All that money you’ve saved for the better part of a year so you can celebrate the holidays in style gets spent 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. To save where you can, take a look at these nine ways you can make the yuletide gayer without breaking the bank. — Mikey Rox
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? But we can’t always afford a $100-or-more restaurant or bar tab. 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 hosting a small cocktail party where everyone can chat, drink, and dig into the expansive buffet.
2. Attend (or throw) an ugly Christmas sweater party. Ugly Christmas sweater parties have become a tradition over the past few years, and I can almost guarantee that someone in your circle (maybe you?) is throwing one. 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 your own closet.
3. Schedule an at-home 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 and even Make the Yuletide Gay, the adorable coming-out-at-Christmas story by gay Texan 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. If you’re strapped for cash, quell some of the anxiety by suggesting a Secret Santa gift exchange among your friends and/or co-workers instead of a free-for-all that can quickly spiral your budget out of control (set a reasonable dollar limit — $10 is usually good). 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. Along the same lines, there’s the white elephant party: Each participant brings one wrapped gift to the gathering (also with a price cap of $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 goodies for neighbors and colleagues. 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, package them in holiday-themed tins (cheap from the dollar store) with nicely tied ribbons or bows and deliver them with a note of holiday greetings.
7. See a special holiday performance/fundraiser at your favorite gay bar. There’s always a jolly drag show taking place at your favorite gay hangout between now and New Year’s with Santa on the mind, and sometimes they serve as fundraisers for local food banks, Toys for Tots or the Resource Center.
8. Round up your crew 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, especially for gay causes. Whatever you do, 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 décor 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.