5 Ways to Throw an Office Holiday Party on a Budget
(Because FUN doesn’t have to come with a big price tag)
Greg Lewerer|December 4, 2018
Congrats! You are not only the proud owner of a business, you have also managed to keep your company alive to celebrate the holiday season. But... what do you do if your budget isn’t big enough to throw an epic, paid-in-full office party?
Well first, whoever said you need to spend money to have fun is a liar. Plus, your main focus should be to show your employees that you appreciate all their hard work. And that you care about keeping them happy.
There are a number of options that will allow you to reward their effort without leaving you in financial ruins. So without further delay here is a curated list of inexpensive ways to spread the joy and have heaps of fun. Good luck, and may your season be merry and also bright.
#1: Have a Movie Marathon
Locked in at number one, this is hands-down one of the easiest ways to celebrate the season. Plus, you have the added benefit of putting the pressures of entertaining on the shoulders of fictional characters from the holiday movies of their choice. The party practically throws itself.
We understand that somebody needs to shovel the coal to keep the train moving. Meaning employees can be as involved as their workload allows. And to sweeten the deal, especially for those who can’t kick back ,you can give the gift of food and beverage. Here are a few ideas on what to provide.
Venue and show: Have employees submit holiday favorites and hold a vote to find the perfect playlist. Find the best viewing spot in the office, bring the TV and connect a streaming device, DVD player or a VCR.
Food: Pizza is a crowd favorite and fairly inexpensive. You could also ask employees if they want to have a potluck and bring the dish of their choice. If catering or a potluck is a no-go, snacks like popcorn, chips, cookies and cupcakes are easy go-to options.
Beverage: Good ol’ soda pop, sparkling water, juice and eggnog. If you wanna offer adult drinks without open-bar prices, try a punch-bowl approach. Or have others bring in pre-made batches of holiday-themed drinks like jingle juice, Rumchata eggnog or candy cane punch.
#2: Team-Building Group Games
This one is not only fun, it’s also a great way to boost morale and improve communication skills. Plus, it allows workers who don’t usually work together to work together. That’s kinda neat. Pick a date, save the date and choose one or all of the following.
Partner Present-Wrapping Challenge: This game/activity is a fun way to test their minds and their ability to work as a team. It takes two to play and their task is to speed-wrap a present. But here’s the catch. No one can talk, AND they can only use one hand each. The team who wraps it up the fastest gets a nice little prize.
Escape Room: Turn one office or the break room into the room to escape. Participating employees will be “locked in” and must work together to find clues and solve puzzles to complete the mission. And find the key to escape. For more info and ideas go here.
Jeopardy: This is a great way to test everyone's knowledge of random and somewhat useless trivia. Create a list of fun categories and questions much like the ones on the TV show. You can even include a workplace-related category with questions about the company or the employees. For more info and ideas go here, here or here.
#3: Have a Week of Holiday Challenges
If you don’t have the time to plan or throw an all-at-once party, there’s nothing wrong with breaking it up. It actually might be a nice way to keep the holiday spirit going strong. And it’s pretty simple: Pick an activity or challenge to complete every day for small prizes or sweet treats. Here are a few ideas:
Have an ugly sweater contest: It’s an easy lift on your part, since the effort will lie in the hands of your employees. But all they need to do is put on or make the most unattractive or visually interesting ugly sweater. Your only task will be to come up with a prize.
Decorating competition: Start by going to the dollar store and picking up decorating supplies, spending around $40. Hand out the supplies, and assign teams and designated decorating areas. Set a timer. And then let the company vote for the winner.
Baking competition: This is a much easier option than a full-blown potluck. And how it works is pretty simple, too. Everyone who wants to participate brings in the cookie, bar, brownie or hand-held treat of their choice to be eaten and judged.
#4: Throw an Office Decorating Party
This is your classic two birds, one stone scenario. And to provide incentive, make sure to hold this during work hours. It’s a great way to enjoy some quality time while working together. If you go this route, it’d be more beneficial to throw this early in the season, so everyone can spend the holidays working in a winter wonderland. Here are a few ideas:
Decorating competition (as mentioned above): Again, start by going to the dollar store and picking up decorating supplies, spending around $40. Hand out the supplies, and assign teams and designated decorating areas. Set a timer. And then let the company vote for the winner.
A holiday-themed photo booth: Designate a space to build and decorate a DIY photo booth. Again, hit up the dollar store to find photo-op accessories or ask people to bring in props they have or can find. Stuff like giant glasses and mustaches on sticks. You can hold a season-long photo contest or do one for a one-night gathering.
#5: A Potluck
Ahhh, the age-old potluck. A company-honored tradition where employees show off their cooking skills by bringing in Crock Pots filled with signature dishes. It’s the perfect solution to providing food without it eating into your budget.
Supply as much as you want, whether it’s a main dish or a variety of beverages. But the minimum should be the venue (the office) as well as tables, plates, bowls, cups and cutlery. And there are a number of ideas on how to approach this delicious idea.
Choose a theme: Have the company vote for a specific genre of food like Mexican, Italian or game-day classics. You can also choose a type, like finger foods, dips, side dishes, or a good ol’ fashioned chili cookoff.
Assign or freestyle: To make sure you have all the food groups or just a complete meal, you can assign dishes to those participating. Or give them the freedom to choose. It’s probably best to let the crowd pick, since they’re doing the work.
Food OR drink: If they want adult beverages and you’re cool with it, give employees the option of bringing in a drink of their choice or one that fits in your theme. Like candy cane punch, Rumchata eggnog, or a Bloody Mary bar.
Activities: Want to pump up this potluck? Go through all the suggestions from above and pick the activity or activities that will best suit your holiday feast.
Remember that not everyone will be able or want to attend, so be sure to include and count only on those who'll actually show up.
And Now It’s a Party!
There you have it. Well, enough of “it” to throw a holiday party that’s both awesome and inexpensive. And you don’t have to hold yourself to one or the other, feel free to mix and match or choose them all! Just make sure your employees know that you appreciate them. And you want them to have one heck of a holiday season.
P.S. There are also two options that literally require no effort and will show them that you care. Either give them one whole day off ,or allow them to leave early without having them use their PTO.
Good luck, and have a fun and safe holiday season!