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How to Throw an Annual Family Christmas Party on a Small Budget

Published by Cayla Sablan

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Would you like to host an annual family Christmas party but are hesitant to in these economic times? We have been hosting our large extended family of about 50 people, including many children, for years. Over the past few years, our budget has been tight. Yet, we did not want to stop having the party in our home. We pared down and we became creative.

The party really does not cost us a lot, and everyone enjoys it and looks forward to it, especially the kids. Pull out all the decorations you already have and gather up some pine cones from the outdoors. The point is to focus on being together instead of spending too much money that none of us have. Here are eight tips for a memorable festive Christmas party that absolutely will not break the bank.

Set the Correct Time for the Christmas Party

Pick a time at least a few days, or even a week or so before Christmas. Do this early and just print off a very simple invitation off the computer, so everyone can plan ahead. If at all possible, avoid the last few days before Christmas Day, because this is when everyone is feeling the stress of the Christmas crunch and want to be with their own immediate families.


For the invite, I usually just open up a Word Document and scatter photos of the previous year across the page in various sizes and type in the basic details that everyone needs to know. I plan our party at 4:00 until 8:00 pm each year. We eat first. People are satisfied with much less food.

Everyone Chips in on the Food for Christmas

This is the most important part to keep costs down. We always use an appetizer or “finger foods” theme and I leave it up to everyone to decide what they want to bring. They usually bring plenty. Since I do not have to transport food, I prepare homemade chili and inexpensive soups and place them in crock pots. Soup can go a very long way in feeding a crowd. Most people will bring a sweet and a savory dish.

Everyone Brings a Beverage to the Christmas Party

This is the very same situation as everyone bringing a Christmas appetizer. We provide the ice in coolers. In our situation, we do not have alcoholic beverages, which by the way, is a big money saver. We have many children and I do not want to be responsible for anyone leaving too tipsy. So I ask, on the invitation, for everyone to bring a two-liter or two of soda. I make gallons of sweet tea and unsweetened tea, as well as lemonade. If your crowd likes a few glasses of wine or mixed drinks, then ask them to bring a few bottles.

Focus on the Children and Inexpensive Christmas Gifts

Christmas is for children. Set aside the concept of everyone bringing a gift for everyone else. Don’t go to the hassle of drawing names and setting a price range. We usually have around ten to fourteen kids at our party. We list all their names on the invitation and encourage our family to buy a very small “thought that counts” present for each child, according to their own personal budget.

I have found that the children love receiving all these little gifts from everyone instead of just one gift from drawing names. Some people may be able to spend ten dollars per child. Others may only be able to spend one dollar. Everything goes. We never exchange gifts between the adults. Seeing the happy faces of our children is present enough for us.

Let Music and Candles Set the Stage for Your Christmas Party

Drag out all those Christmas CDs, or ask your guests to bring a few. I have found that Christmas music in all genres and artists brings life to every party. We play Elvis and Bing Crosby. We play rock, gospel, pop, and classical. Last year, I put in a regular, non-Christmas Mariah Carey CD at the end of the party. We had couples dancing all over our study. It was impromptu and fun and did not cost a dime. Light up your house with candles from discount chains all over the house. It provides atmosphere, which is more important for a party than spending a lot of money.

Look for Bargains on Christmas Party Supplies

Since I host this party yearly, I stock up on supplies in the after Christmas sale and put it up for the next year. But if this is your first year, don’t despair. I found some bright red Valentine’s Day plates and napkins that we are using this year. I bought them for pennies.

Check out the discount piles of party stores and local dollar stores. One year, I served everyone on my fine china to save money on paper supplies. You can do this for an elegant touch. Also keep in mind that by using smaller plates, people will eat less and this will stretch the food.

Use your Family for the Christmas Entertainment

Does little Evan play the piano? Does Amy play the guitar? Contact musical family members well ahead of the event and ask them to get together some Christmas pieces to play at the party. This is almost like a mini recital at our house. It makes for great memories and photos, and again, does not cost a dime.

Present a Little Something to Make the Christmas Memorable

Last year, I read a piece I had written about my dad, who has passed away. Sometimes my brother makes a special CD for the event. My mother often has a particular photo from our days from childhood blown up and gives us one in an inexpensive frame. Use your talents and the talents of your family. Those are so much more valuable than anything you could buy.

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