How to Celebrate New Year's Eve on a Budget

New Year’s Eve is just under two weeks away and I’m itching to start 2017 off with a bang. It’s the perfect opportunity to celebrate in grand style. A boat cruise around the Bay or a night of dancing at a swanky hotel sound perfect! While those sound great, they’re also pricey options that may not agree with your or my budget. Instead, here are some ideas for a more budget-friendly New Year’s celebration.

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1) Host a party at home

If you don’t have a party to attend, the best way to get people together is to host a party of your own. You can put together a stylish and fun party without much planning or breaking the bank. Dollar stores, discount stores, Target, and your own storage are good places to hit up for party decorations and hats.

A few activities can go a long way to making a party even more memorable. One of my favorite things at parties has been a photo booth. Surprisingly, you can make a DIY photo booth without much trouble. Try starting with a solid color wall or cloth backdrop. Then look for costumes and props from around the house and a small chalkboard or whiteboard for messages. Use floor lamps for more lighting if needed.

Other ideas for activities include hosting a baking session, decorating cookies, making ice cream sundaes, playing board or group games, and stirring up singalongs. Or simply converse and enjoy everyone’s company.


2) Eat at home

While it may be tempting to celebrate the new year by eating out, cooking at home is a great way to end the year on a budget-friendly note. Browse the local supermarket ads to find some quality food such as prime rib or crab. Then make preparing dinner an event by cooking together with your partner or loved ones. Pair dinner with a bottle of wine and finish it off with a favorite dessert to make for a special meal.


3) Skip the feast

As a party host, you can pick a late start time like 9 o’clock. By then, it’s likely that guests will have already eaten dinner and arrive at your party with full stomachs. You’d have no need to serve guests dinner. Opt instead to serve small bites and snacks, drinks (don’t forget champagne!), and dessert.

Conversely, if you’re going to a formal event, look at all the ticket options and their offerings. Some places may offer an all-inclusive ticket that comes with appetizers or a cocktail hour and dinner followed by music and dancing. Another lower priced ticket might include only the late-night dance party. If you’re looking to keep costs down, skip the dinner and just go for the dancing.


4) Host a potluck

Potlucks are an easy way to feed or serve a large group of people. If you’re hosting a dinner or party, invite friends to bring a dish or drink to share. In turn, guests will get to try a variety of food and drink and you can breathe a sigh of relief at not having to feed everyone.


5) Attend a community event

Here in San Francisco, there is a fireworks show at midnight down at the Embarcadero. It’s fun, free, and mesmerizing for the eyes as long as you don’t mind standing out in the cold for it.

Other community events include low-key New Year’s Eve parties hosted by local organizations such as women’s clubs and fraternity groups. While they may not host the biggest or most exciting parties in town, they provide music and a dance floor until midnight.


6) Dine at a less well-known restaurant

If you’re set on dinner out on New Year’s Eve, opt for an earlier time at a less well-known restaurant. You’ll be more likely to get reservations and can still end up with a delicious meal. Many restaurants offer set menus and prices with additional expense for wine pairings. Prices also increase depending on what time you’re seated. The most expensive is the last seating because patrons can stay for a midnight toast.


7) Research your options

If your heart is set on taking a boat cruise or attending a club or hotel party, there’s a wide variety of places and prices here in SF. Do some research to find out your best options. A simple Google search of “New Year’s Eve San Francisco” will turn up loads of websites and events.

Once you find an event with a venue and a DJ that you like, take a look at their pricing options. Many places offer early bird specials that can save you a lot of money. Buying early also helps to avoid paying higher prices at the door or finding the event sold out when you arrive.

Some places also offer pricier VIP packages for tables and drink services, but you might not find that you need them.


8) Find a last-minute travel deal

New Year’s Eve is fantastic this year because it lands on a Saturday night. For most people, that means having Saturday off to celebrate and Sunday off to recover. If you’re lucky, you may have Monday off from work too. That means you can go for a local getaway without having to take time off from work.

Check out last minute deals online or search Airbnb for availability. When I searched for hotels in San Luis Obispo just a few days ago, they still had availability at several hotels.  A closer trip up to Napa or down to Monterrey is within reason for the weekend too.

It’s easy to get carried away celebrating New Year’s Eve, but you can have just as much fun celebrating with the budget in mind. I hope you have a great rest of 2016!


What are your plans for New Year’s Eve? How do you celebrate on a budget?


How to Celebrate New Year's Eve on a Budget