How To Throw A Lavish Holiday Party On A Tight Budget

The holidays are already upon us despite the fact that it seems like just yesterday that we were barbecuing in the backyard and lighting off fireworks. With this wintry time of year comes a season of parties that could leave you stressed out and strapped for cash if you’re not careful, especially with all of the other demands on your time and your budget at the end of the year. And yet, you don’t necessarily want to forego the festive parties that have become a tradition among your family and friends. So if you’re looking for a way to throw the same lavish soiree you do every year but with a limited budget in mind, here are a few tips to help you get the most bang for your buck.


You can spend a lot of money keeping your guests well fed if you’re not careful. And yet, you might not be too keen on the idea of going buffet-style. In this case, you might want to make your party a potluck. You can prepare the main dish and assign guests the duty of bringing appetizers, side dishes, drinks, or dessert. Or if you don’t want to ask for help, consider skipping the standard meal and hosting a cocktail party instead. You can prepare hors d’oeuvres ahead of time on your own and set up some kind of dessert bar (as well as a wet bar) instead of shelling out for caterers.


Alcohol can be pretty pricy, so consider hitting up Costco for the key ingredients to just a couple of favorite holiday drinks like hot buttered rum, hot toddies, or Irish coffee. Or you could make a delicious raspberry champagne punch with just a few ingredients. And of course, you should encourage guests to bring the fixings (and recipes) for any other alcoholic beverages they might prefer.


In most cases you’ll simply host your holiday parties in the comfort of your own home. But if you traditionally have a large guest list for a particular get-together you might be inclined to rent a larger space at this time of year. However, a tight budget could leave you with little wiggle room when it comes to your usual arrangements. If this is the case, consider skipping a dedicated venue and opt instead to find a local eatery that will let you rent out their private party room (probably for a lot less than a ballroom, for example). Or ask a friend with bigger digs if he/she would be willing to host this year provided you make all the other arrangements. It never hurts to ask so long as you don’t think it will be too much of an imposition.


Your home may already be decorated for the holiday season, but if you want to punch it up a bit you might think about adding a few specialty lights like large LED spheres or meteor LED light tubes that look like falling rain. And don’t forget to place mistletoe strategically throughout the space for some unexpected moments of holiday cheer!


With a tight budget, acrobat performers or fire eaters is probably out of the question. What you might want to consider instead is loading up your playlist with holiday tunes and springing for a docking station with decent speakers. Or you could hire a group of orchestra students from the high school or college in your area to play for the evening (if they’re established they’ll provide entertainment for a lot less than a professional group). And if all else fails, ask your musically inclined friends to play a few tunes on a guitar or piano, or get the whole assembly involved in a rousing round of some well-known seasonal carols.

These are just a few ways I have found to save money on these parties. What have you done? I would love to hear your ideas.


How To Throw A Lavish Holiday Party On A Tight Budget — 29 Comments

  1. Great tips! We like giving parties and we do have large (50-60 guests +) ones about twice a year. We cook – but we cook things that are easy to cook over a long period and store (curries, stews etc.). Also, in the UK people usually turn up with a bottle (and sometimes the bottles are rather nice :)).

  2. Good tips Miss T! We really like to do potlucks as it saves time and money for al involved, plus you can get some nice variety. Our problem is that we have a bunch of family visiting and staying with us over Christmas. That’s going to make saving a little more interesting.

  3. On your entertainer idea….I love the way this is presented in Never Eat Alone (my favorite networking book). He says to leave that local high school band a secret and then spring them on everyone halfway through the party. You’ll turn what everyone expected to be a “normal, everyday” event into an epic party, just because you surprised them.

  4. Great suggestions. Love the ones about hiring high school entertainers. I would suggest using cloth napkins and real plates and cups (as opposed to the paper kind) if you’re gathering will be small. Saves money, is better for the environment, and isn’t really that hard to clean up.

  5. Love the party potluck idea. It is also a great way to try foods from different ethnicity’s. Ironically, we were actually going to have fire eaters at our party this year but they got burnt out. Wow, that was terrible, I can’t believe I just typed that.

  6. We love pot-lucks and often get asked by our friends who hold parties to bring something along. We do the same as it’s a great way to taste food from other cultures or something we have never had before. It’s also great for conversations at a party. Sometimes we all pitch in money and hold a party at one our houses and it makes it even better for all of our pocket books. We revolve who’s house gets to hold the party next and go from there. Cheers Mr.CBB

    • Sounds similar to us. We have potlucks quite often. Our house seems to be the place we have them but everyone always brings a dish so we don’t mind. We have the most room and live the most central so it works out well for everyone. I always end up asking friends for their recipes.

  7. Potlucks can really be a cost saver, but also add to the camaraderie of the whole event. People feel like they’re in it together. Also allows the host to focus time on other things to make the party fun for all.

    One other thing to think of with parties is avoiding keeping up with the Joneses. We don’t have to outdo anyone, and it doesn’t matter if our party is less extravagant than someone else’s. Keeping competitive feelings out of throwing a party can help curtail expenses.

  8. I like the idea for cocktail parties with dessert bars. That doesn’t cost a lot, and it’s a lot of fun! We like to go to a hors d’ouvres party at a friend’s house — great time, and there’s always a ton of yummy appetizers.

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