Keep the workplace party frugal and fun

How can you enjoy the work party and not come off being the company Scrooge?

Anyone who has a limited budget knows how difficult work parties can be on the wallet. Work parties can include many expenditures; a dish to pass, a gift, a collection for the boss, and maybe a charity. Now, these things each by itself is not going to destroy your budget, but when they start piling on, it could get pretty discouraging. And what if you have more than one party to attend? You want to be up and positive, but you also want to pay the bills and feed the family. How can you enjoy the work party and not come off being the company Scrooge? Here are a few tips.

Sign-up fast

This is definitely a time when you want to be first in line. Signing up fast for the potluck meal is an advantage when you're on a budget. Why? Because you can choose your food item to bring from a wider range of goodies. You can shop early for the ingredients and maybe snag a few sale prices. If you wait until the last minute to sign up, you are bound to find yourself in the deli the day of the party paying premium prices for a prepared dish that you could have easily made at home for half the price.

If that happens, your dish not only cost way more than you budgeted, but the presentation looks cheap. It looks like you don't care enough about your fellow workers to give your dish any thought at all. There sits your plastic deli containers right next to those beautifully decorated homemade sugar cookies. And, the fact is, those sugar cookies cost a fraction of what you brought, but look and taste so much better. So, get your name on that sign-up sheet the moment it comes out to save yourself the embarrassment and the expense.

Stick with traditional food

Holiday potluck parties at work are not the time to try out a new recipe. Nor is it time to bring your most complicated dish. Stick with traditions that are tried-and-true. If your coworkers see a 'mystery dish' on the table, something they're not familiar with, they will pass it by. No one's going to embarrass themselves or others by asking; “What's that?” If you're serving something with a bunch of complicated sauces, it just gets clumsy figuring out what to put with what. Keep your dish simple, easy to serve, and delicious and everyone will appreciate the effort you made.

Keep the gift exchange simple

As far as a gift exchange goes, keep it simple and inexpensive. Having complicated gift exchanges where everything is topsy turvy and no one understands the rules is a recipe for disappointment. Do simple 'take away' games for small gifts that are suitable for everyone. Put small wrapped gifts together and draw names for each gift. Don't make the exchange too unusual. Play games that are familiar to everyone so the party keeps moving smoothly and no one feels left out. Plan your gift exchange early so you can agree on a dollar limit and everyone will have time to shop. And remember, it's about the fun, not the gift. So, keep the dollar limit very low so everyone can enjoy the festivities without worrying about the expense.

Out on the town

Some work parties are planned out of the office. These parties can be more entertaining than a simple potluck office party, but they can also be very expensive. If you are on a limited budget, you may find it difficult to justify splurging on such a party. This is where being a part of the planning committee will come in handy.

You will need a strong voice in your workplace, an advocate for you and your fellow coworkers who want to keep the expense down. If the decision is made to have the party at a restaurant, then be sure to do your research. These establishments are going to want your party, so they will be willing to deal with you. Review menu and drink choices, then begin the negotiating. When it comes to a party outside the office, it's all about getting the right prices. Stay away from ordering off the menu and having an open bar. Choose two or three dinner options, negotiate a price with the restaurant, then have a cash bar. Each person can then enjoy the party within their own budget.

The workplace is no place to throw caution to the wind when it comes to your holiday budget. You need to watch your wallet just like you do while planning your family holiday celebrations. When the holidays roll around, jump right in and be a part of the planning so you can ensure your frugal voice is heard.