Hosting a Holiday Gathering on a Budget

2023-12-18  4 minute read

Tanya Reynolds

Debt Solutions

It’s that time of year when family and friends make getting together a top priority. Big dinners, open houses, work parties, and other gatherings fill up the December calendar. If you happen to find yourself as the host of one or more of those gatherings, you’re going to want some tips on how to throw the best holiday get-together without breaking the bank. 

Whether you’re hosting a small intimate group of friends or a large family dinner over the upcoming holiday season, inflation and rising interest rates have made hosting more challenging than ever. Here are some simple tips on how to still have a great time while sticking to a manageable budget.

Table settings with glassware - Preparation for holiday wedding.

Know your budget

Planning a holiday gathering without a budget is a surefire way to go overboard without realizing it. Before anything else, knowing your budget will help drive the planning process. How much you have set aside to spend will empower you to determine the party size along with the food and drink selections you would like.

Spread your budget out per plate depending on how many people you expect. If you want to host a larger group, that might mean spending less on snacks and beverages, and vice versa. Make sure you include an RSVP so you know exactly how many people are coming.

The two most important things to remember when reviewing your budget are first, making sure it’s realistic, and second, that you stick to it. A budget is not helpful if you don’t adhere to it.

Pick the right kind of party

First, take a look at all the options you have for hosting a party and consider which one is most affordable. For example, taking a large group out to a fancy restaurant — or even the now classic escape room party — is epic but expensive. Even putting out a traditional spread with all the fixings feels like an extravagance with the current prices at grocery stores.

On the other hand, potluck parties are a great way to cut back on expenses and allow for a nice variety of food choices. Taking on all the hosting duties yourself can be both exhausting and expensive. Get creative with your party planning and invite others to participate in a more inclusive experience for all. BYOB or bring-your-favourite cocktail is another way to cut back on costs. You never know, you might find a new favourite holiday beverage.

Plan to save by planning ahead

Take a page out of Santa’s book by making a list and checking it twice. Then do an inventory of what you already have on hand — basing your list off of what you already have available. Take a look through all your cupboards and closets before you make that shopping list and head to the store to determine what you already have and what you need. This will keep you from doubling up on spending.

You will find that making a list will help prevent going off the rails and tossing all the things you ‘want’ into your cart rather than just the things you ‘need’. Planning ahead will also allow you the opportunity to take advantage of those coupons and weekly flyer sales for those items that start to go up in price as the holiday season gets closer.

Decorate with your joy, not your wallet

Whether you’re hosting at home or a chosen venue, you’ll want the holiday spirit to be visible for all to see. Getting creative with decorations can be a huge cost saver. Consider DIY decorations, getting thrifty with what’s around the house, or modest purchases to put together that holiday decor. Paper chains can bring as much joy as a chandelier.

Don’t be afraid to reach out for some backup. Try asking your friends and family what they might have that’s suitable to your party theme. Everyone has gathered a variety of decorations over the years. Drawing from that untapped collective closet can be one of the most cost-effective ways to decorate for your event.


Being around friends and family should be entertainment enough, but if you’re looking for a little more pizazz, you’d be surprised by how much entertainment you already have at hand. You don’t need a string quartet to take care of the musical aspect of a party. Throw together a playlist or two on your device. With that kind of precise song selection control, you know you’ll have a little bit of something for the entire crowd. You can even ask for recommendations along with RSVPs.

Remember, the holidays are about friends and family spending time together. What’s more of a friends-and-family activity than board games? Bringing out some of those old board games from the basement that have been collecting dust may be just the thing to bring the guests together. Just imagine playing Operation with a cocktail in hand. Whether it’s music, board games, or simple holiday-themed activities like decorating cookies, use entertainment as just another means to bring people together. 

Happy Holidays!

Finally, the most important and least expensive thing you can do for your holiday gathering is have fun. Fill yourself and your guests with joy. Enjoy the time together. You’ve all worked hard all year. Time to remember what it’s all for. Memories like this. Even as the host, in the end, your biggest job is simply to enjoy yourself. If you’re having the best time, so will everyone else!

For more tips or financial advice, connect with Tanya Reynolds, CIRP, LIT Senior Vice-President at 204-924-7530 or [email protected].

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