Budget-Friendly Ways to Celebrate the Holidays With Friends

Purchasing gifts, traveling and preparing meals are expensive enough, and that’s before adding social events with your friends to the mix. Thankfully, there are alternatives to overspending.

You may be low on funds for celebrating, but that doesn’t mean you have to close up shop and forego the festivities. Getting together with friends is the best part of any holiday, and you can enjoy it without spending tons of money. All it takes is some holiday spirit and a knack for creativity.

You have plenty of ways to party on a budget this holiday season. Here are seven ways you can enjoy the holidays with friends without breaking the bank.

1. Have a holiday movie marathon

netflix and coffee

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This is probably the most low-cost, low-effort tidbit on this list — yet it still provides ample entertainment. Watch your favorite holiday-themed movies on Netflix, or have your friends chip in with DVDs to curate a viewing list even staunch critics would envy.

Depending on your friends’ preferences, you can create movie themes that amp up the fun. Maybe you’re sticking strictly to bad holiday B-movies or childhood hits, for example. For a tougher crowd, you can even aim for holiday-themed horror movies.

No matter what you choose, set your home viewing experience up for success. Stock up on snacks and drinks and pull your fluffiest blankets out of the closet. There’s no one way to throw a movie marathon, which makes this a flexible option for any budget celebration.

2. Celebrate Friendsgiving

toasting with punch

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Friendsgiving is the version of Thanksgiving where you don’t have to hear your relatives question you about getting a job or finding a partner. Eat as many slices of pumpkin pie as you want, because there are no nosy great-aunts to comment on your eating habits.

Friendsgiving is nearly identical to Thanksgiving, except it can occur before or after the said holiday. It provides a way for friends to get together and enjoy each other’s company without the worries of familial pressure.

Throw a potluck by having each guest bring something small but delicious. Food isn’t cheap, and you don’t want to spend all your money cooking a big meal alone. The goodies they bring don’t have to be homemade — especially if your friends are disastrous with a stove — because the spirit of togetherness is what makes the meal.

3. Make drinks at home

mixing cocktails

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Holidays are times of cheer, booze, celebration and goodwill. If you feel no party is complete without a delicious drink, have no fear. You can still indulge in your favorites without running up a tab at the local pub.

You don’t need shelves full of ingredients to make the perfect cocktail, but some supplies to have on hand include lemons, simple syrup and tonic water. With a few bottles of standard alcohol selections and some ingredients, your friends will have a variety of cocktails to choose from, including favorites like Old Fashioneds and Moscow Mules.

You can also put a few specialty holiday cocktails on the menu for a festive flair. Add a touch of cinnamon and pumpkin spice to amp up the holiday flavor, or opt for homemade eggnog. The best part about drinks at home? You don’t have to pick your drunk friends off the bar floor by the end of the night.

4. Trim the tree together

decorating the christmas tree

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You may have to settle on a small tree due to space and budget, but you can still have fun decorating it with ornaments and string lights. Make it into a combined effort by having your friends contribute decorations.

It’ll be heartwarming to have a tree in your place that contains a part of each of your friends. Isn’t that what the Christmas spirit is all about? And no, this tip totally isn’t an excuse to secure an extra set of hands for untangling those pesky Christmas lights.

5. Have a holiday cookie bake-off

holiday cookies

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Celebrate the holidays by inviting your friends over to try some fun new baking recipes or rehash old ones. Instead of baking batch after batch of holiday cookies, why not share the labor and walk away with a delicious assortment by hosting a cookie exchange?

You can keep the event simple by inviting everyone to bring a batch of their favorite homemade treats or make it an all-day event by doing all the baking together. If you want to up the ante, however, turn it into a competitive bake-off. Your friends with lacking cooking skills can serve as the judges — a job they’re unlikely to turn down.

6. Do a white elephant exchange

white elephant exchange

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Adding friends to your gift-buying list can get expensive quickly, so try White Elephant as a fun alternative. You don’t have to wait in line, fight the Black Friday rush or hurry to snag Cyber Monday deals. All it requires you to do is donate something you already own to the gift pile.

White Elephant exchanges sometimes get a bad rap for their competitive edge but set rules that the gift should be something impractical and humor-inducing. Once the unwrapping begins, start trading gifts between each other to see who ends up with the most laughable object.

7. Try contemporary caroling

holiday karoake

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You may meet this suggestion with some surprise — who goes caroling anymore? The answer is you, within the comfort of your own place. Forget about freezing all night in the cold and set up a karaoke machine indoors instead.

If you don’t have one, creating a karaoke room is as simple as video-casting YouTube instrumentals on your TV screen or using Bluetooth speakers.

Just remember not to get too loud. Your opera-style rendition of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” is likely to be a performance for the ages, but you may end up with a noise complaint the next day.

Kick up the cheer without going broke

Create a memorable holiday season that your friends and your pockets will thank you for. Implementing a budget is necessary sometimes, but it doesn’t need to dampen your cheer. Keep the festivities going, and you’ll soon forget your financial concerns.

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Holly WellesHolly Welles is a real estate writer and the editor behind The Estate Update, where she shares tips on making the most of any space. Her work can be found on Homes.com, Porch and other places around the web.

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