Dear Darla: Planning a Corporate Event on a Scrooge’s Budget


Dear Darla,

After not having a company holiday party for the last few years, I get to plan one this year.  I’m so excited!  Within seconds my mind began to wonder about all the possibilities. I had visions of a cute little black dress, ridiculously high heeled shoes, new glittery jewelry, and while I was at it, even a new suit for my husband!  Oh….I could envision ice sculptures, a chocolate fountain, great music, festive food, drinks flowing….. and truffles. Teuscher truffles. 

But then, as quickly as the half-eaten carrot cake, leftover from yesterday’s luncheon, disappeared from the break room, my whimsical fantasy bubble burst.  You see, my boss is Mr. Scrooge, with a capital “S”!  He’s given me a budget that is tighter than a stuck pickle jar lid.

Is it even possible to put together a filet mignon [or champagne and caviar] company party on a top ramen budget?  I need your help.



Dear Perplexed,

Fear not! Although Mr. Scrooge, may not see the visions of sugar plums you have dancing in your head ─ you CAN host a memorable holiday party on a miserly budget that will make him proud.  Obviously you are very creative and your energy is infectious, so take heart… and take notes on my Prudent Party Planning Pointers:

  • January Jubilee-Consider scheduling your holiday party AFTER the hectic holidays are over, and the last of the eggnog is gone.  Your employees will be ready to ring in the New Year and January dates are usually lower in cost for both food and beverages.
  • Solo SoireeThere is nothing wrong with having an “employee only” event. For some folks I know the ‘sans-significant-other’ may even be welcomed!  Limiting your guest list will cut your catering cost by almost half.
  • Drop the DJ– load a great, upbeat play list on your iPod to create a festive atmosphere, add a sprinkle of some fun team building activities to break the ice and top it off with lots of laughs.  Your party will be a huge hit!
  • Weekday Wonders– “Party-time” is any time, not just a Friday or Saturday.  Most venues, caterers and other suppliers significantly discount mid-week days.  Be aware that Thursday is the new Friday.  Hopefully, Sunday won’t become the new Monday any time soon.
  • Lunch/BrunchMost venues offer a lower priced Lunch menu. You can still get outstanding variety and dishes, often at a fraction of dinner prices.
  • Liquor Limits– There is no downside to this one.  Offer drink tickets to each guest, followed by a cash bar.  It is amazing how much less folks drink when it’s on their dime!  You will save money, and they’ll drive home sober.
  • Random Acts of Kindness– Holiday parties are a great time to encourage employees to help others! Check out what charities are in your area.  Food drives and toy drives are an easy, low cost way to ‘pay it forward’ and allow your employees a chance to be a real life Santa!

Remember holidays are year-round and every month has one.  Therefore, turn your perplexed fears into a frugal but fantastically themed party.  The office is going to love it, and Mr. Scrooge may suddenly become a Jolly Johnny!