Hosting a Christmas party doesn't have to be stressful or expensive when you focus on the reason for gathering your guests. Use these editor-approved tips for hosting a relaxed inexpensive holiday gathering.


I’m Brian Kramer, editor of Do It Yourself magazine and somewhat of an entertaining expert. The thing I love about parties is that they are pure possibility—anything can happen. So many of my favorite books, movies, and TV shows come down to the party scenes. Who can forget the extravagant jazz-inspired parties in The Great Gatsby or the Friends episode where Monica converts her holiday get-together to a tropical luau?

Fortunately, in real life, hosting a great party doesn’t require a Gatsby-size budget. Anyone can throw a memorable—and inexpensive—holiday party with some good planning and a little creative thinking. My tricks for hosting a holiday party on a budget have never failed me, so today I’m sharing my secrets so you can throw an inexpensive holiday shindig of your own this season.

Brian Kramer sitting in a blue chair against a white wall

Skip the specialty decorations

The last thing you want to be doing at the holidays is worrying about the added stress or expense of decorating for a Christmas party—and I promise your guests don’t really care about streamers, balloons, or extra garlands. You don’t need to go all-out with a creative Christmas party theme. Just tidy up the party space, light some candles, turn on some music, and voilà—instant ambiance! Regardless of the reason or season, I cover the main food table with a basic cloth (white polyester is amazingly forgiving) and top it with colorful serving pieces. Afterward, everything can be quickly tossed into the dishwasher or trash can for fast and easy clean up.

Focus on the four basic food groups

No, not the ones in the pyramid, but sweet, salty, savory, and novelty—I make it a rule to provide at least one of each. After all, Christmas party food is one of the most important elements of a holiday party—but serving up a feast doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. For sweets, I rely on classic Christmas cookies and bars, turtle brownies, Rice Krispies treats, or lemon bars. Pretzel rods with mustard dip, or chips and fresh salsa are two never-fail salty offerings. Savory is anything that’s a bit more filling, such as a goat cheese and roasted garlic spread, or chicken wings (pick them up from the deli to save time). For a novelty treat, I like to choose something offbeat that guests will still talk about after the party. Think ugly sweater-theme cookies for a Christmas party or wishbone-shaped treats for a Friendsgiving gathering.

Baked Brie with Roasted Garlic wooden plate appetizer

Guests will drink whatever is on hand

Don’t spend time and money stocking your bar with varieties of sodas, alcohols, and juices—and definitely don’t hire a bartender. I’ve found that people pretty much drink what’s available. Keep the beverages simple, delicious, and easy on your budget. I like to serve a single “house drink,” such as margaritas, mimosas, or spiced hot cider, that I mix up in large, economical quantities. I supplement the mixed drink with red and white wine (go for the jug or box) or some garden-variety beer chilled to perfection in an iced tub. Printable holiday wine labels or a punch jar with a holiday garnish on top makes it easy to turn your favorite house drink into an instant Christmas cocktail.

Rosemary-Grapefruit Gin Cocktail

People make the party

You may not be connected to billionaires or the cast of Friends, but you can surround yourself with people you like (or would like to know) this season. Don’t be afraid to mix folks from your work, community, and church. Yes, it takes a bit of effort to make introductions and establish connections between guests, but once you do, the party takes on a life of its own. The holidays are all about spending time with those we are thankful for, so why not celebrate them all at the same time? Organize a few classic Christmas party games for guests to play, or turn your gathering into a white elephant exchange.

    Comments (1)

    Better Homes & Gardens Member
    December 11, 2018
    Just what I was looking for! Thank you!!