The annual holiday party is a great way to say thank you to your team and to set a positive tone for the coming year. In many respects, it has become a workplace tradition. But after several years of economic turmoil, many small business owners don’t have much left in the budget to host a seasonal soiree.

Don’t fret. You can host a festive event for your staff without breaking the bank. Here are 6 tips to make your small business holiday event fun and affordable:

Start with the right location.

Instead of hosting a party at a restaurant or other off-site venue, many small businesses are holding their events right in the office to minimize costs. A catered lunch or an after-hours party in your office can be significantly less costly. Some companies are opting for potluck, where everybody brings something, and many business owners I’ve spoken with say their employees really enjoy the opportunity to get involved and share their favorite homemade holiday treats.

If you decide to host your holiday party in your office, try to select an area away from the primary work hub, and make it festive. Play a little music and dress it up with a few decorations. Be sure to schedule the event at a time when most employees can participate.

Create a planning committee.

If your staff is large enough, picking a couple people to plan the party is a good way to make a company-sponsored event a success. Giving your team the opportunity to plan the festivities gets them involved and limits complaints.

No plus-ones.

Traditionally, companies have invited their employees and a “plus one.” In today’s economic environment, though, companies are limiting attendance to employees only.

TIP: If you decide not to allow plus-ones, think about making your party a work-day luncheon, rather than something after hours.

Pick a good time.

The time of your holiday event is a big consideration when it comes to holding down costs. A lunch is going to be much less expensive than a dinner event. Also, a weekday function is going to be easier on your budget than hosting your party on a weekend.

Control the bar tab.

An open bar at your company holiday party can run up the tab quickly, so control the bar if you plan to serve alcohol. Hire a professional bartender instead of allowing guests to serve themselves. Consider limiting the number of drinks with drink tickets or making it a cash bar only.

Think outside the box.

Who says you have to have a party? Why not consider volunteering as a group at a local food pantry or some other charitable organization. You could collect toys for a toy drive, coats for a homeless shelter, or raise money for a charity, and deliver the check or gifts together as a group. Additionally, group activities can be a fun way to celebrate together. Purchase a block of tickets for a holiday concert or go ice-skating as a group.

Instead of giving up on this year’s holiday party, be smart and creative. You can have a fun and affordable event your team will appreciate.

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