The holidays are just around the corner, and hosting gatherings is a great way to bring the family together and show your love and appreciation for one another. However, hosting can get expensive. It’s a lot of little things that add up fast, and it can easily break your budget if you don’t have a plan.
Thankfully, there are ways to have a budget-friendly holiday party that still has all the spirit of the season! It might break tradition a little, but it won’t break the bank, which will allow your family to enjoy it that much more. Here’s how you can save money at your holiday hosting event:
How to Save Money When Hosting Holiday Parties
Add it to your budget tracker.
Everyone should have a monthly budget. It’s the best money saving strategy. Most people feel like they actually got a raise when they start budgeting every month and assigning each dollar they earn to a designated category. This zero-based budget tracker shouldn’t be copied and pasted and reused every month, because, though there is plenty about your spending that stays the same, things like this only pop up a couple times a year! If hosting your holiday event isn’t in your budget, you’ll go in the red when you start shopping for food, decor, and the rest.
So, write out the costs of everything for your party, adjust where necessary to make it more affordable, and ensure it’s on your budget tracker! If you’re not sure where to start with making your budget, let’s meet and discuss the details! If you have a few months before your holiday party, create a sinking fund to make the burden lighter on your November and December budgets!
Consider your family’s traditions and values.
If your family has this gathering every year, consider the expectations of the family members attending your party. Now, this isn’t an end-all-be-all. We don’t need to cater to everyone’s whims when it’s not in the budget. However, it’s important you deliver the parts of the event that are most treasured by your family. If you can’t, it might be time to communicate with your family about your financial concerns and have someone else host this year. Most of the time, though, there are plenty of ways to make it work. For instance, if your family has a tradition of having a real tree at Christmas, then prioritize that in your budget. If everyone expects an annual take-home party favor after Thanksgiving dinner, ensure that’s in your budget too. Whatever is unique and sacred to your family should be at least considered when establishing your party budget.
Send invites via social media or text.
We don’t need to pretend this is a bigger deal than it is! Shoot everyone texts or social media messages to let them know the details of the party. Sending invites and paying for postage is just silly when the card will be thrown out anyway and you have much easier (and cheaper) ways to contact your loved ones. Remember, the day is about reconnecting with family, not about the luxury details.
Limit decorations to what you already have in storage.
You may feel the urge to create the holiday atmosphere with a lot of extra decorations, but it’s really unnecessary. Use what you have in storage, and set the festive tone with free music and a spiced candle. When all your family shows up, it’ll definitely feel like the holidays!
Find inexpensive seating solutions.
Do you have the means to seat everyone coming? If not, you’ll need to find tables and chairs somewhere. Before calling a rental place, ask friends and family if they have extra folding tables and chairs that you could pick up before the party (or they could bring it along.) If you can’t find any to borrow, shop around to get the best deals on your rentals.
Be untraditional with your meal choice.
Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham with all the fixings and side dishes is not a cheap meal. A good way to save money on your holiday party is going with an untraditional meal option! Go with soups, pasta, pulled pork sandwiches, or a taco bar.It may not sound very festive, but remember the reason for the season, as they say. Plus, if your guests are attending a lot of holiday parties, they may welcome the change of pace!
Do appetizers instead of a meal.
Another way to save money on the meal is to do appetizers instead! This a great for very large gatherings where sitting down and having a big meal together is more of a hassle than a joy. With appetizers, everyone can just grab what they want throughout the day and there’s never congestion or chaos in the food line. Your family will be able to roam and chat all day long! Beyond the convenience, it’s also much cheaper than a big meal and it could save you on seating and table rentals!
Get help with desserts.
If you’re tackling the main meal, ask family members to bring various desserts. It’ll save you time and money, while also bringing more variety to the dessert table. Your family is likely more than happy to help and making one dessert (or grabbing one at the bakery before they come) is really not a lot to ask, considering all you’re doing.
Have a potluck instead.
One of the best money-saving strategies for the holidays is having a potluck instead of a traditional meal! As a host, you’ll coordinate who’s bringing main dishes, side dishes, desserts, drinks, and paper products. Then, you’ll confirm what everyone plans on bringing to make sure there are no gaps or repeats. When the party starts, you just make sure there are enough plug-ins for all the crockpots and enough countertop for the platters.
Keep the drink situation simple. (Or go BYOB)
When providing drinks, keep it simple. You’ll get the biggest bang for your buck skipping the coolers filled with individual cans and bottles, and instead go with 2 liter pop bottles or drink dispensers with ice tea, lemonade, water, etc. If doing alcohol, keep it to just wine and/or beer—you don’t need every variety of liquor, cider, and cocktail. However, to avoid this cost altogether, I recommend making the party “bring your own beverage,” so everyone has what they want.
Have a price limit on your gift exchange.
If you’re doing a gift exchange, that’s just another expense to add to your budget. To avoid this getting out of control, set a price limit on the presents. Discuss the maximum with your family members and communicate it to everyone. You can limit the gift exchange further too, if you have one for kids and adults. Consider skipping the adults and focusing on the kids, if you have other loved ones looking to cut costs too.
Go with free or inexpensive games.
Truthfully, you probably don’t need to overthink entertaining your guests. Everyone will be busy catching up and eating great food during the party. However, if you want to include this (or it’s a family tradition), go with free or inexpensive games. Things like charades, pictionary, trivia, dominos, Scrabble, and various card games don’t cost much, but can keep everyone entertained for hours!
Budget for guests sleeping over too.
Do you have guests sleeping over? If you do, don’t forget to budget for the extra meals they’ll be joining you for, and any other amenities like hygiene products and snacks. Details matter when you’re making a budget!
Don’t let the holiday season be full of regret, guilt, and worry. Keep everything in budget!
Don’t forget what the holidays are all about. It’s about rest, family, and gratitude. Overspending and people-pleasing is not the way to a happy new year. In fact, it’s a great way to start the new year in debt, full of regret, and further than ever from your financial goals. Don’t let it happen! Go into this busy hosting season with a plan and visualize your goals for the next year.
If you’re intimidated by all the incoming spending, I get it! It can be completely overwhelming. I can remember more than one holiday season where the numbers in the bank didn’t match all I wanted to do to make the year special. To help you come up with a budget, stay practical, and focus on the big picture, start meeting with me as a financial coach! The accountability and guidance is exactly what you need to reach financial freedom this season!