How to throw a holiday party on a budget

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We don't get much cold weather here in Florida so when it dips below 70 I'm in full winter mode. Having friends over to listen to music, watch movies, and drink warm bevs is the highlight of my year.

While those of us in our 20's and 30's usually dodge the bullet on hosting big family gatherings, we love our Friendsgivings and Ugly Sweater Parties. Holiday party hosting can get super expensive if you don't plan ahead and set a budget. Fortunately, there are a ton of low-cost holiday party ideas out there.

Some of you may be wondering, "Jen, how is this going to help me get out of debt?" It won't. But I personally didn't want our debt payoff to keep us from making these memories. It's hard enough sitting on the sidelines while watching friends vacation during the summer, I wasn't going to ignore my favorite time of year so I could save less than $100.

And that's a great lesson that paying off debt has taught me. There are some things worth spending money on. And for those things, you don't have to spend a week's paycheck to make the memories count. Follow some simple tips and you'll be the most festive for the lowest price.

Let Friends Contribute
Don't limit yourself to the same boring potluck. Get creative! Ask everyone to bring something international or one ingredient to throw into a big salad. People love giving during this time of year so don't be shy! Check out these cool party ideas from Brit + Co for inspiration!

Less Meat, More Sweet
If you decide to cook for everyone or provide the main, try a quiche or hearty pasta. Eggs are full of protein and both eggs and pasta fill you up quickly. Meat is hands down the most expensive part of any meal so don't feel obligated to serve it. (I promise, I'm not just saying that because I'm a vegetarian.) If you really dislike the idea of a nonmeat dinner, opt for a cookie exchange or hot chocolate party. Sweets cut the cost even more because (most) people will come with full bellies.

Pitcher Drinks
My motto: It's not a party without a pitcher. Well, I guess it can be but it's not a party I want to be at. If you're going to provide your own libations make it in bulk to save time and money. Forget the ol' juice/sprite/sherbet, combo, try this budget conscious Caramel Apple Sangria recipe from A Night Owl Blog.

Burlap
Colored burlap ribbon is a more understated rustic version of its popular sparkly mesh cousin. A little bit can spruce up a space and is way cheaper than buying specialty seasonal décor. Wrap a bow around existing throw pillows, use a few strands as a table runner, or tie silverware in it if you wanna get fancy.

White Lights
Is there anything classier than a house decked with white lights? The answer is no. You can leave them bare across the mantle or wrap colored burlap around them along the table. Hanging lights on the ceiling can give a dreamy glow to a movie watching party! And these babies are cheap online. Pro tip: as with any home décor, less is more.

Evergreen
If you're picking up a real Christmas tree (or even if you're not!) ask the tree stand if you can have a few evergreen branches. Arrange them in glass jars or a basket with ornaments. And I saw this on Pinterest, if you soak branches in a mixture of warm water and pure glycerin for 24 hours. The branches will stay green all season!

Secret Santa Card Exchange
Everyone is familiar with the time-honored tradition that is the Secret Santa Gift Exchange. But you know what everyone loves more than re-gifted books and photo frames? A hand-written card that goes beyond: "Happy Holidays. Love, Someone who doesn't have enough time to write to you."

Exchange names and sit down to write a sincere note of encouragement to someone who made it through 2016. Trust me, everyone deserves a medal for making it through this year. But a card will suffice. Here are some 2016 worthy cards if you're interested.

Attending? Grab a Gift
I'm not usually one for politeness so it's rare I give a hundred Christmas gifts just because it's expected of me. But if I'm attending a party of a friend who I know put a lot of effort in I will definitely bring a host/ess gift. My gift of choice is always something practical because I don't want to be the giver of the lotion that sits in the back of the medicine cabinet for 10 years.

Extra Credit: Hit the After Holiday Sales
Don't be shy about buying your supplies 364 days early! You can find those fancy decorations and ornaments at half off and then you'll look even cooler next year. You will only get cooler.

Long and short of it, it's ok to spend money on the things that are important to you. As long as you cut yourself off at some point (or have a husband that will cut you off) you can definitely enjoy becoming financially independent.

The post Throw a Holiday Party on a Budget! appeared first on Saving with Spunk.

RELATED: 9 foods to buy in bulk if you're looking to save money

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9 foods to buy in bulk if you're looking to save money
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9 foods to buy in bulk if you're looking to save money

1. Apples

Apples can last several months in a cool, dry place.  Of course, you could also process them into applesauce, apple butter, etc., but in general, if you buy several bags of apples, or better yet, pick several buckets of them, they’ll be fine for a long time, as long as you don’t wash them right away.

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2. Strawberries

I love to buy lots of strawberries when they’re on sale because they’re so easy to freeze. Did you know that you can even freeze them with their greens still attached? If you freeze strawberries for smoothies, you can easily throw the whole strawberry with the greens still attached, into the blender. It is edible.

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3. Onions & Peppers

If you find a great sale on onions and peppers, you can totally stock your freezer with pre-chopped vegetables. Recently I found bags of red, yellow and orange peppers for only $1.50. I bought several and chopped them up to save for future meals. If you’ll be cooking with them, you’ll never notice that they were frozen first.

Photo credit: Getty

4. Cheese

This is probably my favorite grocery item to buy in bulk. At our local grocery store, shredded cheese costs nearly $5 per pound. But, when I go to a membership store, I can get it for around $2.75 per pound. This is a huge savings! We make so many recipes that call for cheese, I always keep a 5-pound bag of it in my refrigerator and two more in the freezer.

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5. Spices

I prefer to buy my spices by the pound, rather than by the bottle. Spices last for years! Typically, if you buy them by the pound, you’ll spend less than you do on some of those little bottles.

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6. Dry Pasta

This is another food that has a very long shelf life.  You’ll need to do your due diligence to be sure that it is not in an extremely humid environment, but pasta will last for months, if not years, as well.

Photo credit: Getty

7. Canned Goods

I like to buy these in bulk when we go to Aldi, because they’re the cheapest there. Typically, I buy a case of canned goods at a time, so that I always keep a well-stocked pantry. If you choose to do this, be sure that the items you’re buying are things you use up on a regular basis.

Photo credit: Getty

8. Oats

I like to keep a food-safe bucket in my kitchen full of oats.This has helped me save so much money on breakfasts through the years. By buying it in bulk, I save about $1 per pound, when compared to typical grocery store pricing.

Photo credit: Getty

9. Meat 

When I see a sale on meat, I always grab it, if the price is low enough. Meat is usually the most expensive grocery item in your meal, so this is a great area to do some bulk shopping. In the past, we’ve found ground beef on sale for $2 a pound and we loaded our freezer up with as much as we thought we could eat in the next several months. We also buy a side of beef from our local farmer, which can save several dollars per pound, depending on the cut of meat that we are talking about.

Photo credit: Getty

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