I love hanging out with my friends, but I used to avoid throwing parties at my house mostly because I couldn’t justify the expense. You have to buy food, booze and make your house look festive. And it all adds up pretty quickly. (Bah! Humbug!) But I can’t expect to be invited anywhere if I can’t (or don’t) return the favor! So how can I have my fun and throw a party that doesn't bust my budget? I’m going to challenge myself to throw a party for only $25. Can it be done? With a little ingenuity, the answer is yes. Here’s how:
1. Dilute the Booze
OK, so the most expensive part of throwing a party is buying alcohol. It can add up pretty quickly. Instead of serving your guests the cheapest wine or beer available, consider making a mixed drink. Preferably one that calls for just a little bit of booze mixed with other ingredients (not a martini, for example). A spiced wine punch with plenty of fruit or hot apple cider with a splash of apple-flavored liqueur is a good option that is festive but relatively cheap to make. You’ll stretch your dollar farther by serving plenty to drink while using only a minimal amount of booze. And if drinking isn’t that important to you or your guests, skip it altogether. Make a festive nonalcoholic drink and call it a day.
Recipes to Try: Eggnog and More Healthy Winter Drink Recipes
2. Use Natural Decorations
You may think that every party needs a trip to Pottery Barn to make your house look festive, but really all you need to do is step out your front door. Take a few clipping from a pine tree for your centerpiece and grab a pinecone or two. Throw in a few candles you have stashed away and you’ll have a lovely, festive decoration (that will smell good too!). Not into Mother Nature? There’s no shame in asking friends with great taste to borrow a few things they may not be using. (Just remember to invite them to the party.)
3. Stick to Budget Ingredients
You can throw a great party with fabulous food without breaking the bank. You just have to know what foods really stretch your dollar and, conversely, what foods cost the most. Foods you may want to limit if you’re sticking to a budget: cheese, meat and nuts. These all tend to be rather expensive per pound, even if you’re buying in bulk. For the cost of 8 ounces of Roquefort cheese to be served as an appetizer for 6 people, say (with bread, of course), you could make an entree (like a quiche) and maybe even a simple dessert. So choose where you spend wisely. What should you spend your money on? Beans, fruit, vegetables and whole grains like brown rice tend to be less expensive. Want some ideas to get you going? For the whole grains, think salads, with a sprinkle of fruit or vegetables to liven them up. Dice up a mango and serve it with a squeeze of lime on a colorful tortilla chip as an appetizer. Slice and roast some vegetables and serve them with baguette on the side or puree canned beans to use as a dip for tortillas and vegetables.
4. Serve Appetizers Instead of a Big Meal
Instead of sitting down to a formal meal, consider just throwing together a few appetizers instead. That way you won’t have to shell out a bunch of money on a main dish. And when you’re picking your appetizers, keep them simple. I like to limit mine to about 5 ingredients or less. It’s an easy way to keep your spending in check and it lightens the load on the host when it comes time to prep.
Recipes to Try: 5-Ingredient Appetizers
Here’s a menu of three tasty appetizers plus a delicious winter drink, all for around $23.00.
Skewering mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes makes them easy to nosh at a party.
Scandinavian Pickled Herring Bites
This Scandinavian-style appetizer is a good way to try pickled herring if you’ve never had it. The potent flavor of the herring is balanced by a dollop of sour cream and the potato slice it’s served on.
Polenta Wedges with Tomato Tapenade
Crispy pieces of polenta topped with a tangy sun-dried tomato tapenade makes a pretty and tasty appetizer.
This warm mixture is a distinctive twist on the classic hot buttered rum.
More EatingWell Recipes to Try: Recipes for Easy Entertaining
What are your tips for saving money as a holiday host? Tell us what you think below.