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How to Host a Budget Holiday Party

Posted on 12/6/2011 12:40 EST

Planning a party on an extremely small (think minuscule) budget is easier than you think. A former event planner for a national non-profit organization who knows a thing or two about making much out of little offers a few tips on ways to cut costs while still hosting a killer holiday party.

Photo by chispita_666

Budget Holiday Party Tips: Invitations.

Let's start with holiday party invitations. Simply put, they're a big waste of money. With email all around us, an easy money saver is Evite, a website that lets you create invites as elegant as you wish and send them out for free. Guests can RSVP via email so your list will be just a few clicks away, and you can send out reminders as the day draws closer.

Budget Holiday Party Tips: Decorations.

Holiday party tip 101: Keep it simple. If your house is even the least bit decorated for the holidays, all you'll need are some extra touches here and there. For example, iVillage recommends buying a cheap box of Christmas tree bulb ornaments and placing them in a glass bowl or vase for a festive, simple, and eye-catching centerpiece. You can ratchet up the holiday atmosphere by stringing strands of white lights along the buffet table or a side table in the dining room or hallway, or ball them up in a clear vase for an elegant piece of holiday party decor. Clear or white lights set a sultry, elegant atmosphere almost any time of year for any type of party, so store them away in an accessible spot and pull out for your next special event.

Budget Holiday Party Tips: Food.

Schedule your party to begin after the dinner hour; 7 p.m. is a good holiday party start time. Think about it -- why take on the pressure and financial burden of preparing and serving a meal when you can get away with serving finger food or dessert? But if you do feel compelled to put together a meal, set out a buffet and ask everyone to contribute so you aren't solely responsible for feeding the crowd.

The next step is figuring out what to serve the finger food on. Here's an idea -- borrow everything you can. Kiplinger points out that unless you've been stocking up for years, you probably don't have a lot of holiday party serving platters lying around. But your friends and neighbors, added all together, may. If not, a go-to place for cheap serving platters is the local dollar store, which usually stocks very affordable and holiday-appropriate tableware. And hey, if the platters only last through one party, just remember that they only cost a dollar each.

Photo by whitneyinchicago

Budget Holiday Party Tips: Beverages.

Alcoholic beverages can be a total drain on your wallet. So buy several bottles of wine and ask guests to BYOB. The best part of this strategy is that you'll probably be left with some unopened bottles that can be stashed away for the next party. And do be sure to provide some non-alcoholic beverages, as well. Nothing is more annoying to an alcohol-eschewing guest than spending half the party searching for a beverage to quench his or her thirst.

Budget Holiday Party Tips: Entertainment.

Entertainment is another opportunity to save big bucks when planning your holiday party. For music, Kiplinger suggests borrowing a few holiday CDs from a friend or your local library. If you're looking for a way to break the ice and get people talking, a fun holiday party game involves asking each guest to write the name of a famous person or character on a white mailing label and sticking one on each of person's back as they arrive. Each guest must then try to figure out their famous person/character by asking fellow guests for hints. It sounds silly, but it works.

Budget Holiday Party Tips: The Last Word.

It doesn't matter how much or how little you spend to host your holiday party. What matters is how welcome your guests feel, and that is totally free and completely up to you. Make sure to attend to their needs, spend time talking to everyone, and in general, be your best, most charming self. Your guests will leave feeling in the holiday spirit, and that, readers, is the whole point.

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