“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” or so the old song goes. But for many people, Christmas may seem like more of a burden than a celebration. For those who are unemployed or working but barely making ends meet, Christmas may be one more thing that they think they can’t afford. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Sure, life would be easier if you could “just buy” Christmas. But most of us have, at one time or another, suffered through those lean years. And whether your funds are limited or you just want to cut out the annual over-spending, it’s possible to celebrate and have a fun holiday season “on the cheap.” Sometimes, it just requires looking at things in a different way.
If you’re feeling down this holiday season and need a pick-me-up, THROW A PARTY! You might think that I’m crazy. If you can’t make ends meet you certainly can’t afford to entertain a bunch of friends, right? But I would argue that throwing a party, either at Christmas or maybe on New Year’s Eve, is exactly what you can afford to do and it will make the holidays festive for both you and your guests. But how can you do it?
Sometimes, when life is getting the better of us, we have a tendency to sit back and let the days pass by. But being a dollar-strapped couch potato isn’t going to make your holiday any brighter. So the first things you’re going to do is get off the couch, clean the house, put up whatever lights or decorations you have stashed away from previous years, and throw a clean tablecloth on the kitchen table. Go through your own cupboards and pull out anything that can be used for a party– paper napkins, plastic forks, maybe you have a cookie mix or two. Set your finds aside. There now, you’re on your way to being party-ready and so far you haven’t spent a dime!
Set the date and invite all of your friends and family for a “pot luck party,” the more the merrier! It won’t matter if things get a bit crowded. Make simple, handmade invitations or just pick up the phone. As part of your invitation, ask everyone to bring a dish to share along with their own beverage. Make a list. You don’t have to know exactly what everyone is bringing, but you should keep track of who plans to bring savory foods and who plans to bring sweets. You want to have more main dishes than desserts. If you live in a mild climate (or not!) ask a couple of non-cooking guests to bring hot dogs and buns and fire up the outdoor grill. Ask a few people to bring things like paper plates and plastic cups. Or get your sister and best friend to pilfer through their kitchen cabinets too and pull out whatever supplies they are willing to donate to your cause. Nothing has to match. There. Now you’ve got food and supplies taken care of and you’ve still not spent any money.
What about entertainment? There are lots of low-budget and no-budget ideas you can choose. Holiday music plays for free this time of year on cable and satellite TV music stations. Or find one of those cheesy fireplace channels. Have it turned on in the background but keep the volume low enough so that people can talk. Or if you like a loud and raucous party pull out your old boom box and collection of CD’s or borrow some from a neighbor. If you need something, don’t be afraid to borrow from a friend. Everyone loves a party and most people will be happy to contribute toward making a fun evening.
Ask everyone to wear their ugly Christmas sweater. Maybe give a prize for the ugliest one. Or do a white elephant gift exchange. Everyone wraps up something they no longer want or need. Gifts are then randomly passed out at the party. Watching people unwrap gifts that might be totally inappropriate for them can be a riot of laughter, like when your brother opens a pair of pink, hand knitted toe socks. Party games that everyone can play are also fun and free. Try the one that has two teams competing to pass an orange. The orange is held tightly under the chin and must be passed to the chin of the next person without using the hands. Or plan an evening of penny poker. Our family used to play all night every New Year’s Eve. No one ever wins or loses more than a dollar or two but the spirit of competition is still there. Use your imagination and use the internet. It’s filled with free party ideas.
I never said that throwing a party wouldn’t be a lot of work. I only said it would be fun. Instead of spending the entire month of December on the sofa, you can actually find yourself working on a party plan that gives you something to look forward to. Sometimes we just need the nudge of expecting guests to force us into doing things. So head for the basement or wherever your old Christmas items are stored and get busy hanging those lights and strings of shiny garland.