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10 tips for a budget-savvy holiday party

Gail Johnson

So you're getting into the spirit and hosting a holiday party. There's no need to spend like a Kardashian. You can be festive and frugal at the same time.

"Budgets don't mean cheap or even inexpensive," says money coach Nancy Zimmerman. "The Royal Wedding had a budget, you can be sure. A budget means staying in control of your money."

Here's how to celebrate in style without breaking the bank.

By the numbers
A budget will be key to determining what kind of party you're able to throw. "If you don't yet have a monthly budget at all, create a quick-and-dirty spreadsheet that includes your income for the month, less typical monthly expenses, less an estimate of what you will spend on gifts and other holiday-related expenses. This will at least give you a ballpark figure of what you have left to work with," Zimmerman says.

Quality, not quantity
"Spending more doesn't make the party better; it's the company that counts," Zimmerman reminds. "Choose your guests thoughtfully."

Hosting begins at home
Look around your house and see what party supplies you already have on hand that you can use. Whether it's alcohol, napkins, decorations, dishes, or food, chances are you already own party items you can work with instead of buying new supplies.

Beg, borrow and steal to keep costs low. If you're lacking a serving dish, punch bowl, wine carafes, table cloth, cutlery, or glassware, ask friends to lend you theirs.

Write it down
"List the items you still require then allow yourself plenty of time for smart shopping," Zimmerman suggests. "Keep an eye out both online and offline for great deals and take advantage of them." She recommends the Yellow Pages app called ShopWise that lists deals and discounts in your location.

Keep it simple
Instead of needing every kind of hard alcohol and fancy syrup on hand, pick a single type of cocktail to serve to your guests. Be sure to have a non-alcoholic version too. Add in one kind of red and white wine, and your drink list is complete.

Take tips from the pros
Caterers have all kinds of tricks to make things look extra-special and to save money. If you're serving food buffet style, put filling, less-expensive food (such as buns and veggies) at the head of the table, where people start lining up to fill their plates, and place more expensive items like chicken skewers and prawns toward the end of the line. People will likely load up on the less costly items.

Stay seasonal
Caterers do this too: stick with seasonal foods as much as possible to cut costs. Strawberries and red peppers might look festive over the holidays, but their prices will be jacked up. Same goes for all produce as well as fish, seafood and nuts. Plus, buying food items like asparagus, which is flown in from South America, boosts environmentally unfriendly food miles: Check out Eat the Seasons for detailed info on what's good to eat (and buy) throughout the year.

Buy in bulk
Putting out dishes of nuts, pretzels, or candies? Hit the bulk aisle instead of boxes or bags that are prepacked. Not only will bulk items save you money as well, but you'll save on packaging as well.

Say yes
When people get an invitation, their first question is usually, "What can I bring?" Take them up on it. There's nothing wrong with having guests bring an appetizer or something sweet for dessert.

And always remember to cross check your projected spending (you budget) with what you actually spent (your receipts) in order to better plan for next year's holiday bash. "They [receipts] will provide you great intel when you add them all up," Zimmerman says. "Did you stay within your budget? Did you not budget enough? Make a note for next year.

"The key is to be adaptable to your resources and keep your eyes on the goal: creating a fun, warm memory for people you care about," she adds.