Much to every host’s dismay, the economic situation hasn’t improved much since last year. Still, this doesn’t mean we have to cancel all holiday celebrations—it simply calls for a little more creativity. As you’ll see, creative thinking and a little planning go a long way toward making it all work. Here are some tips for throwing a fabulous holiday party on a budget.
As nice as it would be to invite every Dick and Jane you know to your fabulous holiday bash, this isn’t the time to go overboard with your invite list. That person you met at last year’s office holiday party and promised to call but never did? Cut her from the line-up. Party planning sometimes requires ruthlessness—but it’s worth it in the name of better food, drinks and decorations. After all, the holidays are about spending time with the people who are most important to you, so being picky about who you invite will help you create an intimate setting. A group of no more than 10 or 12 is perfect for a cost-effective yet elegant get-together. An added bonus of intimate gatherings: you’ll have more time to spend with your guests, enjoying their company (and vice versa), rather than constantly making the rounds or worrying whether everyone is having fun.
Let’s face it: food is one of the most important components of any party, let alone a holiday party—and besides drinks, it’s usually the most spendy. But you don’t have to forego your budget or compromise quality to feed your guests. Here are a few affordable suggestions for filling fare that won’t empty your wallet.
Dress up Standard Fare: Get creative with the basics. Take potatoes: they’re filling, cheap and versatile. These potato stacks, for example, are easy to make, affordable and elegant. Another basic (inexpensive) ingredient: flour. Make a simple crust and compile a selection of sweet and savory tarts or galettes like this rustic potato tart. Dishes like these require few ingredients and making the crust is easy and affordable.
Take it Down a Notch: I don’t mean you should compromise on flavor. However, if you rethink typical portion sizes, you’ll be able to offer a wider variety of food for a lower cost. Small bites are fun and festive, like the food shown here. From miniature hamburgers to tiny cookies with shot glasses of milk, there are many appetizers you can make (or purchase) that won’t cost a ton of money. Not only are everyday foods undeniably cute in miniature form, they’re also easier to handle while mingling or holding a drink. Tip: Look for seasonal food offerings to keep the cost down but the taste factor right where it should be.
Cook the Old-Fashioned Way: Break out your slow-cooker! Many cuts of meat that you may turn up your nose to for a fancy, sit-down dinner party are actually perfect for group holiday parties. With a little effort, you can serve a satisfying, warming meal for your guests with money to spare. From soups and stews to pot roast to short ribs, the options are endless for creating meals that will wow your guests and warm their souls. If you plan a meat-based meal, crock pots are very helpful in stretching the meat—and your dollar.
Decorations are essential for holiday parties. Twinkle lights, snowflakes, and other holiday-themed items help make the environment festive and put your guests in the holiday spirit. There are many ways to decorate your party space without spending a lot of money. Some take a little extra effort while others can be thrown together using items you probably already have on hand.
Take these string lights placed in hurricanes, for example. They’re simple yet stunning and they give off a soft light that helps create the perfect party ambience for this time of year. Another great DIY idea: use paper to cut out these beautiful snowflakes to make a garland. If you don’t want to buy paper, use pages from old magazines or newspapers. You might add a little extra sparkle by spraying the snowflakes with silver or gold glitter. Another surefire way to create a holiday-worthy environment: light tea candles and set them on mirrors or in decorative glasses. Scatter small branches or aromatic, fresh-cut herbs (sturdy ones like rosemary work best) around the candles, along with a few fresh cranberries, to create a beautiful centerpiece.
The key to throwing a holiday party on a budget is to keep things simple and make use of what you already have on hand. Don’t add a lot of fluff to the menu or decorations. Instead, do what you can in a tasteful manner to create a festive environment this holiday season. Play some holiday music in the background, relax, and enjoy the party with your guests!
Editor’s Note: Happy Thanksgiving! What are your best budget-friendly holiday entertaining tips?
Rachael White is the author of the blogs Set the Table and Tokyo Terrace. After four years of living, eating, and entertaining in Tokyo, Japan, she and her family have relocated to Denver, Colorado. Rachael is constantly searching for new ways to make entertaining easier and more interesting for guests in a variety of environments and situations. In addition to food blogging, her recipes have been published in cookbooks including Foodista Best of Food Blogs and Peko Peko: A Charity Cookbook for Japan and in Japan’s Daily Yomiuri newspaper. Originally from Minnesota, Rachael strives to recreate recipes and settings that reflect Midwestern comfort with a modern twist.