How to Throw a Holiday Dinner Party on a Budget

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Welcome back to the collaboration between Mint and Brewing Happiness. I’m Haley, the girl behind Brewing Happiness – a blog about celebrating the small healthy choices we make in our lives, complete with recipes for everybody! I’m here to give you tips on living a healthy, happy life on a budget.

The holidays are full of friends, family, and festivities – all of which can be expensive. But I believe that you can host a beautiful and delicious dinner party for your friends and family without breaking the bank. So I’ve put together some tips on how to decorate and what to serve, as well as provided an example dinner party menu.

How to Throw a Holiday Dinner Party on a Budget

1. Thrift your plates.

Don’t fret if you don’t have a collection of nice china just waiting for the perfect occasion. Head to your local Goodwill or favorite thrift store and grab some mismatched plates! They can be fun and festive, or perhaps you’ll get lucky and find a set you love. Thrift store plates are often priced around $0.50 – $2.00, making them an amazingly cost effective way to decorate your table.

2. Use plants and spray paint to help you decorate cheaply.

Eucalyptus and evergreen leaves are a beautiful and seasonal way to bring life to your tablescape without breaking the bank. If you want to get even more festive, get a can of gold or silver spray paint, and buy some cheap decorations from your local Dollar Store. Once you spray them gold, they will look like an expensive and beautiful table decoration!

3. Make it a BYOB event.

Food and decorations are expensive enough; don’t add to your budget by also providing alcohol for everyone. Make sure your guests know it’s a BYOB event, that way you can just focus on the food and bringing people together!

4. Serve soup as your main course.

Soup is cost effective, cozy, nourishing, and easy to make. It will take the stress away from an elaborate main course, and everyone will leave feeling satisfied. Check out the example dinner party menu below for recipe ideas!

5. Make it meatless.

A vegetarian dinner party will simply be cheaper to make, because meat is an expensive addition to a meal. I promise, with the menu I’ve provided, no one will leave feeling hungry. Plus, the holidays are already full of heavy, unhealthy food – why not lighten it up a bit?

6. Don’t go overboard with desserts.

You probably have a house full of desserts around the holidays, so don’t go crazy making tons of cookies for your guests. Instead, try repurposing some of the food gifts you’ve been given by serving them to your guests. Or you can make just one kind of cookie, but I wouldn’t suggest more – people are already overloaded with sugar this time of year.

Example Menu

  • Appetizer – Polenta Cranberry & Brie Bites, makes 10 bites / total cost $11.62


  • 1 tube pre-cooked polenta / $1.99
  • 1 block brie cheese / $6.99
  • 1 cup arugula / $1.99
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries / $0.65
  • honey, drizzled


  • Preheat the oven to 450.
  • Slice your polenta in ½ inch thick rounds, and lay them flat on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Drizzle with olive oil, and bake for a total of 20 minutes, flipping halfway.
  • After 20 minutes, remove the polenta and turn the oven on broil.
  • Top each polenta round with a slice of brie and put back in the oven to broil for 2 minutes, or until the cheese is melty.
  • Top each round with arugula, cranberries and a drizzle of honey.


TOTAL COST : $53.48 / $48.83, serving 6

The pricing estimates on each recipe are based on prices at my local Whole Foods in NYC, so they can vary depending on your location. They do not include the price of “pantry staples” like olive oil, spices, honey, etc. The exact cost will change depending on those elements, but generally I think it’s possible to have a dinner party that costs about $10 per head including decorations!

Don’t be afraid to invite people over for dinner this holiday season, and make it a party. There are tons of ways to make hosting a dinner party cost effective! I hope my suggestions and meal plan inspire you to give it a try. Happy holidays, folks!

Follow along!

Over the next few months I’ll be covering a variety of ways to be healthy on a budget. Keep an eye out for those and head over to Brewing Happiness for healthy recipe inspiration in the meantime!

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further