The holiday season is a great excuse to have a party.Â And there will be plenty around all with great food, great friends. Big trouble starts when you’re the host. Hosting should be fun, instead it often becomesÂ drudgery full traps wrapping your holiday season in angst rather than cheer.
As Frugal Yankees we much prefer finding the value of friendship in these parties and avoiding those traps. So here are some the easy ones to sidestep:
THE MARTHA STEWART TRAP
Martha makes a ton of bucks and has a ton of people helping her to be perfect. A regular person doesnâ€™t have to attain that way too lofty goal.Â First and foremost, donâ€™t wear yourself out. The goal is not perfection it is enjoyment. Putting a good group of folks together with good food, good drink a bit of decoration for mood, slap some appropriate music on, and rest assured your guests will have a good time.Â
A couple of keys for you to have a good time, donâ€™t have to make everything from scratch.Â Saving money by doing some yourself is great. Youâ€™ll save some money and some tasks are pretty easy. Putting the turkey or ham in the oven. Whipping up a few side dishes. These are relatively easy. Excellent prepared foods can be found in supermarkets, or even better, a locally owned speciality store. For appetizers, there are good options at good prices in Costco, BJs, Trader Joeâ€™s, and many others.Â Serve them on your own plates for a more elegant presentation.
The key here is to balance out budgetary concerns, time management and sanity because no matter what the Marx Brothers ever said, there is such a thing as a “Sanity Claus.”
THE CLEANING TRAP
We’ve all been here. One person or a couple in a household totally believe in a germ free, dust bunny exorcised house before people can be properly entertained. But hold that thought and think.Â By the time 3 or 4 people have come through the door, dirt tracked in, dust swirled by the outside wind, dropped coats draped over furniture and more happen when folks gather. And once the festivities get rolling, empty glasses, soiled napkins and partially eaten food abound.
Here are a few pointers. The bathroom deserves a good cleaning. Clutter should be put safely out of sight. The kitchen should be prepared for the onslaught. Clear the working counters, put the cabinets in decent order and have cleaning supplies on the ready.Â Thatâ€™s plenty.
One more point, do the serious house cleaning the next day.Â Itâ€™ll need it and you won’t be janitorial burnt out.
TOO MUCH FOOD
There is an old adage in the construction business: “Bring more than you’ll need because you’ll need more than you bring.” That rule may apply to building a skyscraper or a MacMansion, but it doesn’t work for hosting a holiday party.
Hosts fear shortages and as a result, they often make way too much food.Â Try to recall the last party. Were there a ton of leftovers? How much was tossed? ONe useful tool is to compute the number of people attending, and how much an average person eats? Here’s a frugal tip, have plenty of side dishes or crudities available. Using these will cut back on those expensive other dishes. Just remember to keep it in proportion to the number of people coming.
Another way to assist in the food preparation is to ask guests to bring something. Plan what they bring and put that against what still needs to be made.Â Things have a way of working out just fine.
TOO MUCH ALCOHOLÂ
Parties usually mean alcohol. Many folks will bring beer or wine along.Â Count on it.Â Donâ€™t buy cases of beer knowing friends will supply some.Â Donâ€™t have a fully stocked bar with every beverage anyone might crave.Â Itâ€™s a party, not an alcoholics booze fest.Â Maybe the party is a no alcohol one, or perhaps wine. Whatever is appropriate for the party is what is right.
Decorations are festive and fun especially if the whole family gets into it. One key thought is to remember, any gathering with a Christmas tree in the middle of it automatically becomes fun.Â If decorating inside and outside your house is desired go for it, but only do it if it brings joys.
But simply putting some lights around a fireplace or a doorway is easy and inexpensive. For about $3 a string of 100 mini-lights adds a tasteful touch.Â A few pillar candles strategically (and safely) place are nice.Â Sit them on a saucer, add some evergreen clippings and bow. Â Display the yearâ€™s Christmas cards on a table or a wall.Â
Younger family members can get into the act. Get them making paper chains, stringing popcorn or drawing pictures to hang on the walls.
THE LOST HOSTÂ
Guests want to see the host. Talking, enjoying, gossiping, sharing stories, it’s all part of a party. Spending entirely too time in the kitchen or fussing with food could be seen as avoidance plus it negates the whole purpose of the party.
Do as much as possible can ahead of time.Â Think through everything youâ€™re going to serve and figure out how to do things ahead. For example, put butter in the fancy dish, fill the coffee maker; put wine glasses and a wine bucket on a table, etc.Â Then spend more time with your guests.
Here a few more, before the guests come idea. Have serving dishes out and ready. Set the table. Make the bar self-service. Let people help clear up.Â Pile dirty dishes by the sink. Deal with them later.Â Have big trash bags handy. Clean as you go along. Donâ€™t have to take out trash.
Have a place for coats that guests can do themselves. The nearby bed is always a good option. Leave extra hand towels in the bathroom. Let your kids answer the door.Â
This last bit of advice isn’t a trap. It is some frugal Yankee advice – have fun.
Put the music on and it doesnâ€™t have to be holiday tunes.Â Keep it at a decent level. It should not be loud enough so that people have to shout over it, but loud enough to act as a cushion for other sounds.
Everything is ready. The people arrive and the festivities begin. Enjoy yourself.
Also, if you’d like to see Frugal Yankee Louise Reilly Sacco talking about this subject, please follow the link to NE Cable News. She’s a star!