Are you hosting Thanksgiving or Christmas this year? Is it your first Thanksgiving holiday or are your a Christmas expert? Whether you’re a holiday newbie or eggnog expert, the costs can skyrocket quickly. Here are some great ways to host a holiday party on a budget.
How Much Does it Cost to Host a Holiday?
Every year, the American Farm Bureau surveys the cost of typical Thanksgiving items like turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, coffee, and milk for a family of 10 with enough for leftovers.
In 2018, the average cost for 10 people decreased from the previous year and was about $48.90, which doesn’t seem so bad (Source). The biggest item was a 16-pound turkey at about $21.71, almost half the total cost.
However, even while the average price per person is decreasing, the amount spent on Thanksgiving seems to be increasing. The average amount spent has increased over the past three years to $186.05 (Source). About 18% of that cost is travel.
Needless to say, Christmas and Hanukkah have their very own expenses well beyond food. So it’s important to try and manage costs where you can so you can spend where you want.
Reining in your costs on the meal without sacrificing taste is a great way to save some extra cash.
Host Your Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or Christmas Dinner on a Budget
Manage Holiday Party Menu
The survey above doesn’t include alcohol, specialty items, or organic/farm-raised turkey. So the first step in this process would be to understand what you’re willing to pay.
You can do this by figuring out what is most important to you. If you are vegetarian and it’s important that your holiday meal is completely vegetarian, you will have a lot more room in the budget without a turkey. Or, if you are very committed to eating locally, it might be best to purchase a local organic turkey, which will be much more expensive than the grocery store.
Keeping your recipes to seasonal items will be the best cost-savings so sweet potatoes and turkey or ham will be a much better price margin than steaks and avocados.
Send invitations over email or social media
Skip the formal invites unless your family is very traditional. Paper invites are mostly saved for formal occasions or milestones like weddings and christenings. Feel free to invite your family and friends to dinner by calling, emailing, or sending a social media message. Obviously, if you’re inviting your grandmother, take a few minutes to call her or send her a formal invitation if you think she’d need it.
One benefit of formal invitations is sending a message of a little more formality and that family or friends shouldn’t just swing by with a few extra people that you didn’t plan for. It can be a little nerve-wracking hosting and even more stressful when you get unexpected drop-ins.
Manage the Guest List
No need to invite the neighborhood! Especially if this is your first holiday hosting experience! You don’t need to invite every single member of your family. Feel free to keep it to your immediate family if you need a fair cut-off.
If you do want to invite the neighborhood, then definitely make it a potluck!
Ask guests to bring something
Just like the invitations, some of this will depend on how traditional or informal your family and friends are. But this is a great opportunity to make sure that you have your Aunt’s specialty sweet potato pie and your brother’s amazing focaccia appetizer. More than likely, your guests will be happy to contribute something. Most people have their ‘go-to’ dish that they like to bring to parties. Even a fruit or veggie platter are a nice addition to round out a meal and save you a lot of money. If you made a Facebook event, you could even handle it thought the event page.
Shop the Sales
Without a doubt, the Thanksgiving and Christmas season brings some wonderful sales of things that are freezer and pantry friendly. You can even purchase some items after Thanksgiving in prep for Christmas. According to Reader’s Digest, you should stock up on butter, sugar, crackers, frozen vegetables, bacon, oil, poultry and pork, storage supplies, birthday cake mixes and cupcake liners, canned goods like soup and beans (Source). I’d get an extra frozen turkey or two to keep in the freezer.
Be sure to review your store’s flyer, newspaper coupons, and grocery card coupons before heading out.
Feel free to buy generic items. Once they’re on a platter, no one will know the difference! (p.s. Don’t buy ice. Make it in advance in the weeks ahead of the event.)
Go in with a list of things you need i.e., based on your menu. Do not give in to the shiny gold holiday packages of mixed cookies, 80% of them you don’t like.
Gussy up the Simple
Simple food presented nicely can go the distance. Enjoy a pumpkin spice latte and browse the antique shops for beautiful baskets and trays for your holiday table. Trim some herbs like rosemary and parsley for pops of color on your dishes. Present nuts and olives in small mason jars. Use a simple grape wreath from a craft store on your front door. Collect pine cones and acorns to fill a vase. Grab some evergreen boughs to place on your table runner and nestle in some pillar candles. (Check out my post on Rustic Holiday Decorations.) Or delicately arrange some meat, cheese, and olives on a beautiful wooden platter to make the latest craze, “charcuterie board”.
Read how to make a charcuterie board here: https://www.crateandbarrel.com/blog/how-to-make-a-charcuterie-board/
Pick one investment
Of the food, drinks, and decor, pick one thing to invest in. If you love flowers, choose a beautiful arrangement for the table. If you’re a master cocktail shaker, put together a signature cocktail. If you love baking, create an inspiring confection. As mentioned above, if you want to support local farms, you can spring for an organic farm-raised turkey.
Go Easy on the Booze Options or do BYOB
Don’t feel obligated to provide a full bar for your guests. You don’t even have to provide alcohol at all if you don’t want to.
Do any mix that you and your budget are comfortable with: no alcohol, a couple of choices, or or a full suite if cocktails are your specialty.
The best cost savings might be to have your guests bring their choice alcohol. Luckily, most any wine will go with turkey so need to panic over red or white.
One middle ground might be to offer fun and seasonal drinks like apple cider or eggnog with a spiced rum that guests can add themselves. It’s a festive compromise that doesn’t require a bunch of expensive mixing ingredients.
Then, Enjoy Your Holiday!
What are some of the ways you’ve managed to save money on hosting Christmas or Thanksgiving?