How to throw a holiday party on a budget
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
RELATED: 9 foods to buy in bulk if you're looking to save money