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5 ways to host a party on a budget

There's always a reason to gather and celebrate with your family and friends. Whether you’re celebrating the holiday season, a new baby, or watching a football game together; over the past year and a half most of us have come to appreciate how important gathering with friends and family can be. If a family gathering is on your calendar this holiday season, consider these five tips for hosting a party on a budget.

1. Do some menu magic. You're the host, so you get to design the menu, and you can easily choose a tasty menu that won't break the bank. If you plan to cook, consider an array of various appetizers rather than a full entrée for each person. Or provide the entrée and ask guests to bring side dishes.

If you'll be serving alcohol, you'll save the most money by sticking to beer and wine only. Feel like some of your guests will really want a cocktail? Establish a signature drink for the party and provide only the ingredients for that drink. Consider making a large batch ahead of time so ingredients don’t run out before the party is over. Remember to also provide plenty of water and non-alcoholic options for any younger guests or those who abstain.

2. Shop smart. Plan ahead and get your shopping done early. Particularly if you’re planning your party during the holiday season or a for a popular event, the closer to the date the greater chance prices will be higher or items will be sold out. 

Use some common tips to grocery shop on a budget and consider using alternatives to the traditional grocery store.

For instance, wholesale stores are ideal when you're buying for a crowd. You'll almost certainly get better prices on frozen foods like prepared appetizers, as well as fresh foods like meats and produce. You can also save money on alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks. If you don't have a membership at one of these discount clubs, ask a card-holding friend to go with you. It can be fun to shop together, and your friend might enjoy getting a sneak peek of the festivities to come.

3. Get creative with décor. Consider creating decorations on your own. Search online for free, printable signs, place cards, and banners. Raid your seasonal decor for twinkle lights and consider using commonplace items that you (or your guests) might have on hand to decorate. For instance, use footballs, helmets, and jerseys to set the theme for your playoff party, and strollers, board books, and vintage toys for your next baby shower.

If you want fresh flowers, the grocery store may be the best place to look. The supermarket flower department usually carries fresh flowers at much lower prices than a traditional florist. Consider buying a large bouquet and separating it into smaller bud vases to get the most impact and value. Or take a quick look out your window and use in-season accents easily found in nature. Pine cones, holly branches, even fresh herbs can bring a fresh vibe to the party – and the best part – they’re free.

4. Let your guests help out. No one wants to show up to a party empty handed. To help cut down on costs, coordinate with your guests and ask them to bring something like a bottle of wine, dessert, appetizers, or even a party game.  You save money and guests feel like they are contributing to the success of your party.

5. Focus on what really matters. The purpose of your party is celebrating with family and friends and creating a fun atmosphere. No one is going to care that there aren’t individual place cards, party favors, or a gourmet cheese tray. Focus on creating an inviting atmosphere where everyone feels welcome.

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