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5 Tips for an Amazing Holiday Party, On the Cheap

Someday, when the economy turns around, we will all go back to throwing huge, expensive, party-like-it’s-1999 holiday parties. There will be elephants, and perhaps a parade, and almost certainly a chocolate fountain. In fact, when the economy turns, we will have that installed in our office — no holiday required.

For now, we’re stuck with a budget holiday bash. This does not mean, however, that we’re going to be forced to share supermarket cupcakes and drink out of brown paper bags in our office cubicles. With a little ingenuity, you can have an awesome holiday party without spending a fortune. Here’s how to do it:

1. Organize a Potluck

We never used to be huge fans of the potluck, which seemed to us like an excuse to make other people throw a party for you. A potluck holiday party from the beginning of the recession changed our mind.

Everyone in our office brought their favorite dish from home. Since this was a department full of creatives, we wound up with the best late-night snack foods of all time. It was basically a groaning board full of everything upon which one could place cheese. Best party ever.

The secret to the office potluck is to get a few people on board right away. If you have a few key folks who take it seriously and get excited, it’s much easier to convince other people to bring in their most delicious treats.

2. Buy Supplies in Bulk
This seems like a gimme, but you’d be surprised at how much money offices waste buying things at full price. Team up with another department or company and head to one of the big box stores to buy plates, napkins, party favors, and so on. You’ll than you would have going to the local party store two hours before the big bash.

3. Do Lunch Instead of Dinner
It’s usually cheaper to plan a lunch than it is to plan a dinner. Restaurants charge a lot more for the premium time slots, and you can have just as much fun during the day as you can in the evening. Maybe more, since most employees are super excited to get out of work during the day, especially to attend a party. You might even find that attendance is better during the day than it was at night.

4. Every Hour Is Happy Hour
The same principle applies to planning cocktail hours. Bars will often give you a discount if you come earlier in the day, when they’re not as crowded, and people love the novelty of getting out of work a little early (or even right on the dot of five) to party during the afternoon.

The only downside to this plan is that people sometimes get a little too wasted if you plan a drinking function during the day. You know your team, so plan accordingly.

5. Have a Holiday Party in February
If you really want to save money, plan your big company party for a less popular month. February is a really cheap time to do a ‘do, and people need the break more during the height of the winter doldrums than they do in December, when every other day boasts another holiday party.

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