While advice from party gurus is not lacking, UrbanWire offers tips from 2 youths on how to be the host/hostess with the mostest without breaking the bank.

  • Guest list
  • Food
  • Décor
  • Party Favours


Guest list – Less is More

Zackarias Chia, 20, is currently serving in the army for his National Service. He has been hosting small Christmas celebrations for his group of about 10 friends in his family’s executive apartment for 4 years and prefers small, simple get-togethers.

“The idea of a huge party with all your friends may seem really appealing at first, but it can quickly escalate into a living nightmare, especially if alcohol is involved. A small intimate affair with the people closest to you is usually more memorable and everyone has more fun.”

The dropout rate (people who say they’ll come, but don’t) should reduce considerably if they’re close pals, you won’t need a huge room (which is a rarity in land-scarce Singapore) and a party for a smaller group will either cost less or give you better options for the same amount of money.

With your confirmed list of attendees, you’ll better be able to customise the fare to serve, the entertainment and activities to ensure that everyone has a good time.

Justina Tan, 21, is a student in Ngee Ann Polytechnic who has been inviting her friends over to her place for Christmas since she was 16.

“The first time, I went crazy doing everything at the last minute because I didn’t plan ahead. I learnt my lesson and parties in the subsequent years were so much more enjoyable.”

And as nice as it is to receive invitation cards in the mail, the cost of the cards, envelopes and postage all add up. You’ll also need to factor in more time for responses.

Thanks to the popularity of social media, Justina’s favourite way to save time and money for settling the guest list is a no-brainer- creating a Facebook event. “You send out the invites, get RSVP’d to and even have a mini discussion board for party updates for absolutely no cost at all! It’s also nice to have a notification inviting you to a party instead of a Farmville request.”

People are also more likely to say yes if they can see and like who else is coming.




 Photo Credit: Tim Riley

One of Zackarias’ favourite ways to save money is by making the party a potluck.

“My friends and I discuss the food we’re bringing so that there are no overlaps and we have all the courses covered. Everyone usually spends less than $10 on their dish and everyone leaves super stuffed!”

“We always overestimate our appetites at parties,” he quips amusedly. “Prepare only three-quarters of the food you think you’re going t­o need.”

Having been to several Christmas parties, this writer can vouch for the unbelievable amount of leftovers from a party that nobody really wants to da bao (Mandarin for “take home”). Preparing the right amount of food means less wastage, and naturally less money spent.

Besides deciding who’s bringing hors d’oeuvres, mains and desserts, you may want to suggest a theme so the choices complement, rather than clash with, each other. For example, a traditional turkey may not go as well with masala prawn and cheng tng [a Chinese dessert made of several ingredients in a broth of dried longans].

Taking note of food allergies and restrictions is important, too. You don’t want your lactose-intolerant guests to have the runs after gorging on those beautiful, buttery cookies you baked specially or have your vegetarian pals nibbling on a lettuce leaf the whole night.

Zackarias has been skipping the turkey altogether since he tried the store bought ones at different gatherings hosted by some of his friends. You can find cooked turkeys in Cold Storage or Giant that go for at least $40 for a 4kg bird.

Justina agrees, saying, “That’s a pretty hefty price to pay for a bird that’s notoriously dry and forgettable.”

Forget about roasting your own turkey, because the frozen, uncooked birds also costs about $40 each, and you’ll still need to buy stuffing, cranberry sauce etc, all of which aren’t cheap. Even after slaving over your mum’s over for hours, there’s a chance your main dish could turn out disastrous.

Replace the turkey with a delicious leg of ham, served with honey mustard on the side. Not only is the appetising combination of sweet and savoury flavours much more affordable and satisfying, leftovers can be refrigerated and used to make delicious ham and cheese sandwiches.




Photo Credit: Taste Of Home

Good luck to you if you aim to transform your party venue into a winter wonderland, especially if you’re on a budget. If nothing else, thinking of all the cleaning up to do afterwards should be enough to kill that thought.

Zackarias advises focusing instead on key areas of the venue that your guests will notice more.

“Placing something that screams Christmas, like a Christmas tree near the entrance of the party will help set the mood for the guests as they walk in as it’s the first thing they’ll see.”

If you don’t already have a Christmas tree at home, Giant, Cold Storage and selected NTUC Fairprice supermarkets in Singapore carry a good sized 160cm tall plastic tree for less than $20 while ornament sets (100 pieces) can be found for less than $30. Fairy lights are usually sold in boxes of 100 and they cost less than $20 too. Daiso carries a good selection of Christmas décor including mini Christmas trees, all for just $2.

The dinner table will also be a key area where the guests will be returning to often to refill their plates, so do something with it. Elaborate table settings, however, can be tricky if you’re making the party a potluck.

The key is to keep things simple. A festive table runner across the table instead of a whole tablecloth and even some bowls or vases in different sizes that you can fill with anything around the house that reminds you of Christmas. Justina recommends having small paper snowflakes stuck on or hanging off the table.

“They’re so simple and inexpensive, especially if you already have some paper lying around at home”


Party Favours


Photo Credit: Rose Bakes

Justina’s favourite party favour for guests is marshmallows that have been dipped into dark chocolate and then rolled in crushed candy canes or peppermint.  Pierce a colourful straw or a stick (because everything looks cuter on a stick) through one end of the marshmallow, then place the treat in a little plastic bag and secure a pretty ribbon around the straw to finish it off!

The ingredients needed for an entire batch of about 30 sticks are really inexpensive and, as a bonus, you’ll definitely have leftovers to stir into your own hot chocolate. 

Using these tips for your next party will pretty much guarantee a fabulous celebration, without burning some serious holes in your pocket. Now all that’s left to do is put the Christmas carols on…and have fun!


UrbanWire wishes all its readers a Merry Christmas.