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It’s that holiday time of year! The stores (and Instagram and Pinterest…) are full of gorgeous décor, beautiful catering ideas and the latest drink fads making it so easy to break the bank when you’re planning a holiday event.

According to Deloitte’s 2019 Holiday Retail Outlook, nearly half of Canadians plan to entertain in their homes this holiday season, with those aged 35 to 54 expected to splurge more on entertaining.

But while you may be tempted to go all out for this year’s bash, getting the best return on investment for your holiday entertaining budget means you need to make sure you’re spending money on the right things. Whether the party is in your home or a corporate event, here are a few ways to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth:

Get guests in the door: The bottom line, says Sharon Bonner, CEO and president of Bright Ideas Event Coordinators in Vancouver, is that after you’ve planned your event, no-shows – whether to your holiday house party or company bash – equal money down the drain. How do you encourage attendance? Keep things interesting and encourage interaction.

“Each year you raise the bar a little bit so people start to count on you, they know that yours is an event not to be missed, so they attend — and if they attend, your return on investment is fantastic, because you’re getting bang for your buck,” she says.

For home-based events, says Bonner, consider introducing a twist on a theme, such as Scrooge’s Christmas or Santa’s Workshop, that gets guests mingling and participating. Hosts can also consider giving guests a thoughtful parting gift, such as jam or a personalized ornament, for example, or have them make something at the party that they can take home, like chocolates.

For those hosting a workplace party, she says, can’t-miss events often have an incredible door prize, interactive networking games and activities around the perimeter of the room, such as group photo booths or caricature drawings. A social media hashtag guests can use to share photos of the event may also be worthwhile.

“Once people start to interact with each other, the party’s success just carries itself,” says Bonner.

Splurge on the Food, Save on Decor: While having a beautifully decorated holiday space is a must, Bonner says this is one area where people often focus too much of their efforts – and budget.

“I know your home needs to be decorated beautifully, but honestly, people are there to have some food and beverage and experience their time with you,” says Bonner.

“People spend a lot on décor and from my experience, it doesn’t go unnoticed, but it’s not appreciated as much as food or beverage and people will talk about how great the food was long after the event, but they won’t talk about how wonderful the peach roses were in the centerpieces,” she says.

For the better return on investment, she says, focus on what guests are eating and drinking — or plan a food-related activity — for example, bring in a sommelier, or feature different fondues for guests to sample.

According to the Deloitte survey, a number of Canadians seem to agree with this advice. Those hosting guests this year plan to devote more than 85 per cent of their holiday in-home entertainment budgets to food and alcohol.

Focus on the ‘Experience’: Ultimately, says Bonner, hosts need to remember that guests, whether work colleagues or close friends and family, are coming to an event for the experience. At the end of the day, a positive experience for attendees is the best return on investment for your holiday entertainment dollars.

“What kind of an experience are you going to give your guests that they’ve never had before, or that they will talk about or that they will take home with them and it will be part of their life?”, says Bonner.

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