How to Host a New Year’s Party at Home – Fun & Frugal!

Hosting a New Years Party that is Fun and Frugal

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Are you posting a New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day party at home and don’t have a huge budget? We’ll share with you what we make to eat, the games we play, and the fun we have.

We’ve hosted a New Year’s Eve Party full of Family Fun each year for the past 20 years of so. Recently we switched to hosting a New Year’s Day Open House. 

This party tradition started years ago and doesn’t look like it’s ending anytime soon. Even though our kids are grown, they love inviting their friends and helping put on a great event.

When the kids were younger we would invite several families who had kids the same ages as our kids. Now, we just invite anyone who wants to come. And we have every age group represented from preschoolers and young families to young adults, middle-aged adults, and seniors!

We put the time of each activity on the invitation so people can coordinate their arrival or departure. This way folks will be there to participate in the activities they enjoy the most. We don’t usually get to bed dog-tired, but it’s worth every minute of work and planning. Here are the components and details of how we do it.

Food for the Party

The eating usually starts at 6 pm (for New Year’s Eve) or noon for New Year’s Day but continues throughout the entire party. Everyone brings a dish to share and there’s always enough food. We usually provide at least 2 or 3 hot or cold appetizers, a veggie platter, a fruit platter, one dessert, and hot cider.

On the invitation, we ask people to RSVP and to let us know what they will bring. Annette asks the single guys to bring easy things like drinks, chips, or ice. And she asks the more accomplished cooks to bring one of their specialties. We serve hot dishes from the island counter in our kitchen and usually have several chafing dishes or warming trays available.

Paper Goods

We are always on the lookout for festive paper plates and napkins that are on closeout. We’ve even used other holiday paper goods, as we are celebrating the entire last year, so why not use paper goods from every season?

If we have no festive paper goods then we use plain white. We have several serving tables, one for hot appetizers, one for cold appetizers, and one for desserts.

Games & Activities

Bingo starts at 6:30 pm or as soon as there are enough people to fill the board with answers. Because we invite people from so many different walks of life, many of our guests don’t know each other.

Name Tags

We always have name tags because we’re mixing friends of our kids, our friends and family relatives. It just makes it easier for people to make conversation.

Ice Breaker Bingo Game

A few years ago we started the evening off with a get-to-know-you game called icebreaker bingo (download it at the bottom of this page).

White Elephant Gift Exchange

Robot parrot and corn plate white elephant gifts.
White Elephant Gift Exchange with a light-up robot parrot and a set of ceramic corn dinnerware.

About an hour and a half after we start the open house (approximately 7:30 pm) we have our annual White Elephant gift exchange. It’s funny to see the stuff that one person deems unnecessary to become a hotly desired item by others.

We pick numbers from a basket, and the holder of the lowest number picks the first present and opens it. The next person can take the unwrapped present from the first person or pick a new one from the pile.

The rounds continue with the only rule being that a present can change hands, at most, three times before it becomes the permanent possession of the holder. 

There’s usually a lot of negotiating, begging, pleading and a little bit of collusion between spouses and other family members to game the system and get the present of choice.

We have had anywhere from 20 to 35 people participate in this game. And it can take 1-2 hours to complete this game.


People playing charades on New Years Eve

We play Charades, after a 30-minute food-and-drink break, around 10 pm. It works best as guys versus gals competition, and boy can it be fierce.

Categories include Movies, Books, Songs, and people.

We added an Animals category when all our kids were under the age of 8, so they could play the game and be successful actors and guessers. The younger kids participated by acting out each chosen animal, and they loved it.

Usually, the women win, but one year the guys outlawed “womanly intuition transmissions,” and for the first time in recorded history, the guys prevailed.

It was a dirty trick, but you’re talking about the male ego here.

When the teams are planning their titles, we require that at least 2 people, not from the same family know the title. We also limit any title to no more than 9 words.

For a couple of years, because the competition and titles selected became so competitive, we resorted to using words from the game Taboo. This limited the clues to one or two words and made the game go faster.

In recent years we’ve returned to allowing the teams to come up with their titles. We do put a 3-minute limit on each Charade clue giver.

Confetti Everywhere!    

Throwing confetting on New Years Eve.

We cap off the evening at midnight with confetti (it’s just scrap paper that our kids cut up many, many years ago).

We count down as we watch the descending ball in Times Square, and then the confetti flies . . . everywhere.

Afterward, we’re all down on our knees to scoop up the confetti, and in just a few minutes it’s back in a container, saved for next year. Inevitably, months later, we find a piece of confetti “hiding” in a plant or under a couch cushion.

Ground fireworks shooting white sparks into the air.

Some of our young adult friends love to set off ground fireworks (they’re legal now in Arizona) so a bunch of them head out into our cul-de-sac and “celebrate.”

Traditions add so much stability and predictability to family life and to relationships – that’s one of the reasons that we love hosting such a colossal New Year’s Eve Party event.]

New Year's Eve Party - Family Fun for Everyone!

When we did New Year’s Eve parties, we would we sleep in on New Years Day – sometimes we had guests (young adults) who have slept over. We got them all involved in cooking up a huge batch of Steve’s super delicious, from-scratch pancakes, ham, potato latkes and a big fruit salad. It’s a delicious way to bring in the new year!

Celebrating the start of a new year with family and friends can be a lot of fun without spending a lot of money—and that makes it even more of a celebration!

For more New Year’s Eve ideas, visit our Pinterest board of the same name!

Happy New Year to one and all!

 Here’s our New Year’s Eve Bingo Game icebreaker.

New Years Eve Family Bingo Sheet.

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