What can an office holiday party tell you about a company's financial health? Take a gander at the tab.

The Washington Post says local revelers are striking a balance between thrifty and swank -- figuring that somewhere in the middle, employees will get the right message. While the belt-tightening of recent years may be behind us, employers don't want workers to think that we're out of the woods just yet.

So what's appropriate for this year? Moderation appears to be management's M.O.

Event planners report that companies are treating employees to lunches instead of evening bashes to set the mood -- saving as much as $15,000 in the process. A few specifically requested bare-bones banquet rooms so as not to come off as being frivolous with company money. If employees would rather have their stockings stuffed with a bonus check (little chance of that), managers want to show appreciation and underscore the importance of being a team.

Still, concerns about employee retention are evident in the party plans. Last year, AOL employees didn't have to commute far for their company shindig. It was held on company grounds. This year, its "Dressed to the Nines" theme will play out at the Westfields Marriott.

Tonight, Fools will gather at a local haunt to analyze the appetizers and Tom and David's ties.