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In With the New Year Without a Big Bill

New Year’s Eve is coming and you might have dreams of tuxes and gowns and sipping champagne somewhere overlooking the thousands gathered below in Times Square. That kind of soiree costs well into three digits, if not more, which is why those parties are the ones the rest of us mostly see just in the movies. If that’s something you want to do, make it a goal to save for in the future.

Here is the good news, though: You can have a great time greeting the new year without having to pay for it all year long.

If you want to be near the action many major cities host free parties to celebrate with the community. Besides New York’s Times Square party, there’s Grand Park in Los Angeles, the Seattle Center near the Space Needle, the Navy Pier in Chicago and the 16th Street Mall in Denver.  Look online to find out what’s happening in your area. Wear lots of layers! It will be frosty cold in many of these places, even with the fireworks.

If you’re not one for those kinds of crowds, a simple Internet search for New Year’s events might reveal other, less crowded, inexpensive parties you didn’t know about.  If you check sites like Groupon you might even find discounts on dinner out, a nice way to spend part of your evening. Make sure the deal includes New Year’s Eve.

If going out at all doesn’t seem attractive, spending the night in your own home doesn’t have to make you feel like a fuddy-duddy. You can invite friends over to play games, put together puzzles, sing karaoke or just otherwise enjoy the evening together.

You might consider making up games that have events from 2013 as the theme. Turn part of the party into a trivia competition by asking guests to answer questions about events from the year. Have a white elephant gift-giving game with gag gifts for the New Year, or maybe even celebrate post-Christmas re-gifting by having guests bring gifts they received for Christmas that they’ll never use. (Advise your friends to be careful not to hurt someone’s feelings if you do that game.) Perhaps most importantly for budget-minded people who still want to entertain, make the party a potluck affair for food and beverages.

If the evening at home idea sounds great, but the party doesn’t, find a way to make the night special anyway for you and your family. You can take some of the same game ideas and adapt them to the crowd at home. And if you’re home when midnight approaches you can dim the lights, turn on the television and pretend you’re in New York City as the crystal ball descends and marks the New Year.  That New Year’s kiss can mean just as much in the soft glow of the television as it would standing among thousands in New York City. And you won’t have to wait for hours to catch the subway ride home.

Published Dec 27, 2013.