Financial Literacy for Everyone

Holiday Entertaining on a Dime

Welcome to the season of holiday parties, family gatherings and gift giving. For many of us, the season's gatherings bring fun and excitement, but also financial strain. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers this season will spend an average of $704.18 on gifts and seasonal merchandise. If you plan to host a gathering (or attend one), consider these tips for excellent celebrations that won't break the bank.

1. Happy holiday budgeting.
How much party can you afford? Knowing what you can afford to spend on an event–and sticking to it–is critical. You can learn some basics at our holiday budgeting center. If there isn't enough money in your budget to host the bash you'd like to, don't worry. You may have to adjust your plan, but there are entertaining options for almost every budget. Gift wrapping, craft making, and caroling parties are excellent alternatives to larger holiday parties.

2. More is merrier.
Sharing the financial and other responsibilities of hosting a party is the best way to entertain for less. If you'd like to host your own party, consider asking guests to bring a special dish, drink or dessert. Friends on tight budgets or those who don't cook can always help with invitations, setup or cleanup instead. Often times, including others in party organization, food preparation and other aspects of planning makes for a more diverse and inclusive party.

3. Keep it small.
You may be tempted to pack your house with as many guests as are allowed under the current fire code, but a long guest list can add to the stress and costs of an event. Before making a guest list, estimate how much it will cost per person for food and drinks, look at your budget, and plan your guest list accordingly. Sometimes an intimate gathering with very close friends is more fun than an all-out bash.

4. DIY decorations.
It's easy to spend a fortune on holiday decorations, from wreaths and ornaments to garlands, placemats and more. If you already have items from previous years, reusing them is the most economical (and earth-friendly) way to go. If you want to buy new decorations, consider making your own with ideas from sites like this one, borrow decorations from friends or family, or have guests make placemats or ornaments during the party itself.

5. Simple celebratory foods.
An appetizer or dessert party will virtually always cost less than a party that takes place during a mealtime. Whatever time of day you have your event, sharing the responsibility of cooking and shopping with friends is the ultimate way to save. For those dishes that you make, consider choosing recipes with plenty of portions that require inexpensive ingredients.

6. Make gifts thoughtful.
If you are attending a party and want to bring a gift for the host, or if the party you're attending includes a gift exchange, consider giving something thoughtful yet inexpensive instead of rushing out and buying something full price. Some thoughtful yet economical gift ideas include a well-picked book; a modest gift certificate for something you know the recipient enjoys; or a homemade photo album, gift basket, ornament or recipe booklet. Offering the your time or expertise is another good gift.

Put a little thought and planning into your entertainment plans and you can save yourself hundreds of dollars or more–while still throwing a beautiful, memorable event.

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