Updated on 12.19.08

How We’re Frugally Celebrating the New Year

Trent Hamm

New Year's Eve 2007/8 by a.drian on Flickr!Tomorrow evening, like billions of people around the world, my wife and I will be celebrating the coming new year. Some people celebrate this by having a big New Year’s Eve bash at their home. Others go out to various parties, enjoying the celebrations put on by others. Still others spend the evening quietly at home with their family – or with themselves.

We tend toward the first option. This year, we’re having a small New Year’s event at our own home, but we wanted to keep costs down. Here’s how we’ll be celebrating.

First, we kept our invitation list pretty short. Instead of throwing open the doors and inviting everyone we know, we were very selective in our invitations. We don’t expect a large crowd even if everyone we invited were to show up.

Because our invitation list is short, this means we don’t have a large budget for refreshments or entertainment. Our foods and other party materials will come quite inexpensively, even if we go for high-quality items. Most likely, because of the number of attendees, we’ll make most of our own treats from scratch, further reducing the costs.

Second, in order to keep the intimate gathering from being boring, we chose people that we knew had several overlapping interests. Virtually everyone who is invited immensely enjoys playing Guitar Hero, actually, and only one person has a skill level that’s far out of the range of the others.

This creates a ready-made form of entertainment. When everyone arrives, we just pull out the game and organize a fair rotating basis that allows everyone to play every fifteen minutes or so.

Aside from that, almost everyone invited is also at least somewhat skilled at a musical instrument (yes, these people recognize that Guitar Hero is a fun game but a distinctly different activity than playing an actual instrument). So we encouraged people to bring their own musical instruments to our event so that they could jam together.

In short, much of our entertainment is taken care of and the people invited will naturally fit right into the group – with almost no cost.

Finally, we requested that each guest bring a bottle or two of wine. This saves us the cost of providing much of the beverages. We will have some other beverages on hand, of course, but the biggest expense would have easily been several bottles of wine for our guests.

We also plan on making simple foods that are easy to serve yourself. A large batch of chili? Check. An assortment of “serve-yourself” finger foods? Check. We’ll just rotate the finger foods regularly to keep them fresh.

A basic chili recipe is quite simple – all you really need are plenty of beans, chili powder, some onion, and some meat, along with “fixings” (crackers, cheese, etc.). For the finger foods, we plan on utilizing several of our usual Christmas gifts – we almost always wind up with some summer sausage, some cheeses, some crackers, and the like, so this is a great time to share and use these items.

The end result? A pleasant gathering of people with similar interests to celebrate the new year that will only cost the hosts a few dollars in expense. A frugal way to ring in the new year, indeed.

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  1. K says:

    We plan to do the same thing. We will provide crock pot meatball sandwiches and a cheese and cracker tray and a few other finger foods, as well as some beer and wine (our friends are not big drinkers so this isn’t a big expense). We asked everyone to bring something to share. We have an assortment of board games, poker, and the Wii, so there should be a nice variety to keep people occupied. We did the same thing last year and it worked out very nicely. We plan to spend about $50 but this could be reduced by having someone else bring the beverages.

  2. Todd says:

    I like parties in general, but last year my wife and I just stayed home on the couch and with a bottle of cheap champagne and watched the ball drop. We wrote down our resolutions and talked about all the things we wanted to see happen in the new year, speculating on how things would be different. After years of going to parties, it was probably the best New Year’s I have ever had.

  3. leslie says:

    I think RockBand is wonderful for a party! It is an easy way to entertain 4 people, gives the others something to watch, and means there is always music in the background.

    For when you don’t have RockBand, I suggest playing music through some device that you can output to the tv. We used a friend’s PS3 at our last party which worked out great. The system displays visualizations in tune/rhythm to the music. This lets you have the background music but also occupies the tv, so you don’t have the awkward silence as everyone gathers around the tv watching some terrible show.

    Also, board games do provide a lot of entertainment, involve a lot of people, and fill time very well. Especially games like Taboo or Balderdash where you can essentially have an unlimited amount of people and don’t even need even teams and people can jump in and out.

  4. Anastasia says:

    I love video game parties! Wii, RockBand, whatever :) Back when I was the first person in my group of friends to get a Wii, that would be my contribution to all the parties!

  5. Michael says:

    Sounds good except that BYOB is rude, and frugality is about reducing overall costs, not transferring them to others.

  6. Scordo.com says:

    Hi Trent, this is an interesting topic as I often host dinner parties with family and friends. I do have to disagree with you on the idea of a “frugal” dinner party, however.

    When I have folks over for dinner/party I like to treat my guests to good food, wine, drinks, etc. I also don’t expect my quests to bring wine and/or food; after all, what’s the point in inviting people into your home if you’re not going to cook and provide beverages?

    I’m not advocating that one should buy dry aged beef, vintage Bordeaux, and caviar, but I would recommend that when hosting a dinner party for close friends and family that you do not skimp on food and wine (you should treat your guests in the same way you treat yourself and your immediate family). If one can’t do this, then maybe they shouldn’t throw a party (a party is indeed about the people, but being frugal with beverage and food is a no-no in my opinion). My two cents…

    Vince from http://www.scordo.com/blog/blog – a practical living blog

  7. HebsFarm says:

    My favorite way to spend New Year’s was… camping. Until we had kids. I knew I didn’t want to spend the whole evening policing toddlers around the campfire, so we have been spending New Year’s at home, waiting for them to be big enough to take to the woods without worrying they will wander away or fall into the fire. The littlest one is now 3… I think we are only a year or 2 away from heading back to the mountain for New Year’s. I would rather have them watching the fire than watching Ryan Seacrest!

  8. asithi says:

    I have to agree with Michael about BYOB. This New Year’s Eve party I am going to is a BYOB party. I usually show up to parties with a bottle of wine, dessert, appetizer, or a small gift for hosting the party. The hostess of this New Year Eve’s party is asking that I bring alcohol and an appetizer to share. I don’t drink generally, but I would like a sip of champagne at midnight. I know exactly what is going to happen. Since she invited many people (she likes a packed house), most people are going to show up with nothing and I am probably not going to find my bottle of champagne at midnight. Because she is asking that I bring alcohol and an appetizer, I feel like I wish that I didn’t accept the invitation. I know it sounds petty, but I think it is the fact that she ask that I bring these things that makes the party distasteful to me somehow.

  9. K says:

    I think the BYOB question depends on the type of party you are having. If you are having a large gathering like asithi mentioned, it is sort of tacky and people are likely to bring something anyway. But if it’s a smaller party (we are having 10 people over) and it’s clear that it’s sort of a potluck thing, it’s not out of line to ask 1-2 people to bring some wine or beer.

  10. Mister E says:

    I’ve never really thought of BYOB as rude. In fact I’ve rarely been to a private party that wasn’t BYOB.

    Maybe I just need a higher class of friends.

  11. Battra92 says:

    New Years will be quiet with mostly family. I think we’re going to bust out the Wii at some point and also maybe watch Rudolph’s Shiny New Year.

    As is normal for the mostly Baptist/Methodist crowd we will be having a dry (as in no alcohol) night.

  12. CPA Kevin says:

    I’m with Mr. E, I don’t think BYOB is rude at all – if you’re all friends, who cares? Most times, I don’t like the stuff they serve at parties anyway, (usually “safe” beers like Bud, Bud Light) so I’ll bring my own if I want to drink. Isn’t coming to a party empty-handed rude?

  13. DB Cooper says:

    My father-in-law (RIP) used to refer to New Year’s Eve as “amateur night” in that it brought out all the lightweight drinkers (he was NOT an amateur). Personally, I’d rather not be on the roads or dispersing friends/family on the roads from my house that evening.

    As usual, we’ll likely have a few glasses of wine, play rummy or yahtzee or backgammon, and probably be in bed by 11:00…New Year’s? …

  14. Bekki says:

    I don’t find anything wrong with BYOB – especially if it’s a small gathering. The way I see it, it’s not unfair to ask someone else to expend a bit of money to help provide the alcohol especially since you’re the one offering to provide food, shelter, and clean-up!

    Last year, we went to a party with some friends and played Wii all night. It ended up being tons of fun without spending tons of money.

    This year, I’m 30 weeks pregnant and on bed rest, so my husband and I are going to stay home. He’s making a trip to the grocery store tonight to buy some fun snacks we don’t usually splurge on (shrimp cocktail – yum!) and we’ll pop open our bottle of sparkling cider sometime around 9:00 and turn in for bed, confident that the New Year will arrive safely on its own, without any help from us. ;)

  15. Meika says:

    I’d be curious about what regions and ages are involved with the BYOB question – if there are different norms in different areas. I’ve been to many BYOB parties without thinking a thing of it, but have seen fewer of those in the last couple years. That’s in Michigan, early thirties.

  16. borealis says:

    BYOB is the best solution to a party’s hardest problem — how to provide a wide variety of drinks to the guests that they will like. If everyone brings a drink they like, and a little more to share (both alcoholic and not), it makes for a great party of reasonable expense.

    This is especially important and valuable with wine drinkers, as most of them do not enjoy drinking wine they do not fancy, which is most other wine they don’t bring.

  17. Jeff says:

    BYOB isn’t a problem from my perspective, though I have at least one friend who might feel it was a bit off (though rude might be pushing it). Most of my friends would be into it.

    I’m going to be lucky if I even remember that it’s New Years… it’s pretty much just a normal day at our house. Kids in bed at 8pm-ish. We might watch a movie after that and go to bed sometime between 11 and 2. If I remember, I’ll watch the ball drop, but honestly the New Years celebrations haven’t held any excitement for me since a couple years after college. Not sure why. Maybe I’m just getting anti-social as I approach 40.

  18. Brandon says:

    Some parties I have attended in the past have had a $15 “cover charge”, and the host has advanced the money to offset the cost of food and drinks. I’ve never had a problem with it since it’s still cheaper than paying cover at a bar and paying for drinks once you’re there. It’s also probably cheaper to do it that way than have everyone individually buy drinks/appetizers.

  19. Candi says:

    Well we have an annual get together at our house involving between 20 to 30 people. We provide a champagne toast at midnight (and sparkling grape juice to toast for those who don’t imbibe). All other alcohol is BYOB. This compromise seems to work well for the people in our social circle.

  20. Kevin says:

    OK, for an alternative view from the dark side (in my defense I’m a bit – ahem – older than Trent and probably many of you,)here’s what we’re doing…

    We’re having dinner at a nice restaurant with 3 other couples. Afterward we’re coming to our place and I’m making molten chocolate cakes (in ramekins) for everyone.

    Then we’ll have a blind champagne tasting (4 bottles ranging in price from $8.77 to $51.99) to see if anyone can correctly ID the cheapest and most expensive bottles – or perhaps all of them. (I’ll probably pick up some sort of gag gift prize for the winner tomorrow.) And then we’ll watch the ball drop.

    Dinner won’t be cheap – dessert will – and the champagne is a bit of an extravagance. But my wife and I have never been into big drunkfest-type parties for New Year’s Eve… we just want to have a good time and some quiet fun with a few close friends.

    Is it the most frugal thing we could do? No. Sometimes we just stay home and have a late dinner and watch the Times Square festivities. This year, we’ve opted for what I’ve described here. It won’t break the bank.

    And by the way, I don’t see anything wrong with BYOB – usually in my experience the host or hostess will say something like, “We’ll have beer and some basics, but if you prefer a certain drink, please bring some along.” No biggie.

  21. Michael says:

    Kevin, that (good solution) is not quite the same as asking guests to help make the party cheaper for the hosts. Your evening sounds very nice.

    Also, it’s rude to never host, so if everyone takes turns buying the liquor, it should work out about as evenly as BYOB, and more evenly in my experience.

  22. tiffanie says:

    haha, that’s funny. your night sounds JUST like ours will be. A few close friends, Guitar Hero & Rock Band, an already overabundant supply of alcohol on hand, and a crock pot of chili with quesadilla appetizers. all for about $30, which is about $5 per person! :)

  23. Andy says:

    I think its okay to ask guest to bring their own Bibles to a BYOB event.

    Ha ha, Happy New Year everyone!

  24. Karen says:

    Ok maybe it is just me – but down here in Houston, Texas we don’t do beans in our chili!!! I also don’t have any problems with BYOB – my past parties have always been that way and the same for all my friends. If you want liquor you bring it. This year my boyfriend and I decided to surge a little and head down to Galveston to walk along the seawall and bbq us some melt in your mouth king crab legs and bring the island some a small financial gain after Hurricane Ike.

  25. Craig says:

    That’s an excellent way to save money on new years. A lot of people even ask to split the overall costs to help everyone out. As long as there are drinks and fun people you will have a good new years eve.

  26. Anna says:

    Andy, you crack me up!

  27. Sarah says:

    Your party sounds like fun, Trent.

    I don’t think anything’s inherently wrong with potluck dinners (including BYOB), but I do think some hosts lazily use the concept of potluck to shove their costs off on others. Potlucks are really communal gatherings with no true host, very informal, among people who know each other well. If you want to be host and have people who are only acquaintances over, pay your own costs.

  28. Marcia says:

    I don’t really have a problem with BYOB. I guess when I was in my 20’s, I went to a few “wine-tasting” or “beer-tasting” parties, where that was the whole point. But I guess 20-somethings can drink quite a bit.

    Now, though…if we throw a party, people usually bring something. Depends on how big the party is. We really love to host. But when it became clearer that our friends were too busy to host (but not too busy to come to our house), we slowed down. Because it got pretty expensive, $150 to $200, unless we make everything ourselves. I’ve never hosted a party that said “BYOB”, but I wouldn’t be offended by it.

    I did get offended in my 20’s by an invite to a BBQ. The hosts were providing the grill, ketchup, and mustard. The guests were to bring their own meat, a side dish to share, and their own booze. Um, no thanks!

    I guess now that I’m in my late 30’s…I can’t (and shouldn’t) drink more than 1-2 drinks. My friends are the same, or are non-drinkers. For a dinner party with 6 adults, one bottle of wine would just about do it. Maybe 1.5. No need to BYOB for that.

  29. Marcia says:

    For the record…my friend is hosting NY at her house with a Chinese dinner (she’s Chinese), and we’re taking Prosecco and some OJ. Her husband doesn’t drink, and she’ll probably just have a few sips.

  30. Marsha says:

    Karen, I’m from the Houston area, and I had the same thought about the beans! Still, chili is a super idea – however you cook it.

    As for BYOB – oh…my…gosh. I cannot even believe how controversial this is! I can see a BYOB wedding reception being considered as bad form, but a little party? Jeepers.

  31. Mel says:

    From my experience in New Zealand (across all age and social ranges) is that you bring what you want to drink at an informal party. A host would normally provide some non-alcoholic drinks, maybe a 6-pack or bottle of wine or two and a chilly bin (not sure of the ‘international’ word for that!) to keep it cold. People tend to dive into the bin and take only what’s theirs unless offered otherwise. For an event like New Years, I would expect that the host would provide bubbly if they specifically wanted it part of the festivities.

    And for a barbie, BYOMeat (or veg substitute in my case) is usually assumed unless otherwise mentioned. Again, a host would normally provide something, but each guest would bring what they want.

    I like this – it means people eat/drink what they like, and often provides an ice-breaker for conversation.

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