On a Budget This Holiday Season? Throw a Rockin’ Party on the Cheap

people holding sparklers
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The holidays are the perfect time to get together with friends and family — and are the perfect excuse to host a shindig or two.

If you’re looking to invite friends, family, co-workers or all of above into your home this holiday season, take some notes on how to throw the most festive party on a budget.

8 Tips to Save Money on Your Holiday Party

Here are eight steps you can take to throw the perfect holiday party — without draining your bank account.

1. Send Festive Evites

First things first: the guest list. You could make a plain ol’ Facebook event, but why not class it up with an evite?

Paperless Post has gorgeous designs, or use Evite so your friends can leave messages as they RSVP.

2. Plan Your Attire Early

Women shopping for a dress
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Whether you’re throwing an ugly sweater party or a sparkly New Year’s Eve bash, start hashing out a game plan for your outfit. (There’s nothing worse than hating your outfit at your own party.)

If your closet is looking hopeless and you don’t want to combat holiday mall crowds, shop online.

Make this one of the first steps to planning your party, so you’re not frantically waiting on UPS the day of your gathering. Arm yourself with the right shopping tools to save money.

One of our secret weapons is called Paribus — a tool that gets you money back for your online purchases. It’s free to sign up, and once you do, it will scan your email for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it will track the item’s price and help you get a refund when there’s a price drop.

Want to look a little more posh for the holidays, without spending high-end prices? Shop an online boutique.

Check the flash-sale site Rue La La. It offers top brands for up to 70% off. How? When retailers have excess product, Rue La La takes it and sells it at a hefty discount — but each sale is only available for a limited time.

To find your perfect party outfit, sign up for free with your email address. (It’s an exclusive site — discounts are for members only.) Then search by your favorite brand, or browse the boutiques to see what’s available.

3. Clean and Clear the Space

It’s always a little intimidating when a large group of people invades your space. You know everyone gossips after leaving a party, so you need it to look like you actually have your life together. (Especially if the in-laws are attending.)

In addition to your basic Swiffering, vacuuming and toilet-scrubbing, examine your clutter. This is an opportune time to clear out what you don’t need. You’ll start the new year off on the right foot — and you’ll look like a trendy minimalist.

Here’s how to make money off the things you’re letting go:

  • For your technology — we’re talking old CDs, DVDs, video games and even cell phones — download the Decluttr app and scan the items’ barcodes. It’ll give you an instant quote. Once you scan all your items, ship ’em in to Decluttr using a free shipping label. You’ll get paid via direct deposit the day after your items arrive.
  • For everything else (ahem, that pile of clothes you’ve been meaning to donate), use the Letgo app. This easy-to-use app lets you snap a photo and upload your item in less than 30 seconds. It removes a lot of the hassle of selling things online, and it’s 100% free to use.

Use whatever money you make here to offset the price of party supplies.

4. Plan a Frugal (Drink) Menu

If you’re hosting a New Year’s Eve party, ask your guests to eat dinner before arriving. It saves you from having to buy and prepare food — and your couple friends can enjoy a romantic dinner.

What you do need to provide is Champagne… and lots of it.

The best way to do this is by buying a bunch of cheap “Champagne” and making punch. Not only is it delicious, but it will also make the booze (and therefore, your guests) last longer.

Before you hit the grocery store to stock up, download the Drop app to earn cash back. As a Drop user, all you have to do is link your credit and debit cards. When you complete an offer on Drop, you’ll automatically earn points, whether you’re shopping at Trader Joe’s or Walmart.

Try these tasty drink recipes:

  • Orange, cranberry and basil punch from Cook the Story.
  • Strawberry punch from Allrecipes.
  • Our holiday “mocktails,” which eliminate the cost of booze altogether.

Then, because you’re providing the drinks, ask your guests to bring a dessert to share. That will keep your costs down, as well as allow everyone to sample a variety of tasty treats.

If you need some inspiration, give Betty Crocker your email address, and it’ll send you up to $250 worth of coupons that can help you get deeply discounted or free grocery items throughout the year.

In addition to coupons, Betty Crocker’s free email delivers the best of Betty’s 15,000 kitchen-tested recipes, how-tos and more — straight to your inbox.

5. Decorate With Handmade Crafts

There’s only one requirement for holiday decorations — lots of sparkle — which means it’s super easy to decorate on a budget.

The best part? Many of your Christmas decorations can also be used for New Year’s Eve, and vice versa.

For example, for a New Year’s Eve party, keep your holiday lights up, hang varying lengths of curled ribbons from the ceiling and cut out circles of wrapping paper to attach to the walls as giant confetti.

If you really want to get crafty, here are some DIY decor ideas:

For supplies, Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft has your back.

Tap into the cash-back Ibotta app before going to town. You’ll be able to snag 15% cash back on your entire in-store Jo-Ann purchase. Just scan the barcode at the bottom of your receipt.

Bonus: You’ll get a free $10 from Ibotta after submitting your first receipt!

6. Create the Perfect Playlist

Back yard party
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Music is absolutely essential for creating the perfect party mood. So please make sure you have something louder than your phone to play it with.

As for the tunes themselves, there are several options. With Spotify, you can either create your own playlist or rock one of its pre-created mood mixes.

On Pandora, you can listen to everything from Top 40 to Frank Sinatra to Mariah Carey Holiday Radio.

7. Hand out DIY Party Favors

Favors are definitely not required, so skip these if your budget is really tight. If you have the time and money, however, favors give your party a bit of extra oomph (which can put it in the running for the best party of the year!).

Here are a few cheap and easy ideas you can make yourself:

8. Plan Free Group Activities

Photo booth prep
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Between the drinks, desserts and music, your party might have enough going on — but if it needs a boost of energy, try some engaging group activities.

Here are three ideas that will make your guests laugh (and bond):

  • Create a photobooth. Gather silly props from around the house, paint a holiday-themed backdrop onto a sheet or big piece of paper, buy a disposable camera — and voila! You’ll have a blast, and you’ll have funny photos to remember your night.
  • Print out these New Year’s Eve playing cards from Real Simple. Ask your friends to fill out the cards with their resolutions for the new year, and then guess who wrote what.
  • Download the group game app Heads Up, which will provide hours of fun for just 99 cents on iPhone and free on Android.

Follow these steps, and you’re sure to have the best holiday party on the block — without breaking the bank.

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