Christmas hasn't even come and gone yet, but you may already be thinking ahead to New Year's Eve. For some people this means bidding farewell with a bang to one year and entering the next with an empty wallet and a slight hangover. You can avoid both unpleasant ends by ushering in 2012 in budget-savvy style.
Eat out early.Dinner out is a popular way to celebrate New Year's Eve, but unfortunately it usually costs a pretty penny. US News notes that you can get a good meal by dining before the rush, which on New Year's Eve ranges from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and sometimes later. If you go early enough, you might catch happy hour and enjoy up to half off on drinks and appetizers. Also try this: If dining as a couple, order an appetizer to split and a salad each. You'll have a low-cost, healthy meal and still have cash and appetite for a few drinks.
Eat New Year's Eve dinner at home.To really pinch some pennies, dine at home. You'll avoid high prices on food and drinks, and you can make it as classy or as low-key as you want. Some fun ideas include fondue night or a meal featuring pork, which in many cultures is associated with progress and good fortune.
Host a New Year's Eve party.While we're on the subject of dining at home, why not celebrate all of New Year's Eve at home? Gather some of your closest friends for a small New Year's Eve party at your place. You can put together a poker tournament and get some cheap appetizers and beverages to ring in the New Year. Don't forget to catch Dick Clark's New Years Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2012, featuring Lady Gaga and a host of other stars.
Plan a progressive dinner.If you don't want to stay in on New Year's Eve but don't want to spend a wad either, organize a progressive dinner among neighborhood friends. Set up appetizers at the first house, a salad course at the second, the main course at the third, dessert at the fourth, and a champagne toast at the last house.
Go easy on the champagne.It's no secret that champagne can cost upwards of $200 a bottle, but you can also get a decent bottle of bubbly for New Year's Eve for less than $20. Cheapism.com found several good cheap champagnes, including Roederer Estate NV Brut ($20), Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut NV ($15), and Freixenet Cordon Negro Extra Dry ($10). Delish.com recommends Segura Viudas NV Brut Reserva ($9), Gruet Brut NV ($14), Paul Cheneau "Lady of Spain" Cava ($15), Zonin Prosecco ($12), and Mionetto Prosecco Brut ($13).
Find free New Year's Eve activities in your neighborhood.Many neighborhoods across the country offer free activities for families to celebrate New Year's Eve together. Columbus, Ohio, for example, sponsors First Night, which features 10 entertainment stations throughout downtown (within walking distance of each other) and more than 100 performers. There are also activity stations and fireworks at midnight. Check for similar and free events in your city.
Whatever you do to celebrate New Years Eve, make sure you do so responsibly. Cheers!