As blessed a time as it is, Christmas can (and often does) wreak havoc on the household budget. It’s not just gift buying and giving either. Travel and expenses of all kinds rise with the holidays, turning them into a significant expense.
Not many people have Christmas club accounts anymore, to help cover the cost of the holiday. That means that we’re on our own to find ways to celebrate and enjoy the holiday that won’t cost so much.
I’m not going to propose a budget Christmas across the board, but rather take aim at one major holiday cost: Christmas parties.
The holiday’s are about getting together with people, and that often means parties. They can get expensive if you don’t use some creativity to control the costs. Let’s look at some ways to have a festive party without breaking your budget.
Have the party at home
There’s a pronounced trend toward holding parties in restaurants these days. So many of us take our evening meals in restaurants—why not have our parties there as well, right?
I’ll admit that there are certain advantages to having a party at a restaurant. You don’t have to plan, cook, serve and clean up after a meal, everyone can order what they want, there’s no pre-party house cleaning necessary, and when it’s over the restaurant staff will clean up the mess.
But parties at restaurants are expensive. In addition to the cost of the food, restaurants typically add an inflated tip to the bill of large parties. Also, while restaurants are good places to eat, when the meal is over, the group might want extra entertainment, and that means…more money!
Depending on the size of your party, you can save hundreds of dollars by having your party at home. It will be more work, sure, but the money you save can go toward other holiday priorities that may be even more important to you.
And with some careful planning, you might be able to cut down on some of the work too…
Just because you’re having everyone over to your house doesn’t mean that you have to cook for them. Cooking a meal for a large group is expensive, time consuming and a lot of work. You don’t have to do that alone.
Have an old-fashioned potluck dinner. Have each of the guests bring a hot dish, that way you don’t have all of the cost and work to prepare the entire meal yourself. And if everyone brings a favorite recipe, no one will be able to say that they didn’t like the meal!
You can provide the main course—the turkey, ham or other meat—and your guests can supply the salad, soup, side dishes and dessert. That’ll probably cut your party food bill in half at least.
Or forego dinner and go with drinks and desserts
A holiday party doesn’t automatically have to mean dinner. You can invite your guests to come for an after dinner party. Limit the menu to drinks and desserts. You can even do a potluck variation here, asking your guests to each bring a favorite dessert.
If you do, you probably won’t even be putting anyone out. A lot of people have a favorite holiday dessert that they’re just itching to prepare for a group of family and friends.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without gifts, and if your holiday traditions include exchanging gifts with party guests there are ways you can lower the cost and still keep your traditions alive.
Try doing a grab-bag where everyone contributes to a pool of gifts, and everyone draws out of it. Everyone supplies a gift, everyone gets a gift, but the cost of the gift giving doesn’t fall on the host.
Another method is to draw names out of a hat. Each person buys a gift for one other person, and gets a gift themselves. Still another method is to limit gifts only to the children.
Go easy on the alcohol—or use BYOB
What’s a holiday party without holiday cheer? But alcohol is expensive, especially if you have to supply it to a dozen or more people. What complicates it more is that some of the guests might have personal preferences when it comes to their choice of drinks. Trying to keep everyone happy can get really expensive.
The way around that is to implement a BYOB—bring your own bottle—policy. It will save you money AND get you safely around the drink preference problem.
Add inexpensive entertainment
If you’re worried about asking guests to bring food and or drinks, spice up the party by adding some inexpensive entertainment.
You can add group Christmas caroling, karaoke or dancing to your itinerary. All you need is a decent sound system—which you probably already have—willing participants, and a shot of adult beverages, and your guests will probably have the best time ever at your party.
With a little bit of creativity, you can have an enjoyable Christmas party that won’t leave you up to your eyeballs in credit card debt when January rolls around.