We all love attending and hosting festive holiday gatherings. It’s meaningful to soak up as much of the joyful season as possible, and the holidays give us the perfect excuse to get together.
But if you’re hosting a Christmas party this year, be sure to keep your finances in mind. You want to show your friends and family a good time without breaking the bank.
Note: This is the 3rd installment in the Stress Free, Debt Free Christmas series. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out:
- 51 Cheap Gift Ideas Under $10 (that people will actually want!)
- 21 Ways to Earn Extra Money for Christmas
- Rock Your Gift Giving This Year with these 15 Easy Tricks
- 5 Ways to Stay Sane This Holiday Season
- 80 Unique Christmas Traditions to Try This Year
- How to Create a Christmas budget (and actually stick to it!)
Keep reading to check out a ton of easy tips for throwing a holiday party on a budget.
How to Throw a Holiday Party on a Budget
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Planning a Christmas Party on a Budget Basics:
Create a budget
The first step in planning your holiday party on a budget is to actually create a budget. This doesn’t have to be a complicated process. If you’ve already made an overall Christmas budget, you may have already allocated a certain amount to entertainment.
If not, choose an amount you feel comfortable spending on your Christmas party. To make the best use of your budget, break it down into to categories such as food, decorations, alcohol, and so on.
A $200 budget might be broken down into $125 for food, $50 for drinks, and $25 for decorations, for example.
Set your priorities
There’s no need to go all out for a Martha Stewart-style bash. Decide what’s really important to you, and align your holiday party vision with your budget.
If you live in a cold climate, you don’t need to turn your yard into a winter wonderland if no one is actually going to be outside. It’s not necessary to go crazy trying to impress your friends.
Keep your expectations realistic, especially when it comes to food. Don’t feel like you need to prepare a fancy sit down meal if your guests prefer to hang around the kitchen island nibbling on appetizers.
Edit your guest list
Please don’t invite everyone you’ve ever met to your holiday party! Limit your invites to people you actually like, and those who like each other.
Inviting the right people is more important than inviting everyone.
By editing your guest list, you can have a more intimate gathering that your guests will actually remember. You don’t want them leaving early because there’s a line for the bathroom or you ran out of food.
Plus you’ll save money on food and drink costs when you invite fewer people.
Choose a theme
Party planning experts know the importance of having a theme. A theme just makes it so much easier to plan your holiday party, especially when you’re on a budget.
Having a party theme makes choosing your menu, decorations, favors, outfit, and everything else go so much smoother. Even just choosing a color scheme will simplify things.
Here are some holiday party theme ideas:
- Ugly sweater
- Hot cocoa bar
- Ornament exchange
- Cookie exchange
- Movie night (Related: 35 of the Best Christmas Movies)
- Game night
- Gingerbread house decorating
Borrow what you don’t have
To really keep within your holiday party budget, borrow whatever you can from friends and family. Most people you know have serving pieces, decorations, recipes, and even ugly Christmas sweaters that they’d be willing to loan you.
Anything you can borrow instead of buy is money left in your pocket. Plus, do you really have a place to store all that stuff year round?
Create a festive ambience
A cozy atmosphere will be more memorable to your guests than a bunch of fancy decorations.
The 3 main components of a festive ambience are:
- Music: Use a portable speaker to stream Christmas music from Pandora or Prime Music.
- Light: A set of these flameless candles or a bunch of white string lights will go such a long way in creating your cozy atmosphere.
- Scent: Use a simple wax warmer to infuse your home with a festive scent, such as balsam pine.
Money Saving Tips for Your Holiday Party
Holiday Party Food Ideas on a Budget
Use Ibotta when you buy the groceries. Ibotta is a cash back rebate app that you can use to get money back each time you shop.
Once you create an account, you can search the available offers for the stores where you shop. Many are for specific brands, plus there are always rebates good on ‘Any Brand’ items, such as produce, dairy, pantry staples and other household goods.
Signing up through the app instead? Use code uwhaflc to get your $10 bonus.
Spend less on alcohol
Have a signature cocktail at your party instead of a full bar. Just buy the ingredients for that one mixed drink, instead of trying to stock what everyone likes.
Feel free to have your party be BYOB, or don’t plan on having any alcohol at all.
Host a potluck
We all have holiday recipes we love to make each year, and most people are excited at the prospect of sharing them.
You could ask people to bring a side dish, dessert, or appetizer, and take some of the load off of you.
Nix the three course meal
Most people would love a buffet of appetizers and dips! Instead of a sit-down dinner, consider a more casual meal of hors d’oeuvres.
Your guests will feel more relaxed and enjoy themselves more than they would at a stiff, formal dinner.
Or you could host a holiday brunch or mid-afternoon gathering instead of a party at night, when people might expect a big dinner. Brunch food is always cheaper.
And an afternoon cookie exchange wouldn’t require you serve anything more than some festive snacks.
Most of us are so busy during the holiday season that a non-conventional event would be a fresh perspective.
No one is going to know if you cook with store-brand broth, flour, sugar, etc. Buying generic is one of the most effortless ways to save money.
Use your slow cooker
This is more of a sanity-saving idea, not a money-saving one. But consider using your slow cooker for warm drinks such as hot chocolate or hot apple cider.
You could also use it to keep dips warm, such as queso, buffalo chicken, or spinach dip.
Holiday party decorating ideas on a budget
Decorate only the main area
Concentrate your holiday decor only on the area your visitors will be. There’s no need to decorate your entire house if the guests will only see the living room.
I hardly ever even notice the decorations at parties. Maybe that’s just because I’m busy being an overwhelmed introvert. But decorations might not be nearly as important as Pinterest would have you believe.
You might not even need to do any extra decorating at all. If your house already has a Christmas tree, that might be all the festiveness required.
Use white string lights
If you do want to do some extra decorating, never underestimate the impact of lots of strings of white lights. They’re so affordable and easy to use.
Always try to get the biggest bang for your buck.
Utilize the dollar store
Have you been to the dollar store lately? You may be surprised by how much they offer in terms of holiday decorations. Many of their items could rival Hobby Lobby or Michaels for a small fraction of the price
Dollar Tree is an awesome place to visit before your holiday party. And did you know that you can also order online through Dollar Tree’s website. Click here to check out all they have to offer!
Keep the favors simple
Please don’t feel at all like you need to give your holiday party guests favors. But if it’s really important to you to do so, keep it simple!
Fuzzy socks can be a cute, wintery parting gift for your guests. You could tie a ribbon around each pair, and have them in a basket near the front door.
Inexpensive Christmas ornaments also make an easy party favor. The dollar store carries a huge collection of lovely ornaments, and some are two for $1.
Baked goods also make for super cheap favors. Get some inexpensive cellophane bags and put a couple of your home-baked goodies in each one. A festive ribbon or sticker will give it a festive look.
Wrapping it up
(No pun intended, hehe). I really hope these cheap Christmas party ideas helped you learn how to throw a holiday party on a budget. Once you make your budget, keep your expectations realistic, and go for simple instead of complicated.
The holiday season can so easily get away from us, leaving us drowning in debt and overwhelm. Having an action plan this year can only serve to keep you sane and less stressed!
Cheers to a debt free, stress free Christmas!