Sunday, December 28, 2014

how to throw a budget friendly holiday party

And by "budget friendly" I mean literally NO budget.

I am no expert on party planning and even less of an expert on budgeting, but I did throw a little holiday party recently and we are rather strapped for cash with Mike in grad school and me home with the kids, so here are some ideas I thought I'd share from my recent party planning endeavors.

1. Use what you have: even though most parties pictured on Pinterest show all matching serving platters coupled with matching plates, cups and drink pitchers, when you are on a budget, you just do not have the cash to spring for a new set of party dishes. I do however have quite the hodgepodge of various assorted hand-me-down dishes and thrift store purchases that have made their way into my china cabinet over the years, so I just used what I had and pretend that I intended them not to match. I didn't intend it.
You see that cake plate on the left? My grandmothers. That two-teared glass and gold number? Thrift store. Those flower "vases"? Iced tea glasses gifted at our wedding. And the list goes on- no new serving dishes were purchased, and everything was ok.

2. Use twine. Twine is super cheap and comes with quite a bit on a roll and it makes everything look cute! I only had super duper cheap plastic cups and instead of getting cute festive ones for my super duper cheap boxed wine, I just twined them up:

And it worked!

3. Use your kid's construction paper (see above photo). Also really cheap and maybe already in your house. I also had some Christmas stamps that I was able to utilize to spruce it up for labels and what not, but you could just use your own stellar artistry skills and go to town, no one will be the wiser. Here's another photo for fun.
Labels care of the craft drawer.

4. Wrap your boxed wine. I went with the very cheapest large boxed Franzia for my party, and wrapping it up like a present did double duty as holiday decor and hiding how cheap I am. See:


5. Use food as docor. I realized after icing roughly 50 sugar cookie candy canes that they could easily be used on a mini tree as a festive dorcation without spending any extra cash.
I am sure this could work in a similar way with any cute food set ups, and is probably a real no-brainer, but let me pretend I know something.

6. Play a festive holiday film. This requires no money if you already own one, or if you already subscribe to Netflix streaming like me, you can just stream a holiday classic like White Christmas- one of my all time favorites- and bring added festive fun to your party. White Christmas is especially great because if enough people know all the songs it turns into it's own karaoke party as well, or at least it does in my family.

If you're going for a new year's day party film I am interested in checking out this Holiday Madagascar movie for the kids or for the adult crowd going with a super cheese ball romantic dramady like Love Actually, depending on the gender and age of those in attendance. Netflix streaming is teaming with endless entertaining possibilities, go see for yourself. 

So that is all I have for now, how about you? What do you do to scrimp and still be fun and festive as a host/hostess? Lay it on me and have a happy new year, Party People!

A small disclosure: I am a part of the Netflix Stream Team and have included them in this post, which I will be doing monthly as a part of the team. However, this is content I would have blogged about either way and since Netflix is already a central part of our days, it works out well.


  1. As another grad student family, I am all about entertaining (becasue I love having people over) on a budget. We have a Christmas party every single year, and I have learned what is the most fun is just having lots of people, a cleared out house (so kids can run and play and there is room for adults too), and lots of good food. I provide food from every category, and then people bring a dish to share, but that way we don't end up with no veggies (because no one ever seems to bring those). In our family room (okay, actually just a bedroom we pretend is a play/family room), we did set up a movie for the kids to watch - just the old TV show specials. They liked that. I am impressed actually with how decorated your party is - I manage to care a lot about the food, but then the presentation goes out the window, and we just line everything up on counters in the kitchen and call it a day.

  2. I love your decorating ideas! For my Christmas table, I put green, red and silver Christmas glass ornament balls in a cut glass punch bowl. It looked so pretty & festive. Candles on either side made the light bounce off the ornaments. The punch bowl was a wedding gift I almost never use. The ornaments were cast offs from my MIL when we were first married & had no ornaments yet. I also did red gerber daisies & evergreens in short stemless wine glasses on either end of the table. Merry Christmas, Hahns :)

  3. What a beautiful party it was! Now I'm even more sorry to have mised it. I wouldn't have thought to stream a movie at an adult party, but it's a darling idea. Second only to the wrapped wine - brilliant!!!!!

  4. One of my best tricks --> there will almost always be leftovers, so pick out snack foods that you can add to meals for the next few days. Meatballs, veggie & cheese trays, summer sausage. It's a two birds, one stone kind of plan.

    I'm a big fan of construction paper decor (my favorite is let the kids color on the paper and then use cookie cutters as stencils to trace holiday shapes.... instant decor ornaments + that days craft project).

  5. You did such a good job! And your mini pecan pies were the best breakfast the next day.

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  7. Great job!! I never would have thought twine could make such a difference (and the little tents too), but they totally did.