Skip to Content
Tally logo

How to Entertain on a Budget This Season

With costs rising, your holiday season budget might need to rise, or you might need to start saving for holiday spending.

October 17, 2022

Prices for just about everything seem to be on the rise these days. And with the holiday season approaching, many households are feeling the strain as they start saving for holiday expenses. 

There are various ways to save money during the holiday season. From skipping gift-giving to finding joy in the little things, saving money this holiday may require creativity. 

How can you keep costs down if you’re planning to entertain friends and family this holiday season? This guide will explore various ways of saving for holiday entertainment. 

Why is everything more expensive this year? 

Costs are rising across the board due to the effects of inflation. Inflation means that our dollars simply buy less than they used to. An item that cost $10 a year ago might now cost $11 or more. 

Some of the real-life impacts of inflation are strongly felt in areas highly relevant to holiday entertaining. Grocery prices, gas prices and travel costs have all risen dramatically, pinching household budgets.  

How can you enjoy the holidays without spending a fortune? Below, find some creative ideas for how to host holiday gatherings on a budget. 

Hosting on a budget

Some of the greatest joys of the holidays are gathering with loved ones to enjoy special moments together. But hosting can get pricey — especially with rising food and beverage costs. Here’s how to keep spending in check. 

Saving ahead of time 

Saving for holiday expenses is a great way to ensure you don’t go over budget and wind up going into debt. Simply putting a small amount of money aside each month leading up to the holidays can make a big difference — and may also allow you to enjoy the holidays with less financial stress. Consider setting aside this season stash in a “holiday” savings account, where you won’t feel tempted to use it for everyday expenses.

If your budget is already tight, this might require temporarily cutting back on some expenses. For example, you might cut back on restaurant spending for a few months. 

Intentionally planning menu items

Most households go with the classic holiday meals — turkey for thanksgiving, ham for Christmas, etc. While there is value and joy in following traditions, there’s also the benefit of taking the road less traveled. That could mean avoiding expensive meats or marked-up seasonal dishes.

Opting for a creative option doesn’t mean opting out of flavor. You can save money and host a unique gathering. 

Need some inspiration? Check out this list of non-traditional holiday meals

Keep food spending in check

Food will be the main cost for most holiday gatherings. But there are many ways that you can save money on groceries:

  • Shop at bulk food stores 

  • Use store coupons and store apps

  • Use cashback apps 

  • Check store fliers for sales and discounts

  • Plan to only buy what you need

Read our guide to grocery shopping budgets for more tips and tricks. 

Hosting a potluck

Hosting a potluck — where everyone brings a dish — can be a fun and budget-friendly way to host. It’s also much less work for the host. 

If you do decide to go this route, it’s helpful to coordinate dishes ahead of time. That way, you can ensure that you have a balanced mix of dishes to enjoy with loved ones. 

Opting for a non-alcoholic event

Alcohol can add significant cost to a holiday event. And while most of us like to enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail with family, hosting a “dry” event can also be a unique opportunity to try something different. 

Hosts could opt to create “mocktails” (non-alcoholic cocktails), or simply service juices or sodas. Want a dash of nostalgia at your next holiday event? Ask guests to bring their favorite childhood drink to share. 

Hosting on nontraditional days

You might also consider hosting a gathering on a nontraditional day. For example, you could host a Thanksgiving gathering on the following weekend, or a “holiday wrap up” gathering in the first week of January. 

This approach has two benefits: 

  • More people will likely be available, as there won’t be as many competing commitments. 

  • It can be cheaper — particularly if you host the gathering after the holiday. Retailers often heavily discount holiday items starting the day after the holiday. 

Consider a fun theme

Holiday gatherings are all about having fun and sharing joyful moments. By getting creative, you can host a budget-friendly gathering and still have a great time. 

From the classic “ugly sweater” party to a white elephant gift exchange, there are tons of different ways to spice up your next holiday gathering. 

Plan ahead

The simplest way to keep spending in check is to plan ahead for your upcoming holiday gatherings. This could mean:

  • Buying certain items ahead of time when they go on sale

  • Confirming the guest list so you don’t buy too much

  • Making certain food items ahead of time

  • Holiday saving ahead of time 

  • Making decorations ahead of time or reusing old ones

By planning ahead of time, you can save money and reduce the stress associated with hosting holiday gatherings. 

Bottom line

Entertaining on a budget doesn’t need to be complex. Basic principles like planning, keeping food costs down and getting creative with decor and themes can help keep your spending in check. 

If you do go over budget on holiday expenses, do your best to avoid going into debt. High-interest debt like credit cards can be a real drag on your personal finances. 

If credit card debt is holding you back, Tally† may be able to help. Tally is an app that helps qualifying Americans consolidate credit card balances into a lower-interest line of credit. Learn how Tally works here

†To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. Based on your credit history, the APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will be between 7.90% - 29.99% per year. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Annual fees range from $0 - $300.