While the holidays are an especially festive time of year, they’re not without their unique challenges. Travel, gifts, and packed party schedules are just a few seasonal traditions that can take a toll on your financial health. When you throw hosting a soiree into the mix, it can be difficult to not burn a hole in your wallet.
If the top-shelf champagne from last year’s party took a toll on your December budget, we’ve got you covered this year. Here are three budget-friendly tips, so you can truly celebrate the season and enjoy your loved ones, sans financial stress.
Think outside the box (or vase)
While flowers make for a beautiful centerpiece, they have a shelf life of just a few days. When you make your food run, toss a few apricots, persimmons, pomegranates, red apples, or oranges into your cart. These fruits look bright and beautiful arranged in bowl, lined up on the windowsill or mantel, or nestled in a tree—and they double as nourishment for partygoers. If no one eats them, enjoy them later by mixing them into your morning yogurt or tossing them in a salad.
Arrange cinnamon and peppermint sticks on a small plate in the bathroom or place them in a wreath. Not only will this add a festive scent to your party, but you can later add a stick to your daily cup of tea or use in your holiday baked goods.
If you already have a pine tree or holly, cut off a few branches and place them in vase. Scattering the branches in between dishes on a buffet or on the top of your toilet is an inexpensive, rustic form of decor. Plus, like the fruits, these evergreen plants won’t need to be tossed in only a few days.
“My husband and I splurge on a huge Christmas tree each year—it’s our tradition,” says Jessica Brendt, a 36-year-old attorney in Chicago, Illinois. “We love to entertain but we don’t have a lot left in the budget, so we just use stuff from the tree. I’ll fill a vase with ornaments then top it off with tree branches.”
Serve booze that won’t break the bank
When boxed wine is taken out of its box, it’s just wine. To cut down on the high cost of alcohol, pour boxed wine into glass decanters, pitchers, or bowls.
“This is one of my favorite saving tips that makes me feel so savvy,” says Lisa Palmer, a 24-year-old executive assistant in San Diego, California. “No one has ever said anything, and I never have any left over. I think people actually think it’s a special signature drink since it’s in a pitcher, especially if I add a few cranberries or orange slices.” (sangria, anyone?)
If you want to incorporate bubbles in your bar, prosecco is a less pricey alternative to champagne that still feels indulgent. The average cost of a bottle of prosecco is $12, while the average cost of a bottle of champagne is $52. You do the math.
Budget-friendly doesn’t have to mean basic. It can mean incorporating heartfelt personal touches.
“Instead of spending cash and thoughtless time on party favors, I decided to spend an hour writing handwritten letters to each guest,” says Suzie Key, a nurse in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Her handwritten party favors also doubled as place cards for the table.
“I told my friends why I was grateful for them and my favorite memory from the past year with them. I got so many texts and emails afterwards. I’ve never got that kind of response from a bag of cookies or hot cocoa mix.”