Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you have plans for a fun and restful weekend. In fact, today I’d like to share some tips on how to host friends or family on a somewhat regular basis without breaking the bank. Few of us make the kind of salary where we should be regularly throwing glamorous parties– and more importantly, we probably don’t need to. If you’re looking for creative ways to be hospitable, read on!

1. Potluck it. But not your usual A-G bring appetizers, H-R bring mains, etc. Instead, pick a particular item to “potluck” and have people bring something that is special to them. Perhaps it’s their hot beverage of choice. Perhaps it’s their favorite chocolate-chip cookie variation. Once we had a group of friends who did a “dip-off”– and we tasted and ranked each dip.

2. Celebrate the season. Instead of catering to a wide range of tastes, make your gathering about the season. For example: in the summer, serve mint lemonade and berry crisp. In the fall, serve mulled apple cider and gingerbread cookies. For winter, try hot chocolate and peppermint sticks. And for spring, strawberry rhubarb sangria and sour-cream chive dip. Shopping seasonally will also lower costs while feeling festive at the same time.

3. Keep it casual. As soon as the people have to dress up, their expectations rise. Why invite the pressure? Instead, create a vibe that is relaxed, friendly and simple. Offer comfort food instead of cocktails. Try a seven-layer bean dip, compost cookie or your favorite childhood candy. Remember that low-key definitely does not mean low-class.

4. Host in between or after meals. If you’re on a tight budget, avoid throwing a brunch or dinner. Instead, you could host afternoon mocktails with a few homemade snacks. Dessert is also a popular option for those who like to bake.

5. Use a little structure. Generally a low-budget gathering means you have to cut the alcohol– or serve only a moderate amount. But this most certainly does not mean that people won’t relax and have fun! All you need is a few planned activities. For a calm group, try a board game night, movie, or TV show marathon. For a more energetic get-together, you can do fun competitions such as these ridiculous adult group games or a simple charades night.

Take a cue from Modern Family (and you’ll probably do much better than they did…):

I know this might sound lame compared to fancy drinks and a DJ. But in my experience, people tend to have more real fun and fond memories playing silly games than networking and drinking in a dark room. They have work parties for that!

The bottom-line is, hosting can be easy and stress-free when we have our priorities in order. Every once in a while we might invite friends and family to a feast, or rent out a space and cater dinner. But in order to be regularly generous with our space and become a source of relaxed community fun, we need to let down our guard and invite others to do so as well. We hope that rather than leaving impressed, our guests will leave with a smile and some real friends. Hospitality is not about promoting ourselves; it’s about giving generously to our circles, being inclusive, and making the people around us happier. 

Got more ideas for hosting a budget-friendly gathering? I’m not an expert so I would love your ideas! Feel free to comment below. Have a fun weekend everyone!