RING IN THE NEW YEAR
Who says you have to spend big to celebrate big? With clever planning, you can throw a memorable New Year's party that's not only fun and fabulous — but also easy on the wallet. Who wouldn't toast to that?
MAKE IT EARLY
Don't want to shell out for champagne? Skip the champagne toast at midnight by having your party early. Host a brunch, luncheon, or light supper, and tell your guests you want to spend time with them before they ring in the new year in their own way.
MAKE IT INTIMATE
Keep the invite list limited. A house full of people can be fun — but more guests means a higher tab for food and drink. There's also a good chance you'll be including people you don't know well enough to trust they'll respect your home (and possessions) as much as you do. Only invite the people with whom you really want to spend the whole evening.
PICK A THEME
Sure, it's New Year's Eve — but that doesn't mean your party can't be a luau or a barbecue. Party supply stores are filled lots of options. During winter, you may even score some savings on goods designed for a picnic.
DO LOOK BACK
The end of the year fosters nostalgia — and remembering good times can add to the festive spirit. Create a photo collage or scrapbook of events your family and friends have participated in during this past year (pro tip: hit up Facebook and Instagram). If there's time, poll them for comments to add below the photos.
CREATE A SIGNATURE DRINK
Forget setting up a full bar. It's pricey -- and no one wants to spend the entire night playing bartender. Choose a signature cocktail (with a nonalcoholic option, too) and serve it up by the batch. Punches are ideal, such as the recipe for slow cooker hard cider from the Food Network that's a make-ahead breeze.
SET UP A COFFEE BAR
Let your guests get their buzz from caffeine instead of booze. Set up a coffee bar with regular and decaf coffees plus syrups and spices. It's cheaper than a trip to the liquor store and a fun way to kick-start a brunch.
PLAN A POTLUCK
If your friends are also thrifty, they'll sympathize with how much effort (and expense) goes into hosting a party. Invite them for a potluck party to ring in the new year. Just be sure to coordinate who's bringing what so you don't end up with six salads and not much else.
USE PAPER GOODS
No one's going to expect you to pull out the best china, so stock up on paper goods and plastic wine glasses. This will keep the focus on good food and conversation instead of breakage.
CHOOSE DOLLAR-STORE DÉCOR
To complement those paper plates, hit the dollar store for bowls, paper tablecloths, and serving utensils. At the end of the night, there's virtually no clean-up, since everything can be recycled.
OPT FOR FREE ENTERTAINMENT
Check out the local library for a wealth of free entertainment, from CDs to movies that you can play in the background. Pro tip: Put in a request for the yule log DVD sooner rather than later.
REQUEST CASUAL DRESS
New shoes, dress, or suit? Fancy rentals aren't needed when you let your guests know your skipping the black-tie for your party. Let them come in whatever they want. While it may not be as photo-worthy, a good time is about who you are, not what you wear.
PLAN A LIMITED MENU
Instead of a full-on spread, why not just pick easy appetizers or a light meal? Only you have to know you're economizing. Just be sure to let your guests know that they've been invited to an hors d'oeuvres party or a dessert bar so they don't leave hungry.
PICK BIG DISHES
Feel the need to offer more substance? Go big but thrifty and serve up a lasagna or casserole. Be sure to have a vegetarian option in the mix, too.
MAKE IT BYOB
A BYOB event doesn't have to recall younger, poorer days when no one had money for the booze. Instead, make it an opportunity for the wine snobs you know to show off their knowledge. Buy an array of cheeses and ask your guests to bring their favorite bottle.
Combat any lulls in conversation with some old-fashioned fun. Pull out Twister or start a game of charades. If that's too much, just set up a puzzle on a side table that guests can work on throughout the night.
USE CLUB SAVINGS
Stock up on party supplies at Costco or Sam's Club. Party trays on the cheap and frozen hors d'oeuvres in bulk will save you plenty in prep time as well as money.
PICK FUN PARTY FAVORS
Funny hats, noisemakers — the New Year's Eve parties of old were filled with such accessories. Plan ahead and it's possible to order in bulk from direct merchants like Oriental Trading, which has mini Champagne confetti party poppers at $15 for a dozen. (Vacuum not included).
Add a thoughtful element to your celebrating. Have friends gather together to do a community service project or help with a local volunteer effort before gathering back at your house for a bite to eat. It's one feel-good way to remember it's the season of giving.
Ask your friends to bring along a non perishable food item for the local food bank. It will make them realize how lucky they are — and create a new family tradition when you donate the goods at the start of the new year.
TAP TALENTED FRIENDS
Tap a talented friend — a singer, musician, even magician — to perform at the party. They will not only add a special note to the proceedings, but may get future bookings from the exposure to a new audience. Also, check out the local music school for low-cost live entertainment.
CHOOSE SILVER AND GOLD
Sure, the red and green or blue and white of the holidays may be over — but silver and gold are elegant ways to be festive. Pare down your seasonal décor to just the silver, gold or both — or take advantage of post-Christmas sales to stock up on lights and more.
PARTY BY CANDLELIGHT
Turn down the lights and fill your party space with candles. Everyone looks better by candlelight, so make sure you have plenty. To be extra-safe, especially if you'll have kids or pets on hand, opt for flameless LED votives.
Everyone's looking ahead to the new year, so why not make some predictions? Grab a box of fortune cookies or pick up a playful title such as the "Book of Answers" ($16 at Barnesandnoble.com), to allow guests a glimpse into their future.
PUT TOGETHER A RESOLUTION BOWL
Put out a box of stationery and pens and invite your guests to write down their resolutions and toss them into a bowl. Let it serve as the evening's centerpiece. If you've got a fireplace, toss them, safely, into the fire at the night's end as a way to send them into the universe.
RETURN THE FAVOR
Give your guests an inexpensive parting gift to make the evening even more memorable. Head to the dollar or party store to stock up on multiples. Think kazoos (don't laugh — at least one guest will break into "Auld Lang Syne") or something equally playful, hopefully emblazoned with 2019.