What's cheaper for New Year's than egg nog and black-eyed peas? Not much. Which shows that you can use tradition to advantage. There are endless ways to put out the holiday welcome mat without putting the wallet in hock.
Indeed, the time of day you choose to party can determine what you serve. So play the hours. B advised to pick a less-traveled road than the well-trod Friday and Saturday nights.
Weekend brunches, afternoon open houses, even breakfasts can prove a big draw, and save you money. Eggs are appropriate - and cheap. Throw in a bottle of champagne for elegance.
As the rich well know, style and class can be bought for a pittance. Serve the bubbly in delicate, thin glasses. You shouldn't need much - well-bred guests usually hesitate to dry up a neighbor's liquor stock before noon.
Above all, strive to be original.
Give your affair pizazz by giving it in someone else's honor. People love to welcome strangers; it gives welcomers a warm glow, and the party a purpose. Far classier than saying, "Come on over for the same old stuff."
Consider a "Meet Prince Charles Party." Paste a poster of his highness on te wall and invite the masses via year-old (likely discounted) postcards celebrating the Queen's Silver Jubilee. So what if you're the only one who knows royalty is unlikely to show. A little hype always draws a crowd.
Adopt a theme for your party - a surefire way to set your own spending limits without seeming like a cheapskate.
As an elegant pause, you can always host a 4 p.m. English tea. Serve scones, bread, butter, jam, tiny cucumber sandwiches and assorted teas and ta-ta as the sun sets on the Empire. Add ham and eggs and perhaps a pate, postpone it until 6 and you have what in Scottish tradition is termed "High Tea," which usually suffices as supper. It may be the first - and last - proper tea your friends ever attend.
"English tea is definitely dying out," says Jane Lloyd, social secretary to Mrs. Peter Jay, the British ambassador's wife. "These days, not many people in Britain is too dietconscious. We have three normal meals a day like everyone else."
Or, forget tea, and announce: "Dessert Party." Bake or buy well in advance. Festive cakes and pastries sprinkled with powdered sugar hardly suffer from reheating. And remember, at eating parties, guests drink to slake the thirst. So save the whiskey - and the wallet. Serve thirst-quenchers: coffee, tea or hot chocolate.
Or specialize. A Cookie Party? A Waffle Party? A Pudding Party! Rice pudding, tapioca, bread puddings, Jello, cookies on the side, hold formidable (and affordable) appeal to the kid in everyone. As a child, most everyone pined to ask for that extra bowl of pudding, but never dared. Here's their big chance.
Or get right down to it and send clown invitations for a Be-a-Kid-Again Party, for Grown-Ups. Set out peanut-butter sandwiches and a choo-choo train cake. Roast marshmallows and eat off paper plates.
Better yet, insist that friends bring their own children, who are guaranteed to get restless fast. Not much time for a lot of eating and drinking if the kids are screaming to go home (heh, heh).
Or, once the good old C&O freezes over, tell everyone to meet at the canal for a Hans Brinker Ice-Skating Party. Later, you can retire to a cozy restaurant nearby for a round of hot chocolate.
Bread-tastings are big money-savers - from corbread to bagettes.
But true paragons of cheap are adept at hosting the proverbial After-the-Party-Party, a bit of rehearsed spontaneity whereby one invites the mob to come over - after they've consumed themselves silly at another party. Hand them a cup of soup. No, you shake your head, you wouldn't dare give them a drink for the road - your care . What they won't suspect is that you also care about your pocket.