Rein in your spending when ringing in the New Year

Throw a New Years Bash for Less Cash

by Shaunna Privratsky

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The start of a new year brings hope, excitement and, for some, dread at the high cost of a big blowout New Years bash. Following on the heels of over-generous gift giving, many budgets are way behind when December 31st rolls around.

Planning ahead takes the sting out of expensive merry-making. First of all, decide if you want to hit the town or stay in. Do you want to mingle with a boisterous crowd during the countdown, or are you imagining a more intimate evening? There are many cost-cutting options for both choices.

Related: 17 easy holiday party tips

If you decide to stay home, try a clothing swap with a bunch of friends. Start the New Year with a new-to-you wardrobe that won't cost a penny. You could set a theme like office attire, beach clothes, purses and accessories or evening clothes. Guys can get in on the action with a tool swap, DVD or CD party. Provide background music, beverages and plenty of snacks to make it a memorable night.

Turn your home into a spa and invite your closest friends. Plan a night of pampering with facials, massages, foot soaks, pedicures and manicures. This could turn into a monthly ritual, meeting at different houses each time.

Host a gaming party. Whoever scored a new gaming system over the holidays can show it off. Guests can bring rented games for a large variety. Or banish boredom with traditional board games like Life, Monopoly, Scrabble or some of the updated versions.

Fondue parties are a fun way to feast in the New Year. You can rent fondue equipment, or create your own with nesting saucepans. The larger pot is filled with water and kept at a soft boil, while the smaller saucepan sits suspended over the water, not in it, to keep the sauce at an even temperature. Try melting cheeses, spicy BBQ, sweet and sour sauce, and of course, chocolate. Use your imagination for items to dip: cut up fruit, cooked and cubed meats, veggies, cookies or crackers.

How much food will you need? See Planning Party Planners

Host a sleepover. Invite a few good friends, throw a bunch of airbeds on the floor with plenty of sleeping bags, pillows and blankets and relive the good old days. Have everyone bring their old yearbooks, videos, cassette tapes or even eight-tracks for a shared trip down memory lane. You could even rent movies from that time period and marvel at how young the actors look.

Plan a movie night. You could indulge in a whole season of Grey's Anatomy, watch six episodes of Star Trek, or make a dent in the sixteen,(or is it seventeen?) sequels of Halloween. Or pick a theme like comedy night or action/adventure. You could also let guests bring their favorite movies and really get an insight into their character.

For just the two of you, plan a romantic evening. Candles, flowers, music and a little lacy lingerie are classic. Not only is it easy on your budget, but also it can really start the year off with fireworks.

If you want to host a traditional party, start the party fashionably late. Ten or even eleven is reasonable, because you won't have as much time to stand around and wait for the ball to drop on Times Square.

Shop for party supplies and decorations at The Oriental Trading Company!

Keep your guest list manageable and provide chairs or seating for everyone. Even if you serve snacks and drinks buffet style, arrange groups of chairs and sofas for comfortable seating groups. You can rent attractive covers for folding chairs for a more uniform look, or keep it casual with your dining chairs mixed in with the patio furniture.

Make it potluck. Guests can bring their favorite dishes, you won't be overwhelmed, and your budget won't take a nosedive. Assign teens the washing up so everyone can take their dishes home at the end of the evening. (It helps to bribe them.) You could even make it a dessert only potluck for extra indulgence.

If the evening centers on drinking, always provide non-alcoholic beverages as well and a plan to get guests home safely. Many cities have free taxi service on New Year's Eve, or call volunteer groups like the MADD chapters or local churches. No one wants to start the New Year with a tragedy.

Going out on the town shouldn't mean going into debt. If you pick a fancy restaurant and think the prices are a misprint, stick with appetizers or desserts. Another option is splitting a dinner or skipping expensive drinks.

Going clubbing should also involve a plan to get home. Even though your ride won't turn into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight, it's best to plan ahead. Save money by sipping water or pop between drinks.

Whether you go out, stay in or throw your own party, New Year's Eve is a great night to celebrate. Rein in your spending and you will truly enjoy ringing in the New Year.

Shaunna Privratsky became an expert in personal finance out of necessity. Between writing, reading and gardening, she is always on the lookout for bargains. Please sign up for the free newsletters at The Discount Diva. You can also visit Shaunna on Google+.

Take the Next Step:

  • Try out these frugal, fun party games for adults at your next gathering.
  • Find more money-saving party ideas by visiting the Dollar Stretcher library.
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