The shopping is nearly finished, you’ve started to wrap the presents, and you’ve even begun writing some of the cards. But now that the dust has settled, you may be wondering how you’ll be able to afford holiday entertaining and the gifts that have already been purchased. If you’re like most people, serving macaroni and cheese won’t be sufficiently sophisticated. So how can you save on holiday entertaining without sacrificing on taste or ambiance? Here are 7 ways to save- try one, and you’ll save a little. Use them all, and you’ll be amazed at how much money stays in your pocket.
1- Host a pot luck dinner. If you’re hosting 20 of your closest family members and friends, there’s no reason not to ask them to pitch in. Chances are good that your guests would otherwise spend money on a hostess gift. Since you probably don’t need another vase or creamer pitcher, why not just ask your guests to bring a side dish or salad instead? Getting everyone to help out will save you on holiday entertaining and also reduce the anxiety associated with preparing dinner for 20.
2- Ditch the expensive decorations. There’s absolutely no reason why you need to shell out money for fancy candles, table sparkles or other standard décor items. Instead, enlist your children to find pinecones, beautiful leaves or other free items to decorate the table with. If you don’t mind going for a homemade look, encourage your children to create holiday art projects or hand-drawn cutouts to sprinkle across the table. If you don’t have young children, consider decorating the table in unexpected and inexpensive ways- scatter a handful of jelly beans across the table to create a splash of color, light up some tea lights or simply drag out your fancy napkin rings to create interest at the table.
3- Buy in bulk. Few would argue that buying in bulk will save you a bundle on your entertaining expenses. And, if you play your cards right, you may even have extra paper goods or food items to use in the future. (Just make sure that you don’t opt for the Santa plates or Rudolph napkins). If you shop at wholesale clubs like Costco or BJ’s, be aware the not everything is cheaper in bulk. Pay attention to prices on things like produce and dairy, as these items may actually be cheaper in other stores.
4- Go green. Using paper goods is one of the most obvious holiday entertaining ideas- but it’s also one of the most expensive. If you’re inviting a manageable crowd, consider using real dishes, glasses and silverware, and breaking out the cloth napkins instead of paper ones. Using real dishes and napkins will not only help you save, but will help save the environment as well.
5- Make recipes that require items you already own. There’s no better way to save money on holiday entertaining than to shop your own pantry closet. Got two bags of noodles? Why not serve sesame noodles? Got some canned pumpkin? A pumpkin pie it is! Take a few moments to search your cupboards before heading to the store. It will likely save you significantly on your holiday menu.
6- Cut back on the alcohol. Alcoholic beverages can be a significant part of the holiday entertaining bill. In order to reduce these expenses, ask guests to bring their favorite drink (especially those who are not bringing any food), or offer mixers instead of straight-up alcohol. It may require a bit more work to make the drink, but the result will be both fun and financially responsible.
7- Remember that less is more. Most people think that one of the underlying principles of holiday entertaining requires the host to prepare everything in their cookbook. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. One of my favorite holiday entertaining ideas is that less is more. Instead of cooking everything you’ve ever made, choose a few of your favorites. Your guests will be satisfied and you’ll have done a fantastic job on a few select dishes, instead of serving too many lukewarm dishes because you didn’t have enough room in the oven.