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Here’s the thing about New Year’s Eve: It’s not actually enjoyable to spend $150 on a ticket to a nightclub that’s way too crowded to get a drink, hear a word anyone’s saying, or see the ball drop.
An NYE house party is the highly superior (and more fun) option. And if you’re thinking of throwing down December 31st, all it takes is some planning and creativity to have a killer party without breaking the bank.
To make it even easier, we put it all together: decor, drinks, festive details, and entertainment. Here are 20 easy, budget-friendly ways to elevate your NYE fete and kick off 2020 in style — your style.
In the age of last-minute Facebook posts and text messages, actual party invitations have become something of a lost art. Well, bring ’em back! Sending people invitations sets the tone for your gathering, creates anticipation, and makes your event feel more legit.
Snail-mail invites always class things up, but if you’re keeping an eye on timeline and cash, go the emailed-invite route. Paperless Post lets you send custom invitations into your guests’ inboxes while saving money on postage. You can also mine Etsy for inexpensive (often less than $5) customizable digital templates.
It’s OK to be exclusive — think 15 to 20 people instead of 50. Having fewer guests means you’ll save cash on food and booze.
Plus, your guests will be able to move around more easily and have conversations without shouting. And you won’t have to fight for a spot in front of the TV to watch the Times Square mayhem.
A little theme can go a long way. Make your bash feel extra cool with a clever theme that creates memories and unifies your guests.
Keep things chic with a black and white theme, get a little decadent with a 1920s Gatsby theme, add some mystery with a masquerade theme, or cozy up with an aprés ski theme with PJs and boozy hot chocolate.
One of the best ways to save money is to work with what you’ve already got. New Year’s Eve is less than a week after Christmas, so your halls will probably still be decked.
Turn your twinkle lights back on, use glittery ornaments as centerpieces, decorate your bar with tinsel, and make place cards out of gift cards. If your tree is still up, place “2020” eyeglasses, hats, crowns, and noisemakers among the branches.
Yes, of course “Auld Lang Syne” will be on it. But you’ll also want to queue up a few bangers from 2019, some throwbacks from various genres, and upbeat sing-along tunes.
Pro tip: Ask guests for requests ahead of time — this way, everyone will get to hear their jam bumping through the speakers at some point in the night.
If you’re on a budget, there’s really no need to splurge on pricey Champagne-bottle-shaped balloons that will deflate by midnight.
Instead of shaking up individual drinks every time someone’s glass is empty, let guests help themselves to a big-batch signature cocktail from a punch bowl. It’s cost-effective, and it prevents you from playing bartender all night.
Try this wintry whiskey cocktail with a sweet-and-spicy kick created by mixologist Eric Ribeiro:
Flight of the Highlanders
- 18 ounces single-malt whiskey (try The Singleton of Glendullan 12 Year Old)
- 18 ounces cranberry-apple juice
- 9 ounces lemon juice
- 6 ounces Ancho Reyes chile liqueur
- 6 ounces maple syrup
- Grated fresh nutmeg
Combine whiskey, cranberry-apple juice, lemon juice, chile liqueur, and maple syrup in a punch bowl. Garnish with nutmeg and serve on the rocks.
Nothing will stress you out faster than trying to host a five-course dinner party. Plus, many people prefer the ease of serve-yourself hors d’oeuvres so they can mingle rather than sit all night.
For ease and affordability, think colorful veggies and dip, a giant wheel of baked brie with sliced baguette (indulgent but sooo easy, and you can top it with herbs/nuts/jam if you wanna get fancy), and slow-cooker mini meatballs cooked ahead of time.
Asking guests to BYO can be kinda awkward. But hosting a potluck dinner gets everyone involved, lets people share their favorite dishes, and gets you out of doing all of the cooking. We call that a win-win.
Skip the paper plates and plastic forks (save money + save the environment). Use your own plates and silverware.
And don’t be afraid to pull out those brightly colored dishes from your first apartment or borrow from friends — mixing and matching colors and patterns looks eclectic and homey.
Turn on your TV’s yule log channel (or stream it through Amazon Prime Instant Video). Boom — instant ambiance, complete with crackling sounds!
It’s the little things that will make your party feel extra-special: cocktail stirrers with tinsel on them, votive candles placed around the house for ambiance, and an expertly decorated bar with pre-poured bubbly set out in flutes.
People appreciate attention to detail — and it will still cost far less than the cover at some open-bar event.
Healthy New Year’s resolutions don’t start until tomorrow (or never), so end the year on a sweet note by creating a DIY sundae bar.
Start simple with chocolate and vanilla ice cream (the containers fit nicely in ice buckets, FYI), and then offer tons of festive toppings like marshmallows, edible silver balls, and crushed candy cane pieces. You can even make it boozy with a few splashes of Kahlua, Prosecco, or Campari.
As we all know, the new year is a natural time for reflection and inspiration. Invite everyone to write down their hopes for 2020 and share them on a resolution wall.
All you need is a large scroll of brown kraft paper and crayons, or colorful sticky notes and markers. Sit back and watch your group art project come to life as more people arrive.
After an hour of chitchat, your guests may need to be entertained before the ball drops.
Plan a few games that get everyone involved: have people download Heads Up! on their phones (it only costs a dollar), play New Year’s-themed charades, or set up some OG board games if you’re a smaller group.
Capture the moment (and your outfit) — plus, add props!
All you need for a DIY photo booth is a shimmery fringe backdrop, a selfie stick, and some fun props like beads, sunglasses, the 2020 hats people are already wearing, and chalkboard signs to personalize with witty sayings.
Back in the day, wasn’t the anticipation of having to wait to see your photos half the fun? Forget portrait mode for a night and bring back the disposable camera.
Leave a few cameras lying around and invite guests to attempt an old-school selfie without a front screen. The photos are more organic, and it’ll be fun to relive the party a week later once you get the film developed.
You can’t count down to midnight without raising a glass of bubbly to the new year ahead. But don’t blow $80 on real bottles of Champagne when there are plenty of tasty and much more affordable ways to say cheers! (Be sure to offer some sparkling cider as well, so nondrinkers and designated drivers can join in the fun.)
Here are a few sparkling wine options that are just as celebratory but, at $14 or less, won’t set your wallet on fire:
- Mionetto Prestige Prosecco DOC Treviso Brut: Prosecco’s fruity profile makes it a great candidate for mixing — try adding a splash of pomegranate juice.
- Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut Rosé: Pink bubbly is extra-festive, especially if you add a few floating cranberries to each glass.
- Santa Julia Organic Blanc de Blancs: It’s made with 100 percent Chardonnay grapes and features super-fine bubbles.
- 90+ Cellars Lot 197 Lambrusco: This sparkling red is perfect for sipping alongside those sausage puffs!
Creating a party hashtag lets you flex your cleverness muscles, and it’s a great way to curate all the awesome photos your guests are posting on the ’gram.
To make it official, write out your hashtag, put it in a picture frame, and display it on the bar (since, ya know, that’s where everyone will gather).
At the end of the night, send guests off with a little thank-you for coming to your party.
Whether it’s wrapped homemade cookies, a bag of Hershey’s Kisses labeled “Midnight Kisses” (cute!), or a bottle of glitter nail polish topped with a bow, the nice gesture will be inexpensive for you and memorable for everyone.
Brooke Sager is a freelance writer who shares her musings on wine, wellness, beauty, relationships, and all things lifestyle.