This is a repost from last year. I hope it gives you some ideas for ways to frugally entertain this holiday season! Merry Christmas!
One of the best parts of the holidays are spending time with the people you care about and celebrating the joys of the season. I hope some of these tips and ideas will inspire you to host your own gathering AND to stay on a budget while doing so. We’ll look at two parts of entertaining for Christmas—inexpensive party ideas and ways to decorate your home frugally. For even more money saving tips and ideas on entertaining, check out this post.
- Host a cookie swap. Fun and frugal, the host of the cookie swap does little more than providing a place to meet, a few beverages, and a couple of batches of cookies. Each invitee is asked to bring 2 batches of her favorite cookie recipe and copies of the recipe to share with others. One batch is put on the table for all to taste. Everyone’s second batches are reserved so that the attendees can bring home a little assortment. While not necessary, it is a nice touch to provide boxes or cookie tins for your guests. These can be bought a dollar stores, the grocery, or places like World Market. This year I’ll be mixing things up a bit. I’ll ask guests to vote on their favorite cookie, and the guest who wins receives a donation to her favorite charity. Martha Stewart has some great cookie recipes to get you inspired!
- Host a brunch. I prefer brunch to breakfast or lunch any day. It seems more special, more decadent. Brunch is a great way to bring people together without the expense of providing a full supper to everyone. The bonus is that many brunch foods can be made ahead of time. Most brunches that I host include a couple of quiches, a few batches of muffins, boiled eggs, bacon or sausage, fruit salad, biscuits and jams, coffee, hot tea, and juice. To further lower your cost, you can ask guests to bring a recipe to share.
- Have an open house. Friends of ours host an open house each year. People from every group of friends they have drop in over the course of a 4 hour time span. They put out a few beverages and appetizers, and though guests are not asked to bring foods, most stop by with a bottle of wine or a platter of goodies to share. They joke that the party is really a way for them to stock up their wine cellar because most people bring a bottle as a gift for them. It is always great fun, and we meet someone new each year. Don’t forget to use free invites from websites like evite to lower your cost.
- Host a potluck supper. Each year our group of closest friends come together to celebrate Winter Solstice. Since it is right before Christmas, it is a perfect time to exchange gifts and reconnect. We rotate who hosts, and this year it is my turn. Everyone brings part of the meal, making it a very easy and inexpensive party. Many of us have children, so we try to have a few activities for them. For Hubby, daughter, and I, it is a time to celebrate hope. Winter Solstice is about the celebration of the sun returning—the days start to lengthen with the turn of the season. It is such a great analogy of the birth of Jesus.
- Host a tea. Planning your party for a time that is outside of lunch or dinner means that you won’t have to provide as much food. If you set the time for 2pm, no one will expect to be fed and the intent of the party will be focused on socializing. Teas are great for this time of day. Pull out a few of your tea pots and tea cups and buy a few nice teas or loose teas. Make sure you have sugar, artificial sweetener for those who go for that, honey, lemon, and cream. Add a few finger sandwiches, cookies, and cheeses to a platter, and you’ve thrown a grown-up tea party. This is also a really fun party for little girls. You can encourage them to wear dress up clothes and hats—be sure to take some photos!
- Use what you have. Most of our holiday decorations have been given to us or passed down from previous generations. The nativity scene that I own was made by a friend of my maternal grandmothers, and it is my favorite decoration to put up each year.
- Buy after the season is over. When decorating this year, think about what voids you have. Do you need more ornament hooks? Did the tree topper break this year? Look in stores the day after Christmas up until the week after for some of the best deals on marked down decorations.
- Go natural. If you are buying your Christmas tree at a store, many will give you the extra greenery that is cut from the bottom of the trees. In previous years, I’ve used it to make swags to decorate the front of our house and mailbox. Use a bit of florist twine or wire to tie it together and use some pretty red bows here and there to add a pop of color. Use pine cones, rosemary, sprigs of cedar, and boughs of holly to bring a bit of the outdoors in—bonus, it will make your house smell fragrant. Go here for some great ideas and tips for making your own holiday swag.
- Pick a smaller tree. We have an older home with shorter ceilings, but I think even if we didn’t we’d opt for a smaller tree. All throughout my childhood we had very tall trees in our foyer and it was such a pain to decorate. The smaller tree allows our daughter to take an active role in hanging the ornaments, and it is a lot less expensive than buying a bigger tree.
- Pay attention to the details. My aunt is an artist, actress, and children’s book author in the Memphis area. With all of that creativity, her house is one of my favorites to visit during the Christmas season. What I noticed most about it last year was that every nook and cranny was decorated. I’m not talking about being obnoxious or gaudy—she’s anything but that. Her attention to detail is always tasteful, and I’ve tried to use her as inspiration. This year I added a few decorations in places that I wouldn’t have normally—the guest bathroom, Christmas lights up in our kitchen, framed art with winter themes up here and there. Without buying anything extra, I tried to put little pieces of “happy” around the house for not only our guests but for our family to also enjoy.
- Inexpensive table runner. I have no idea where I first got this idea, but wrapping paper makes a festive and inexpensive table runner. Use whatever solid color table cloth you have and add a pattern that matches it of wrapping paper as the runner.
- Use your Christmas cards for decorations. Remember that framed art I mentioned earlier? Pick some of the most beautiful cards you receive, and save them to frame. Pick up something inexpensive at a craft store, remove the back side of the card where people have written, and pop it in the frame. Voila, super cheap art!
More important than any other tip is this—have fun! If you aren’t having fun at your own party, no one else will be. Take time to enjoy your guests rather than fretting in the kitchen over the food. Being truly “present” will be a gift that you give yourself and your friends this Christmas season. Merry Christmas to all of you!