Between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s entertaining, hostess and Christmas gifts, traveling costs, the wallet is on fire. Thankfully, one doesn’t need to spend a ton of money to celebrate fabulously! After years of parties and get-togethers, here are a few of my personal tips and tricks for affordable holiday entertaining.
Check your time
Thanksgiving dinner is unavoidable, but for Christmas and New Year’s, when you throw your party can affect your budget. Dinnertime means dinner food or heavy hors d’oeuvres which can dent your budget. Aim for later in the evening and serve dessert and coffee. Take advantage of an unexpected party time and host an afternoon open house on the weekend…it’s after lunch and before dinner so you can have lighter fare. How about a cocktail party during the week so guests can stop by after work?
Once upon a time, I would spit on the floor and snort ‘Sacrilege!’ at the mere mention of an online invite. This was back in the early days when they were pure cheesiness and very little personalization. Now, places like Paperless Post (my personal favorite) and Punchbowl make it easy to create free beautiful, customizable digital invitations with matching envelopes, liners, stamps, and postage (note, you do have to pay for certain extras). Plus, you can track RSVPs, attach maps and send reminders.
Dollar Store, Dollar Store, Dollar Store
I remember a time when dollar stores carried nothing but junk. Nowadays, spots like Dollar Tree and Dollar General should be your first stop. From colored paper plates, napkins and cups to serving trays, party decorations and candy, it is a serious treasure trove. Need proof? The majority of decorations from my Zombie Party Table came from Dollar Tree and I was just there picking up square plates and candy for my Thanksgiving kids’ table shoot.
Don’t forget the dollar spots of places like Target, Michael’s and Jo-ann’s…they are perfect spots for DIY decor and party favors.
Stay clear of themed serving and tableware Love your dancing Santa mugs? Can’t part with your turkey platter with the turkey on it? That’s ok…a few themed pieces are a great way to set the scene, but don’t go overboard. You can’t use those items for another 11 months and who has that kind of space for a bazillion pieces of holidayware? Not only can you use white tableware all year, it makes the food placed on it really shine. Take a peek at my white tableware…I’m ashamed to say that isn’t even everything.
Decorate with nature
Hit the bulk section of your grocery store and stock up on dried beans, popcorn kernels, walnuts, etc. for super cheap, then use them to fill your favorite vessels as accents throughout your house. Take a walk outside; small, fallen branches make perfect table runners. Skip over to the produce section and pick up fruits and veggies in your party colors; Campbell’s Kitchen suggests mini pumpkins, gourds, squash, and peppers for fall celebrating. Unlike flowers that wilt and drop pollen all over you table, you can cook up your produce the next day. Double duty boo-yah!
If you are looking for seriously inspired autumnal vegetable centerpieces, take a peek at my round-up post.
Serve a signature cocktail
Instead of a pricey full bar, serve a signature cocktail or two. They are my favorite party trick, I’ve done it for many events. Get your guests involved by setting it up self-serve style with ingredients and drink directions. In fact, your signature cocktail doesn’t have to be alcoholic; swizzle sticks, paper straws and rock candy sticks can make any beverage pretty. One of my favorite Christmas party drinks was this egg nog shooter with whipped cream and a paper straw. At the same party, I served milk martinis – milk in martini glasses with a cookie garnish. Simple and very effective.
Make your guests part of the decor
Not only is it an great conversation starter, imagine how fabulous your pictures are going to turn out. Ask guest to wear all red, white or gold or don their favorite festive holiday sweaters. Yes, I’ve hosted ugly sweater parties and the pictures are pure hideous awesomeness.
What is your affordable holiday entertaining tip? Leave a comment and share the love!