10 Tips for Planning and Hosting a Holiday Gathering on a Budget

The holidays are right around the corner. Are you planning a large family gathering this year? You don’t have to spend a fortune to host a wonderful event. Here are ten helpful tips for creating a memorable yet affordable holiday gathering for your family and friends.

1. Plan Ahead! Start planning several months in advance. This will allow you to take your time making purchases and finding things on sale, especially condiments, paper plates, napkins, drinks, and other pantry items, as well as anything you can freeze until you are closer to the party date.

2. Forgo the paper invitations and stamps and use an online invitation service such as evite.com, punchbowl.com, or smilebox.com. They’re free to send and allow your family and friends the option to instantly RSVP. Additionally, if your guests are on Facebook, you can create an event page to dole out food assignments and get a quick tally of your guests, which will help you with budgeting for the event. A Facebook page gives everyone the opportunity to communicate in an open forum. Click here for a YouTube tutorial for setting up a Facebook page.

3. Consider a potluck dinner. You provide the main item such as a turkey or ham, and ask your guests to bring a covered dish to share with everyone. This will save you a lot of money. Make your list of menu items ahead of time and include it in your e-vite and/or on your Facebook page. Your guests can RSVP and let you know which dish they would like to bring all at the same time.

4.  Check out a party-planning site like party411.com for party ideas. Party411 provides creative, unique and fun party planning ideas including unique personalized products and links to party decorations and supplies!

5. Use your own supplies (or borrow them). You don’t need to buy new dishes, serving bowls or trays. Look around your own kitchen to see what you can use and borrow from family and friends, as needed. You may also need extra tables and chairs, so check with neighbors or friends about borrowing some so you don’t have to spend money on rentals.

6.  Go easy on the fancy décor. Your family and friends are going to remember the fun and conversation of the event, not the decorations. Take a look around your house for items or create homemade decorations. Check out your local dollar store for decorating items like candles and candleholders, flower arrangements, and vases, as well as serving dishes and bowls, and tablecloths. You can also find lots of affordable decorating ideas on Pinterest. Search on “Affordable Holiday Decor” or click here for a start.

7. Freeze ice in advance.  Buying ice can get expensive so save your money and start freezing it a couple of weeks in advance. You can store it in gallon sized zip lock bags until you need it.    

8.  Create your own entertainment for the event. Skip hiring entertainment for you’re your event. Personalize your entertainment and using your smart phone, create an appropriate holiday play list using the Pandora or iHeart Radio app.

9. Limit the alcohol you serve. If you’re going to serve alcohol, keep it affordable and simple by choosing one fun “signature drink” rather than several different ones. This will save you money on ingredients. Find a nice drink dispenser on sale (check out World Market or Pier1) and fill the dispenser with your chosen cocktail.

Here’s an easy sparkling apple cider recipe: a bottle of sparkling apple cider, equal parts lemonade and cranberry juice (for “grown-ups,” replace lemonade with champagne.), and frozen raspberries.

10.  Ask a friend for help. Planning a party can be a lot of fun so why not share the experience with a friend. You’ll have someone to bounce your ideas off of and you may even get some great ideas from them.

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