Celebrating New Year’s on a Budget

By Melissa Brock
December 28, 2020
Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC

Think back over the past year. How have your habits changed?

You’ve probably noticed that you’ve adopted new shopping habits this year, like the majority of Americans. Studies have shown that we’re spending more time and money online — a trend that could become permanent. Long-standing holiday shopping traditions (like going to the mall) seem all but obsolete. 

Fast-forward to this New Year’s — will your celebrations be the same as last year? 

Probably not, due to a variety of reasons. You may need to pound out a budget, pronto. Here are some celebration ideas and easy ways to put yourself on a budget. 

  1. Why You May Want to Consider Celebrating on a Budget
  2. 5 Ideas to Celebrate New Year's on a Budget
  3. How to Budget Your Celebration
  4. Choose Your Celebration and Save Money

Why You May Want to Consider Celebrating on a Budget

It’s easy to hone on the big reasons to celebrate on a budget but they may not have dawned on you just yet. Here are some reasons you may seriously want to consider adopting a budget-conscious attitude.

Reason 1: You lost your job during the COVID-19 downturn

You’re not alone. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found 13.6 million unemployed workers in August, from the Current Population Survey. During the week of August 15, the Department of Labor (DOL) reported 29.2 million people who claimed unemployment insurance (UI) benefits.

Whether you’re scrambling to find a new job and supporting yourself on your emergency savings or are on the cusp of finding a new employer, it’s a good enough reason to celebrate on a budget.

Reason 2: You lost income this year

Maybe you didn’t completely lose your job, but you lost income. Gig workers, such as freelancers, consultants or other contractors, have faced a lot of financial woes this year. Just for that reason alone, you may want to consider celebrating New Year’s on a budget. 

Reason 3: You know others are struggling

Your friends may not be able to pitch in to fund a $400 hotel room like they did last year. Take their needs into consideration before you blast out a group text that says, “Wanna party like it’s 2021?!” 

You may also run into some individuals who aren’t sure they want to expose themselves to large crowds, so take these requests seriously as well.

5 Ideas to Celebrate New Year's on a Budget

The most obvious way to tackle lower-cost activities is to stay at home. Here are some ways to work New Year’s into your newfound budget at your comfortable abode.

#1: Make it an active New Year’s! 

We know, we know. As if staying at home isn’t what you’ve been doing this whole year already. But staying in doesn’t mean that you can’t invite a tiny gathering to your home — like your next-door neighbors (who also want to keep New Year’s a much more intimate affair than in years past). 

Staying in can invite some major creativity. Set up a go-kart track in the basement with pedal tractors, bikes, tricycles, etc. and have a “going to the races” theme for the kids. Or put together a fun factory, complete with an indoor trampoline (you drag your neighbor’s trampoline over from next door), a rock-climbing wall (get creative with plywood and chunks of wood!) and other fun traditionally outdoor activities. 

Who says New Year’s can’t be a cardiovascular event?

#2: Host game night

Time for Twister, charades and all the kiddie games. So what if you already host game night every Thursday? Glam it up with fancy (or fancier-than-usual!) drinks with fun party favors like mini champagne confetti poppers or hats (the crazier, the better!)

It’s not a New Year’s game night without ridiculous trophies for the winners (think Troll dolls nailed to two-by-fours or game pieces glued to upside-down cups). 

If you’ve got particularly talented friends, game night could be a karaoke sing-off finished off by a boisterous rendition of “Auld Lang Syne.” 

Have fun with your most competitive friends!

#3: Roll out the red carpet

Go big and stay home! You can still transform the New Year’s experience by turning your basement into a gigantic screen opening gala.

Set up a sheet in the basement or project onto a giant white wall and get ready for a spectacular show!

Let your friends, kids, friends’ kids or whoever you invite dress up, glam up and pretend they’re the stars. Before the actual movie showing, turn the video camera on your kids and let them show you their best skills — invite jugglers, magicians, pianists and other talented performers on stage! (Don’t forget to hang up a curtain in the corner of your basement and add some spotlights for dramatic effect.)

Then, play the real show! Show a dazzling movie like “The Greatest Showman” or “Finding Nemo” — the colors are beautiful, the effects are dazzling. Consider your audience before you choose your movie.

Better yet, have your audience choose the movie from an array of popular contenders. You can ask for their votes a few days before the big night and unveil the chosen movie with a flourish.

#4: Shake it up with a virtual party

Okay, this might’ve sounded exciting (and new!) just two years ago. However, a virtual party at home might just be necessary for safety (and it’s a great way to baby the budget!)

‘Tis the season to make the best of it and still have fun from home. You can host a virtual party on a platform like Instagram.

Start by sending a virtual invitation via a website like Evite. Then get on a video chat using a platform like Zoom to hang out with your friends. Grab a bottle of your favorite bubbly and toast to health, happiness and surviving this crazy year!

# 5: Do nothing at all!

Make it low-key. Pour a flute of champagne (or put it in a red Solo cup… who cares, after living in sweatpants since March?) and pop a favorite holiday movie into the BluRay player. 

After a hard year, there’s nothing better than snuggling up with a special someone and maybe even adding a fancy dessert. 

How to Budget Your Celebration

Got your ideas/cheap themes in mind? Maybe these ideas didn’t grab you, but it got the imagination train rolling! Now, let’s figure out how to budget for it.

Step 1: Set a limit

You can’t have a budget without setting a limit. 

How much do you want to spend? Whether your max is $20 or $200, pound out how much you think you can spend — then stay under that limit. 

Easy enough, right?

Step 2: Go nuts with dollar store decor

Why not? The dollar store offers lots of balloons, paper plates, paper cups, napkins and more — in any color you want. Choose the color of the night and go crazy. Choosing one bright color and sticking with it is sure to make a splash. Don’t forget to buy cheap snack food from the dollar store as well! 

Watch your shopping cart, though. Those $1 bills add up!

Step 3: Eight letters: BYOB and BYOD

What’s one of the most important (and expensive) parts of New Year’s?

Of course it’s appetizers, drinks and dessert!

Stay under budget by inviting your small guest list attendees to BYOB or BYOD (bring your own dessert). If you are having a small gathering, ask your guests to bring their own beverages. During this COVID-19 season, there’s no reason why you can’t ask your guests to chip in. While you’re at it, tap into the potential for a feasting bonanza and ask them to bring appetizers too. And sides! Heck, have ‘em bring their own main courses. 

The point is, there’s no reason you need to provide it all. Food and drinks get expensive quickly.

Step 4: Ask guests to pitch in on costs

Okay, this sounds awkward, right? You probably don’t feel great about whipping out a white envelope as soon as people walk through the door of your house. However, it’s a good idea to make it clear that you want to celebrate — with a caveat. You may even want to ask for money ahead of time. So, think about the things you might need to buy: 

  • Invitations (though you can skip this if you’re just inviting the neighbors)
  • Food
  • Entertainment
  • Plates, napkins, other dinnerware
  • Other costs related to food prep, house cleaning, etc.

… and be transparent about how much it costs. Given the way this year has gone, your friends and neighbors will most likely be interested in pitching in.

Choose Your Celebration and Save Money

There’s no reason you can’t pare down your New Year’s and still have a celebration. In fact, challenge yourself to do it on the cheap. This is the year to celebrate what really matters — friends, family and health. Glitz and glamor can stay on the backburner.


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