’Tis the season to be jolly. Before the holidays, you packed your schedule with get-togethers and offered to host a gathering for friends. Now, you’re wondering how you’re going to afford it, let alone get it all done.

Fa-la-la-la-la your way to a festive holiday with these low-cost party ideas.

Budget-friendly Party Starters

  • Set a budget. Once you figure total cost, purchase a gift card for that amount and use it to buy party-related items. When the money’s gone, you’re finished shopping.
  • Beg or borrow, but don’t steal. Ask friends and family members if they have any of the items you need.
  • Don’t turn down help. Most guests always ask what they can bring or do to help. Take them up on it!
  • Send invites via social media. Social media is the easiest way to reach people these days. Even better, it’s free! Another option? Use Evite, which lets you choose a theme to add a little sparkle to your event. The site has several free invites to choose from.

Eat, Drink and be Merry

  • Choose a theme. From food and drink, to music, games and invitations, pick from an endless supply of themes and encourage your guests to join in the fun.
  • Cookie swapHost a cookie swap. Ask everyone to bring a batch of cookies to sample and share. What could be better than a variety pack of cookies as a party favor?
  • Swap books. If baking isn’t your thing, ask guests to bring books they’ve enjoyed and exchange them for something new. However many books a guest brings is how many new books they get to take home.
  • Take a walking tour of Christmas lights. Bundle up and stroll through the neighborhood. When the tour is over, head back to the host’s house for some hot cocoa and sweet treats.
  • Keep it moving. Spread the hosting duties among neighbors with a progressive dinner. Each house serves drinks and a different type of food.
  • Christmas Party DrinkOrganize a potluck. Everyone brings a dish. To avoid having three veggie trays, create categories with food ideas and let your guests choose what to bring.
  • Just desserts. If your party starts later in the evening, host a dessert bar. Each guest can bring a dessert of choice, or you choose the dessert and ask everyone to bring ingredients. For example, if you serve chocolate fondue, ask guests to bring marshmallows, angel food cake, strawberries and other foods for dipping.
  • Bar the drinks. Instead of trying to supply enough drinks for your guests, try a drink bar. Everyone brings ingredients to make a signature drink. Or, just ask guests to BYOB.

Deck the Halls

  • Keep it simple. Chances are you’ve already decorated for the holidays. Go with it.
  • Fir Tree CenterpieceCreate a cozy home. Simmer water with apples, oranges, cinnamon sticks and cloves on the stove for a homemade holiday potpourri.
  • Bring the outdoors in. Use pine cones as name card holders. Or, fill a bowl with apples and oranges for a centerpiece. Use scrap boughs from fir trees as centerpieces.
  • DIY. Paint a board with chalk paint, write a holiday message on it, and hang it with an old frame. Or dip the stems of some dollar store wine glasses in chalk paint. Guests can use chalk to write their names on their glass.

Give from the Heart

Wrapped homemade giftAsk guests ahead of time if they’d like to exchange gifts. Spending time together may be just the thing everyone needs. If not, remember that some of the best gifts are the ones that took time and effort and not a lot of money. Ideas for giving from the heart, not the wallet.

Above all, just have fun!

Happy Holidays!