The holiday season is upon us, which means it’s time for last minute work party planning. While your end-of-year budget may be almost non-existent, there are many ways to execute a memorable (and fun) event without breaking the bank.
Here are a few party ideas for under $200:
Get creative with decorations
“Go out and buy a few poinsettias at a discount store, then put them in the middle of the main table, for a perfect, punchy centerpiece,” advised Greg Jenkins, partner at Bravo Productions, a business event company based in Long Beach, Calif. “If you just spend $20 on decorations, you will have $160 to buy food.”
Keep it short
“Short is sweet, in my opinion,” Jenkins said. “Remember, the longer a party goes on, the longer you will be required to replenish the food and beverage. If you keep it within a two-hour time frame, you will probably have enough provisions to last throughout the party.”
Throw a chili cook-off
“Chili cook-offs are a lot of fun and they hide the fact that you are trying to do the event on the cheap,” said Jenny Tallis, owner of Jenny Tallis Marketing, a SMB marketing consultancy based in Portland, OR. “Break up your staff into teams and ask them to make the best chili they can, then bring it to the party. At the party, each attendee will have the opportunity to taste a bowl of chili and then vote on the best one.
“Give the winning team $100 and spend the remaining $100 on chips, sour cream and cheap beer. It is a great team building exercise and will help to give employees a sense of community.”
Assign a DJ
“Ask an employee to bring in their iPod or computer, then hook it up to an intercom or audio system,” Jenkins said. “Ask them to come up with some great background music. This is an inexpensive way to draw in employees and get them involved. It turns the party into a participatory experience.”
“Bowling is a cheap way to get a group together,” Tallis said. “If you have 10 or 15 employees, you can go out to the bowling alley and all you will pay for is a few drinks and the price of lanes and shoe rental. The activity will serve as a great team building event and give employees a feeling of friendly competitiveness.”
Call a club
“A lot of private clubs will hold a small business holiday dinner where businesses in the community come together in the same place for a large holiday party,” said Carolann Jacobs, president of Vivid Epiphany, a coaching consultancy for SMBs based in Plano, Texas. “They may charge $10 or $15 per person, but then might provide food and a band or DJ.”
Schedule a cookie exchange
“Ask your employees to narrow down their favorite cookie recipe and then make enough for the whole company,” Jacobs said. “The day of the party, everyone will bring in their cookies and a printed off recipe. Designate one person in the company to collect each recipe and distribute copies to everyone.
“You could also invite families to this event and have a decorating station for children. At the end of the event, everyone will have the opportunity to go home with a cookie or bag of cookies.”
“Instead of a traditional holiday party, find a nearby food pantry and set a day aside to volunteer as a company,” advised Jacobs. “At the end of the day, take the company out for an inexpensive dinner. People are happy when they help others and this activity will serve as a great team building event.”
Select food wisely
“Forget the raw veggies,” said Jenkins. “Think about your last party. How many people ate the head of broccoli and how many people ate the cheese and pigs in a blanket? Think about the amount your guests will consume and make sure not to spend too much on food. Also, make sure to buy the right kinds of food you know will be popular.”
Open your home
“Throw an office party at your home,” Jacobs advised. “Make sure to be smart in your food purchasing, look for discounts and encourage others to bring food -- potluck style. Inviting your company into your home will give the event an intimate feel.”
Katie Morell is a Chicago-based freelance writer specializing in small business concerns.