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Hosting a holiday gathering is the best. You get to invite everyone over to your house, feed them, and make them feel comfortable and loved. It’s hospitality at its finest. And you look forward to it every year.
But if you’re getting out of debt (or filling up your emergency fund), it can be a challenge to host a holiday get-together without derailing your money goals.
The good news is you don’t have to overspend to entertain. Here are 12 savvy ideas for keeping costs down and spirits up for your Thanksgiving or Christmas bash.
1. Make a party-specific budget. Think through how much you’ll need for your gathering. If you want to find extra cash in your budget, temporarily cut a few categories like your fun money or your restaurant cash. Set aside a realistic amount in your budget and mark it “Thanksgiving Dinner” or “Christmas Party” so you know exactly how much you can spend.
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2. Set your priorities. Before you start spending, make a list for everything you want to buy. Start with what’s most important. For example: paper goods, main dishes, appetizers, desserts, drinks, tablecloths, candles, flowers/greenery. That way, if your money runs out, you can cut a few things from the bottom that don’t matter as much.
3. Stick to the overall budget. The best way to stay on budget is to track your spending as you go. EveryDollar Plus makes it easy to drag and drop your transactions so you know exactly how much you’re spending and how much you have left to spend.
Hospitality is less about spending money and more about sharing moments.
4. Accent key places. If you can’t afford to adorn the whole house, that’s okay. Focus on high-impact, high-traffic areas like the table, mantle and front door. These will give your house the festive vibe you want without a lot of funds or a lot of fuss!
5. Go for prayer candles. If your gathering is at night, crank up the fireplace and light some candles. You can get away with hardly decorating this way! Save money by picking up some simple glass-encased prayer candles at your local discount or dollar stores and wrapping them with burlap ribbon.
6. Beg, borrow, or (buy for a) steal. You don’t need to spend a fortune on tablecloths and serving trays to make your holiday spread look great. Get what you need from a friend, a thrift store, or a dollar store. Cake stands and punch bowls can add up fast if you’re buying them new!
7. Look for simple standouts. People love dips, fondues and anything covered in cheese. Keep it easy with crowd-pleasing recipes that don’t take a lot of time or money. And keep your make-ahead ratio high so you’re not scrambling to cook hours before your guests arrive.
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8. Shop generic and discount. Chips are chips. Sugar is sugar. Cherries are cherries. You get the idea. Save your money for higher-quality cheese or a nicer cut of meat and spend less on stuff that’s getting mixed into casseroles and soups.
9. Ask a few friends to make something. Most people have a signature dish or dessert. Cut down on your stress and your budget by asking a few close friends or family members to come early and bring their best pie or potatoes. People usually enjoy helping out anyway.
10. Forget the fancy invites. Simplify your process with a nice email invite. The end.
11. Go for paper (or plastic) goods. Keep cleanup simple with recyclable plates, cups and cutlery. They’re worth the money and can save you tons of stress. And while we’re on the subject, think about buying small plates. That way, people won’t hog all the food and leave the people at the back of the buffet wondering how that steamy mac ‘n’ cheese must have tasted.
12. Delegate wisely. You can’t do everything. You’ll need someone to help. Maybe that’s your spouse or your best friend. Or maybe it’s your kids or your parents. Delegate the stuff you hate to do and enjoy the rest. Don’t put the pressure on yourself to do it all. This will free up your time so you can focus on saving money on everything else.
Be the Best Host for Your Budget
If you love hosting for the holidays, go for it! But don’t overspend to make others happy. Do what you can, then focus on enjoying your time together. Hospitality is less about spending money and more about sharing moments. Make the most of them.
Ignore the pressure to host a Pinterest-perfect holiday gathering. Focus on what matters most to you. When you stop comparing, you can really start living.