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Frugal Family Gatherings


We absolutely love to entertain at our house.  The problem?  Entertaining a large crowd doesn’t exactly fit in with a frugal budget. But getting gazelle intense with paying off your debt doesn’t mean you can’t entertain. So how do we stick to our stringent budget and still get the privilege of entertaining our family and/or friends? 

It just takes a little of that creativity that was so well-known and used by Depression-Era families.  Part of fellowship is working together to find ways to gather that include everyone’s ability to help. We had a goal of still being able to provide a gathering place for our families without foregoing our own goals of debt freedom. Here’s how we’ve learned to “get creative” in the area of hosting gatherings:

Allow Others to Pitch In

In our families, everyone is really good about pitching in.  Here’s how we get creative when people ask “What can we bring?”.  I offer to do the work, and then divvy up most of the food-buying to the families who want to help.  For instance, my mom is pretty financially secure, so I ask her to buy the expensive stuff, like the turkey, ham or whatever, and the lefse, which, though expensive, is a must-have at all Norwegian family gatherings.

She’ll also bring a dessert, as she loves to bake.  I’ll ask one brother to bring a salad and another dessert, and I’ll ask another brother to bring milk and paper plates/napkins, etc.  This leaves us with having to buy a veggie, potatoes (I got our Thanksgiving potatoes at the local Walmart for $1.50 for a 10 lb. bag-seriously!) and usually some type of buns or rolls (which Walmart also had on sale for $1 per dozen!).  We serve an abundant dinner, and all it cost us was  a couple of hours of work, and very little money.

Provide Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Alcohol is expensive and can bring unwanted effects to a gathering if somebody consumes too much. Tell people to bring their own, or simply don’t serve it.  As a Christian home, people know we’re not huge drinkers anyway, so after all these years, they’ll know that if they want much more than pop or the occasional cheap beer, they need to bring it themselves.  And they’re perfectly okay with that.  We usually pick up 4 or 5 2-liter pops when they’re on sale for a buck or so apiece so that soda costs don’t get too out of control.

Provide Cheap Entertainment

If your family insists of having activities, there are always cheap or free ways to go.  Play a good classic movie in one room (like A Christmas Story or It’s a Wonderful Life) that fits in with the theme for the gathering.  Have a game like Charades or Apples to Apples in another room.  Or simply sit and talk.  Our family can blab for hours simply reminiscing or sharing funny stories of years past.

Also, feel free to take advantage of kids or adults who want to share their talents. When we gather with our Christian friends, we’ll often have our friend Dino play his guitar and “wow: us with his casual and talented singing. He loves to use his gift to bless others, and it doesn’t cost us a dime.

Don’t Go Overboard on Decor

Spending hundreds of dollars on decor for gatherings just isn’t necessary to the success of a good party. Get a few prominent and well-placed pieces and you’ll have done your duty. A welcoming gathering place is neat, warm carries the scent of good food.

Remember the Goal

The goal of all true hosts when it comes to holding gatherings is to provide a good time.  Shower your guests with love and care, and you can know you’ve done your best to create a wonderful time.

We served what my uncle’s wife called “The best Thanksgiving dinner I’ve ever had” this past year for 23 people and spent about $35.  Enlist the help of those who ask, and stock up on sales, and you can do the same! It’s not the money spent, but the heart that serves that makes for a joyful gathering.

How do you entertain family and/or friends without breaking the bank? 



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