Setting Your Holiday Table…On the Cheap!


I love throwing big family-style dinners and have grown up significantly in terms of my plating and serving. Right out of college my “Friendsgiving” used just about every bowl, utensil, and cooking instrument that I owned. Anyone on a tight budget knows that serving platters are a luxury, not a necessity, so we’re eating right out the pot those potatoes were cooked in! But as I got older I wanted to “fancify” my big family-style dinners and slowly accrued colorful serving bowls, platters, nice glasses and more. I’m still a long way from Martha Stewart but every year my Friendsgiving gets a little more chic. I don’t quite have the patience to sit and build my own fall foliage baskets, but that doesn’t mean I can’t come up with a great holiday table on the cheap! Here’s how you can do it:

1. Use felt placemats.
Sure, those holiday-themed placemats are lovely to look at, but they get used maybe twice a year! Not exactly the best option for hosts with a budget. Instead, head over to your local craft store and grab a roll of felt in a festive color (or several colors if you want to get even fancier). Cut that felt into rectangles and you’ve got holiday place mats on the cheap.

2. Buy colored plates (when they are on sale!)
Keep an eye on more affordable stores like Target and Home Goods and when they are have a dishware sale pounce! White plates and bowls are classic and easy to make festive with colorful place mats or napkins, but why not grab that red or green set for fun as well? You can still use them throughout the year (as opposed to a set covered in Christmas trees) so you’ll be getting your money’s worth.

The same idea applies to serving platters and pitchers. You don’t need to spend $100 at Crate & Barrel for the ceramic pitcher when a nice looking plastic one (or glass if you’ve got a coupon!) will work just as well. Plus, if someone elbows it off the table during your party it’s not the end of your wallet.

3. Skip the florist.
If you really want real flowers (even though plastic ones may be cheap they can look really tacky), skip the florist and instead go to the grocery store. Buy a few different pre-made bundles with the colors you want (usually $10-$15 per bouquet) and slice-and-dice those bouquets into smaller vases or pitchers (again, bought on sale!) to create a custom floral arrangement for much less money than what the florist would charge you.

You could also grab some branches from your yard and mix those in with your grocery bouquet to stretch your dollar even farther.

If you’re going for a rustic look, save up your glass jars (jams, sauces, etc) for a while and remove the labels. Fill those jars with pebbles or rocks, votive candles, or a few flowers and you don’t even need to buy a real vase!

4. Borrow from friends.
Check with your friends before you buy anything and see what you can piece together without spending a dime! Who has a few serving trays? Who can bring over extra wine glasses? Does someone have a nice pitcher you can use? If you can get your hands on some borrowed plain white tableware you can jazz it up however you want with place mats, napkins, flowers, candles, and so forth. You’re inviting those friends over for dinner anyway, right? So they can help out by loaning you a nice serving bowl!