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All that money you’ve saved for the better part of a year so you can celebrate the holidays in style moves quickly when you’re buying gifts left and right and planning your warm-weather escape as soon as the tree is tossed out onto the curbed. Since you’ve already got a sizable chunk of cash allocated, it’s not a bad idea to find ways to save some coin this season while still fitting in a ton of festive fun. Take a look at these nine ways you can make the yuletide gayer without breaking the bank.
1. Host a holiday potluck dinner
Who doesn’t like to go out for a fancy dinner around the holidays to indulge in life’s tasty pleasures? I do, but I can’t always afford a $100-or-more restaurant or bar tab when Christmas is just around the corner. (It would be quite selfish to cheapen the gifts I planned to buy my friends and family because I wanted eat like a Trump.) As an alternative, consider hosting a potluck where each of your guests will bring a dish for everyone to enjoy. You can make this a sit-down dinner or you can keep it informal by using the potluck idea to host a small cocktail party where everyone can chat, drink, and dig into the expansive buffet.
2. Attend an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party in town
Ugly Christmas sweater parties have become somewhat of a tradition over the past few years, and I can almost guarantee that there’s one in your area. Check your local LGBT bar calendars online to see if any are on the schedule this season. If you come up short in that area, widen your search to include other establishments. If you settle on a place that isn’t particularly gay, gather your gaggle for a guerrilla effort to make a night to remember. Find the ugliest Christmas sweaters imaginable at your local thrift shops or at http://UglyChristmasSweater.com.
3. Schedule an at-home holiday movie marathon
When the weather outside is frightful, a night on the couch is so delightful. Pick up a few snacks and drinks, and invite your besties over for a holiday movie marathon. Some of my favorites include classics like “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”; the “Home Alone” series; “A Christmas Story”; and “Make the Yuletide Gay,” the adorable coming-out-at-Christmas story by gay filmmaker Rob Williams. You may be able to find these movies – or whichever flicks suit your fancy – on streaming services to which you subscribe, or you can find them on the regular TV schedule and record them on your DVR in advance of the movie marathon.
4. Start a Secret Santa program among your friends
If you’re strapped for cash this year, quell some of the anxiety by suggesting a Secret Santa gift exchange among your friends instead of a free-for-all that can quickly spiral your budget out of control. If you currently only exchange a gift or two with a couple friends, this might not be for you, but if you have a large group of comrades, it’s an easy-on-the-wallet avenue to explore.
5. Plan a gay-themed White Elephant party
There are different names for this type of party – aside from White Elephant, it’s also referred to as a “Yankee Swap” in various regions – but the concept is the same… and simple. Each participant brings one wrapped gift to the gathering – the price of which is usually capped at reasonable price, like $20 or so – and the group decides in which order participants will select from the pile of gifts, generally by numbers randomly drawn from a hat. Once a gift is opened, it can be stolen by the next in line if they don’t particularly like their gift or, in most cases, just like any of the previous gifts better. This practice continues until the last person has opened the last gift, which ultimately gives that lucky duck the pick of the litter. Lots of fun and laughter at this inexpensive, home-based holiday event.
6. Bake holiday goodies for your neighbors and co-workers
Get into the spirit of the season by dusting off those cookie sheets, muffin tins and loaf pans. Turn up the holiday tunes and get cookin’ with a few batches of your signature baked goods (I’m rather partial to Carolyn’s Chocolate Chip Cookies from Martha Stewart), package them in holiday-themed containers with nicely tied ribbons or bows, and deliver them with a note of holiday greetings.
7. See a special holiday performance at your local gay bar
Hundred to one there’ll be a jolly drag show taking place at your favorite gay hangout between now and New Year’s. But if that’s not on the calendar, see what else is happening that’ll help you jingle all the way. Maybe it’s an ugly Christmas sweater party like I mentioned before, but there also may be toy drives; holiday-themed go-go boy nights; or game-based events, like trivia or bingo.
8. Round up your group of friends and volunteer
Not everyone is as fortunate as we are, and those circumstances really start to take their toll on people around holiday time. That’s why it’s important to give some of your time and energy to show you care about your fellow Americans by volunteering. You could try to locate an LGBT establishment that needs a few helping hands this season, and there are plenty of other options in your community. The important part is that you and your friends are getting out there and giving back.
9. Snap up post-holiday clearance deals for next year
One of my all-time favorite parts of the holidays is the post-Christmas clearance deals on decor and other holiday paraphernalia. I generally wait until about five days after Christmas when Target has slashed prices from the starting discount of 50 to 75 percent, but it tends to be heavily picked through by that point. Nonetheless, you can still walk away with a bunch of incredible deals. Wait a little longer and the discounts delve into the 90 percent-off range at certain stores, and that’s just a no-brainer. The shelves will look like the apocalypse has started, but you’re literally paying a few cents for whatever’s left to enhance your holiday home in the future.