How to host a holiday party on a budget

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‘Tis the season to throw a party! With Thanksgiving just around the corner, holiday gatherings are about to start popping up on the calendar, from ‘Friendsgiving’ get-togethers to celebrations throughout the entire holiday season.

But with Thanksgiving dinner and gift-buying for the holidays already consuming so much of your money, it’s a good bet that you’ll want to save some dough during your party planning. With some resourcefulness and smart shopping moves, you can host a memorable shindig on a budget. Here are some ideas of what to buy and where to buy it, as well as some features you can add to your bash for free.

How to host a holiday party on a budget

Party necessities for free — or very cheap

Invitations: Do these online and save yourself the cost of cards and stamps. A tool like Paperless Post allows you to send customizable e-invitations for free, plus it simplifies the process of RSVPs. Using Facebook is a less flashy, but equally effective way of accomplishing the same goal. (A major bonus: An exact guest list can save you from preparing more food and party goodies than necessary.)

Tableware: If you’re hosting at home, you probably have plates, silverware, cups and glasses in the cupboard already. Use them for the party and have someone man the sink afterward — the soap and sponge don’t bite! You might not have everything on-hand (platters, for instance, are a rarer possession), but take advantage of what’s already in inventory.

If you don’t want the hassle of cleaning, dollar stores are great for this type of party supplies! Dollar Tree has everything from cups and plates to serving platters!

Ice: Bagged ice is great for summer cookouts outdoors. But unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere, November and December are cold, and you’re celebrating inside. Use the ice from your freezer for drinks, and use the fridge to keep the soft drinks and adult beverages chilled. If you absolutely must have large amounts of ice cubes, start making them well in advance, and clear enough space in your freezer to store them in bunches.

Think of other party staples you already own — or can make at home — to save yourself the hassle and price-tag of an extra shopping trip.

Read more: How save money on Thanksgiving dinner

Prepare food and drink at home

Hors d’oeuvre trays can help feed a crowd, but they can become expensive, especially if you’re hosting a dozen people or more. Instead of buying them, purchase the individual items in one such tray, yourself, sharpen the cutlery, and get to work! The same goes for main courses, if your party is a Friendsgiving type feast or a full meal.

Again, this is another area where dollar stores come in handy — cheap serving platters.

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Beverages are another party item that can add up fast. Instead of hauling in cases of beer from the store, prepare your own cocktail — a Thanksgiving punch with apple cider and a liquor at the base is a great place to start. Food & Wine, Food Network, and plenty of other sources of recipes should spark your imagination.

Get adult beverages cheap

Costco is a great place to get all your adult beverage needs. The warehouse club has some of the best prices on beer, wine and spirits.

Embrace the ‘pitch-in dinner’ concept

If you’re hosting a Friendsgiving gathering, it’s already assumed that others will pitch in to help. Foot the cost and responsibility for the big-ticket items — a turkey and a signature drink, for instance — but leave appetizers, side dishes, desserts and beverages to the guests. Draft a list of what you need, share it with your invitees, and as they RSVP, ask that they volunteer to bring one of the items.

‘Pitching in’ can extend to non-food and drink items, as well. If one of your guests has a great portable speaker, for example, there’s nothing wrong with asking them to bring it. What’s a speaker without a great party to use it, anyway? Just remember: Not every feature of your party has to be a personal expense!

Use dollar stores as your official party supplier

Tips for throwing a 'Friendsgiving' party on a budget

There’s no better supplier of party supplies than a dollar store. We’ve already mentioned some dinner table items you should already have at home, but places like Dollar Tree and 99-Cent-Only can help provide the rest. Here’s a partial list to keep in mind:

  • Party trays / platters
  • Napkins
  • Liquid hand soap
  • Party favors
  • Decorations
  • One-off condiments

Read more: Best dollar store buys for the holiday season

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