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Challenge: Reducing Holiday Stress

Holiday Party Planning with Less Stress and Less Money

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One of our most treasured holiday season experiences is hosting holiday parties for friends and family – adults and kids alike. The spirit of the holidays is alive and well with sprinkles of multicolored lights around every corner, holiday songs on the radio, and those fabulous commercials we all know and love. (There may be a hint of sarcasm there). But seriously – we have just decorated our tree, put up our lights, and started burning our favorite essential oil scents that are reminiscent of our childhood Christmases.

I LOVE CHRISTMAS! It is absolutely my favorite season – so many reasons to gather together and have some fun. But it isn’t uncommon for people to be stressed to the max because of long shopping lists and thin budgets. We are no exception! It wasn’t until I got smart and stopped stressing about the things that were NOT so important and really seeing the memories were what made the holidays what they are, that I truly was able to let go of the stress and really have some fun.

While we focus very little on gifts for ourselves during the holidays, we do like to do whatever we can to give back to others, enjoy each other’s company, and we may get a few gifts for each other as well. This can all add up quickly – I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that.

And of course, we love to really go all out when we host our holiday parties!


Now, before you sit down and start making your holiday party list – and stressing over cost – think about places where you can get great items for a steal of a price. Sure, you could hit up a big box store – but why? We’ve found over the years that 90% of what we need for our holiday parties can be bought frugally by visiting our local Goodwill store. And we are lucky, I think, because we have 4 different stores within a 20-minute drive. So many options!

We do have other thrift stores and the like all around us – and we visit them frequently – but I have found that I can get the best bargain on the nicest items from one (or more) of the Goodwill stores near us. Sometimes you have to think outside the box – but I really love that, instead of getting the same exact thing 50 thousand others have for their holiday party, I am not only reducing my stress by saving money, I am also going to have some fun unique party supplies!

One big tip! Always make sure you shop the WHOLE store! Even if you think you have something in mind - you never know what hidden gems may lie on an isle where you'd never think to look.

My holiday party staples:

A variety of glasses – for a variety of holiday-style drinks from adults to children – sure, you could use plastic solo cups (and you can find those at Goodwill too), but if you want to reduce your carbon footprint you can get some fun holiday style glasses, or even glasses for year-round use instead.


Serving plates – you’re going to need plates to put all the delicious holiday goodies on! And Goodwill has no shortage of different styles. From fancy silver to festive, grab a couple!


Containers for straws – this can be anything! Use your imagination. Glass canning jars, vases, tall thin glasses. I love to have straws for the picking for those who like to use them. Even better if you can find festive straws (or of course, find your straws while you’re at Goodwill). Check out that adorable Santa planter on the 2nd shelf!


Serving plates and bowls – sure, you have the set of dishes in your cabinet, but if you don’t want to use those or risk having a broken plate or bowl, you can get a “party set” that you bring out for all of your gatherings.


A Punch Bowl – or something similar! It doesn’t have to look like an actual punch bowl. Use your imagination – how cute would a wide-mouth cookie jar be with some homemade Grinch Juice?


Napkin holder – this is another place where you can really think outside the box. Anything that has a place where you can slide those napkins in. The first thing that comes to mind is a CD holder or a wire basket. I saw lots of those on my last trip. (check out those awesome serving pieces mixed there!)


Containers for condiments – Sure, you can just pull out the bottle of ketchup (or whatever you’re using), but wouldn’t it be more fun to have them in all sorts of little containers with matching little spoons? You can really have some fun with this. (see above photo for a couple of awesome examples too)


Table-top wine rack – this is something similar to the dishes. You probably already have a wine rack but its fun to grab one and make it festive for your parties and bring it out for anyone who brings a bottle to place it in.


Baskets, buckets, cloth storage bins – these make a great place to put rolled silverware, party favors, little guest gift bags, or anything of the sort. You can also use these to gather up a handful of fun items to put together a gift basket as a game prize or white elephant type gift.


Tupperware – why? Because if you have ever been to a holiday party or even a family get together where there is a ton of food, there is always someone who wants to take some home! Instead of giving them your Tupperware out of the cabinet and expecting them to return it, have some ready for forever homes.


And of course – don’t forget the Christmas decorations! We have tons of decorations, but I am always on the lookout for fun things to add to my collection.



DIY Gift Station – Wine Glasses, Coffee Cups, Picture frames – these can be a great DIY station if you’re having that kind of holiday party. Throw in some crafting materials and you have some great entertainment.


Photo Booth – You can have so much fun with this! Use big picture frames and DIY them with colored ribbon, tape, ornaments, whatever you can think of! If you can’t find an “open” picture frame, that’s ok. Just cut out the middle. Perfect photo booth opportunities!


White elephant, Dirty Santa – whatever you call the gift exchange, it can be fun to look for special unique treasures while you are thrifting. Either give it as it is or find a great way to DIY it! (or even like a literal white elephant!)


Games, games and more games – both adults and kids love to sit down for a good game at a holiday party. Or, if the adults are busy with one thing, give the kids something fun to do to make them feel like they are having their own little party.


Ugly Sweater Collection – if you have the room, it can be a lot of fun to store ugly sweaters to hand out as your party goers come through the door if they weren’t able to find your own.


One last tip

We love to plan a party around a theme and that theme must have some fun games! Because it is the experience, the memories, that are most important, right? The last few years we have used ideas from Play Party Plan – she has some really fantastic posts with ALL kinds of theme ideas, games, and gift exchanges. For any of these ideas, if you don’t already have the supplies, Goodwill is the PERFECT place to find them on a budget!

We are also big proponents of social responsibility and giving back to the community. It is important year round, but extra important over the holiday season. Goodwill maximizes every donation and every purchase, putting it to work within the community. The stores around here have some very nice career centers and there is another building just up the road from us that focuses solely on education (like HS Diplomas and GED’s). I think it’s a great way for me to give back and help my community while I am also getting a great bargain.

Wherever you chose to shop – I think it’s so important to shop local. When you do, you’re supporting your community. And remember – the less stress you allow yourself to have this season, the more you will enjoy what the season is about!

Do you have a favorite Goodwill or other thrift store that you frequent to save yourself money and stress during the holiday season? Share it with me! I love seeing new ideas.

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