How to Be a Gracious, Gorgeous Guest on a Budget: The Holiday Party Survival Guide

How to Be a Gracious, Gorgeous Guest on a Budget: The Holiday Party Survival Guide

altOh, the price of popularity.

The holidays are expensive, and not just because of the gifts; hopping between holiday parties can be costly, from hostess gifts to clothing to transportation costs.

Enter the LearnVest Holiday Party Survival Guide, which will help you save a ton and still be the best-dressed, most gracious guest on the list. After all, it’s one thing to hit the party circuit—and quite another to make sure you always get invited back.

The Look
There’s no sense in spending $200 a pop on a bunch of great dresses, but now is the time to start planning out what you’ll wear to each of your parties. That way, there will be no temptation to rush out for a new dress at the last minute because you didn’t plan ahead.

  • Choose three holiday staples in advance: one killer dress, one amazing pair of jeans, and one cute top. Plan out how you’ll turn those three outfits into six, whether by layering with sweaters, mixing and matching heels and boots, and adding different accessories. (Hint: Differently colored tights under a dress can change the entire outfit.)
  • For the balance, trade clothes with a friend. Ask her now, in advance, and remember to chart out who will be at which party so that mutual friends don’t see you as twins.

Make sure to return the item washed or dry-cleaned with a little thank-you note attached.

The Loot
Make it a rule not to show up to these parties empty-handed. A few pointers to minimize the financial pain while maintaining impeccable etiquette:

  • Order or pick up a case of 12 bottles now. Choose a nice, likable wine that most people will enjoy—check out our suggestions for how to choose great bottles of inexpensive wine. This will help you nab nice wine at a much cheaper price, and will ensure that a bottle is at the ready when you rush out the door. Just remember to store it properly in the meantime.
  • If you want to bring something small in addition to the wine, we suggest baking or cooking something instead of bringing a gift. Desserts and simple appetizers often go over well because they show appreciation for the work the hostess put in. If you go for an actual gift, we give you permission to re-gift, as long as it’s unopened or unused, like a good brand of bath salts or a pretty scarf. Check twice to make sure that no old labels or gifts tags are still on it.

The Labor
If you’re hosting this year, start planning now to keep down your costs. It’s possible to host beautiful dinner parties for as little as $75, but the trick is to be organized. A few reminders:

  • If you choose to make your party a potluck—a tried and true way to diffuse the cost and labor—remember to coordinate what each person will bring, to avoid being stuck with three pies but no salad.
  • Similarly, decide early on what sort of drinks you’d like to serve. Instead of buying expensive cocktail mixes, buy the simple, inexpensive ingredients to mix your own cocktails.

The Letdown
If an excess of holiday parties is really bogging down your budget, or if you simply can’t make it to some because of overlapping commitments, it’s okay to say no. If you decide to host, you can still decline, as long as you make sure that those who invited you to their events are also invited themselves to yours. Here’s how to let people down politely:

  • Often, the easiest and kindest way to say no is a simple thank-you. Don’t make up fake excuses; simply say thanks, but no thanks. “Thank you so much for the invitation, but I won’t be able to attend your event/dinner/party. I hope you have a wonderful time!”
  • If the party is being held by a close friend you genuinely want to see, offer up a specific date to get together when things are less hectic. “This get-together sounds really fun, and I’m so disappointed I won’t be able to make it. I’d love to meet for coffee/lunch/drinks after the holidays, though. Are you free January 8?”
  • If a neighbor, best friend, or family member invites you to a gathering that you’d normally be a staple at but can’t attend this year, offer to help prepare instead. If you’d normally help with the event but can’t this time around, it’s nice to bring a gift or bottle of wine to contribute. “I’m sorry I can’t make your party. Is there anything I can do to help you get ready the day before?”

The Language

Whether you are attending a party, hosting friends, or declining an invitation, always make sure to say thank you.

  • In particular, show your appreciation by giving a handwritten thank-you note to the hostess after the party. Even a simple e-mail the next morning to let the host know you had a great time goes a long way.
  • If you hosted a party and a friend especially helped you prepare, send a thank-you note showing your appreciation for the above-and-beyond consideration.


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