How to Throw a Fun and Festive Company Holiday Party without Breaking the Bank

Holiday parties can be tricky for small businesses. You want to thank your employees for their hard work, but you don’t want to blow your budget (or look cheap). Fortunately, with a little creativity, you can host an event they’ll remember — without going broke.

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Reconsider the date.

Booking a restaurant or event space between late November and New Year’s Day is expensive, so you might consider planning your event outside this high-priced window. And don’t worry about looking like a penny-pincher — the holidays are the most hectic time for many businesses, so getting together after things have calmed down allows everyone to relax and enjoy themselves.

Skip the rentals.

If you want to avoid renting a space altogether, you can throw a tasteful (or delightfully tacky) party in the office. You can go the low-key, elegant route by decorating with white lights, greenery and festive floral arrangements. Or go in the opposite direction by heading out to the dollar store to buy silly, over-the-top decorations and inviting employees to wear ugly holiday sweaters and accessories. Whatever you choose, make an effort to transform your space so that your gathering feels like a special event. If your budget allows, you might have the event catered and hire a few servers and a bartender.

Plan a volunteer outing.

Does your business already partner with a local charity? If so, get in touch and find out how your employees can spend a few hours helping out. If you don’t already have an existing relationship, reach out to an organization — preferably one with a mission that aligns with yours (like an adult literacy foundation if you own a bookstore, a soup kitchen if you own a restaurant) — and help bring some cheer to others. After you’re done volunteering, treat your staff to lunch or drinks. Helping others not only builds ties with your community, it also helps to put everyone’s seasonal stress into perspective.

Take in the sights.

Every town has its own signature holiday decorations, so invite your staff to go on a walking tour of your community’s best light displays or seasonal homes. Afterwards, warm up at a local cafe or bar with hot beverages (coffee, cocoa, toddies) and snacks.

Party on the early side.

Instead of the typical evening event, how about planning a brunch or lunch outing? Prices for daytime events are significantly more affordable, and you won’t be competing with your employees’ other evening engagements during the holidays. Surprise your staff with awards or a raffle for prizes like gift cards or a paid half or full day off. You could also do a Secret Santa gift exchange capped at $10–20 each.

Host a sweet happy hour.

The holidays are all about baked goods, so invite your employees to bring in a dozen of their favorite homemade (or store-bought — no judgment) desserts for an end-of-day cookie exchange in the office. Provide beverages and appetizers plus bags or tins for people to take home some of the sweet stuff.