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Frugal Holiday Party Ideas

Category Planning
Big bunch of party balloons.
You don't have to spend a lot of money to have a holiday party that your guests will enjoy. This is a guide about frugal holiday party ideas.
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June 29, 2012

I like to host a party. We usually have several very large ones a year, once we had around 300. I spend minimal money and energy in having them. We live on a large farm, so most of my events are outside. People always ask how I do it, so I am going to share some of my tips, based on 30 years of experience. Most of these pertain to July 4, but you can easily adapt for "any" holiday.

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  1. Go where you have the most space. For me, that is here at our home, which is a large farm. That allows me to have my events outside. If you don't have a large outside space, then you will need to move indoors and keep your guest list smaller, or find an outdoor space such as a local park.

  2. Keep it appropriate for the weather. You don't want a large outside party when it is 120 or 30 degrees out. Always have a back up plan in place in the event of bad weather. Your backup plan should be either a second location or a rain date.

  3. Decorate for the event "frugally". Watch for sales before and after the event. Remember items can be reused for more than one holiday. I have all my holiday items in clear plastic totes in my basement clearly labeled. I have patriotic, (this includes Memorial Day, President's Day, July 4, etc.), Valentines Day, Easter, summer, winter, fall, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Christmas.

    However, for the event I am hosting next week for July 4, I will be dipping into my Valentine and Christmas totes as well as my patriotic one. Why? For the red items. Red candles aren't just for Christmas, or Valentine, or July 4. Items such as red candles, lines, or tins can be used numerous times throughout the year. The red candles I will be using I bought after Christmas last year for 29 cents each.

    For tablecloths, you can use quilts, clean unstained sheets, or reusable tablecloths. I never use the disposable ones. Why pay for them year after year when for just a few dollars more you can have one that will never wear out or rip for years and years. This year I will be using a couple quilts and some red and blue sheets to cover my tables. (As another savings, I am borrowing our tables from our church, no fees to rent or money tied up in buying them).

    Centerpieces are items found around the house, such as a blue speckled graniteware bowel to hold my red cloth napkins, another blue speckled graniteware crock to hold the silverware. I have some Mason jars that I will fill with colored sand and candles or red, white, and blue marbles and then will stand a small flag or pinwheel in. Some 25 cent baskets found at a garage sale have been spray painted red, white, and blue to hold the cups and plates. Hobby Lobby had some small wooden stars which I painted gold. Those can be scattered on a table top for July 4 or Christmas. Christmas lights of red, white, and blue will be in the trees. From the dollar store I have reusable plastic containers for chips and food. I have them in red, white, blue, green, orange, and pastel yellow. I paid 50 cents each for them and with this color combination all the holidays are covered. All my items are reusable and are used over and over, thus, no expense after you buy them the first time.

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  5. Keep your guests entertained. I have a large assortment of puzzles and games: checkers, horseshoes, badminton, volleyball, cards, and such that can be played outdoors. I even put a kids table up with coloring sheets and crayons. I have an old wooden table that the girls and I painted a checkerboard on that people sit at and play on the front porch. People have fun playing the games or watching others play. Playing a game with someone you don't know well is a great ice breaker and a good way to get to know them. Before my guests arrive, I scatter the games around on the tables set up and make sure the nets are up. Usually the guests go right to the games.
  6. Keep your food costs down. For my July 4 party, I am telling my guests to bring a covered dish to share, and hotdogs. I am making the drinks (ice tea, lemonade, and water), and a large roaster full of baked beans, providing the paper-ware and hotdog buns, and a few desserts and chips. I usually label my food tables, with tags: desserts, chips, salads, etc. so people know where to put their dishes. I have a few ice chests for cold items and the hotdogs to go into under the table. This keeps them fresh until serving. My husband will either light the bonfire (if it is cool) or man the grill, if it is too hot for a large fire.
  7. Tell you guests to bring what they will want. This year's invite told my guests to bring (a covered dish to share and hotdogs as stated above), lawn chair, guitar, or instrument if they want to share, fishing poles, or any favorite outdoor games, and fireworks (as many live in town and can't shoot them off). This also tells my guests that this will be an outdoor event.
  8. Do what you can before the event. I will mow 2 days prior. This way, anyone with allergies won't be bothered by fresh cut grass. The day before I will make my baked beans and prepare to decorate. The morning of, I will make my drinks, decorate, and set up the tables. Also several days before I will start my ice and making my cubes for the drinks (see tip 9).
  9. Make for an easy clean up. I will have a large trash container outside so guests can throw away their own paper plates and cups.
  10. One simple trick to keep your drinks cold is to make your ice cubes out of your drink. My tea will have frozen tea cubes, not water ice cubes, and the same with my lemonade. This will keep the drinks from getting warm and diluting.
  11. Make sure you have items on hand that guests may need. Plenty of toilet paper is a must! Also have a first aid kit, plenty of plates, cups, buns, and silverware. This is why you ask your guests to RSVP. Even if you have an outdoor event, you need to be aware some people will come into the house, such as moms to change diapers, nursing mothers, or someone who just can't be outside, such as 85 year old Aunt Edna.

    In this case, make sure they have a place that is clean and comfortable, and where they can see out the window to watch the events. Possibly have a game or puzzle inside for them as well. Lock any doors that you don't want your guests going into. If you have a large house, you might even want to put up some signs pointing the way to the restroom. You may also need to put up the cat and tie the dog up. No one wants your animal babies jumping on them, or in their food.

  12. Once your guests arrive, rest and relax with them. Guests can not be at ease if you aren't. Yet at the same time, be aware of needing to refill your tea container or putting more dogs on the grill.
  13. Source:

    By April from NW, MO

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    Comment Was this helpful? 5
    June 30, 20120 found this helpful

    My thought is that when I entertain, I don't want a whole bunch of laundry to do after the fact, so therefore I use really cheap plastic tablecloths and paper napkins. At $3.00 a load to do laundry in the apartment complex that I live in it is just plain unaffordable to have to do several loads of unnecessary laundry. Our washers and dryers aren't that large either.

    Reply Was this helpful? Yes
    July 6, 20120 found this helpful

    Great ideas, especially so you can have fun and enjoy your guests without worrying about extreme costs associated with getting together with loved ones!

    Reply Was this helpful? Yes
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