How To Host The Holidays On A Budget

If you find yourself far from home this Thanksgiving or you just want to opt out of the family politics this year, there is no better time than to host your very own Friendsgiving or holiday dinner. The beauty (aside from not boarding a plane or making small talk with your Uncle) is that there are no rules, or rather you get to make your own. Don’t like turkey? Bake salmon. Don’t like orange or brown? Embrace black and white décor instead. The only important thing is the mixture of friendship and togetherness and, of course, thankfulness. Here are a few suggestions to get your friends clamoring to make it an annual event, without draining your savings account.

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The Invite

The one thing that can make a holiday dinner party feel extra special is to put some time and attention into a few old school paper products (or particularly well designed digital ones), namely invitations, menus and place cards. These do not have to be fancy or covered in gold foil and can easily be printed at home. With a Google search and a little elbow grease, you can find very, very cute invitations to print or send digitally from blogs like Freckle & Fair. If you have more room in your budget, you can order printed invitations from Tiny Prints, which has great Thanksgiving themed options and low minimums so you don’t have to over order or break the bank. Some of the options even have coordinating menus to add a bit of sophistication to your table. This will be the first impression you are giving your guests of what they can expect so it’s worth putting a little time into it to set the mood.


Pick a palette of 3-4 colors and stick to it. Buy everything in one of those colors and your party will instantly look cohesive and beautiful. Even the simplest of palettes can look incredibly festive – try white, black, evergreen and metallic. Cover your table with a tablecloth or a table runner – this painted one from West Elm is perfect for the holidays and comes in both silver and gold. Line the center of the table with greens–either go fresh with a garland from the local flower market or invest in an imitation version that you can break out for years to come. Target offers this one which comes pre-lit with mini lights which add a perfect dose of sparkle.

Speaking of candles, gather them up by the armful to fill the length of the table. There really is no better lighting than the soft glow of a candle. We like block candles of all shapes and sizes mixed haphazardly down the length of the table. Ikea offers a set in plain white and you can mix in a few of their gold metallic candles as well. To introduce a bit of Thanksgiving flavor to your tablescape, grab some mini pumpkins and gourds, hit them with some white or metallic spray paint and mix them in with your candles.

To bring in the idea of friendship, why not display your favorite photos of you and your guests in a creative way? If you have a wall above a buffet station or really anywhere near where you will be eating, string a few strands of these metal photo clips and put up your favorite images. It will be a nice walk down memory lane or, at the very least a conversation starter.


You can absolutely break out the good plates and wine glasses—we think this set is particularly inspiring for a chic Thanksgiving and would go with almost every chosen color palette. Thankfully there is an abundance of great quality, gorgeous party ware available. Meri Meri offers two incredibly festival and fun options, a natural gold scallop or a gold pine set which are disposable. For added fun, pick up some holiday party crackers– these come with a little token, a hat and a joke.


The easiest way to stay within budget is to offer one drink—either your favorite white or red wine or a fun cocktail. Apple Cider is the beverage of the season so why not mix it into a Friendsgiving cocktail – try this Apple Cider Mimosa recipe for bubbles. Also, Trader Joe’s best kept secret is the Spiced Cider only available during the holidays. Grab your cutest mugs, heat the cider on the stove and have it ready as the perfect welcome drink to offer everyone as they arrive.


There’s no reason to cook an entire turkey with all the fixings—that’s a lot of work and could add up to a major investment. Instead, look for alternative, simpler recipes that are more Thanksgiving inspired. A turkey stuffing casserole, for instance, which combines a lot the flavors of Thanksgiving into one dish is a great way to go. Try sweet potato wedges as a side along with a simple greens salad – this recipe has shredded carrots for a bit of Thanksgiving flair – and don’t forget the good old cranberry sauce from a can (no one is judging you just be sure to put it on a pretty plate). As a finale, try a showstopping pumpkin cheesecake. It’s just as tasty as pumpkin pie, but lighter and effortless. Just bake the crust, mix the filling, and pop it in the fridge to chill.

The After Party

No need to break from tradition here, but instead of relaxing in front of a football game, take a survey of everyone’s favorite holiday movie beforehand and pop the winner on after dinner. Might we suggest Love Actually? What better way to get into the holiday spirit? Serve some hot chocolate and marshmallows and settle in.