Hosting a Festively Frugal Holiday Open House

by Andrea Norris-McKnight

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There is no need to overspend to celebrate with family and friends. Hosting a frugal holiday open house is possible if you take these steps to make your gathering about celebrating with friends and family instead of impressing them.

While hosting a party can be an excellent way to celebrate the holidays with relatives and friends, it can be brutal on your budget.

But there’s no need to be the hostess who spends “the mostest” to throw a festive get-together.

Use these tips to keep party costs to a minimum so you can maximize the joy of celebrating the season with your guests.

Host an ‘Open House’ Instead of a ‘Party’

Large parties can be expensive to host because you want to ensure your guests get plenty to eat and drink during your gathering. And most party-goers remain at a party from beginning to end, meaning multiple refills on food and beverages.

When invited to an open house, most guests will limit the amount of time they visit, and there is no expectation of a big meal, lots of snacks, or more than a drink or two. This can help you keep food and beverage costs way down.

An open house will also allow you to maximize the number of guests you can invite into your home when you have both cost and space limitations. You can even stagger open house times on the invitations to help guarantee you don’t have too many guests during any given period.

And a tip to ensure people don’t hang out too long eating and drinking? Limit seating. Perhaps this sounds counterintuitive to being a gracious host, but it can allow you to throw an affordable get-together that you won’t still be paying for come Valentine’s Day.

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Don’t Pay for Invitations

Forgo the cost of paper invitations and postage for free digital invitations. Using an invite site such as, you can create an invitation in a matter of minutes that can be delivered via email or text (or multiple invites if you intend on staggering the open house times).

Decorate With What You Have on Hand

Don’t go out and buy additional decorations for your house just to throw a party. Simply use any holiday decorations you already have on hand, or maybe get your kids to make some additional decorations. Your guests will not mind if your home is not as decorated as Santa’s house!

Offer Frugal Food and Beverage Options

While most people do not expect a lot of food during an open house, you can save the most on food costs if you schedule your open house for the hours between lunch and dinner.

Plan on serving finger foods, snacks, and simple sweets that can quickly be replenished throughout the afternoon. Stock up on buy-one-get-one sales of crackers and chips that can be paired with inexpensive cheese spreads and dips. Instead of paying for pre-cut veggies or a prepared platter, make your own veggie platter. Forgo the expensive meat and cheese trays altogether. Have a holiday cookie and cupcake tray for those who want something sweet, and maybe fill a few holiday candy dishes with store-bought buy-one-get-one chocolates and peppermints.

Forgo the alcohol if you want to keep beverage costs to a minimum. Or, if you’re going to offer inexpensive alcoholic choices, fill the punch bowl with a cheap wine-spiked fruit punch or a slow cooker with hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps. Buy store brand 2-liter sodas and wrap them in holiday paper to cover the labels. And keep a pitcher of ice water available instead of bottled water for your guests.

Another benefit of keeping your food and beverage options simple other than saving money? A simple menu will allow you to spend more time visiting with guests and less time restocking the food and beverage table!

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Keep the Cost of Paper Goods to a Minimum

If you limit food selections to finger foods, you won’t need to buy any plastic eating utensils. You can pick up plates, napkins, and plastic/Styrofoam cups at a dollar store. They typically have a good selection of red, green, white, silver, and gold party supplies that will allow you to set up a festive food table on the cheap.

Keep a few markers near the beverages and encourage guests to write their names on their drink cups. They will be more inclined to use the same cup for a refill, which can help you keep your paper goods costs down.

Have Some Affordable Entertainment for the Kids

An inexpensive holiday activity for the kids is cookie decorating. Have a table set up with sugar cookies, a few colored icings, and different colored sprinkles. Stock up on a few tubs of red, green, and white icing and a variety of sprinkles as you find them on sale, as well as the ingredients to make the cookies. The week of the party, bake various sugar cookies in different holiday shapes for the kids to decorate and snack on.

You can also keep kids entertained with holiday cartoons and movies. Just keep the same few playing on your television throughout the afternoon. You might tire of them, but your younger guests won’t since they likely will not be at your home long enough to know you keep playing the same few over and over!

If you make your holiday party about spending time with friends and family instead of impressing them with a massive spread of food and drinks and over-the-top decorations, you can host an enjoyable get-together with little cash outlay. May your holiday entertaining be festive yet frugal!

Reviewed November 2022

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