It can seem unwise to invite guests over or have get-togethers when money is tight. However, we have history replete with times of scarcity to give us ideas for how women offered hospitality with very little. There are specific types of gatherings that allow you to have guests over without spending much money. It is about the time of day you have the gathering in order to communicate that you will only be offering a simple treat not a full meal. It is also about the type of event you plan which will limit the kinds of food and drinks offered which saves money. Then there are old fashioned potluck style events where everyone pools money or food to afford the gathering.
- Christmas tea. A Christmas tea is an affordable event marked more by beautiful decor, soothing Christmas music, and simple delights on the table. Tea sets can be purchased inexpensively at thrift shops or maybe you already own one, but perhaps pick up a second or third one for multiple tables set up. The tea set will most likely be the most expensive item you must have for this event. Decor can be purchased at thrift shops, dollar stores, or handmade with very little money. If you already own Christmas decor this is an especially inexpensive event. Create the most beautifully decorated atmosphere you can, and make sure it feels extra fancy. Then serve simple tea and cookies, or small cakes, or sandwhiches on beautiful plates or trays which can also be purchased for very inexpensively at thrift shops or perhaps you already own them. This kind of a meal is very light and marked more by the fancy atmosphere you create than needing an abundance of food. This event is best held in mid morning between breakfast and lunch or between lunch and dinner. When you render the invitation be sure they understand it is tea and light refreshments so they can plan to eat their meal before hand.
- Christmas craft party. Have your guests arrive with the craft supplies for the craft they want to make at the party. Offer coffee, tea or cider and maybe a simple appetizer. The point is to craft together not craft the same things with provided materials. It gives women the time they need to make something they have wanted to make and the company of friends while doing it. By everyone bringing their own supplies for the craft, it ensures that everyone leaves with something they wanted to display or gift instead of an agreed upon group craft. This takes the pressure off of the host to supply everything or collect donations to buy supplies or get everyone to agree upon the same craft when everyone has their own tastes.
- Sledding day. Weather dependent and landscape dependent, you can invite your guests over for sledding or out to sledding somewhere else. If do you have the perfect sledding hill on your property, share the joy and have your guests come over for hot chocolate, hot cider, simple sandwiches and a couple hours of fun. Remember that people who live in neighborhoods may not get as much opportunity for the perfect sledding area, so if you have it in the country, that is a really exciting event that young and older people will love. It is the perfect family activity so you can invite other families out not just the kids. It can be a time of families getting together.
- Potluck dinner. One of the age old ways to have dinners together while saving money is potlucks. Each person or family brings a dish, just make sure to coordinate who is bringing what so it all compliments each other. The more the merrier, with more food and more fun.
- Build a board & drinks. When you want to have a non-dinner get together with friends but you can not afford to provide all of the appetizers and drinks, have a build-a-board & drinks gathering. Each person brings one item to contribute to the charcuterie board and one drink of their preference to share. One person might bring a block of cheese and a bottle of wine, another person a log of meat and a pack of beer, etc. If you have a handful of people pitching in you can build a nice charcuterie board to share while you sip.
- Cookie decorating party. Put on the Christmas music, your Christmas apron, and get some of your loved ones over to decorate cut out Christmas cookies. This is a fun gathering for all ages, family, or friends. Just be sure that they come fed and know it’s just decorating cookies but they get to take a plate home when they leave. Have examples of what designs you can make to learn how to make especially beautiful cookies. Offer an array of colored frosting with the icing bags and tips and sprinkles to be able to achieve these kinds of designs. You can not only decorate cookies together but then package into tins & deliver to neighbors together.
- Christmas cookie exchange. Bake a large batch of your favorite Christmas cookies. Have your guests do the same and everyone brings theirs to the gathering. Make a pot of coffee to offer your guests for the visit. Supply small cellophane gift food bags from the dollar tree for each guest to fill their bag with the variety of cookies there to take home. It is a fun cheap visit with just enough visiting to not stress even the most novice hostess.
- Bargain wine tasting. Have each guest bring their favorite inexpensive wine and one appetizer to share. Cover the bottles so it is a mystery. Create cards for each guest to write the flavor notes they detect, rate on a scale how much they like it, and guess the brand, type of wine, price point or all of the above. Reveal the wine to everyone’s delight. You may find new favorites and get some good laughs!
- Christmas campfire. This is a simple one but a goodie. If you live in a climate where you can comfortably enjoy the outdoors around Christmas time, this is a wonderful way to enjoy an evening. Make a roaring campfire so that people stay warm enough. Be sure they dress warm enough to sit outside. Have everyone bring a drink to share or offer something simple like hot cider or hot chocolate and spend the evening around the campfire. Provide chairs and blankets. You can make it extra special by making sure that the outdoor area has some Christmas lights and cheer to add to the ambiance.
- Christmas trail ride. There are many horse farms who make their living off of horse riding lessons and taking groups on trail rides. This is a beautiful time of year to invite others for a snowy trail ride. Everyone pays just for themselves and everyone gets to experience a beautiful serene outing together outdoors. Bonus if it is a winter wonderland. Or perhaps you have many well behaved horses perfect for guests. Take your family and friends on a scenic trail ride right on your own property.
- Frugal Christmas Gift Exchange. If everyone knows this is a “frugal white elephant gift exchange” it takes the pressure off of spending and makes you get creative and just have fun. A good idea for a white elephant gift exchange is to make the criteria for the gift a thrifted item, handmade item, or a new item under a certain dollar amount. You can find really amazing pieces thrifted and some people handmake amazing items so even though this gift exchange is “frugal” everyone could end up with something special! Do potluck food for this gathering to keep it affordable.
- Fill a shoebox/stocking/backpack party. Find the charity that distributes gifts to needy children in your area and going by their directions for what to purchase and what to fill, have your guests all pitch in for the items needed. Have one person buy it all then gather together to assemble the individual packages.
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