Here are a few tips on decorating for a party with warmth and welcome without demolishing your budget.
Recession or not, the monthly potluck with neighbors, the wedding shower you are expected to throw for your coworker and your annual Halloween party are still on the calendar. But they don't have to bust your budget, especially when it comes to party decor.
Dinner parties and buffets
For a quick tablecloth, recycle a bed sheet. It's not only cheap and eco-friendly, but it makes cleanup super easy. Just throw it in the washing machine and fold it away until the next party.
For centerpieces, bowls of fruit are less expensive than floral bouquets, and they add a fresh aroma and natural look. Choose your fruit by color or season.
Potted plants -- especially fragrant herbs -- are another affordable choice. Orchids, often available in home improvement stores, are dramatic, and their blooms can last four to six weeks with proper care.
Drape a sheet over the sofa and tuck the ends into sofa cushions to create a makeshift slipcover, which will make your living room look festive and protect your couch from inevitable game day crumbs and spills. Put the pillowcases over your decorative pillows to repeat the color scheme and sprinkle color-coordinated confetti on the buffet table for a budget-friendly yet celebratory touch. This is especially festive if you use bed linens in one or more of your team's colors.
Buy decorations, game prizes, paper goods and candy from dollar stores, closeout or discount stores. Or ask friends if they have any paper goods left over from parties they have thrown. Use wide ribbon instead of paper streamers so you can recycle it for the next party or decorating project. For centerpieces and decorations, use the cake and your child's toys or dolls. And don't forget the balloons you blow up yourself.
Especially at Christmas and Chanukah, candles add a touch of warmth and elegance to any celebration. Be smart and buy white so you can use them for multiple occasions. Silver, crystal and glass vases and bowls you already own are ideal for displaying greenery, ornaments and holiday floral arrangements. Speaking of greenery, your backyard can be a free source of holly, pine, cedar or magnolia garland to highlight natural focal points like the fireplace, banister or front porch steps. Make a display of holiday gifts on a buffet or console table. Coordinate wrapping paper and ribbon colors to complement your decor and add a few loose ornaments as accents. Hint: Wrap empty boxes.
No matter what kind of party you're planning, you can decorate creatively and affordably if you use your imagination. And let's not forget: The fewer decorations you have, the easier after-party cleanup will be.