12 Ways to Celebrate 2012 on a Budget

PHOTO: Making homemade cupcakes special for New Years is one way to celebrate the Holiday on a budget.
Deirdre Rooney/Getty Images

Celebrating New Year's Eve can be an emotional undertaking. Whether you are fighting crowds in parties, restaurants or bars, or whether you are in Spain and must consume 12 grapes at midnight before the clock strikes midnight -- according to tradition -- fighting to stay awake alone can takes its toll.

To change your routine this year, you could host a potluck, attend a public event in your community, scour deal-sites such as Groupon for a new food or activity, or celebrate New Year's Day instead of New Year's Eve.

Homebodies and partygoers can save energy and money with these 12 last-minute New Year's Eve ideas from four food, travel and event experts to celebrate 2012.

Ask about a pre-fixe menu.

Charity Pykles-George, owner of d'Zrt Cake Studio and twice featured on TLC's "Ultimate Cake Off" and other celebrity events, said restaurant pre-fixe menus can be a great deal with a set price, usually including wine pairings. Ask what is included when you make a reservation.

Set a table in an eclectic fashion, instead of matching.

If you decide to host a gathering, feel free to expand outside of one color scheme or theme.

"Then you don't have to have a bunch of matching place settings and can even find flatware, plates and cups at resale stores," Pykes-George, soon to be featured on the Food Network next year, said.

Buy party items on sale after the holidays this year and use next year.

Find creative, colorful decorations at department stores or whatever retailer is selling them at a discount. You can usually buy decorative items at 75 percent off after the holidays, Pykes-George said.

Buy pre-made chocolate or pastry shells.

If you want to make a decorative, elegant, yet simple dessert, buy pre-made chocolate or pastry shells. Take a pudding mix, then whip up some heavy cream. Fold the two together, spoon into the shells and garnish with a raspberry, powdered sugar, chocolate shavings or another garnish.

"They are then bite-sized and really yummy," Pykes-George said.

Have a fondue party.

Steve Carlson, CEO at food review website FoodSmackdown.com, suggests your guests bring one item to "dip" that shows their new year resolution. For example, bring bread and write on a tag, "I plan to make more dough (money) this year." Or bring pineapple or strawberries and write "I plan to be healthier this year." Bring angel food cake and write, "I plan to be more of an angel this year and give back".

"The most creative one wins a prize," Carlson said.

Who brought what?

Carlson suggests this simple, interactive game with a group of friends or family. Everyone writes down one food or drink item they are going to give up for the New Year and put it in a jar. Someone reads them and people guess who wrote the item.

Eat in.

It's simple financial reminder everyone needs periodically. Cooking rather than eating out is a great way to start 2012, Carlson said.

For $4.99 to $5.99 per pound on sale this time of year, you can buy about a half pound of prime rib per person. Or, you can make a ham for cheap -- less than $1 a pound. Both meats are generally on sale this time of year at all grocery stores, Carlson said.

Root beer floats.

Carlson said for a family-friendly event that is great for kids, you could host a root beer float party.

"Everybody can raise their glass for a toast at midnight -- as the caffeine will help keep you all up until midnight," he said. "Ice cream and soda is on sale this time of year. Be creative."

A trip down 2011's memory lane.

Nikki Carlson, co-founder at ChicExecs PR, and Carlson's wife, has a simple decorating idea:

Put up clothes lines in the house and clothes-pin pictures throughout the house of events that happened in the last year.

Play New Year's Bingo.

Nikki Carlson said make Bingo cards with squares listing funny things that happened to you and friends throughout the year. Depending on how candid people are in your group, you could enjoy learning about each other's years.

Give your party some spark.

Buy sparklers ahead of time that you can buy for cheap prices online through wedding websites, and light them at midnight outside with guests. Be careful about any fire or accident hazards. Or, you can make homemade cupcakes and buy toppers online at edibledetails.com for a professional look.

Find a cheap bus, train or plane ticket for Dec. 31.

As long as you stay relatively close to home, there are still some deals for New Year's Eve, said Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.com.

"Folks on the West coast have Las Vegas at a relative bargain and those on the East coast still have Florida," he said. For the rest of the country, beaches in the Caribbean and Mexico are relatively expensive until Jan. 3.

Nikki Carlson said she and her husband plan to go to Santa Barbara, Calif., for a romantic getaway and might spend some time in Los Angeles.

She said she uses various sources to read reviews and find travel deals, such as hotels.com, Costco membership discounts, AAA discounts, Groupon, and Living Social.

She also said city websites often have calendars of things to do on New Year's Eve, such as budget-friendly ideas, including in Santa Barbara.

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