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How to Throw a Holiday Party to Remember — on a Budget

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Whether it’s a bash for your closest friends or a formal get-together for your employees, planning a holiday party is always a challenge — especially when you have to stick to a budget. The good news: throwing a great party doesn’t have a lot to do with how much you spend. Here are our 12 tips on planning a great holiday party where neither you nor your guests will feel like you’ve been cutting corners.

Social Holiday Parties on a Budget

How do you throw a memorable party for your friends and family without breaking the bank?

  • Make it a potluck or BYOB. Not only does this lighten your financial load, it gets everyone a little more involved. Further, what better way to offer a variety of cuisines?
  • Use what you already have. Decorations, for example, do not have to be purchased new every year. You might even find that you can repurpose some of the things you have around the house. Making your own decorations is not only less expensive, it’s a fun activity you can share with your family… if you’re the crafty type.
  • Don’t buy, borrow. If there’s something you need that you know a friend, neighbor or guest has, don’t be shy. Give them a call or shoot them an email. Ask if you can borrow the item for the party.
  • Invite online. Just sending off an email is no fun. However, a number of websites such as Evite allow you to send invitations at no cost to you. While nothing has the visceral appeal of a hand-written note, you can save a bundle by moving your invitations into the digital era.
  • Contain the drinks menu. A case of good beer and a single holiday-themed drink can go a long way. Look around for a good, accessible-to-all holiday cocktail recipe. Substitute that and a good winter beer for a full bar.
  • Weigh the perks of rentals vs. plastic. Many people think that paper and plastic dining ware is cheaper than the real thing. On this point, they are correct. However, renting good glass wear is more budget-friendly than you might think. It also reduces waste.
  • You don’t have to feed everyone a huge meal. Serve light food. If you tell everyone in advance to expect drinks and light snacks, that’s all people will expect. Or time the party right: mid- to late-afternoon or after dinner, when everyone has already eaten a major meal.

Business Holiday Parties on a Budget

Planning a business holiday party on a budget is trickier. It isn’t appropriate to have employees pay for the party or supply any food or drinks. Still, you can give your employees a great holiday party at a reasonable cost by following these tips:

  • Mind the tips above. Many of the tips for a social holiday party can be used by a business. Using what you already have, borrowing what you don’t, sending invites electronically and scaling back your food and drink menus all save costs without cutting corners.
  • Entertainment does not have to be paid. While a single CD of Christmas songs might get a little boring over the course of a couple of hours, digital music players and online libraries make this less of a concern. Make a playlist with a diverse selection of holiday (or party) tunes and everyone will be happy.
  • Party favors don’t need to be elaborate. A nice glass filled with candy will make most of your employees happy. Better yet, consider putting a nominal amount on an iTunes gift card for each employee. Besides, they’re probably more concerned with the Christmas bonus than what they’re getting at the company Christmas party.
  • Hold the party in the office. There’s not a lot of reason to rent a venue when you’re on a budget. You already have a venue, one that you’re paying rent on. If you can trust your employees to not trash the place (and if you can’t, why are they working for you?) hold the party where you work. If for whatever reason that doesn’t work and your company isn’t big, consider inviting the guests to your home.
  • Consider holding a party after the holidays. Things will be much less expensive then. And, honestly, who couldn’t use a party to decompress a little once the hectic holiday season has passed?

Big Fun on a Little Budget

The holidays are really about getting together and spending time with people. You don’t need to spend extravagantly to have a holiday party that everyone will enjoy. What people will take away from the holidays is not a magnificent centerpiece or a full bar. What they’ll take away are the great times they had. Put your focus on helping your friends, family, co-workers and employees have fun. Take the focus off extravagance. You’ll be surprised how little people will miss the latter when you provide the former.

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