8 Ways to Host the Holidays Without Busting Your Budget

family hosting christmas dinnerNo matter how exciting the holidays can be, they're also a time of stress and frustration. Show of hands, who has ever hosted a Christmas gathering? And who ever wanted to pull out their hair, climb in bed, and close the blinds -- until it was all over?

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Don't get me wrong, I love a good holiday celebration, along with the opportunity to spend time with my family. That, however, doesn't take away the fact that opening the doors to your home to entertain friends and loved ones can become taxing -- especially in the finance department.

I'm sure I still have much to learn, but here are eight pointers I've learned along the way that might save you a buck or two.

1. Plan ahead, and budget early. Hosting folks for the holidays does take some money to accomplish -- which is why you might want to plan ahead. There's nothing wrong with putting away a few coins throughout the year so you aren't bombarded with a huge bill for food, toiletries, and whatever else you might need. All right, so it might be getting to be too late to do this, but there's always next year!

2. Rethink the guest list. It's really great that you want to be so accommodating to everyone in your family, but if your finances don't allow for such a bill, it's okay to rethink how many people you have over. Creating a guest list doesn't mean you have some vendetta against a particular family member or friend. All you're trying to do is prevent your holidays from turning into a situation that will cause great debt. It's a horrible situation to have good intentions but later regret them -- and take it out on the people you invited -- when you realize the numbers are too much for your pocket to handle.

More from CafeMom: Avoid Holiday Overspending: Top Tips From Finance Expert Alexa von Tobel

3. Set the tone early. "I heard Tanvier is having some sit-down dinner for Christmas. I think I'll stop by with a few others ... it should be okay." Different families have different customs. Whether you're a part of a wonderful group -- interlaced with an assortment of cultural backgrounds -- or have some "unique" folks in your crew, set the tone early. If you're planning to host something more formal, think about sending RSVPs that, hopefully, will remind others not to just show up unexpected.

But if you want to have an open door policy -- where people can drop in and out -- plan for extra food and drinks.

The choice is up to you.

4. Switch things up. Tired of business as usual? This is your opportunity to change up your Christmas game plan and possibly save a buck. If you don't want to serve a Thanksgiving-like spread (for the sake of money, or not wanting to slave in the kitchen), consider a potluck, or having a portion of your meal catered (numbers might be cheaper than doing everything yourself).

You can also serve edibles individually sized -- like macaroni and cheese, lasagna cups, or cupcakes instead of a full-blown cake or pie. Side note: This can be a crowd favorite, as people will think you're trying to be fancy, when in reality you're making sure you have enough for all your guests. (It's all about portion control, right? Kidding!)

5. Plan your meal by what's on sale. Sure, those recipes that call for saffron and other ingredients you might not keep in your pantry sound great, but think about your budget. You won't believe how much you'll spend on things you may never use again. Unless you really want to make something, spend time checking circulars from your local grocery stores, and purchase ingredients on sale.

Once you have a general idea of the things you need to buy, you can spend a little time on the Internet looking for recipes that match what you have. Even though you'll probably need to make a few dishes that aren't on sale, this is a good practice to start. Man, if only I did this years ago. Ah well ...

6. Get your coupon on. Honey, coupons can be your best friend ... for life. If you play your cards right, you can save quite a bit of money, just by using coupons.

More from CafeMom: 7 Money-Saving Apps You Need to Start Using Right Now

7. Quit buying stuff to try to look fancy. Forget the mall! Honey, you're better off going outside, picking out some pine cones, adding some glitter, and putting them in a vase for a centerpiece. That's why you have Pinterest -- to make what you already own look fabulous.

8. Tag team. Who says you can't cohost the holidays? Team up with a family member or friend, as two cooks can be better than one. This way, you're able to split everything from the culinary duties to the grocery bill.

 

Image via iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

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