Ryan P. Cleary
Guide: How to throw a Holiday Party Without Breaking the Bank
Updated: Aug 2, 2019
Christmas is only a few days away, but holiday parties are a staple all the way into the new year. FloatMe’s Financial Wellness team has already talked about balancing workplace productivity with holiday shopping and provided an array of tools & tricks to help you save money while holiday shopping. However, holiday parties are one of the largest strains on your budget, so we’ve compiled some tricks to help you throw a great party, for less.
Having a plan on how you’ll execute your holiday party will go a long way to making it affordable. You’ll be able to avoid last-minute surprises, know what you need to purchase, and identify places to save.
Set a budget and stick to it
This should go without saying, especially if you’ve used any of our previous budget tools. However, listing out everything you need to put on your party with budgets will help keep spending reasonable.
Don’t throw a party
We aren’t saying you shouldn’t, because a holiday party can be lots of fun and is a chance to spend time with your favorite people. However, think through whether you have to host one this year. Is there someone else who might want to take it on? How much does the event matter to you compared to the stress?
Co-host the party
A great middle-ground our finance team has seen (and used) is pairing up with a friend, co-worker, or family member to co-host the event. This reduces the costs, stress, and tasks any one person has to deal with.
Center it around activities
Rather than making your event focused around a meal and dead-time spent socializing, you can plan out activities for your guests or make it a centerpiece of the event. These can be as simple as games like fishbowl or be more elaborate, like an outdoor event with lawn games. This could be a chance to start an affordable tradition.
The Guest List
The most controversial conundrum of any event is: who do we invite? You don’t want to exclude people, but your financial reality isn’t going to change overnight.
Tighten your guest list
Start by looking at the people you invited last year. Ask yourself who you’ve spoken to over the past year or who is a long term friend or family member. Anyone who doesn’t meet that criteria may not need to be invited the party. From there, ask yourself who you would miss if they weren’t at the event. You’ll be amazed how much the list will shrink!
Choose an off-peak time
When planning the event, consider hosting during the afternoon or morning, rather than an evening event. This could allow you to include alternative activities outdoors, save money on event space, and even reduce your costs involving food (alcohol in particular will likely see a lower consumption than in the evening).
Ditch paper invitations and go green
We have yet to meet anyone who loves paying through the nose for fancy paper invitations. After all, people read them, might RSVP (or might not), and then throw them away. An easy way to cut costs is to use an E-invitation. There are many websites offering them, but we enjoyed many of the (free!) designs at Evite.com, which also allows you to include RSVPs, share responsibilities, and manage your mailings. Want a convenient excuse for going digital? Tell potential guests that you’re “going green”
Create ambiance- not clutter
The best party-planning advice we received came from a professional corporate event planner. Her advice was to minimize the number of decorations you have taking up space. Instead, focus on “creating moods [using] lighting, scents, and carefully selected centerpieces.” Try putting up warm-white LED string lights along your walls to create ambiance that you can use year-round and use a wax warmer to create a holiday atmosphere. For centerpieces & other decorations, opt for simple DIY decorations or take a trip to the dollar store. A benefit of taking a “less is more” approach is having more space for guests to put their plates and less post-holiday cleanup for you.
Borrow from friends & family
Why not share decorations and other holiday essentials? Instead of buying a turkey roaster or fondue pot, reach out to friends and family to see if you can borrow!
Decorate only the spaces guests will see
Not only does limiting your decorating to areas your guests will physically access help save time and money, it also clearly says where guests should be in your home.
Plan your menu in advance & buy early
Having a menu planned helps avoid last-minute scrambles at the grocery store. Last-minute shopping runs are notorious for forgotten items, overspending, and sloppy presentation. Try to have a menu planned several weeks in advance to take advantage of seasonal sales at the grocery store. Alternatively, look up a weekly store ad and base your menu around what is on-sale.
Avoid a sit-down meal
While idyllic, sit-down meals are high-stress, time-intensive, and costly. Especially if you’re holding an event with activities or not around dinner-time, having an alternative to a sit-down meal is a good plan. Some ideas include hosting a potluck-style meal, serving appetizers & light snack, or focusing only on deserts.
Have “signature drinks”
Besides the meal, the bar tab or self-hosting a bar will be the most expensive part of the meal. If you prefer not to have guests bring bottles to share or do a cash-bar a simple way to keep costs low while creating a festive atmosphere is to have one or two “signature drinks.” These can be almost anything, although there are many excellent champagne cocktails. The benefits are that you require fewer types of alcohol on hand, can make a bottle stretch further by mixing it with less expensive ingredients, and provide a memorable experience for your guests.
Happy Holidays from the FloatMe Financial Wellness Team!