Dec 28, 2013

Bash on a Budget: New Year’s Eve

Christmas is still around the corner, but if you’re having a New Year’s Eve party, you’ve got some extra holiday planning to do. Once that Yuletide carol has been sung, it’ll be time to ring in the new year with friends and family. It can tempting to get caught up in the festiveness of the holiday and want to throw a fancy party that people will be talking about until next New Year’s, but don’t let your bash break the bank. Here are some tips to starting the new year with a festive gathering and a little cash left in your pocket.


First of all, decide how much you are comfortable spending—and stick to it. Factor in invites, food, drinks, decorations, and music. Then add about 10% extra for unforeseen expenses (like spilled wine on the rug or the disco ball you just have to have). If you find that you are going over your budget, reevaluate and see where you can cut costs.


To keep invites free, send a Facebook invite or an Evite. If you want to be more formal, send your New Year’s party invite with your Christmas card to save a stamp.


The trick to saving on food is k.i.s.s.—keep it simple, um, silly. Don’t plan a huge meal or really fancy food. In fact, don’t plan a meal at all. New Year’s festivities start late enough that guests won’t expect dinner. Stick to simple hors d’oeuvres and punch. Or, go potluck. Spreading the cost is always the cheapest way to go.

As you decide what food to buy, look at grocery store deals and plan your treats around them. While you’re shopping, stock up on backup snacks like cheese, crackers, and veggies that won’t go to waste after the party’s over. Make some cookie dough and freeze it, just in case. Instead of buying fancy foreign treats, buy local fare—it will be cheaper and add some hometown flavor. If you order out, order things that would be too expensive to make anyway, like eggrolls. Want foods to look fancy, but don’t want to pay for caviar? Pomegranate seeds are a great substitute and they go a long way. Expect guests to have one or two of each hors d’oeuvre.


Again, sharing the cost is cheapest; ask guests to bring their favorite drink. But if you are in charge of keeping guests hydrated, consider a festive holiday punch. It’s fun, refreshing, and a lot cheaper than buying several kinds of alcohol. If you are buying alcohol, stock up when there are sales, since it doesn’t spoil, or buy in bulk. Wassail is another great holiday drink. It’s warm and smells like citrus and cinnamon. Plan on guests having two drinks in the first hour, and one every hour after.


To keep décor simple and festive, choose one theme color. It will make picking out decorations easier and cheaper. If you use flowers, stick to one kind. And before you run out and buy decorations, look around your house. Have any white lights left over from Christmas? String these up and place some candles around the room, and you’ve got instant festive lighting.

Make as many of the decorations as you can. Glass bowls of citrus fruit are colorful and festive (and make for a good snack if the food runs out). For an aromatic treat, take a couple of oranges and slice them up in a pot of water, add cinnamon and vanilla, and boil on low to fill the room with a heavenly smell. To add some sparkle to the room, spray tea light candleholders with adhesive spray and roll in glitter. Put some extra glitter in balloons before blowing them up (being careful not to breathe it in). Add confetti to the balloons by shredding up used Christmas wrapping paper or old bills. Get small silver bowls from a dollar store and fill them with silver candy like Jordan almonds, M&Ms, or kisses. Or get clocks from the thrift store (they don’t even have to work) and put them all over the room to get everyone excited for the countdown.

There are several ways to spice up your food presentation for low cost too. Dollar stores sell cheap plates and glasses. To make a food display, take books and boxes that you already have on hand and stack them on the table before draping a table cloth over it. Place plates and bowls on the different levels you created and garnish the tablecloth with glitter or flowers.


To save on music, make a soundtrack on your iPod. If you need to turn up the volume, try placing the iPod in a glass or buy speakers from a thrift store. If you have a little extra money, consider hiring local talent. Up-and-coming artists are always looking for places to play. Ask local coffee shops who they use.

Being prepared and keeping it simple are the tricks to prevent panic-spending for your New Year’s party. To be even more prepared for next year, check your local stores for on-sale New Year’s decorations. Make it your resolution to ring in every new year with a little celebrating and a lot of saving.

Edson Senna is a freelance writer who focuses on finance, law, and business. He enjoys applying what he has learned by writing about investing, finance, entrepreneurship, and other business-related topics. He sometimes does consulting for Infinite Wealth Advisors, financial planners in Charleston, North Carolina.


  1. Love the idea of using lights from Christmas to spice up the room without any additional expenses!
    Hope you have an amazing 2014!!!!

  2. Like the idea of guests bringing in their own drinks. That way they are contributing and at the same time you don't have to worry about them not liking what you offer. ;) Happy 2014!!!


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