How to Host a Great New Year's Eve Party for Cheap


Hands down, New Year's Eve is my favorite holiday — and I've thrown some parties, y'all. Some of them have been major blowouts while others have been small gatherings. Personally, I prefer the intimate shindigs — and so does my wallet. If that's your goal this year — and it should be — this post is for you. Out with the old, in with the new, as they say. And here are several ways to shave a few bucks off the bill while you're at it. (See also: Class Without Tons of Cash: Frugal Cocktail Party Ideas)

1. Limit the Guest List to a Friendly Few

Sure, it's fun to invite all your friends and their friends and their friends' friends to your New Year's Eve party, but it requires a massive budget; that's a lot of mouths to feed, after all. In reality, every name on your guest list is a dollar sign, and the tighter you keep it, the less you'll have to spend. So instead of inviting the whole neighborhood and the next town over to your soiree, extend an invitation only to those few friends with whom you enjoy spending time and who are totally okay with a run-of-the-mill, at-least-we're-together, end-of-the-year celebration. You'll have a better time entertaining seven people instead of running around trying to please 70.

2. Repurpose Your Christmas Decorations

You don't have to run out to the party store for New Year's Eve decorations if you already have Christmas swag. You can keep your holiday house like it is — less hassle; still festive — but if you want to give it a different look, get creative and repurpose your existing decorations. Instead of tons of color, concentrate on a simplified palate — think white, silver and gold — and decorate accordingly. Store the Santas for this fete and focus more on the seasonal aspect of the celebration and you're good to go.

3. Shop for Snacks in the Seasonal Section

The day after Christmas everything holiday related goes on sale — and that includes any food items in festive packaging. In the first few days after December 25th, you can expect at least 40% to 50% off, but if you wait until a day or two before New Year's Eve, you can probably score a greater discount. Normally I'd tell you that if you want the pick of the litter, it's ideal to scoop up the deals early (like right away), but that only applies to decorations and other Christmas paraphernalia. Festively packaged food items, on the other hand, tend to stick around until the very end of the post-holiday purge. Time your trip just right and you can feed your friends an incredible array of snacks for anywhere from 50% to 90% off the regular retail price. If that's not winning, I don't what is.

4. Cut Back on the Booze Selections

You and your friends will probably want to drink on New Year's Eve, and it's easy to bust your budget on buying enough alcohol to satiate their thirst. The first thing you need to keep in mind is that you don't have to provide enough booze to get everyone blitzed out of their mind; you're not throwing a party at the Playboy Mansion. Secondly, what you serve is up to you — not them — so whatever you provide is at your discretion.

I've found that a great middle ground is to offer beer and wine (domestic light beer and cheap bottles of wine are fine; I prefer Miller Lite and Barefoot, respectively), but if you want to offer liquor, I recommend creating a signature drink that reduces the number of bottles you'll have to buy while at the same time giving your party a personal touch. You also can give your guests the option of bringing their own booze. I always let my guests know what I'll have on hand and leave it up to them to bring a beverage of their choice if what I'm serving isn't exactly their favorite. (See also: 20 Tasty Two Ingredient Cocktails)

5. Skip the Full Meal and Serve Apps Instead

It's not cheap to feed a crowd these days, which is why you should forget about slaving over a hot stove to make a full-blown feast for your New Year's Eve guests. In addition to the deeply discounted snacks you scored, a selection of hot appetizers will suffice — and you can still totally pull off quantity and quality in this regard. Shop the warehouse clubs for party-size platters and frozen snacks that you can pop in the oven. Pizza also is a filling-but-affordable crowd pleaser. You can really save some dough by picking up premade crusts, sauce, and cheese — you can make about six pizzas for under $20 if you shop smartly — that'll put smiles on everybody's faces.

6. Hack Your Way to Delicious Desserts

Every New Year's Eve party needs some sweet stuff, but you can go over budget very quickly if you're not careful. To throw a party for under $100, you need to avoid premade, store-bought desserts all together. That means alternatively you'll need to put on an apron and get in the kitchen, and even if that's not your strong suit, you can churn out a few crowd-pleasers. Jell-O — both the gelatin and pudding — is cheap in the box, and you can use either one of those treats as a base for all kinds desserts. If you want to get a little fancier (still without spending much), try this recipe for easy-breezy cream puffs.

7. Turn on the TV and Break Out the Board Games

Usually I'd tell you to turn off the TV when hosting a party, but New Year's Eve is an exception to that rule. Whether you're a traditionalist who likes to ring in January 1st with New Year's Rockin' Eve or a glutton for punishment with Anderson and Kathy, you'll find hours of festive entertainment that that'll not only provide a bit of background noise but also start a few conversations. Bring out some of your favorite board games too (you don't want guests occupied solely by the TV) for a few rounds of friendly competition. All this fun is for free.

8. Ask Your Guests to Bring a Bottle of Bubbly

In addition to limiting the booze selection you're offering, you may want to consider asking your guests to bring a bottle of bubbly. Most attendees will bring a host gift anyway, but by asking specifically for champagne you'll have more room in your budget for food, and it'll ensure that there's plenty of variety when it's time to clink glasses. Salud!

Do you have more ideas on how to host a New Year's Eve party for cheap? Let me know in the comments below.

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You can really save some dough by picking up premade crusts, sauce and cheese — you can make about six pizzas for under $20 if you shop smartly — that'll put smiles on everybody's faces.

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