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How To Cut Costs On Get Togethers

Updated on September 3, 2012


I happen to be a champion entertainer.  I love nothing more than having people fill my house.  I love cooking for them and I love hearing the constant banter and the happy laughter. 

But let's face it - when times are tough like they are now, you look for money saving ideas across the board.  It's not enough to try and save with everyday also start to think about how much you can afford when it comes to entertaining.

However, there are many ways to get around the high cost of entertaining. Or at least make it affordable. 

Let's examine the options that are available for people like me who love to entertain but who can't afford the high cost of everything. 



Whether it's family or friends, getting together at home or out and can end up costing you a bloody fortune if you're not careful. 

The most important thing to do when you consider get togethers is to have an idea of how much different options will cost and then plan accordingly. 

Having a budget is always the best policy and if you know that you can afford this amount of dollars and then you only spend that amount of dollars, you'll enjoy your time even more.

But what to do for get togethers?  Do you want to have it at someone's house or do you want to take it "on the road?" 

Decide that and your budget and then consider some of these ideas!



  • Have a potluck dinner.  If you want to have folks over, there's no law that says you have to provide every bit of the meal....and don't be upset if you have to say that.  Times are tough and most people actually would rather be a part of the dinner and not feel that you are putting on the dog for them.  If you're the host, then set the menu and make suggestions as to what dishes you think would go well with the main course...or ask for suggestions from everyone based on a certain main theme or dish.  Sign everyone up for something....and remember....don’t feel badly about it.  
  • Meet at a restaurant during happy hour.  This is a great way to go out and actually be able to afford it!  Make sure you get separate bills.  That way everyone is in charge of their own menu, paying for it and most importantly their own alcohol bill.  Splitting the bill or chipping in can work in some situations but I've found personally we were always one of the couples who ended up paying more than others did because someone shorted the pot.  The first words out of our mouths before we order are "we'd like a separate check, please".  In my humble opinion, it's the only way to fly.
  • Work get togethers for the holidays.  If it's an office exchange of gifts or a group of friends meeting up just because for the holidays or otherwise, choose a time of day when prices are lower such as at lunch, early dinner or again, happy hour.  I always advise getting separate bills unless you're specifically treating someone to a meal.  That way, you only pay for what you eat or drink.  Many restaurants also offer early hour dinners that are about half what the usual price is.  Look for restaurants who do this on a regular basis but especially during holiday work get togethers, it can save everyone a lot of money.  Happy hour menus can also be incredibly a pizza big enough for 2 people for $5.  They say it's all about the timing.  Truer words were never spoken.  By planning to go at a "not so popular" time of day, you can save big bucks and still enjoy going out.
  • BYOB or PFYOB.  Whether you're entertaining at home or you're going out, keeping it BYOB (bring your own booze) or PFYOB (pay for your own booze), it's the best policy.  People should always be in charge of their own alcohol intake but they should also be in charge of its cost, not you.  Drink costs can end up being double to triple the cost of the food bill which is outrageous.  Multiply that times a few people or more and you could have a huge bill on your hand.  You also should not feel that people need to come to your home or party to drink or worse yet, get drunk.  Only providing alcohol for yourself cuts your bill substantially no matter if you're staying in or going out.



One of my favorite kinds of entertaining is to have a progressive dinner.  This is one of the coolest things ever and about the most wonderful way to spend a holiday with friends or family. 

Decide first what kind of menu you want to concentrate on but it should be something everyone can enjoy.  For instance, American or Italian.  If everyone does know how to cook something as specialized as German, then that's fun, too but it should be something everyone can feel comfortable participating in when it comes to recipes.

Decide or even draw names to determine who is going to make which course of the dinner.  Someone can do appetizers and drinks (although again have everyone BYOB to all stages of the dinner), someone can do salads or soups (or someone can do salads and someone else can do soups), someone will do the entree, and someone will do dessert.  

Depending on how many couples you have, you can have a 4-course or 5-course dinner.  If you have more than 4 or 5 couples or people in the group, then just pick people to be the hosts and the next time rotate it to different people. 

A progressive dinner is fantastic for many reasons.

  • You get to see each other's homes and at the holidays, it's especially fun
  • Factor in a gift exchange of some sort if you'd like and that adds to the fun
  • Spreading out the courses of the meals by driving (or walking) to someone else's house is really a great way to eat and is very leisurely
  • Start early and finish late - take your time over each course and savor the experience of not only the food but of each other's homes
  • This is a great way to develop a menu and come up with all kinds of great recipe ideas 
  • Make up a cookbook for each progressive dinner and print it off for all the participants if you'd like.  
  • Include digital photos and memorable gifts that were exchanged
  • This can be a fantastic way to dine for families, friends, groups such as Bunco or community meetings
  • It's a great way to celebrate any occasion including holidays or birthdays - any special occasion will do
  • As long as no one household bears the brunt of the expense, it is a great way to save money and entertain
  • Think about this way of entertaining at times of the year other than holidays
  • How about a progressive BBQ dinner?  Everyone has to do something on the grill! Think of all the great food not to mention the great recipes



Of course, there are many other ways to save money on entertaining. 

Having a buffet at holidays or special occasions is another great way to cut the cost of entertaining though any time you end up paying for everything, you definitely will not save as much money. 

I personally have found that having people bring part of the meal actually makes them feel more a part of whatever get together it is.  They enjoy sharing their recipes as much as I enjoy sharing mine and it is a great way to encourage people to cook more or even to feel more confident about their cooking skills.

The more you share the costs of entertaining with others, the more you can afford to entertain!

If you have more helpful ideas, please share them below for all of us to read. 


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    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

      What a great idea!!

    • Les Trois Chenes profile image

      Les Trois Chenes 6 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      I recently revived 'afternoon tea' - tea, coffee, a couple of cakes and lots of my women friends for the afternoon. What about soup n sandwiches/bread and cheese? That is a favourite of ours here in France, not too much work and the soup can be very economical.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

      It surely does ASB and there are sometimes when it is affordable but then other times, it's nice to have options! Thank you so much for the read.

    • AllSuretyBonds profile image

      AllSuretyBonds 6 years ago

      Nice Hub. These are some great tips and tricks on how to cut down the costs of entertainment. Going out is a lot of fun and easy to do but adds up so fast and is not good for the checkbook!

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

      Thanks for stopping by Hanna and I agree...hope you're feeling better!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      Entertainingother certainy can run into bankruptcy. Very good tips.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

      Thanks, Pamela - I love progressive dinners and always look forward to participating!~

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

      This is a great list of ways to cut expenses and still enjoy having fun with your friends. I used to like progressive dinners and haven't been to one in years but is something to consider. Thanks for all the great tips.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

      I agree, Katie - thanks so much for the read!

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

      Thank you for how to cut cost on entertaining and shaving the cost of get togethers. We all need the down time and relaxation with good friends. With the rising cost of gas we need all the tips we can get on cutting cost and managing to go out and get together with friends. :) Katie

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

      Nicole - Totally applaud your way of thinking. It eliminates any chance for feeling resentful if you just take the prevention of not letting it happen! Thanks so much for the read!

    • Nicole Winter profile image

      Nicole A. Winter 6 years ago from Chicago, IL

      akirchner: Love this hub! Fantastic advice for those of us who want to entertain without breaking the bank. I especially like the tips for going out with friends, I too have been burnt before by paying for others drinks/food, though I've been treated by friends many times, too, so it all comes out in the wash. Rather than feeling resentful, I think it's best to just order separate checks! Thanks for publishing this.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

      cheapsk8chick - Good tip! I wouldn't have any problem eating all the bread myself!!

      BJ - ah yes, the cheapskate at the table! We've been there and done that too many times that now it's just an automatic reflex. We once were out with about 6 or 8 couples in Chicago - we were very young and very poor. We got totally stiffed on the bill and had to pay more money than I'd like to admit thanks to the 'alcohol' factor. I guess we never forgot that and made it our policy to never go there again!

      I'm not sure why people do it - I guess it's that whole frugal versus being cheap comparison!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 6 years ago from south Florida

      These are marvelous strategies, Audrey, for cutting down on the costs of entertaining your friends. You mentioned the tip of asking for a separate check when dining out with a group. Isn't it funny how whenever you are with 4 or more couples, there is always someone who, as you put it, "shorts the pot." Usually the same person.

      I'm not sure if that's a defect in that individual's personality or just a desire to come out ahead at someone else's expense.

    • cheapsk8chick profile image

      cheapsk8chick 6 years ago

      I love having people over and entertaining. I have several go-to dishes that cost very little to make but make a huge impression (like shrimp & grits).

      My favorite money-saver for get-togethers is to fill everyone up on bread before serving the meal - bread costs next to nothing to make and is delicious right out of the oven!

      Great hub! Voted & rated

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

      Steph - Great ideas as well - thanks for stopping by and I totally agree...when you cut out the booze factor, you save money all the way around!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      I love progressive dinners! Another tip that we use often is to meet for lunch instead of dinner. If you're at a restaurant, lunch menus are cheaper than dinner. Most people don't drink alcohol over lunch, and plus, it frees up your evening (a plus in my book.. ;-)

      The same principles can be applied when you host a get-together. Have an afternoon potluck and you won't need to buy as much booze. People won't stay as long, but you still have your gathering.

      Rated up and useful - great ideas

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

      imatell - I totally applaud your money-saving tips - great ideas on how to save money!

      Nan - I totally agree with you - it is about the experience and that's where I'm headed!

    • Nan Mynatt profile image

      Nan Mynatt 6 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks for the great ideas for entertaining. It is the getting together that really counts and the sharing in these tight economic times.

    • imatellmuva profile image

      imatellmuva 6 years ago from Somewhere in Baltimore

      Like you, I love to entertain, but my budget is stricter than before. I prefer to make the meal myself, not everyone is a solid cook as I, and people tend to show up at their convenience. My menu is, therefore not dependent on people bringing a dish. I recently had a get-together, and opted to make spaghetti, because the ingedients are not only cheaper, but few ingredients are required. I also had a garden salad, which consisted of mixed greens, w/ red and yellow peppers, feta cheese, and tossed w/ a vidalia onion dressing. This eliminated having to purchase all of the ingredients for a traditional salad. The Feta cheese is sold at the dollar store (Atheno's brand). I opted for an italian bread loaf (2), and cut it in small pieces with my kitchen shears. The total cost of this dinner, that fed 15 people was $40.00, and this included paper plates, forks, napkins, ice, and beverages. I opted for canned tea, soda, and bottled water, so I wouldn't have to buy cups...AND I used my kitchen sink as the bevergae tub...yup! There are many ways to entertain, on a small budget, you just have to figure out what works best for you. This is an awesome hub!