How to Host the Holidays on a Budget



The holidays are perfect for spending time with friends and family, enjoying the company of those dear to you as the year ends. But opening your home for parties and visiting relatives can get expensive fast. You have to think about food, entertainment, decorations and all the little costs that crop up when you host people in your home. How do you balance hospitality and frugality in a way that leaves everyone with great holiday memories? Read on to learn some tips that will help you show friends and family a great time without breaking the bank.


holiday party food

Holiday Parties

It’s always fun to host a party, but it’s easy to overspend trying to get the atmosphere just right. If you want to host a memorable party without blowing your budget for the rest of the year, you’ll have to think carefully about how you’ll prepare. By keeping a few tips in mind, you’ll be able to throw an unforgettable bash while keeping expenses to a minimum!

Rethink the invites. Fancy printed invitations can impress guests, but they can also be a strain on your budget. To save money, think about forgoing paper altogether — emails and online invitation services can get the word out for free! If you want to stick to paper, consider post cards. Cutting out envelopes can help you save, especially if your guest list is long.

Decorate strategically. Going all out to make your house look like a winter wonderland could leave you without much to spend on the rest of the night. Instead, focus on key spots like the food table and entryway. Guests will remember the decorations in these high-traffic areas, leaving the impression that you did more than you actually did. To be even smarter with your budget, buy decorations that can be reused throughout the year.

Shop smarter. When buying food for your party, pay attention to sales and what’s in season. Focusing on ingredients and appetizers that are fresh and affordable will help you keep down costs while ensuring that your offerings are as tasty as can be! Especially avoid options that have to be shipped in from warmer locations. Even if you’re dying to make a dish with them, the extra expense isn’t worth it — besides, the shipping distance means they won’t even taste as good as when they’re in-season!

Use buffet psychology. Being clever in how you lay out your food can have a big effect on how much you have to spend and how far what you buy goes. Put filling, inexpensive items like veggies at the start of the buffet, encouraging guests to load up their plates before they get to pricier foods. You should also think about your portion sizes — dividing expensive hors d’oeuvres into smaller servings will make them last longer.

Economize on alcohol. Making sure everyone has something to drink doesn’t mean you have to set up a full bar in your living room. Narrow down your offerings to a few affordable options. Think about picking one affordable red wine and one affordable white — you can save by buying bottles in bulk. To save even more, you can cut out the alcohol altogether! A soft punch or seasonal cider can keep things festive for less.


holiday family

Hosting Family

Having family visit for the holidays can be a lovely opportunity to spend time with loved ones you don’t get to see often. It can also be expensive having several extra heads — and mouths — under your roof! You don’t have to resign yourself to paying out the nose while your family are visiting, though. Use these tips to keep your hosting affordable.

Make a budget and stick to it. Before anyone shows up, sit down and calculate how much you expect to spend. Consider as many expenses as possible — food, drinks, even extra electricity as more people use your lights and plug in to your outlets! Once you know what you’re likely to spend, don’t let yourself go over. If it’s helpful, consider withdrawing the money you’ve allocated for each category and putting it in labelled envelopes. As the visit goes on, you’ll know that you can’t spend any more than what’s in each envelope, keeping you aware of how much is left.

Plan for downtime. A big cost of hosting that many don’t consider is entertainment. When your guests get bored, a quick fix might be a trip to the cinema or a nearby restaurant. Even if everyone pays for themselves — not a guarantee! — you still might be stuck paying for petrol for the trip. Instead, plan out things to do that are affordable or free. Take a vote on everyone’s favourite holiday movie, for example, and rent or stream it instead of going to the cinema. And when people get hungry, think of cheap dishes the whole family can help prepare.

Carefully consider your menu. You’ll likely want to have one or two big feasts while your guests are with you, but you don’t have to let those meals clean you out! Keep an eye out for sales on holiday staples like turkey and ham, and do some research on delicious recipes that can feed lots of people for less. If any of your dinner guests live nearby, you can enlist them to prepare and bring along some dishes, too.

Don’t be afraid to set boundaries. If you have a large family, it might not be desirable, or even practical, for everyone to stay under the same roof. And even if your house could technically handle the crowd, you shouldn’t bite off more than you can chew — the holidays are a time to enjoy yourself, even as the host! Be sure to have a frank talk with potential guests about space and costs. It may be that some of your relatives are happy staying in a nearby hotel, or that everyone can agree to split the costs of big dinners. Make sure you’re not the only one footing the bill!



Cettina, T. (9 November 2009). Throw a great holiday party on a budget. Retrieved 6 October 2015 from

Aliche, T. (19 November 2015). How to Save Big When Hosting Family for the Holidays. Retrieved 6 October 2015 from



Barbara Davidson


Babs is a Senior Content Writer and financial guru. She loves exploring fresh ways to save more and enjoy life on a budget! When she’s not writing, you’ll find her binge watching musicals, reading in the (sporadic) Chicago sunshine and discovering great new places to eat. Accio, tacos! 


The information in this article is provided for education and informational purposes only, without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of accuracy, completeness or fitness for any particular purpose. The information in this article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial or any other advice. The information in this article is general in nature and is not specific to you the user or anyone else.