There's a fine line between frugal and cheap. And when you're hosting a holiday party, it's important to tread that line carefully. You don't have to spend all of your cash on decorations and supplies. In fact, it's easy to throw a great office party or plan a New Year's Eve bash on a small budget. But if you make any of these mistakes, your thrifty event might seem tacky to your guests.
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1. Only Serving Cheese and Crackers
The people who RSVP to your holiday party probably aren't expecting to enjoy a three-course meal. Serving appetizers is a great way to cut down on your expenses, but it's best to offer more than a single platter of food. After all, your guests won't be happy if they have to head over to McDonald's as soon as they leave your event.
If you're worried about satisfying your guests' hunger, you can ask your friends or co-workers to bring in a side dish or dessert. If a potluck wouldn't be appropriate for your function, you can serve a few different appetizers and hors d'oeuvres or something simple (like miniburgers) that won't break the bank.
2. Skimping on Supplies
You can probably do without a fancy ice sculpture and custom-made invitations. But running out of the basic party essentials might make you look like a rookie and a cheapskate.
As you prepare your budget, it's important to prioritize and decide what you need to purchase and what you can leave out. Even if it saves you money, skimping on ice, cups and plates will only stress you out and inconvenience your guests.
3. Having a Cash Bar
There's nothing worse than inviting someone to a holiday party and forcing them to pay for their drinks. In theory it's a good idea because you can invest a lot of money into your event and then pay yourself back with whatever you earn from handing out cocktails and martinis. In reality, you might have a hard time getting people to attend your social gatherings in the future.
If you think alcohol costs will swallow up a large portion of your budget, you can skip the open bar altogether and provide a limited selection of themed drinks made specifically for the party. If it's a casual affair, your guests can bring their own bottles so you can save on wine and beer.
Related Article: 7 Tips for Throwing a Holiday Party for Less
4. Having an Office Party in the Office
It might be hard to get your employees excited about a holiday party that's taking place inside your office conference room. Work parties are meant to be relaxed. But it won't be easy to unwind if everyone's computers are a few yards away.
Companies working on a tight budget don't have to rent out a huge room at a five-star hotel. A party at a restaurant or a bar can be inexpensive and fun.
5. Failing to Provide Entertainment
A holiday party without music or games could bore your guests. And as the host, you might get offended if your guests spend the majority of the night on their phones. You can't expect your attendees to entertain themselves and since you're in charge of the event, it's your job to make sure everyone's having a great time.
Playing music in the background through Spotify or another music streaming service is an easy way to eliminate awkward silences. Raffling off a reasonably priced door prize or two can also help break the ice.
6. Not Having Any Decorations
Think your friends won't notice that you failed to decorate? Think again. Decorations can make a drab venue look more inviting. Without any decor, however, your soiree might just seem bland and dingy.
If worst comes to worst, you can always reuse the materials you've saved from previous parties. Decorative lights, for instance, can easily be recycled. Other items – like table cloths and candles – can be purchased from a dollar store for next to nothing.
7. Leaving the Tags on the Items You're Returning
Maybe your plan is to buy decorations and return them once your holiday party is over. While that's technically not a crime, imagine how embarrassed you'll be if your guests notice that you've tucked in the price tags. The $500 light fixture you thought would impress everyone instead suggests that you either can't manage money or you're cheap.
The Bottom Line
Your holiday party can be a success even if you don't have a big budget to work with. As you brainstorm ways to keep costs low, it's a good idea to consider whether your ideas will come off as trashy rather than classy.
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