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How to Plan New Year’s Eve on a Budget

New Year’s Eve festivities can fit nicely into your spending plan. Here are five ideas for singles and families alike to celebrate New Year’s Eve on a budget and stay fabulously frugal.

First Night 

Many cities around the country host their own New Year’s Eve parties in a municipal venue like a concert hall or park. These can include concerts, fireworks at midnight, science or art exhibits, game rooms, and more. The parties are alcohol-free and planned for kids and grown-ups alike, so the tickets range from free to cheap. Check out First Night in Columbus, OH with its Planetarium show, or New Year’s Eve L.A. with its bike valet, for two great examples. All you have to worry about is getting there!

Themed Potluck

A potluck is my answer to saving money while celebrating any occasion, and New Year’s Eve is the best time to do it. Since you’ll be partying until the wee hours of the morning (not to mention the first moments of 2015) why not make it a breakfast theme? In fact, assigning a theme makes it even easier for people to decide on what dish to bring. Other ideas include soup, fondue, or salads. If you’re the host, simply stock up on inexpensive sparkling wine versus pricey Champagne and let everyone else bring the food. 

Alternative Programming

Instead of throwing a party or buying a ticket to a fancy event, consider something completely different. One of my most memorable New Year’s Eve moments took place at a campsite in Big Sur, which was inexpensive, and nearly deserted in the winter season. No TV’s, no loud parties – just the quiet sounds of a crackling fire and the rustling of wildlife in the woods. Do something you wouldn’t normally do, like ice skating, bowling, or cleaning out the garage together (just me?) and pair that with the historical stroke of midnight into a new year. You’ll never forget it.

Procrastinate

If the early bird gets the reduced admission price, then the later ‘gator gets in free. Many public New Year’s Eve parties charge $80 – $150 for dinner, drinks, and a ticket to get beyond the velvet rope. My cousin in New York City parties with her friends in someone’s apartment all evening, then heads out to the bars at 12:01 AM. They walk right in and are welcomed with open arms. This is a great idea to try if you’re feeling restless and party-hungry at that potluck after the ball drops.

Embrace Your Time Zone

Time is relative, so there are three other opportunities for you to ring in the New Year earlier. Actually four, if you count Hawaii. If you’re west of Eastern Standard Time, you can celebrate along with folks in New York and go to bed early. This accident of location is a gift to families with young children who have exhausted their babysitter budget for the year, like mine. Since 2005 when my first child was an infant, we have stayed in or attended parties thrown by other parents of toddlers, shouted the countdown to 9:00 p.m. Pacific Time (it’s midnight somewhere!), kissed goodbye, and snuggled in bed by 10:30 p.m. You know the babies will be up early the next day to celebrate the New Year, family style.

If you want some more money saving tips, check out this post from last year’s New Year’s Eve!

Kim Tracy Prince is a Los Angeles-based writer who has a husband, two little boys, and an obsession with spreadsheets.