How to Throw a Blowout Holiday Party -- on a Budget

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is getting to throw an unforgettable party. Unfortunately, with so many year-end expenses and a sluggish economy, my budget this year is pretty limited. I'm not going to let that stop me, though. Over my many years of party-planning, I've picked up a great deal of cost-savings tips, and I'm going to rely on them this season to throw an incredible party that no one would ever guess was inexpensive.

Here's what I've learned about how to throw a party on a budget:

Food and Drink
The biggest party-related expenses tend to be food and beverages, so careful planning here is crucial. I suggest you:

Tighten your guest list. This should be the first thing you do. While it may seem nice to invite the neighbors from two streets over even though you haven't spoken in a year, it's probably not worth the added expense when you're working on a budget.

Make a shopping list. I'm going to make a list of exactly what I'm going to serve before I go shopping. In the past, I've made the mistake of shopping without a list, and I always ended up spending far more than I originally intended.

Shop at big-box stores. Your local supermarket may be more convenient, but it will cost you a lot more money for your party needs. I like to shop at big-box stores where I can buy larger quantities at a discount.

Encourage your guests to bring a dish or beverage. Most guests ask if they can bring something, so let them! You could even assign each guest a specific item on your shopping list -- like cookies, appetizers, chopped veggies or drinks.

Host your party between meal times. Want to really keep food costs down? Schedule your party between meal times (like 2-5 pm or 3-6 pm), or host an after-dinner cocktail party. You'll only need to serve a few snacks.

Decorations are terrific because they can give your home an exciting holiday atmosphere. But who wants to spend a lot of money on seasonal décor that spends most of its time in storage boxes in the attic?

Visit dollar stores. All kinds of fun decorations can be found at dollar stores. I've stumbled across many decorations that are almost exactly the same as the ones sold at party stores, but they sell for much, much less.

Get crafty. Homemade decorations are not only affordable, but they also add a personal touch to your party that will have your guests admiring your creativity. To find the best do-it-yourself decoration ideas, I search Pinterest. I can spend hours searching its endless variety of inventive party ideas.

A fun addition to any party is entertainment!

Play music or movies. One of the simplest and most affordable ways to get your guests into the holiday spirit is by playing a mix of holiday songs that you've selected. Check out Pandora for a list of holiday stations. It's also fun to put a classic holiday movie on your TV with the sound off -- it's a great conversation starter.

Organize silly fun and games. Here's an idea: Ask guests to bring a holiday photo of themselves from their younger days. This will get your guests laughing and interacting with each other as they share their photos. Party games for grown ups can also be a lot of fun for absolutely no added cost! Ideas from party planners at include coming up with dance moves and playing truth or dare.

No matter how limited your budget is, there's no need to give up on your holiday party plans. A little can go a long way toward making an unforgettable party!

Remember, when stocking up for your big holiday bash, Citi Price Rewind can help you get the best price on many products you buy. If you buy an item with your Citi card, you can register it on and for 30 days after your purchase, Citi Price Rewind will track the price of the item. If within those 30 days a lower price of at least $25 you may be eligible to receive a refund of the price difference.

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