How to Host Your Holiday Party on a Budget

Posted on Friday 06 December 2019

How to Host Your Holiday Party on a Budget

One of the best things about the holiday season is that it gives a great excuse to socialize and throw a party. Whether you are spending time with your friends, getting to know your co-workers, or spending quality time with family (the fun ones), holiday parties can be a blast!

But if you’re the one hosting the party, it can also be stressful—especially if you’re watching your spending this holiday season. With so many other expenses to worry about, a party is the last thing that you want to be stressing over.

The good news is that there are plenty of cost-effective ways to host a party that is equal parts fun and kind to your wallet. All it takes is a little bit of creativity, and you can easily throw a party on a budget that everyone will love (and they won’t even realize that you’re spending less). In the sections below, we’ll give you the best tips on how to host your holiday party on a budget so that you don’t have to sacrifice your savings to have fun this holiday season.

1. Make a list to track your spendings

As any good financial advisor will tell you, the key to successfully sticking to a budget is by keeping your spending top of mind. As you start getting ready for your party, make sure that you document all of your expenses. Write them down on a notepad, make a list on your kitchen whiteboard, or use your budgeting app to enter each expense (no matter how small).

Knowing how much you are spending on each individual item can feel tedious, but it goes a long way in keeping your holiday party affordable. It’s all about reminding your subconscious that yes, you are throwing a party while on a budget—and no, you don’t need to splurge on those sparkly, $50 decorations.

2. Get creative with the food

A holiday party can get very expensive when it comes to the kind of food you serve—and that cost can rise super quickly. But who’s to say that you have to serve a fully baked ham as part of a four-course meal, or an entire spread of roasted garlic chicken?

Ditch the big meals and opt for a collection of crowd-pleasing appetizers that are delicious, filling, and won’t break the bank to make. Here are a few easy options:

  • Chips and dip
  • Deviled eggs
  • Pasta salad
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Mini quiches
  • Bruschetta
  • Barbeque or marinara-soaked meatballs
  • Popcorn
  • Veggie skewers

If you’re hosting a late-night party, you could also choose to forego the appetizers altogether and do coffee (or hot chocolate) and desserts instead. Brownies, cookies, and chocolate-dipped pretzels are all good options for a cost-effective party treat.

3. Buy generic whenever possible

Whether you are buying cooking supplies for your appetizers or stocking up on paper products, buying generic brands is a great way to save a little bit on your holiday party budget. And generic products are virtually the same thing (at a much lower price tag), so you won’t be sacrificing quality in the process. Here are some easy items to consider buying generic for:

  • Spices
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Canned veggies or fruit
  • Cleaning products
  • Paper towels, napkins, and plates
  • Disposable silverware

4. Make it a potluck event

If you’re panicking about whether you’ll be able to afford food for a large group of people, why not choose to make your holiday party into a potluck instead? After all, the holiday season is all about giving, and your friends and family will likely be more than happy to bring a dish to pass. Making your holiday party into a potluck is a great way to get everyone involved and lighten the spending load.

5. Check out your local thrift store or garage sale

If you want to get a serving tray for your appetizers, a punch bowl, or a new set of drinking glasses, you totally can—but don’t buy them full price! Thrift stores, second-hand stores, and garage sales can all be a gold mine for used kitchen accessories. And as long as you’re willing to compromise on a used item, you can get exactly what you need for your holiday party at a fraction of the cost that you would pay at a department store.

6. Choose a signature cocktail (and make a whole batch of it)

Beverages can be a big focal point for any holiday party—but liquor can easily become a huge expense. If you’re planning a holiday party on a budget, you probably don’t have a ton of extra cash to put together a fully stocked bar to cater to everyone’s tastes.

To avoid this issue entirely, you can choose one signature party cocktail (like this punch) and make a batch or two for everyone to share. And for the additional ingredients, you guessed it: buy generic mixers and make your holiday cocktail even more cost-effective.

Of course, you can always tell your guests that they can bring anything specific that they may want to drink with them. They’ll know that you’re making something for everyone to share, but they’ll also have the freedom to bring their favorite beverage along with them (meaning that you can, in fact, make everyone happy)!

7. Make it into your very own wine tasting

As an alternative to creating a signature cocktail, you can make your holiday party into a makeshift wine tasting. Buy a couple bottles of wine to start (nothing fancy; make your limit somewhere between $15-$20 total) and ask all of your guests to bring a bottle of wine with them. You can put all of them out on a table together and create your very own mini bar—and probably some great conversations on wine choice, too!

8. Don’t stress about the decorations

Trying to decorate your house for a holiday party while on a budget can be a tough job. Streamers, balloons, centerpieces, and tablecloths aren’t cheap (especially if glitter is involved). The good news is that you can still get the decorations that you want without having to drain your entire holiday party budget.

Instead of buying enough decorations for your entire home, focus on a few main areas: the mantle, entryway, and dining table are all great examples. Keep it simple and budget-friendly by choosing only one or two areas to decorate.


9. Go digital for your invites

If you’ve ever gotten married, then you know exactly how expensive paper invitations can be. And when it comes to planning a holiday party, it might feel tempting to splurge on paper invites—but there’s no sense in spending extra money on the invite.

There are plenty of places that you can go to get snazzy, holiday-themed invites—and without spending a dime. Check out Canva and put together an invitation in minutes.

And if you want to create an interactive invitation, you can create an event and share it on Facebook. It’s the best way to make it easy to answer all of the questions that will come with every party, like “What time does it start,” “What should I bring,” and “Can I bring my significant other?” Make it easy on yourself and just prepare for the inevitable!

10. Ask for help!

We all need a little bit of help from time to time—and when it comes to throwing a holiday party, you truly can get by with a little bit of help from your friends. Make it a joint affair and throw a party with your best friend. If you’re married, team up with another couple.

Bringing other people into the mix lightens the load with planning, decorating, and—most importantly—shopping for the supplies. You may find that hosting a holiday party on a budget is a lot more fun when there are multiple hands to help out (and who knows, you may end up coming with some really great ideas together).

The holidays can be tough to get through when you’re on a budget or if you’re strapped for cash—but you don’t have to sacrifice socializing and spending time with friends or family. Just make sure you don’t spend beyond your means, keep an eye on your purchases, and always be on the lookout for a more affordable choice. With a little bit of determination and creativity, you can host a holiday party on a budget that everyone will love!