How to Plan a Low Cost Holiday Party Your Employees Will Love

You know throwing an office holiday party will be good for morale, but the expense isn’t good for your bottom line. Try these ideas to keep costs low while keeping holiday spirits high.

People want to feel appreciated. Happy employees are better-producing employees and it’s hard to find a better way to say thanks than a party. But parties, especially around the holidays, can be expensive.

You don’t want to look cheap but you want to control costs. We have your answers!

1. Do it During the Day

The holidays might be “the most wonderful time of the year” but they’re also the busiest. Your employees will likely attend multiple parties this season—most during evening hours. Take the stress of finding babysitters off of your employees by having your party during the workday. Not only do you guarantee nearly perfect attendance, but lunch food is also often cheaper than dinner and they’ll appreciate not having to carve out more time in the evening.

2. Or after the holidays

Does a holiday party have to be in December? How about holding the party in January when peoples’ schedules open up, they have more energy, are less stressed, and the venue prices are lower?

3. Ditch the high-priced venue

Some businesses feel that renting space at a museum or expensive hotel makes the event seem more lavish. Maybe it does but there are better ways to spend that money. What if you held the party at your office or a restaurant meeting room and gave the money you saved back to your employees in the form of a gift card?

RELATED: 7 Hints for Organizing Your Office Party

4. Be careful with the catering

There’s no absence of caterers in every city. Some are high-priced, high-demand while others are just starting or struggling to make ends meet. Ask people you know with a lot of local connections for recommendations. There’s probably an under-the-radar caterer that has fantastic food at reasonable prices. If you or a family member is amazing in the kitchen, cook the meal yourself. Or make it a potluck. 

5. Skip the alcohol

You don’t want your holiday fun to turn into a holiday tragedy. If your employees will be driving home from your party, they might not have, or be willing to take a ride from a designated driver. If they should be in an accident after drinking at the party you hosted, you’d feel terrible. Furthermore, you could be sued.  If you absolutely must serve alcohol, limit it to wine and beer and give out tickets the party goers have to use to get a drink to limit drinking, and close the bar down early. 

6. Don’t go overboard with decorations

Once again, think about what your employees would want. Do they want expensive table linens with high-priced chocolates in the center or would they rather have that gift card? And don’t forget that somebody on your staff or somebody you know loves to decorate. Give them a budget and put them to work.

7. Eliminate the gift

Do you know your employees well enough to get them an actual gift? You know how it works—somebody who barely knows you is told to buy you something under $20. They go out, find something generic, and give it to you. You say thanks and throw it in a drawer or regift the item.

How about a gift exchange where the person donates to a charity of your choice in your name? Get creative. Eliminate the token, generic gift and make an impact.

8. Let the employees plan the party

You could have your secretary plan the event or you could appoint a few people, give them a budget, and tell them to ask people what they would like. Nobody will be completely satisfied but if the employees take ownership of the event, they’re more likely to find it meaningful.

RELATED: How to Keep Behavior in Check During the Company Party

What if You Can’t Afford a Party?

It’s not the party your employees are judging. (Well, most of them.) They want to know that you care about them enough to acknowledge their hard work. How about giving everybody a full or half day off (paid, of course) to spend time with their family or finish their shopping? You could even give them a small gift card that fits into your budget.

Or say thanks in their paycheck. A small holiday bonus or the announcement of a small pay raise always puts a smile on people’s faces.

How about a personal note? Everybody likes to be praised so take the time to write a personal (not form letter) note to each employee.

Make it specific. Simply saying, “you’re doing a good job” isn’t going to make an impact but saying, “The way you made (client) feel more confident with his purchase was brilliant” or, “I appreciate your willingness to always try something new like you did (specific story).” If you write personalized notes, truly make them personalized.

RELATED: Socialize Successfully with Your Boss and Employees

Bottom Line

Here’s an ounce of good news. Did you know that your holiday party is 100% deductible—not only for your employees but for spouses as well? Make sure to have a line item in your budget for the party and enter all expenses.

Of course, there are some limits. You can’t invite clients and customers, and if your employees are all family members, you won’t receive a deduction. Your accountant will help you document the expenses properly and gauge your eligibility.

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