I love to invite people into our home, especially during the holidays. Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about how to keep holiday entertaining simple and frugal. The last thing you want the Christmas season to be is stressful, but the inescapable truth is that having a house full of guests can be stress FULL.
Whether you’re throwing a Christmas party, hosting Christmas dinner or housing overnight guests, holiday entertaining doesn’t have to be nerve-wracking. It’s not about putting on a big show or spending alot of money. Hospitality is about creating a welcoming, cozy environment for your guests. It’s about making your guest feel like they’ve come home, instead of like company.
How to Keep Holiday Entertaining Simple and Frugal
There are so many almost effortless things you can do to ensure that you and your guests are able to relax and enjoy the holiday together. Here are some ideas for easy, frugal entertaining.
Decorating doesn’t have to be extravagant to look festive. And the less extravagant your decor is, then the less money you have to spend and less stress involved (not to mention, it’s easier to take down and put away after the festivities are over).
Go for the natural look.
Real or artificial greenery with a few holiday floral picks (like berries or poinsettias) effortlessly dress up any room and immediately make it feel like Christmas.
Fill a glass bowl or vase with ornaments or pine cones for a simple, yet elegant centerpiece. I love these baskets I found on clearance at Hobby Lobby. I added artificial greenery, cones and berries. They look amazing and seriously took less than 5 minutes.
Make your own decorations.
Go for an old fashioned Christmas by stringing together cranberries and/or popcorn. Gather prickly gum balls in the fall and use them to create Christmas wreaths and trees.
In the images below, I simply hot glued prickly gum balls to styrofoam forms and spray painted.
Recycle old decorations.
Before spending extra money on new decorations, spruce up your old ones. Tired bulbs can be spray painted a different color or wrapped with ribbon, yarn or twine. Wreaths can be updated with new ribbon or by adding fun accessories.
Pinterest is a great place to find simple, frugal decorating ideas that look like a million bucks.
Aromatherapy has been used for centuries to evoke feelings of home and uplift the spirit. Why not employ simple (not overpowering) fragrance in your home to help your guests get into the Christmas spirit?
Decorate with scented pine cones.
You can buy them already scented or gather your own and sprinkle them with essential oils.
Make your own pomanders.
Stick cloves in oranges. Arrange a bunch in a large bowl as a centerpiece. Add greenery for a festive appeal.
Use cinnamon sticks.
Place a few in a pot of water on the stove or in a miniature crock pot and simmer all day.Your guests will feel at home and welcomed the moment they enter.
Diffuse essential oils.
If you’re an oily person like me, then chances are you own an essential oils diffuser. Release fragrances into the air like clove, spruce, orange and cinnamon to create a Christmasey aroma.
DIY Christmas Spirit Essential Oil Blend
3 drops Cinnamon oil
3 drops Orange oil
5 drops Idaho Blue Spruce oil
Cut stress and keep your Christmas budget in check by keeping food simple and planning ahead. Don’t wait until the last minute to make your menu and do your shopping. Check your pantry to see what you already have that you can use.
As early as late October, you can begin looking for the non-perishable items you need at rock bottom prices. Coupon clippers have the advantage here.
Getting a late start? Just peruse your local grocery ads to find what’s on sale and plan recipes around those items.
Also, if you plan ahead, you can bake and freeze dessert bars, cookies, holiday breads and muffins at a fraction of the cost for store bought goods.
If you’re hosting a Christmas party or dinner with in town guests, ask each family to bring something. They’ll be blessed by giving and you’ll be blessed with one less dish to make.
If you’re having overnight guests, instead of making every meal a huge affair, plan just one or two nice dinners. Stock the fridge with lunch and breakfast items and let company fend for themselves. Here are some ideas:
You may not have a super plush guest room, or the budget to invest in one, but you can still make your guests feel right at home by adding a few extra touches. It all comes down to anticipating their needs beforehand. Start with some of the amenities you might find in a hotel room and then add your own special touches.
Here are some of the details I like to add to our guest room:
Leave a basket full of samples of shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and body wash along with extra toothbrushes for guests who forget their own.
Roll up clean towels and place in small laundry basket. Leave a note for guests to return towels to the basket for daily laundry service.
Leave a basket of simple snacks and bottled water on the dresser or night stand. Some of my favorites are trail mix, granola bars, mandarin oranges, chocolate and homemade cookies.
I like to display snacks in mason jars. It looks nice and also keeps food fresh. You can even add ribbon for a festive look.
Place a stack of novels, puzzle books and adult coloring books on the end table for guests to wind down with before bed or during down time in the daylight hours. It’s also nice to provide a bedside lamp.
Don’t forget to leave out a couple of extra pillows and blankets other than what’s already on the bed.
And now we get to the fun. If you’re housing guests for several days, you’ll need idea for entertainment. This can become quite expensive if you’re not careful. Either opt for free events and activities or just stay in. Here are some ideas for entertaining at home.
Play a mix of traditional and contemporary Christmas music. Amazon offers lots of Christmas album downloads for just $0.99 each. Some songs are even FREE.
Games for groups.
Playing games together is always a great way to get the laughter flowing. Google “christmas party games”. There are lots of simple ideas that all ages can play, and many won’t cost you a dime. Or you can invest in some popular board games to keep things hopping.
Christmas on the big screen.
Who doesn’t like a Christmas classic or cheesy holiday movie? Pop some popcorn and serve hot cocoa with candy cane stir sticks, marshmallows and chocolate chips. Then settle down to watch a festive flick. Be prepared by shopping for your favorite Christmas DVDs on Amazon ahead of time – some are as low as $3.99. Or you can always fall back on Netflix or Hulu.
There really is no need to break your back or your budget to provide memorable hospitality. Most of the ideas mentioned above take just minutes to implement and cost very little. With just a bit of planning ahead and ingenuity, you can keep holiday entertaining simple and frugal.