Holiday party season can be rough on your waistline, tough on your schedule, and, if you're an introvert, even a strain on your state of mind. But if you're the boss of a fledgling business without a lot to spend, it's also rough on your wallet.
Still, just because you're a frugal entrepreneur, doesn't mean you're a grinch. You want to celebrate the season, bring your people together, and reward them for all their hard work. Is it possible to do it without breaking your budget? Certainly say a range of experts who offer a host of tips for both personal and professional holiday entertaining.
1. Choose your time carefully
When you think party, you probably assume a night-time event, but whether you're hosting a personal or professional event, a daytime get together will probably cost you way less and be just as fun. Consider "a brunch, barbecue, pool party, or game day gathering," suggests Due.com (the pool party idea obviously isn't the best choice for work events). "While you still have to provide food and drinks, these items are often less expensive."
Inc.com HR expert Suzanne Lucas agrees that opting for a daytime event can save those hosting office parties money too. "Hold the party during working hours and at the office. You don't have to rent a room, and you win the hearts of employees who would rather not spend their precious free time with their coworkers. Order pizza and soda. Cupcakes are still a big hit," she notes.
Or, if you're really looking to save some money and you're feeling flexible, you might even go so far as to schedule your holiday get together for January. "It will be cheaper to do it after the holiday rush and before wedding season kicks in. Hotel banquet rooms are open. Caterers aren't booked. Even that swanky band you want is more likely to be available, and at a cheaper price, in January. Plus, January is generally a miserable month, so give your employees something to look forward to, at a discounted price," she adds.
2. Don't have a party at all
This isn't a suggestion for grinches, really. It's a suggestion for generous bosses who understand that their employees may prefer a little time off during the crazy holiday period to some semi-required socializing with their colleagues.
In lieu of the annual holiday shindig, "close the office at noon on a Wednesday and send everyone home, with pay. Label it a shopping day. If you've got the funds, give everyone a $50 gift certificate to the local mall, grocery store, or department store," Lucas offers.
3. Go green
Environmental awareness is a great excuse to save yourself some money, points out Due.com (not to mention being a positive aim in itself). "Unless it's for a more formal event, like a wedding, there's really no reason to send out paper invitations," notes the post. "The same is true with paper and plastic plates, silverware, and glasses. Washing them may be a hassle, but using the dinnerware that you already own cuts out this unnecessary expense." And fret not, they really don't need to match.
4. Skip the sit down meal
Serving dinner to a crowd isn't just a hassle, it's also expensive. "Potlucks or simple buffets are certainly less costly than sit-down, seven-course dinners. Pare it down even further by hosting a brunch, dessert or cocktail party," advises Bankrate.com.
5. Choose a "signature drink"
Don't have the funds to stock a full bar? Then choose a "signature drink" instead and help your guests feel festive for less. "Don't spend hundreds of dollars on a variety of alcohol. Instead, come up with a signature cocktail that matches your theme. This way you're only purchasing one or two types of alcohol," Due.com recommends.
If it's a New Year's event and champagne is called for, offering a champagne cocktail will make your money go further than straight bubbly, Allison Julius, co-owner of Maison 24, notes in the Bankrate post.
6. Combine parties with other companies
"If you share an office building with other companies, ask them to consider sharing the space and costs of throwing a holiday party. This will make for a more festive and social event, while saving both companies money on decorations, entertainment, catering, and more," suggests Pinnacle Cart.
7. Opt for activities
Pinnacle Cart also offers alternatives to the usual mingle and drink holiday party format that are both more interesting and likely to save you some money. Why not host a baking competition if you think your staff would enjoy it, for instance? Or swap the holiday party for a charity event or a matinee movie outing (staff with kids might want the option to opt out and run errands instead, as per Lucas's idea above).
"There are so many great charities that really pick up steam and need extra help around the holidays. Mix holiday fun with giving back by volunteering your staff to work at a local food bank, wrap presents at the mall, or sing holiday songs at senior homes. You could ask your staff for suggestions on their favorite place to volunteer and then pull one from a hat to decide. These types of holiday experiences can double as team building, as they provide great bonding experiences between co-workers," explains Pinnacle Cart.