Small Apartment Living: How to Host a Holiday Party in a Small Space (and on a Tight Budget)

I’m an introvert through and through. Nothing is more lovely to me than throwing on sweats, making a cup of tea, and curling up with a good book in a quiet corner of our apartment. That’s bliss.

At the same time, I really do enjoy the occasional party, especially around the holidays, and I absolutely love hosting get togethers. Hosting parties is in my blood; my mother is an outstanding hostess, and I was raised on good Southern hospitality. Hosting get togethers is my jam.

But when you live in a small apartment and on a tight budget, it can be overwhelming or intimidating to host a party. Questions of space, decor, seating, food, and activity come to mind as potential obstacles. Dave and I have hosted several get togethers in our apartment over the years, including Christmas parties (although we will be sitting this year out to recover … thanks a lot, worst semester of nursing school), so trust me when I tell you that it’s totally possible! All you need is a little inspiration, motivation, and dash of crazy 😉

In this post, I’m offering some encouragement and tips that I’ve found helpful for hosting a holiday party in our tiny two bedroom without breaking the bank. I hope you find them helpful, and I would love to hear your advice!


Set a realistic guest list

Sure, it’d be great to invite your entire high school class, but if you’re living in tight quarters, that might not be possible. Make a realistic guest list, including people you think would have a blast together. If you want to send out invitations but are lacking funds, consider making your own invites with card stock or scrap book paper (often on sale at Hobby Lobby), ribbon, and permanent markers.

Utilize every room

You and your guests don’t have to hang out only in the living room. Set up a bar-type area in the kitchen. Display your liquor selection and I bet the fellas will congregate there swapping stories and chatting about bourbon preferences. They’e be there all night if you let them 😉 You can even take advantage of the bedroom(s) in your place. Set up extra chairs in the bedrooms and maybe some board games or a deck of cards (more on that below). As long as there is something to “do” or “see” in a bedroom or other extra room, people won’t feel as weird about being in there.

Prepare in advance as much as possible

When it comes to cooking, do as much as you can in advance. Dirty baking dishes or ingredients sprawled on the counter will definitely make the space feel smaller and compromise room that you could use for buffet space or a bar set up. If you’re planning on assembling any sort of favor or takeaway, do that in advance too so you won’t be stressed out right before people arrive. By planning ahead, you’ll save time and money because you won’t be scrambling at the end. Scrambling always = more money spent.


Visit your local thrift stores for very inexpensive serve-ware and drink-ware. You can make a party feel instantly more put together with an entire, elaborate set of festive dishes that will cost you around $5. You can also thrift table clothes, vintage decorations, and extra seating if needed. I also suggest making the Dollar Store your buddy. If you want to send your guests home with some goodies, the Dollar Store is your answer. You can find cellophane bags for baked goods, Christmas trinkets for small gift bags, and awesome Dirty Santa gifts if you fancy to play.

Set a festive and relaxed atmosphere

When all is said and done, if your guests are having a great time, they won’t even notice the small space. One way you can facilitate great conversation and loads of fun is by creating a great atmosphere. Play Christmas music in the background, diffuse essential oils like Christmas Spirit, Thieves, or Balsam Fir for a holiday vibe, feed them, serve them yummy drinks, and introduce them to people they don’t know. Another thing we love to do is play a game. It gathers everyone together and, contrary to what you might imagine, it makes the space feel bigger when we are close to one another. And nothing screams fun like a heated game of Catch Phrase 😉

Plan an inexpensive but fabulous menu

I have a special love for cheap party food that tastes fantastic. I typically choose four main appetizers to make and a dessert or two. Simple food is always a hit, isn’t it? You can never go wrong with meatballs, cream cheese wraps, and good dips. These kinds of food are simple to make, inexpensive, and can stretch. As long as people’s bellies are full, they’ll be happy. Try not to stress over having ten different options. As far as holiday spirits go, we always look to buy our wine from CVS or Walgreens. They have pretty frequent markdowns on their alcohol and we usually stock up then. It’s your call on offering other liquor or not; we find it worth the splurge there so we cut back on other areas (i.e. we don’t send out hard copy invitations). I love making a signature holiday cocktail for guests. It’s a great conversation starter and a fun way to celebrate and feel fancy.

Borrow stuff

Ask family and close friends for any supplies you need. If you need extra chairs or tables, check with your people before you purchase. People love to help out (especially if they’re coming to the party!), so don’t be afraid to ask. I always borrow my grandma’s table and chairs, my parents serving dishes, and my friend’s iPod speakers for get togethers. Borrowing has saved us tons of money!

Just go for it!

Finally, just do it! It’s easy to make excuses about limited time and money, and we may even feel embarrassed from time to time. But we just have to go for it! Other people don’t care; they just want to be with you and others and have a nice, relaxing, fun evening. It is totally possible to throw an awesome party in a small space and on a small budget – and you can do it. Half the battle is being willing to jump in; and I’ll bet you’ll be glad you did 🙂

What are your tips for hosting a holiday party? Are you throwing one this year? Tell us about it!


  1. One thing we usually do is make it a potluck. (Purchasing food can be the biggest bank-breaker!) People don’t mind sharing a good recipe or two! It is fun to contribute to the festivities! 🙂

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