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There are three basic elements to a successful holiday cocktail party — food, drinks, and decor. But the thought of dishing out extra cash, especially at the holidays, might be turning you into The Grinch. Good news: A holiday party does not have to cost a fortune. Here is a menu that impresses, without breaking the bank, and a guide to hosting a memorable holiday fête.

Charcuterie Tray with Honey Mustard Sauce
Credit: Aunt Sue’s® Raw Honey

Step #1: Keep the food simple.

A classic charcuterie board is not only a delicious appetizer, it's a feast for the eyes and creates a conversational party piece. It allows guests to grab a bite and mingle, without trying to juggle a ton of plates. Charcuterie also helps minimize the chances of guests spilling food and staining your couch. Just make sure to have party picks ($3.22, and cocktail napkins ($3, at the ready!

Rest assured, while cheese board styling might be a hot trend for 2019, it isn't something relegated only to the pros. By using complementary components (think: sweet, savory, and salty), as well as simple accoutrements, an impressive — and affordable — charcuterie board can come together in a snap.

How to Build an Inexpensive Charcuterie Board

Start with cheese selections, and try to choose a mild option, like aged cheddar ($3.48,, as well as a soft cheese, like goat ($5.73, or mozzarella ($2.97,

An optional addition would be mini semi-soft cheese wheels ($5.84, that can easily be made into shapes using tiny cookie cutters, or simply cut in half to form semi-circles.

Next, choose two or three meat options, like pepperoni ($3.97,, dry salami ($4.73,, or prosciutto ($6.88,

Then, add a savory component like olives stuffed with feta ($3.98, or mixed nuts ($2, and a sweet detail like dried apricots ($2.98, Fresh fruit, like grapes ($1.72) and sliced pears ($.96/each, work well, too.

Finish your masterpiece with a gourmet cracker selection ($3.48,, and arrange it on a stylish board.

While a charcuterie board hits every palate point, adding a side tray of something to satiate a sweet tooth — like brownie bites ($3.98, — is an easy way to finish off a welcoming spread.

Christmas Poinsettia Punch
Credit: Ken Burkhart

Step #2: Don't over-do the drinks.

No need to pull out the entire liquor cabinet. Pick a holiday cocktail recipe or whip up a seasonal punch that only requires a couple ingredients. We like Poinsettias, which is one part champagne ($7.99, with a splash of cranberry juice ($1.69,

Alternately, having a bottle of wine ($5, on hand can help alleviate any bartending-induced stress. Just make sure to pick up a couple different varietals — one red and one white is a good place to start — to appeal to most palates.

One young man is serving drinks to his friends at a Christmas house party.
Credit: Getty Images

Step #3: Set the mood.

Hosting a holiday party at home means that most of the decor-related heavy lifting is already finished.

Twinkling lights provide the perfect party backdrop, but if the table spread looks sparse, consider an arrangement of seasonal flowers ($4.87, or a holiday-scented candle ($6.99, to dress it up.

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