Have home parties instead of renting a space. I admit it, I have a hard time opening my house. I look at the photos on Facebook of my friends awesome homes and am embarrassed. Get over yourself! Your friends don’t care if your house is a showplace, or not. They are coming to see you, not your house. That said, for me, it’s also a good way to keep motivated to clean, or finish small projects that I’ve been meaning to get to. (Yes fireplace, I might finally be talking to you.)
Host or attend a cookie exchange. It is cheaper and easier to make dozens of one kind of cookie, than it is to buy ingredients and bake dozens of different kinds. It’s also fun to get together for coffee and taste testing!
Invite friends and family to join in celebrating your holiday traditions. Things don’t have to be elaborate. Don’t expect your get together’s to be like the ones you see on TV or in the Movies. Hot Cider and your DVD of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation; make Krumkak, Lefse, or another holiday favorite that works best when you have multiple hands; decorate the tree; go Christmas Caroling; load up the van and go look at lights.
If you are hosting, ask everyone to bring a dish. Ask them what they want to bring or make suggestions so that you don’t end up with a table full of green bean casserole and nothing else. I like to ask people to bring a signature dish or something in their skill set. Since they are bringing a dish they might not feel the need to bring a hostess gift, that will end up saving you both! On the flip side, if you attend a party, ask what you can bring to lighten your friend/family’s load.
I admit it is really hard to ask guests to bring something. I even live in MN where it’s a pretty normal part of life, and I struggle with it. Ask yourself “would I want my friends to go into debt to have me over for dinner or a party?” Guess what, they will have the same answer as you.