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11 Fun New Year’s Eve Party Ideas for Food, Games & Decorations

By Clara Edd

happy new yearPicture a great New Year’s Eve party at your home with all your friends: Sparkling decorations and candles all about. Your guests take hilarious photos, dance with loud, crazy noisemakers, and enjoy a selection of appetizers. When the clock strikes 12, you toast with champagne and feast on a midnight supper.

This scenario has to cost a fortune, right? Well, not necessarily. With a few money-saving tricks up your sleeve, you can host a great New Year’s party on a budget that people will be talking about for a long time to come. From food, to refreshments, to games, you can cut costs everywhere without sacrificing any of the fun! And if your New Year’s resolution is to save money, this is a great place to start.

Party Food Ideas

1. Make It a BYOA Affair – Bring Your Own Appetizer

Phone your invitees and inform them that it’s a BYOA event. There are a number of cheap and easy appetizers that your guests can bring, but if someone doesn’t know how to cook or what to bring, suggest raw veggies and hummus, a fruit and nut platter, or a cheese and crackers plate. If someone claims that even those are too difficult, ask them to bring a container or two of mixed nuts – you can provide the bowl!

2. Serve Champagne Sangria for Midnight Toasting

This is an easy and delicious way to cut down on champagne costs that will be appreciated by all! To make champagne sangria, simply use these ingredients and follow the instructions below:

Ingredients:

  • One 32-ounce bottle of apple juice
  • One 12-ounce can of frozen cranberry juice concentrate
  • One cup of orange juice
  • One-and-a-half liters of champagne (or ginger ale for a non-alcoholic version)

Directions:

  1. Keep items chilled (or frozen) until use.
  2. Combine the apple juice, cranberry juice concentrate, and orange juice in a large bowl. Stir well.
  3. Add sliced oranges, kiwi slices, and any other fruit you like.
  4. Slowly add the champagne or ginger ale at the last minute to keep it bubbly.

This recipe serves 12, but you might want to double up for thirsty guests!

sangria pitcher

3. Have a Midnight Supper

After the midnight toast, close the bar and invite everyone to take part in a midnight supper. A baked potato bar is easy, fun, and inexpensive. Bake the biggest potatoes you can find, and follow with dessert!

  • Put potatoes in the oven at 400 degrees at about 10:30pm. They should be done in about an hour.
  • Set out as many toppings as you like: sour cream, bacon bits, chopped scallions, salsa, shredded cheese, jalapenos, chives, steamed broccoli, butter, mushrooms, chili, and anything else you’d like. Let everyone fix their own potato, as loaded as they want.
  • For dessert, serve chocolate cake from a mix with white icing and colored sprinkles. Serve with ice cream and a little hot fudge sauce.
  • Be sure to provide coffee with dessert for the drive home.

This menu will cost about $2 per person, which is very reasonable for a hearty supper. If you want to spend more, make a cheesecake instead for a rich finish to your meal.

stuffed baked potato

4. Remember That Timing Is Everything

Since you want to keep the party hopping until (and perhaps well past) the midnight hour, consider starting around 10pm. But if you prefer to start much earlier, have the potato bar ready at around 10pm so guests don’t go hungry.

If your group wants to spend five to six hours together, plan on having a full-scale potluck early in the evening. You can skip the appetizers in this case, but still prepare your midnight supper.

Fun & Games

5. Ask Guests to Bring an Unusual Noisemaker

Have a “craziest noisemaker” contest and be sure to shoot video! Replay each person with their noisemaker for the crowd and vote on who wins. Provide a prize to the winner, such as earmuffs. Then, get everyone together for the big midnight countdown and create your own symphony of racket, clatter, and boom.

6. “Hire” a Photographer

Ask one guest to serve as the “official” photographer to take before and after photos, or do it yourself. As guests arrive, invite them to pose with one person seated and the other standing next to a chair (like an old-time photo – no smiling allowed). You could provide old-fashioned hats, and maybe a shawl or scarf for props.

Later, take “after midnight” photos of your guests in their holiday party outfits showing off their noisemakers. Post all the photos online to share.

7. Ask Guests to Write Predictions for the New Year

Have your guests sign their predictions and place them into a bowl or a box. Then, during supper, take turns reading the predictions while everyone guesses who wrote them. It can be surprising how difficult it is to guess your friends’ predictions – and it’s a great way to wrap up the night!

new year's eve party

Decorations & Atmosphere

8. Hang Handmade Paper Snowflakes From the Ceiling

White printer paper snowflakes in varying sizes, plain or accented with silver or clear glitter, can be hung from different lengths of thread or ribbon for a festive effect. You can even scatter some over a table for easy decor. If you glitter them, remember that less is more.

9. Hang Lengths of Curled Ribbon for an Iconic New Year’s Eve

Curling ribbon is very easy, but it looks great everywhere. Try to find the wider variety, about a half-inch thick. You can hang it from light fixtures, doorways, lamps, mantels, even on the bathroom mirror. Scatter a few curls between dishes on your midnight buffet as well.

10. Use Metallic and Glittered Christmas Ornaments

Glittery Christmas ornaments look wonderful in a bowl as a centerpiece. You can also hang plain ornament balls from a light fixture over a table using varying lengths of ribbon in your theme colors. They also look nice hung in front of a mirror.

11. Set Out All the Candles You Own

Set out every candle you can find in your house, and consider buying a cheap bag of votives, which can be put into glasses, canning jars, or even apples.

You can also find inexpensive votive holders at the dollar store. You can frost them by simply using glue and epsom salts. Mix regular white school glue with water (three parts glue mixed with one part water) and paint the mixture onto the sides of the votive holder. Then, roll it in a plate full of epsom salts from the grocery store. Once it dries, you’ll have a sparkling frosted votive holder! Place these wherever you want to add a little glamor; they look especially nice place atop a mirror or in front of one.

toasting at midnight

Final Word

Have a blast at your New Year’s party, but remember, no matter what, never allow anyone to drive home impaired! Not only do you want to keep your friends safe, but as a host, you could be legally liable for their drunk driving. These are known as “social host” laws, and many states have them.

To protect everyone, have a sober person drive intoxicated friends home, call a cab, or take their keys and let them sleep at your place. A simple bacon, eggs, and coffee breakfast will be fine for these overnight guests.

What are your plans for New Year’s Eve? Do you have any tips to have a great party on a budget?

Clara Edd
Clara Edd enjoys good food, getting together with family and friends, travel, cooking, camping, hiking, and sailing. Mother of 4, grandmother of 2, she writes for her blog, Square Pennies, where her motto is "Save Money, Cook Great, Have Fun!" You can find recipes and personal finance tips there for enjoying life on any budget.

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  • Christian Losciale

    Clara,
    Thanks for sharing these great ideas. I’d even suggest asking guests who think they’ll stay overnight if they’d be willing to bring a breakfast dish or ingredient.

    And yes, never let anybody drive intoxicated. Real friends don’t let friends drive inebriated.

    -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

  • Elizabeth

    Really, fun ideas but you need to spice it up. I got bored easy while reading it.Mabe don’t do the noise makers. Do fireworks an no candles. Pots and pans are the ultimate thing. Since it’s funny, everyone will remember it. No movies whatsoever. Most movie/parties don’t work out. Just do lots of board games or play 21. If some people don’t want to do that, have a football or some type of other game on. If u want to spice it up more, do a Wii game, like just dance 4. Now, there’s a good party! Hope it’s epic!

  • Elizabeth

    Oh yeah, by the way, I wouldn’t do the whole drunk thing either…
    Not a good idea.

  • Lisa

    Blacklight-NEON theme is a good theme too…

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