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How to plan a New Year's Eve party on a budget

Cheap tricks that won't cramp your style.

nye-header
Shutterstock
This story is part of Holiday Survival Guide 2019, featuring tips on the best ways to manage the holiday season.

Uber surges, triple-digit cover charges, crappy champagne bars and dance floors packed with guys named Trent. Oh, and "where the &#@! did Liz just go?!" I think that we can all agree that going anywhere in public on New Year's Eve can be the absolute worst.

The natural alternative is to throw a New Year's Eve party so swanky and fun, it'll make this year's infinite disasters seem like they never even happened and provide a sliver of hope for the year ahead, even.

OK, great. Sounds like a plan. Only one problem: You bought exactly zero stock in Popeye's this year and parties -- especially cool ones -- tend to be expensive. Well, I'm here to tell you they don't have to be and together we're going to hack our way to a seriously good New Year's Eve party on a budget.

Here's how.

The food

Chances are you'll want your NYE fête to carry through midnight, so it's also likely starting late, too. Score! You can get away with heavy apps -- which you're going to slay -- in lieu of a full-on meal. But do let guests know so they don't come expecting five courses.

It's New Year's, so you'll want to do something special but that doesn't mean you have to max out your credit card at Whole Foods, either. Aim for something fun, fancy and a little unexpected like this crab guacamole on endive.

crab-endive
Chowhound

Cheap trick: Substitute perfectly suitable canned jumbo lump crab to save on crustaceanal costs.

Also, consider this hearty stuffing-stuffed mushroom recipe for your vegetarian friends. They're filled with actual stuffing, which you can make or buy cheap in a box and doctor up with a few fancy yet affordable additions like sauteed shallots, onions, fresh herbs, toasted nuts or dried fruit.

stuffed-mushroom
Chowhound

Or, go with a retro cheese fondue configuration, if you own a set or snag a cheap one like the one below. It's a uniquely social food and always elicits a hearty giggle or two. Plus, cheese.

Shrimp cocktail is painfully overpriced in restaurants but inexpensive (shhh) and relatively easy to make at home and perfect for New Year's Eve. Get our shrimp cocktail recipe as proof or take things a step further with this prosciutto-wrapped shrimp with smoked paprika. But seriously, make enough or riots will ensue.

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Chowhound

Cheap trick: Use regular old bacon in place of prosciutto for an equally delicious, less pricey version of this crowd-pleaser.

Read more on ChowhoundFor more ideas check out these 12 easy holiday party appetizers 

For something snackable and sweet, whip up a batch of these incredible bourbon pecan pie truffles or serve easy champagne sorbet floats for dessert, which are super fun, delicious and very on-theme.

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Chowhound

Cheap trick: You don't need to use expensive sparkling wine for this punch; the sweet sorbet will make bargain bubbles taste great.

The booze

Give 'em a punch

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Chowhound

A sexy New Year's Eve punch is both economical (as long as you stick to a recipe with a short ingredients list) and fun. Do it right, like with our poinsettia punch recipe and guests will be both drinking it and talking about it all evening. 

Safety tip: Resist the urge to make this stronger than the recipe instructs. 

'Champagne for my real friends…'

champagne
Chowhound

More like champagne from my real friends. There's no way around it, you're going to need champagne and the good stuff ain't cheap, but this is the perfect thing to ask your guests to bring. Attendees should bring at least as much as they anticipate drinking, so for couples and those who really tip 'em back (looking at you, Aunt Janet), don't be afraid to suggest they bring a couple of bottles each.

Read more on Chowhound: Your guide to the best champagne bar ever

Stockpile a few yourself just in case, but do some research. A bottle of Gruet Brut is around $15-$18 per bottle and receives consistently high marks from critics. At a slightly higher price, you can sack a few bottles of Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc ($32) or Nicolas Feuillatte ($30). Pop and pour the good stuff as everyone gathers around for the ball drop and someone hacks their way through Auld Lang Syne.

The music

I'm not here to lecture you on the importance of good music at a party, but believe me when I tell you, nobody wants to hear that Black Eyed Peas song three times, or possibly even once, during the evening.

You have good taste -- you know you do -- so take some time to put together a fun, thoughtful and lively mix long enough to last all night (plus some) with no repeats. To make it interactive, text some attending friends for a few of their favorite song suggestions and incorporate them accordingly. 

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Andrew Kolb/Getty Images

Keep it fun and mix it up and don't just play your own favorite music. We all love Dark Side of the Moon, but that doesn't mean it's the right vibe for a party. Start things off with something smooth, lively and upbeat like Donna Summer, Steely Dan or Janelle Monáe and build towards midnight with more aggressive funk, pop and dance beats. Or just throw on Prince on Pandora or Spotify and call it a year. 

Of course, at the end of the day, music is ultimately a matter of taste so if your crew wants death metal, by god give them death metal. And if you really don't trust your own sonic abilities, find that one friend who's always snatching for the aux and ask them to put something together.

Best Buy

Move this great-sounding speaker around to whatever room the party's in.

Decor and more

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Amazon

Sure, you could just raid Party City for silver and gold balloons, confetti and cardboard kazoos and I suggest you do do that because it's an inexpensive way to infuse a little shimmer -- but be creative. Spring for white or clear helium balloons; with a little coordination, ribbon and balloons of varying sizes you can achieve this trippy champagne bubble effect. Or buy something preassembled like these on Amazon. Here are more New Year's Even party ideas that make excellent use of LED lights.

And why just decorate your place when you can decorate guests, too?

1. Flip through your Rolodex and find that one friend you know loves doing makeup and call them on the sly.

2. Buy something glittery like this.

3. Ask your makeup artist friend to put just a little razzle-dazzle on everyone (yes, everyone) over the course of the evening. It'll be fun, especially after a few glasses of champagne. Those who resist shall be shunned and banned forever.

4. Turn someone's iPad into a photo booth and capture the glamour of your very first and very fabulous New Year's Eve party.

Congratulations. You did it. Happy 2020. Now go to bed, your resolution diet starts in two hours.