Have a Holiday Party that Won’t Break the Bank

Alexis Juanita

Hosting a holiday party for employees is traditional for most businesses at this time of year. But hosting one that shows your appreciation for a year of hard work without breaking the bank isn’t easy. Here are a few hints that can help.

You don’t want your employees to think of you as the modern-day personification of Charles Dickens’s bah-humbugging and miserly “Ebenezer Scrooge.” At the same time, you do want to reward your employees with some frivolity and fun this holiday season but not at the expense of your bottom line. What’s a small business person to do?

However limited your party budget, it will serve you well to show your appreciation for your workers’ year-long efforts in some tangible and merry-making manner — to celebrate together in a social rather than business atmosphere. This goes a long way toward making workers feel valued and helps them bond with one another, a good step toward teambuilding and improving morale.

Whether you hold your holiday party on or off company premises, there are many ways for you and your employees to have a frolicking good time without “breaking the bank.”

At-the-Office Parties

Try to locate office parties away from workstations; you want to do what you can to create a “non-businesslike” atmosphere. Bring in a multi-disc player sound system and play some popular holiday CDs, or tune your company radio to a local station that plays non-stop holiday music; some do so from midnight Thanksgiving Day to midnight Christmas Day.

RELATED: 7 Hints for Organizing Your Office Party

Consider playing some lighthearted holiday games or activities to add some fun to the festivities. Look online for party game suggestions for company holiday parties. Take some party photos of employees and display them on your company bulletin board.

If your employees work a variety of time schedules, try to hold an all-shift station of holiday food and drink in a focal location so that every employee can partake.

Some Suggestions for Economical Food Choices

  • A catered luncheon or after-work party at the office can be less expensive than a restaurant or banquet outing. Catered foods range in cost and many caterers themselves have a number of menus with a range of selections and prices. There are many foods people enjoy that are not necessarily the most expensive choices.
  • Party expert and author Phyllis Cambria of Party Plans Plus shared some popular and very affordable food choices for holiday company parties: cold cut platters combined with a variety of bread choices and salads; a variety of specialty pizzas; or, for late afternoon or just-after-work holiday gatherings, heavy hors d’oeuvres including chicken wings, mini pizzas, and egg rolls.
  • Try something a little “out of the ordinary” like these suggestions from Cambria of PartyPlansPlus.com: a dessert party with cakes, pastries, cookies, and fruit (“Amp up the celebration factor,” and serve with coffee, tea, cocoa, and a couple of dessert wines or liqueurs); or “an ice cream social with several ice cream flavors, frozen yogurt, and a sugar-free variety or two along with all of the toppings.”

Off-Premises Parties

  • Invite your employees and their “significant others” to your home. At-home holiday parties have a “warm and cozy” feel to them and can make socializing more comfortable and enjoyable. Holding a party at your home can also be a little easier on the wallet than a restaurant or banquet hall party. Whether you serve brunch, lunch, dinner or cocktails, be sure the quality and taste of the food and drink is superior. This will add considerably to the party experience.You might want to give each employee a holiday gift bag filled with some non-denominational seasonal goodies like these suggested by Cambria: a votive candle and holder, a snow globe with a generic winter scene, or tickets to a local holiday event such as an ice show or pageant. “The best gifts, of course,” says Cambria, “are those that were chosen specifically for each guest. They should be in the same price range, but something that is personal to each employee based upon their taste, hobby, or need.”
  • Consider going to a restaurant rather than a banquet or catering hall. Luncheons are typically less expensive than dinners. Many restaurants offer a number of party menus to choose from — that is, lower-priced menus featuring less-expensive foods such as chicken and pasta, or higher-priced menus featuring entrées such as steak and shrimp. Those plans including unlimited wine and beer are also considerably more expensive.
  • If you do choose to go “whole hog” and hold your party at a banquet hall, there are some ways to hold down costs. Parties held on any day but Saturday are generally less expensive. Consider having a “wintertime” party in January when rates may also be cheaper. Do your best to get an accurate headcount rather than paying unnecessary additional monies for “no-shows.” Foodwise, buffets are usually cheaper than sit-down dinners, or you might want to consider skipping the dinner altogether and just stick to hors d’oeuvres and drinks. Speaking of drinks, think about having a cash bar or giving out a designated number of drink tickets to each guest. Once employees use up their tickets, they’ll need to pay for additional drinks themselves.
  • Consider doing something “off the beaten track” like PartyPlansPlus.com’s suggestion to “pile the gang onto a chartered bus, serve snacks-on-the-go, and tour your city’s holiday light displays.”

Whichever way you choose to go — off company premises or on — keep in mind that if you do serve alcoholic beverages, this could lead to some unpleasant, unsafe, or litigious consequences: embarrassing or inappropriate behavior, unsafe driving, accidents, or claims of sexual harassment. Avoid liability and keep workers safe by keeping a watchful eye for any over-indulgers and having designated drivers on hand if needed. Be sure to serve non-alcoholic drinks, as well.

RELATED: Holiday Cheer or Holiday Nightmare?

The holidays should be a festive and fun time, a time of goodwill and as much generosity as one can muster. With this in mind, reward your employees with a joyful holiday party as a tangible way to express your appreciation for their yearlong efforts. And leave that bah-humbugging to someone else.

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