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By Jane Conroy, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

woman and girl make a pie; photo by Edwin RemsbergWith the holidays just around the corner, you may find yourself being asked to attend potluck, parties, and the other such activities. The cost of these events can add up. Here are a few tips to save more and spend less on such entertainment.

If you are the host, ask your guests to bring something. Often when a person is invited over and they will ask what they can bring, your first reaction is to say “nothing.” But if your guests are offering, bringing one small item isn’t going to bother them. If everyone brings one thing, it’s a huge load off of your shoulders. Simply ask them to bring an appetizer, dessert or a drink so there is flexibility. Or you can take turns having a potluck dinner at each other’s homes.

Have a signature appetizer or drink. If you focus on your specialty, you won’t need everyone’s favorite item on hand. For example, selecting a specific type of beer or wine, and even one variety of cheese saves money. You can let people know what your menu will be so that if they want something else, they may just offer to bring some along.

Plan the meal in advance. Once you know what you type of food you are providing for the party, you can make a list, look for what’s on sale and find coupons to save on the groceries. Planning in advance will also allow you to search sale papers to see what the best deal is. Pick dishes that are affordable, easy to prepare ahead of time, and are easy to store at room temperature so you can enjoy the party.

Use decorations you already have. The fastest way to save on entertaining is eliminating spending money on decorations. Use decorations and items you already have on hand. You can get creative with items you have around the house.

Visit the Dollar Store. If you do have to buy items for your party, skip the pricey party supply store or department store, and head for the local dollar store. You’d be surprised at what you can find for entertaining purposes. Most local stores offer festive tablecloths, unique serving dishes, wine glasses, napkins, and much more.

Skip invitations. Forget spending money on invitations and stamps. If it is a more casual party, simply call your friends, send them an e-mail or create an event on Facebook. Personally calling them on the phone is actually a great way to invite them. It gives your invite an extremely personal feel, and you’ll be able to explain what the party is all about, including if they should bring a drink or appetizer or if there’s a theme. For a touch more formal, create an event on Evite, and send out invitations this way. Evites are totally free. And that will save you money.

Limit the number of people. Not that you have to leave anyone out, but try to hold back a bit. Each person you invite equals a higher cost. Instead of having a huge party, have a few separate gatherings. They are easier to budget and plan for and much more manageable.

Make a theme to your party. Making a theme to your party is not only a festive twist, but it’s also a great way to save. Having a certain attire be worn, a type of music being played, or specific decorations make it feel like there was a lot of time that went into the planning.

Have a brunch. Entertaining for a Sunday brunch is cost effective since breakfast foods are super low cost.

Be a good host. The best part about a party is the people. Greet your guests, and be happy to see them. If there are people that do not know each other, introduce them so they feel comfortable. Start conversations with things that people have in common. Be hospitable.


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