How to Host a Budget-Friendly Holiday Party

Try these six tips to save on food, drink, entertainment and more.

Luis Mendo

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be one of the most expensive. With the increased costs of travel, gifting and heating a home, hosting a holiday party can take a sizeable chunk out of your budget. With that in mind, we’ve put together these tips to have a cheerful holiday party without breaking the bank.

1. Food bars and potlucks are the name of the game

Saving on food for your budget-friendly holiday celebration begins with party planning. Opt for a start time that isn’t a mealtime to avoid the cost of providing a full sit-down meal. Consider a mid-afternoon start for your budget-friendly holiday party, since guests will have recently eaten lunch and won’t yet be hungry for dinner. A festive food option for this time slot is an appetizer bar with an assortment of refreshments and light snacks. Remember you can enjoy AAA Member savings on take-out and delivery.

If you’re hosting a meal, invite your guests to bring their family’s favorite holiday treat or side dish for a potluck. Not only will this save you money, but it also serves as a conversation starter for those gathered around the table. Enjoy hearing the stories and memories that come with each dish, or swap recipes among guests for even more merriment.

Another budget-friendly food option is a dipping station. Fondue or a chocolate fountain are always crowd-pleasers, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box. We recommend serving this seasonal seven-layer cranberry Cobb dip.

2. A holiday bash with a new spin on drinks

Drinks are one of the simplest ways to save money. Hosts planning to serve alcohol or stock an open bar may spend

hundreds or even thousands of dollars on libations. One solution is to refrain from serving alcohol altogether. Thissaves you money, makes it safer for guests to drive home and creates a party more inclusive for children.

Curious about mocktails? Take our two-question quiz to find a non-alcoholic recipe that’s suited to your holiday taste.

Try delicious drinks such as a cinnamon-kissed holiday punch or a winter’s night favorite, the St. Paul Hotel hot cocoa.

Luis Mendo

3. Scan your guest list for inexpensive entertainment options

You may not have to look far for your holiday party entertainment. When you begin planning your event, survey your guests-to-be on whether they might have any friends or family who play music. This connection could potentially save you money and help encourage connectedness in your community.

Is there a chef among you? Perhaps you could convince them to lead the party in an informal cooking class to make a tasty holiday treat. And, at the end of the night, hand out the recipe as a party favor.

If you’re looking for something more informal—and maybe a little more fun—leave a microphone open to all guests.

After all, nothing gets the holiday spirit going like eggnog and karaoke. If your guests need a little warmup for such a performance, a game of team trivia is a great way to break the ice. If your group is more interested in a relaxing gathering, suggest that they bring some board games from home. Just be sure to throw on an upbeat holiday party playlist.

4. Overlap in your party planning

When it comes to party favors, overlap the gesture with other areas of your party planning. For example, pour drinks into festive mugs that guests can take home. If you splurged and decorated with floral arrangements, send them home with your guests. Perhaps there’s even a caricature artist in your area whose work will provide an activity for the evening as well as some take-home art for your guests.

5. Decorate DIY-style

Your holiday decor doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Head to your local nursery and ask if you can gather clippings of holly, pine or any other evergreen. Or if it’s available in your region, take a brisk winter hike in search of greenery. You can hang them from fixtures, tack them to a wall or arrange them as centerpieces.

Another cost-friendly option is to head to the dollar store to stockpile glittery holiday ornaments. You can string them up and hang them on walls, windows and light fixtures or display them in vases for a room that radiates holiday cheer without burning a hole in your pocket.

Luis Mendo

6. Don’t overthink everything

Not only are the holidays a time of financial strain for many, but it’s also easy to put too much pressure on yourself socially. Our advice: Don’t sweat it. When it comes to your holiday party, the most important thing is surrounding yourself with those you love—not spending a ton of money.Skip handwriting fancy invitations and send a cute digital invite to collect RSVPs. Don’t fret about an elaborate party

theme because the holidays are a delightful theme already. And finally, avoid the costly venue rentals and host your holiday party at your house.

Finally, remember to enjoy the celebration of the season—no matter how much you spend or save.

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