Thanks to #CollectiveBias and its advertiser for encouraging me to share my holiday party planning tips through this sponsored post! All opinions, tips, and photos are mine alone.
Holidays and parties go hand in hand. And holiday parties and spending lots of money typically do as well, but not this year. I’m sharing my top tips to plan a party on a budget, and hopefully some of the tips will help you host the best holiday party this year without breaking the bank!
1 – Plan as far in advance as possible.
This one is huge. You don’t have to plan out all of the details of the party but if you can at least pick a theme and start coming up with a general idea, you’ll be able to buy things for the party when they’re on sale or even better, on clearance. I knew I wanted to have a geometric party and was able to score all of the paper goods for the party for about 1/10 of the full price, giving me more money to spend on more important things like food. If you wait until last minute, you’ll most likely end up having to pay full price for the things you need.
2 – Be deliberate with your theme.
When you’re picking out a theme, think about choosing a theme that lends itself well to having people help with the food. For instance, a holiday cookie swap is great because people bring cookies to share or try a holiday bake-off like my iron chef inspired apple party where people bring food to “compete” for prizes.
3 – Set a time for your party that you don’t have to serve a full meal.
This is pretty self-explanatory but if you’re hosting a party at noon, you need to serve enough food to make it “lunch.” Pick non-meal times like 2PM or 8PM so that you can get away with serving just appetizers and/or desserts. If you notice, most of my parties are either late morning or later in the evening, and I just serve snacks and desserts.
4 – Once you’ve picked your theme, start searching for ideas from others.
While you want to come up with some ideas that make your party unique, there’s no reason to start from scratch. Pinterest has fantastic party game and decoration ideas, and all sorts of blogs offer free printable packages that you can use for your party. Bloggers put out ideas so that you can use them; so use them. I have tons of holiday party ideas and a bunch of free printables to get you started.
5 – Don’t DIY everything.
Speaking of Pinterest, come up with the ideas you want to use for your party and then decide what you want to buy and what you want to make yourself. There are a ton of projects out there that while it seems like they might be cheaper to make, they’re not, especially when you consider how much time you’ll spend making them. Stick to a couple of DIY projects that will really save you money and buy the rest. For example, I made our a-frame play tent for my Captain America party because making it only cost a few bucks and buying it would’ve been like $100. It’s also something I can use over and over again, so it’s a win-win!
6 – Invest in neutral party supplies.
When you’re buying things for the party, try to buy things that you can use again. I have a whole supply of white dishes that I use over and over for my parties because white goes with pretty much everything. Limit your “theme specific” purchases to just a few must-have items and then invest in some good all-around items that you can use all year long. These white plates are my favorite; three different parties, all the same plates.
7 – Plan your menu carefully.
Decide on your party menu with three things in mind – how long will it take you to make, can you make it ahead, and how well does it hold up when sitting out for long periods of time? You want to make food that won’t take you hours to make, that you can make (at least a part of it) ahead of time, and that can sit at room temperature for a long period of time without getting gross. One of my favorite things to make that fits all of these categories is buffalo chicken dip. It’s seriously one of the easiest things ever; you can put it all together ahead of time, and it still tastes good after sitting out for a few hours. Keep reading for the full recipe!
8 – Mix and match your menu.
Tip #5 applies to food as well. Figure out what food you want to serve at your party then decide how your time and money are best spent. I recommend making a couple of things and buying the rest, but with that recommendation comes one caveat – make sure that the things you buy are things that you love and still taste good. I love pigs in a blanket, but the store-bought ones are gross, a lesson I learned the hard way. And I love cupcakes, but I don’t make cupcakes nearly as well as our local bakery. So I always make pigs in a blanket from scratch and buy cupcakes from the bakery because honestly my cupcakes never look or taste this good. Pick the things you make best and buy the others.
9 – Serve food in individual portions.
When people can choose their own portion size, they will almost always take more than they actually need. And then they end up throwing half of it away because they weren’t actually that hungry. If you split everything up into individual portions, they’ll take what they can actually eat, and your food will go much further. One of my favorite things to do is serve that yummy buffalo chicken dip in wonton crisps; it not only looks pretty, but it makes the dip last longer because people only takes a few crisps rather than a huge portion of the dip.
10 – Let people help.
I mentioned this in my tips on throwing a Pinterest-worthy party without going crazy, but I’ll mention it again. When someone offers to help, let them help. I am the worst at this, but I do know that when I let others help, I can enjoy the party more, and that’s what it’s really all about. My sister’s welcome home party was one of my favorites because everyone helped out, and I was actually able to just sit back and relax once the party started.
11 – Make a list.
When you’re getting ready to actually work on your party, sit down and make a list of everything that needs to get done on the computer. Then look at that list and prioritize it, putting the things that are most important to you at the top and the nice-to-haves at the bottom. As you’re working on the party, start with the things at the top of the list and make your way to the bottom both in terms of buying things and making them. It’s inevitable that something won’t get done and making a list helps you make sure that you’re spending your time and money on the things that matter most.
12 – Save party day for partying.
I’ve mentioned it already but do as much party planning and prep in advance as you can. The whole point of hosting a party is to spend time with family and friends. So get the work done, get the party setup, and once your guests arrive, just sit back and enjoy.
Now I know that was a lot of information so I’ve created this festive free printable to help you save that cash for something other than throwing your holiday party! Just right click and select “Save Image As” to download your free copy for printing!
Buffalo Chicken Dip Recipe
And now for the ultimate party food that works with pretty much all of these tips – the best buffalo chicken dip recipe. I picked up everything I needed for this at Walmart; I love being able to buy everything at one place!
First, gather your ingredients. You’ll need shredded chicken, buffalo sauce, cream cheese, shredded Italian cheese, and Kraft Ranch Dressing.
Once you have everything together, pour your chicken and buffalo sauce into a bag and shake it up until the chicken is well coated.
Now that all of your ingredients are ready to go, making the dip is as simple as layering the ingredients on top of each other. Start with the cream cheese, top with the chicken, then the ranch dressing, and finally the shredded cheese. Pop it in the oven for 25-30 minutes and you’ve got one delicious buffalo chicken dip!
Make it even better by making wonton cups like I did for my spinach artichoke dip cups and fill the cups with buffalo chicken dip! An individual portion of food that is just as good one or two hours later as it is right out of the oven. That’s what I call the perfect party food and a great way to #TasteTheSeason.
For more great recipes and ideas, check out the Cookin’ Up Good website. There’s all sorts of yummy recipes, sweepstakes, coupons, and more! It’s the perfect resource for helping you plan a holiday party without blowing your entire holiday budget.
- 1 pound shredded chicken
- 6 oz buffalo chicken dip
- 2 8oz packages of cream cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded Italian cheese
- 1/4 cup Kraft ranch dressing
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix your chicken and buffalo sauce together.
- Open the two packages of cream cheese and press the cream cheese into the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.
- Top cream cheese with sauced chicken.
- Evenly spread Kraft ranch dressing on top of the chicken and mix in slightly.
- Top everything with shredded cheese.
- Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly on top.