How to Celebrate the Holidays on a Budget

Having people over for the holidays is expensive work—from the food to the decorations, it all adds up. But party planning and hosting is one of my favorite things to do, so I've come up with a few tips over the years for entertaining on a budget. Here's how I threw a Christmas cocktail party for 20 for under $150! 

1. Write it down. 
Make a list of everything you need a few days in advance—it'll help you stick to a budget, manage your time, and save your sanity. (I even go one step further and research all of my items online for pricing.) Then, spread your shopping out over two days—you want to avoid the all-organic store grocery store at all costs!—and, in the thick of it, get a manicure. It'll make you feel better.

Make a list, check it twice
2. Skrimp where it makes sense.
My centerpieces usually come straight from a bodega on the corner: I stick with white flowers and take whatever they have. If you drink kombucha or any kind of fancy juice, you'll notice that they're packaged in beautiful glass bottles—that's a $3.99 vase! All you need is a little hot water to take off the label.

3. Opt for mixed drinks.
You can save on cocktail elements if you're not drinking anything straight. Overholt Rye is about $15 and is delicious when mixed with bitters and lemon juice and grenadine. Martini and Rossi dry vermouth is tasty and will only set you back about $10. And if you feel the need to buy a fancy spirit but have an array of tastes attending, I’ve found that everyone likes bourbon and cheap bubbly like Freixenet. And Miller High Life. Keep some on hand for the wee hours of the night. 

A "do-it-yourself" bar
4. Keep food low key. 
I live across from a pizza joint, so I sometimes pop in for a ball of dough to make mini flatbreads. It's super easy since you've already skipped a step in not making the bread; all you have to do is bake and top them with ricotta, hazelnuts, and honey (which you probably already have in your pantry), and then garnish with fresh thyme. Candying nuts is incredibly easy and appears impressive. Simply put some walnuts in a pan on medium heat, add about 3 tablespoons of sugar and a half-tablespoon of any other spice you'd like—cinnamon, curry, you name it! Once everything is melted and combined, take it off the heat and place on a cool plate to harden. And don't forget your greens. I like Brussels sprouts with garlic and bacon (replacing pancetta with bacon saves cash and guests won’t mind). Slice them in half and serve with toothpicks.

5. Save on paper and use your plates.
Make sure your dishwasher and sink are empty before guests arrive. Clean up will be faster than you know it. So now you're all set! How are you preparing for your holiday party?
I'm the former Photo Editor at Lonny Magazine
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