Perhaps the biggest holiday expense you face is buying gifts, but it's not the only expense that can derail your budget. If you're hosting a holiday bash this season, make it amazing by saving some cash. Surprisingly, the same strategies that will keep you solvent can also secure the best party experience for yourself and your guests. Consider these tips for keeping cost downs for your Christmas party:
1. Make it a Potluck. If you don't like the term "potluck," call it a community feast. Most people have a favorite holiday dish or dessert and would love the opportunity to share, so give it to them. Let guests bring what inspires them, but make sure to keep track of which dishes will be on the table. Then, it's your responsibility to pick up the slack. If you're light on salads or need an extra entrée, that's your job. This is a fun way to get everyone involved. Plus, it saves you money on food and time on prep.
2. Serve a Limited Menu. If you're uncomfortable throwing a potluck, serve the food yourself, but keep it simple. Instead of a heavy sit-down meal, offer a range of finger foods for guests to grab while they mingle. Just make sure you let guests know beforehand, so they can choose to have a meal before they arrive.
3. Be Creative with Drinks. You have options when it comes to holiday libations. Depending on the crowd, you may suggest that guests bring wine or beer that pairs well with their food contribution. On the other hand, you could encourage some guests to bring their favorite holiday drink instead of a food item. If you feel uncomfortable asking guests to bring drinks, consider creating favorite holiday libations yourself, such as mulled wine, egg nog, or an alcoholic apple cider. The beauty of these drinks is that the sugar and spices mask for inexpensive alcohol.
4. Save on Decorations. To save on decorations, think dollar store. You can find just about everything you need to decorate your home in the holiday spirit without dropping a wad of cash. Also, consider crafting homemade Christmas decorations—just don't forget to store your finds at the end of the season to use for next year's party.
5. Clip Coupons. Look for coupons and discounts for all of your party purchases. If you don't get the Sunday paper, find coupons online. And if your local grocer still offers double coupons, plan to shop on that day. You'll save even more if you combine coupons with in-store sales.
6. Save on Invitations. If you're the type to mail out paper invitations, consider inviting guests via Facebook or email instead. You'll eliminate the expense of postage, the cost for the cards, and the time it takes to write out or print individual invitations. Plus, it’s a lot easier for guests to RSVP via email.
The Bottom Line. All it takes is a little creativity and adjustment to save on your holiday party and still make it a memorable one. Remember, the most important thing about your get-together isn't the decor or even the food or drink—it's the company. And you're an intimate part of that. If you're stressed out about everything being perfect, lighten up. If you're having a good time, your guests are more likely to as well.
How else do you save on holiday parties?
David Bakke is a contributor for MoneyCrashers.com, a site that provides tips related to personal finance, including saving for the holidays and ideas for fun Christmas games and activities.