Holiday Entertaining on a Budget


One of my favorite things about the holidays is entertaining. And if you know me, even better is entertaining on a budget!

I love hosting parties and having people over to our house. But entertaining for the holidays can leave your bank account feeling a little blue. I am always on the look out for new and exciting ways to entertain that don’t require a lot of expense. This week, I’m offering a top ten list of some different ideas for entertaining on a budget that I’ve come across over the years. Some of these I’ve tried and others are on my list to try!

10. Potluck

I preach this frugal and smart approach to entertaining constantly for various occasions, and it seems even more perfect at this time of year. People love sharing their special holiday food and it helps save time and money. This year, I’m hosting an “Around the World” party where everyone is invited to bring a dish which represents their family heritage. How fun and different will that be?!

9Wine Tasting and Appetizers

Instead of hosting an entire sit-down dinner, invite people to bring their favorite wine or beverage and provide a smorgasbord of appetizers and snacks. This is my favorite type of party. I love to just snack, taste various new wines, and mingle instead of sitting at a formal dinner.

8. Host on Open House

Again, instead of a formal sit down dinner, an open house creates a more casual and inviting environment. It allows guests to come and go as they please, and if you time it during non-meal hours, then you can just provide light snacks and beverages. We’ve hosted numerous open houses and enjoy this type of entertaining.

7. Small, Intimate Dinner Parties

Instead of inviting everyone from work, host a few small dinner parties with six to eight guests instead. We started doing this with our different circles of friends and it provides some great quality time with a small group of friends rather than a larger gathering. We usually wrap this type of party into a potluck, as well, thus keeping the cost down.

6. Breakfast/Brunch/Lunch

This is on my list of parties to host. Sometimes, scheduling an evening gathering is so difficult with all the other activities during Christmas. But most people have a weekend morning to spare for a little cheer. I love the idea of hosting a holiday brunch. With a fresh, out-of-the oven egg and sausage bake, fresh fruit, homemade breads, and hot coffee, your guests will be looking forward to next year’s invitation. Not to mention, the cost of this gathering would be minimal and the prep would be easy.  You can bet, I’ll be planning one of these soon!

5. Dessert Party

Now c’mon, who wouldn’t love to attend a dessert party, especially with all the extra baking people do and special goodies they make this time of year? This is would be a great potluck style party. Invite everyone to bring a special dessert. Can you imagine a table full of fudge, popcorn balls, pies, cookies, candies, divinity, and so more Christmas goodies? Again, it’s an easy and manageable type of party and very little cost involved.

4. Outdoor Gathering

We are blessed to live in Montana, and winter offers us a unique chance to enjoy the outdoors. Why not invite friends and family of all ages to meet outside for some sledding, skating, cross-country skiing, making snow angels and snowmen, or a giant snowball fight? After an afternoon of fresh air and fun, share some cocoa and treats. Last year, our neighbors invited us sledding and brought out cocoa and cookies when we were done. My kids remembered it all year because it was so fun and simple.

3. Progressive Party

These parties were popular decades ago and are having a comeback. A progressive party is where the guests move from house to house for various parts of a meal. I’ve done these and love them – it is a great opportunity to enjoy all your friends’ homes during the holidays in a one-shot party! Plus, the only burden you have is one part of a meal. When I’ve participated in them, we’ve broken down a meal into these categories: Appetizers, salad, main dish, dessert, and after-dinner drinks. Depending on the size of the group, you can add or subtract categories. This is a great party for neighborhoods because of the proximity of houses.

2. Kids-only Party

As a way for our kids to enjoy the holidays with their friends, we started hosting a gingerbread house decorating party for our kids and their friends, and it’s turned into an annual tradition. This could be a costly party to host, but I buy the graham crackers and frosting with coupons when they are on sale. In addition, we bought bags of candy last year after the season and froze them for this year. Plus, we ask friends to bring a small bag of candy to share. After all the decorating, we have some popcorn, Chex Mix, and punch. It is a simple, yet fun party enjoyed by kids of all ages.

1. Discard the Unimportant Frills

Instead, focus on what the season is about: Friends, family, and being together. This time of year, people truly cherish being together. So often, when we simplify our gatherings, we are rewarded with more opportunity to connect with our loved ones in a comfortable and less stressful environment. Simplifying doesn’t mean creating a dull and lifeless gathering or taking away from tradition, rather it means you are stripping out the unnecessary (and usually expensive!) things while spotlighting the meaningful and essential elements of the season.

One last note, as we entertain this holiday season, please remember to be responsible with your alcohol. Don’t drink and drive and don’t let others drink and drive. Being responsible with alcohol is a gift we all appreciate!

Tell us how you’ve done entertaining on a budget with your family and friends! Let’s share some ideas and help each other out this holiday season.


Erin’s got tons of tips for saving money, couponing, and sticking to a budget in her previous posts: Declutter and Donate Old Toys Before Christmas, Shop and Plan Ahead to Reduce Christmas Stress, and Teaching Money to Kids and Teens. Be sure to check out the Missoula Save it Club.

   Visit the Coupon Queen’s “Save It” archive.


Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.