Frugal Friday – Holiday Parties

Ah, Holiday time is upon us. with its songs of good will and cheer, optimistic fellows, and of course, the opportunity to smooch cute coworkers under hanging plants with fewer consequences than normal. (Although, you do need to make sure that they WANT to be smooched…) It’s a wonderful, magical time of year, filled with parties, gatherings, and shindigs of all kinds.

Of course, when you’re throwing one of those shindigs rather than attending them, it can get a bit expensive pretty quick. It can also be a overwhelming, particularly if you don’t plan things out first. For some help on how to plan a fun (but frugal!) holiday party, read on:

1. Stick with Electronic Invitations: Let’s start before we even get to the party, with the invitations. While it might seem to be fancier to send out paper invitations to all your friends and family, doing that gets expensive quick, between the invitations themselves and the postage to get them to their goals. With nearly everyone online, it’s easier than ever to send out electronic invitations to your guests and save yourself some time, money, and hassle.

2. Make it a Potluck: This might not work in every situation; your family or friends might give you odd looks if you insist that everyone bring their own food. But for many situations, it’s not only acceptable but could even be appreciated, allowing your guests to show off their own cooking skills and share some of their favorite recipes. You should, of course, provide enough food on your own to keep your guests from starving if not everyone (or nobody) else brings anything, but you don’t need to provide your guests with a twelve course meal to be a good host. On that note…

A festive Gingerbread House is, of course, always appreciated

3. Cook Relatively Inexpensive Food: Even with a potluck meal, you, as the host of the party, will have to make quite a bit of food. There’s simply no way to be sure that your guests will provide enough for everyone you is attending, and even if they do, you’ll still appear cheap (not frugal, cheap) if you don’t provide SOME food. That’s not to say that you need to spend a small fortune on the meal; it’s possible to make a decent meal inexpensively. Look up some inexpensive and easy to prepare food items, shop at a bulk food store for your ingredients, and don’t try to do more than you can, preparation-wise, and there will be plenty of food by the time your first guests arrive. While we’re talking about the menu…

4. Stick with Appetizers or Desserts: It can be hard to provide a full meal to everyone, particularly given the size of the typical holiday meal. Rather than try to feed everyone a massive feast, you can stick to a relatively small course, like appetizers. In my family, it’s traditional for us to meet the extended family after our individual family meals to exchange desserts and spend a few hours together talking and laughing. Everyone gets a holiday party together, without anyone having to cook for dozens of people. (Although, given how my family is, everyone ends up making enough for the rest of the family anyway…)

5. Use Real Plates and Utensils (Carefully): This method allows you to not only save money on the large amounts of paper plates and utensils you’d go through at a holiday party, but also to make the whole thing look a little bit classier. You’ll add to your time spent cleaning up afterwards, but not by that much, and the benefits should outweigh the costs. That said, if there are going to be small children around (your own or your guests’), you will probably be better off with plates and bowls that won’t break if dropped. It might be worth it to spend a bit more money now to prevent such a situation than spending more money later to replace your plates. (To say nothing of not having to worry about the children cutting themselves.)

6. Keep the Alcohol to a Minimum: You’ll save money, help ensure your friends and relatives have a safe drive home, and help to avoid any unfortunate ‘incidents’ spurred on by the alcohol. Enough said. (Alright, here’s a bit more: as with the potluck suggestion, the norms in your family or circle of friends might make a dry party seem cheap. If that’s the case, consider providing some drinks, but stick with one or two ‘signature’ drinks (eggnog being a big one for the season, of course), rather than trying to keep a full bar stocked and ready. It’ll be more festive, while still allowing those who want to indulge the chance to do so.)

There you have it, a few ways to have a festive holiday party while not breaking the bank. Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Festive Kwanza, and/or Cheerful Solstice!

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