The Frugal Guide to Entertaining on a Budget

The Frugal Guide to Entertaining on a Budget

Can you believe it is the end of 2018?! What a year it has been! With the creeping approach of Christmas and New Years, friends and family gather more frequently for quality time together. We regularly host friends around this time of year and we also travel to our families’ homes.

All of this holiday entertaining can make quite an impact on your budget. What if it didn’t have to? What if you were able to spend less than $25 on an amazing evening together with friends and family?

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The Frugal Guide to Entertaining on a Budget

The Frugal Guide to Entertaining on a Budget

Before I go through my tried and true list of frugal entertaining ideas, let me squash some of those skeptics’ fears.

No-no on dumpster diving – so forget about “recycled food”.

We aren’t going to have our friends supply us with everything. We aren’t out to spend their money either!

This won’t be a BYOB and watch Netflix type party. Although if a guest wants a specific wine or beer, I do request that they bring it themselves. (Most are happy with whatever type I pick!)

The Frugal Food Spread

No, no. We don’t dumpster dive or scrape other people’s leftovers at restaurants into my purse (ew factor). We just plan ahead and don’t buy convenience foods!

For our regular party spread, we have homemade dips, guacamole, artisan bread, cookies, another finger food item, and a more hearty dish or casserole to serve everyone.

While we do make most everything from scratch ourselves, we ask that each couple coming bring one other item. Everyone is happy to bring a plate or bag of something over! Most times they offer before I can even ask!

To make the most of your homemade foods and the foods your guests bring, make sure you have a plan together before you invite everyone. This way, not everyone brings a tray of cookies (been there!).

You don’t have to be a super chef to prepare all of this. While you’re planning your party, make a special Pinterest board for all of the food ideas that you have or flag them in your cookbooks. You can optimize your shopping list and buy as few ingredients as possible by planning ahead like this. Think of it as meal planning party style!

Budget spent: $15

Drinks Made Frugal

Now everyone can be a little picky when it comes to what they drink. But my favorite way to do drinks is make a punch (alcoholic if your crowd is full of adults) and buy one bottle of white wine and one bottle of red.

Pinterest can rescue you if you need help finding a yummy punch recipe! Just go on over to my Pinterest Board here and find all sorts of recipes and ideas.

My favorite punch recipe that I found has to be this one from Fantabulosity. Ingredients? 3 Kook-Aid packets, 1 2L of lemon-lime soda (think Sprite or a store brand), sugar, pineapple juice, and water. To make this alcoholic, take away from the amount of water that you add and in its place pour in vodka.

We always have some sort of alcohol hiding in our cupboards. If you don’t have vodka, I suggest using rum or whiskey.

Is your crew more apt to choose beer over wine? Plenty of places have 12 packs of beer for around $10. But are your friends “beer snobs” and only into craft beers? Have no fear. Instead of the item that bring being food, ask that they bring their favorite craft beer so everyone can try it. It could turn into a tasting party of sorts!

Wine doesn’t have to be expensive. I recently put Trader Joe’s, Aldi, and Barefoot wines to a taste test! The result? They all really taste about the same. I’m no wine expert but you could slap whatever label you want on a $2.88 bottle of Aldi wine and I would think it’s the best thing on the face of the earth.

Budget Spent: ~$10

Frugal Entertainment

No one just stands in a corner when they are at a party with their friends. Make your guest happy with a variety of frugal entertaining ideas!

Check the football/basketball schedule

As the year comes to a close, my husband has become very excited about football. Assuming your man is excited about sports as well, you can schedule your party around the game. While the fans watch the game on TV, everyone else can chat and drink a ton more wine.

Budget Spent: $0


Depending on your crowd, this could be an amazing opportunity for everyone to upcycle something from their own homes. You could make no-sew projects from old t-shirts, amazing candle votives out of mason jars, or art made of a plank of wood and yarn. It’s really up to you!

When you invite everyone, you can create a survey to send out via email and have all of your group respond with what they would like to do most. When you get the results, you will then send out a supply list if they need to bring anything.

Follow me on Pinterest for more ideas!

Budget Spent: ~$0 (if you are strictly upcycling)

Board Games

This is my personal favorite! I LOVE board games and not your typical Scrabble or Yahtzee (although I do get very competitive with both of those games). It is so much fun to learn a new game and see everyone’s competitive side come out. It helps if we’ve all had a few drinks too!

I’ve included my favorite games. Some limit the number of people that can play (normally 6, like Ticket to Ride) but others (like Cards Against Humanity) can be almost unlimited fun.  More kid appropriate games like Tenzie or Yardzee (a yard version of Yahtzee my in-laws made us) can be just as fun.

Budget Spent: $0 (if you have games on hand – if not, you can borrow!)

Decorate Cookies

Decorating cookies and making at contest out of it could be a blast! Whether it is Christmas time or a birthday party, this will be a hit.

You will need to make the sugar cookies ahead of time either from scratch or from pre-made dough and supply icing and sprinkles.

Such an easy idea and it takes care of the need to make more sweets!

Budget Spent: $2-5 or include in your food budget

Frugal Decor

No one ever walks into a house and says “Ugh, I’m so upset that you didn’t decorate for *insert occasion here*!” First, if I did think that then I would keep it to myself. Secondly, you’re hosting everyone and making them food! They could have offered to decorate it themselves. 🙂

A must for any party is music. I use Amazon Prime Music for just about every occasion. I have the app on my phone and connect to my entertainment center via bluetooth so everyone can hear and the volume is easily controlled.

Holiday Party

Now days, most people have holiday decorations tucked away in their homes just waiting to be brought out. Some even have fall decor strewn about the house. So bring out those Christmas decorations if you’re hosting a holiday party. Even if it is a New Year’s party, no one will mind if the Christmas tree is left decorated and standing.

Budget Spent: $0

Birthday Party

My parents always decorated the dining room for my birthday and it was always so special! They only used crepe paper to do this. My mom would tape one end of the paper strand to the chandelier and the other to the wall, twisting it as she moved across the room.

There would also be strands of crepe paper around the house as well: on my bedroom door frame and on the mantle are the places that I remember it best. Crepe paper is $1 at Hobby Lobby and you can use a 40% off coupon too! Score! So for just pennies you can create a memorable effect with just one roll of crepe paper.

Another birthday idea is one that my aunt and uncle did when their kids had a birthday. They would write out funny says about getting old or “on this day” facts on pieces of printer paper and a bright marker and tape them up around the house.

Budget Spent: $1

Any Other Type of Party

I know I’m leaving out other holidays but birthday and holiday parties are the most common reasons to entertain!

For any other type of party that you are planning to frugally entertain friends and family, it is quite easy to “decorate”.  My type of decorating for a non-holiday get together is simple: a clean house and good lighting.

First clean your house. No one likes clutter in the living room or dining room where they’ll hang out all evening.

Second, make sure there is ample lighting. Bring in floor lamps and lamps to put on end tables. Light some candles or turn on your Scentsy. Candles or heated wax like Scentsy, will hide any pet odors that might be lingering and give a special element to the room.

Budget Spent: $0


And there you have it – my favorite ways to frugally entertain friends and family on a budget. I hope that this gets you through the holiday season and prepares you for another full year of reasons to celebrate.


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