With the holiday season upon us, many people are hosting and going to parties, basically getting their vibe on. If you like to imbibe during this festive time, it can get expensive; believe me, I know! As always, I'm going to remind you to drink responsibility and to never drink and drive. Besides that, I'm going to show you how to spend the least amount possible, but still party like a rock star (or pretend to), while hosting your holiday party.
If you are hosting a party, your booze budget may be the biggest of your worries. The easiest and most frugal way to get around this is to have a BYOB (bring your own booze) party, but you probably already knew that. If that doesn't interest you, the second way to lower your booze budget is when someone asks you what they can bring to the party, ask for booze or wine. Don't be shy. People are so busy these days, I'm going to bet that they'd much rather pick something up than make something. Don't keep the bottle for yourself; immediately open and serve.
Next, find the cheapest alcohol to serve and be done with it. Having one type of alcohol may not be great for variety, but it cuts down on open and leftover bottles. What is the cheapest? Well, let's figure that out! Since I live in Ontario, I'm going to compare the standardized prices we have here, which I know are higher than some other provinces, but all I can say is, sucks to be us. Also, it is cheaper to buy in bulk when it comes to either beer or liquor, but you still have the chance of having leftovers. For me, this is okay. You should also price match and find the cheapest quality brands. I know Grey Goose is all the rage, but once you add mix, it might as well be Smirnoff.
- Beer - Molson Canadian 24-pack = $48 ($2 a beer)
- Wine - Yellow Tail Shiraz 750mL- $12 a bottle, which holds about five 5oz glasses ($2.40 a glass)
- Vodka - Absolut 750 mL - 18 drinks @ 1.5oz shots = $27 ($1.50 a drink)
- Rye - Crown Royal 750 mL - 18 drinks @ 1.5oz shots - $33 ($1.83 a drink)
- Bailey's Irish Cream - 750 mL - 9 drinks @ 30z shots - $30 ($3.30 a drink)
Like I said, buying in larger bottles or bigger cases will bring these drink prices down, but these are the average sized bottles and average prices. A keg of beer seems like a good idea at the time, but if you are going to have half a keg left in the middle of your living room, your costs just doubled. I didn't add liqueurs to the equation, because you'd need a few different ones to make a good drink, and that would be costly and probably not as popular. As you can see, wine is the most expensive per glass, while alcohol like vodka or rye brings the greatest return, except that we haven't added mix. So your next question might be, which mix is the least costly?
- Water - free!
- Pop - my local No Frills has 2L bottles on for $1 right now = eight 8 oz servings = $0.12 a drink
- Juice - I am not one to buy the cheapest juice, especially for mixing so I'd say $3 a 1L bottle = four 8oz servings = $0.75 a drink
I could not find the price of carbonated water online anywhere, but I am going to assume it is around the cost of juice, depending on what brand you buy. You could also invest in a Soda Stream, which gives you carbonated water and pop at about $0.20 a litre after the initial cost of the machine. If you were going to have a few parties, this would make a good investment. Sodastream has refurbished units for $65, Amazon sells the new starter kits at $109 and Sears for $89.
I would say pop is the most frugal choice for mix, but a few bottles of juice never hurts for those who don't like the pop hangover (hand in the air!). What you really want to do is skip the shots - those are cause for trouble and debt heartache. Since they go down so quick and are pure booze, you aren't maximizing your time between drinks and I think the drunker guests get, the more they drink. They also forget where their drink is and then pour another and another. You want your guests to feel good, but stay relatively sober or lightly buzzed.
You do have another option when it comes to beer or wine, and that is home-brew. Home-brew drastically decreases your costs from buying it at the liquor or beer store. If you don't mind your guests drinking The Carter Family Chardonnay, rock on with that.
You could also have a signature cocktail and serve only that. Make it with a large percentage of mix. Sangria cuts down the cost of wine and margaritas cut down on the cost of tequila shots. Check out the Frugal Hostess for a nice Sangria recipe.
Now that we know what the most frugal options are to buy, there are other ways we can reduce our costs at home parties.
Ice - Don't spend your money buying bags of ice. Make it yourself for free. This might take days of preparation, but if you are the frugal person you want to be, it is worth the work. Use a bowl or tupperware container to empty the frozen ice trays (or your ice maker) and store them in your freezer. Also, make lots of ice and fill the drinks as much as possible with ice so that you use less alcohol and mix. This is a trick bars and restaurants know well.
Accompaniments - Skip the little pink umbrellas, lemon and lime, salts and all that jazz. If you want to keep this party frugal, serve booze and mix and that's it.
Cups - Disposables may be so handy, but they are costly! Before you say running the dishwasher is costly, if you have a high-efficiency dishwasher, your costs are still lowered by washing your dishes, as this article from Green Research tells us. However, what if you don't have enough cups on hand? Do you buy reusable or disposable? The article touches on this, but in trying to live a clutter-free life, if you aren't going to use those cups again, disposable is the answer. If you think you'll find a use for your new cups, buy them. Ikea and the Dollar Store all have cups very cheap.
Alternatives - Of course, you should always have alternatives to drinking booze. Make a fun drink that guests will love and want to drink more than the alcohol. Keep the pop, juice and water easily accessible too.
Once your party is complete, if you still have unopened bottles (of mix or alcohol) return them and get your money back. If for some reason you can't, you can store vodka in the freezer and most booze will stay good for a long time in the cupboard (not opened wine or beer though!).
A final way to reduce the drinking costs of hosting a party is to only invite those whom you really want there, and skip the notorious big drinkers. If Uncle Phil can down a mickey in one go, you might not want to tell him your plans.
Bargainmoosers, what are your tips for serving alcohol at a party and saving your cash?
(banner image credit: NinaZed)