Nothing beats a Christmas bash with your friends. A chance to hang out in hideous jumpers, relieve the stress of the pre-holiday rush and dance in santa socks until sunrise. But with Christmas cheer and the spirit of giving in the air, it’s easy to go overboard if you’re the one hosting.
Here’s how to put on a great festive knees-up without going broke.
Set a date
First of all, send your friends a save-the-date message as soon as you can. December is one of the busiest times of year and you don’t want to be left drinking a vat of mulled wine alone with your cat. If you’re only inviting a small group of friends, you could create a Doodle poll to find out when they’re free.
Decide your budget
How much can you afford to spend on your soiree? Work out how much money you have left after all your regular expenses and one-off Christmas ones, like presents.
You can take into account any money you’ve saved up especially for Christmas. But just remember that the festive season comes with all kinds of hidden costs. You may need to pay for travel to visit family and friends, delivery charges on last minute gifts, or be tempted by more post-work pints than usual.
Once you’ve decided on a budget for your party, work out how much you’d like to set aside for decorations. Whatever you’re left with is the total you can spend on refreshments for your guests.
Lay on some food
There are various ways you can make your feast more affordable.
Organise a group shop
If you want to cook a whole Christmas meal, then consider ordering your ingredients online and splitting the total cost between your friends. Doing your shopping online saves you from lugging heavy bags around and lets your guests link you items to add to your shopping basket. This is especially useful if you have friends with specific dietary requirements (or very particular taste in red wine.) To help to keep the total cost down, check out BBC Good Food’s guide to Christmas dinner on a budget.
Ask your guests to bring a dish
Turning your party into a potluck can be a fun way of cutting your costs and cooking time. To make sure you don’t end up with 30 packets of mince pies, create a Google Sheet so people can note down what they’re bringing. You can even specify whether each person should bring a starter, main or dessert to make sure you get an even spread.
Cook your own canapes
Making your own finger food doesn’t have to be expensive. Do some research to find affordable ideas.
@bbcgoodfood is worth a follow for its delicious and fuss-free recipes. And Cooking on a Bootstrap blogger Jack Monroe has a recipe for Christmas cake that only uses four ingredients and costs just 16p a slice.
Get the drinks in
Your guests won’t expect you to supply all the booze, but you may want to offer them something when they arrive. Mulled cider is a delicious and more thrifty alternative to mulled wine. You just need to fill a pan with cider, orange zest and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
It’s also easy to make a non-alcoholic version, by adding the same spices to apple juice and heating.
You can buy cheap decorations or try and DIY. Head to Pinterest to find ideas for creative ways to decorate before your party.
Which? have the low-down on where to buy the cheapest Christmas tree. Or if you’ve got the budget and don’t fancy lugging your own tree home, plant startup Patch sell them in various sizes and will deliver them for free. You can find cheap baubles at stores like Argos, or buy a string of fairy lights on Amazon.