When it comes to budget-busters, the holiday season is full of them. Food, friends, and elf figurines can really add up. According to U.S. Census statistics, the average price of a "milestone" party (think large Christmas gathering, anniversary blowout, or that "29, Again" birthday bash) is around $400.
Add some decent champagne, a DJ and designer crudités, and the bill can go much higher. Experts say to earmark $5 to $7 per person for liquor alone. (Therapy costs vary from city-to-city.)
Short-term savings and a little bit of planning can help you save time, money and your sanity.
Budget: Even if money's not tight, pricing out your party in advance will save your sanity. At the very least, it'll encourage you to reserve items you need and buy non-perishables in advance so that you don't end up having to use Halloween napkins at your New Year's fete.
Prioritize: Decide what will really make the event special for you and your guests. Perhaps it's party favors, fresh orchids at every table, or killer appetizers. Price those items first and then work your way down the list. That way if you end up having to use plastic wine glasses, you won't be disappointed because you already planned to splurge for a fabulous vintage to pour into them.
Get crafty: Six out of 10 party planners prepare food from scratch. A simple artistic garnish can make your platters look like it came from the caterers. Same goes for décor and invitations. Have laser printer, will engrave. And there's no shortage of cable TV shows on making stenciled tablecloths and festive candle groupings. Browse the décor magazines in the checkout line and mercilessly steal the most appealing ideas. Folks on the "Crafty Fools" discussion board can answer all of your glue gun questions.
Borrow instead of buy: A wooden folding chair can cost $5 a day to rent. A cushion costs extra. Well before setup, ask friends and neighbors if you can borrow furniture, dishes, serving pieces, vases, and whatever else you might need. (A tasty sampling of leftovers and bottle of wine or box of chocolates is always a thoughtful thank-you gift.)
Party on!: Get a pal to play caterer during the event and offer to return the favor at his or her next gala. Having someone else in the kitchen rinsing dishes, slicing pies and sweeping through the living room to pick up empties frees you up to enjoy your company.