled with candies or glass bowls filled with pretty ornaments.
  • Head outdoors for seasonal arrangements composed of (free !) pinecones, branches, and greenery.
  • Scan the web for free party printables. You'll find a multitude of themed banners, games and cupcake toppers.

Make the most of the holiday spirit.

Be inspired by the spirit of the season. This time of year offers so many ready-made party ideas:

  • Invite a group of friends to watch a favorite holiday special or movie, like "It's a Wonderful Life", "Elf" or "A Christmas Story". Don't forget the popcorn!
  • Host a cookie decorating party, a tree-trimming party or an ugly sweater party.

Skip the old school invitations.

Save on paper and postage; simply organize a Facebook event, just send out a friendly email or check the web for free e-vites!

Shop the dollar store or borrow.

The dollar store is a party planner's best friend, When you're expecting a crowd, chances are you'll need a few extra glasses or plates. Stores like Dollar Tree carry a surprising array of casual wine glasses, serving platters and of course, paper goods.

Better yet: borrow not buy. Ask a friend to lend extra glasses, cutlery, tablecloths or even chairs and tables.