Guest List Size Matters for Your Holiday Budget

No matter what kind of party you’re planning, one of the most common ways to blow your holiday budget and spoil a party is to either over-estimate or under-estimate your guest list. Let’s take a look at what happens when you don’t figure your numbers correctly. I hope these tips help you host a successful holiday gathering.

Too Much of a Good Thing

We have all been there, right? We plan for thirty people to show up, and the last thing we want to do is run out of food.  So, we cook for forty just to make sure nobody is wanting.  Then twenty people show up.  There’s a big difference between cooking for forty and cooking for twenty.  Now, you have food to spare.  What do you do with it?  Most likely you will send it home with your guests because you never have that much room in your refrigerator to store leftovers.  Even if you do have the room to store the leftovers, you’ll never eat it up before it goes bad.

This is the problem when we over-estimate our guest list. Over-estimating your list means that you will inevitably go through more stress and financial burden.  You’ll not only be frustrated and worn out preparing for more people than necessary, but eventually you’ll see your hard earned money either walking out the door in containers or going out with the trash.

Less is Better Doesn’t Work

On the other hand, under-estimating your guest list is almost as bad, if not worse. Under-estimating your guest list means that you don’t cook enough. Say you invite thirty, but assume that only fifteen will come, but they all show up.  Now, what do you do?  Assuming that a lot fewer people will show up is a dangerous assumption to make, especially when it comes to food.  Even though you don’t have to worry about throwing out or giving away extra food, the reverse is just as bad.  You have guests now eager for something to snack on and your appetizers are woefully meager.  And that lovely turkey you have that will feed fifteen beautifully just looks pitiful.

You can only boil up so many more potatoes to help stretch a meal. So, you do what any good host does; you send someone out to the deli.  The cost and stress of running out for more food can really upset your day.  Instead of cooking for the thirty people you invited, now you’re buying pre-made appetizers and dinner items for fifteen more people. It didn’t have to be that way if you had just cooked for your invited guest list to begin with.

Verify your Guest List

Since both over-estimating and under-estimating lead to serious consequences to your budget and stress level, it is best to avoid both of these situations. One of the easiest ways to make sure this doesn’t happen is to do what all good hosts do – verify your guest list.

The simplest way to verify a guest list is to put an RSVP on your invitation.  Some people may feel silly or uncomfortable about this if you’re hosting a more casual holiday gathering.  But, don’t give that a thought.  Any party, big or small, fancy or casual, benefits by an RSVP on the invitation.  Your guests will appreciate the thoughtful regard you have given to them. After all, an RSVP just ensures that you, their host, will have plenty of food and drink when everyone arrives, and isn’t that what being a good host is all about?

If your guests are slow in responding to the invitation, then take it upon yourself to pick up the phone and give them a call to confirm that they are coming to your event.  You can use this opportunity to double check on the time, diet concerns, or if there is anything else either you or they need to know.

Whether you’re planning a small gathering or a large one, get your guest list in order, verify it, then stick to your numbers. If you have twenty people RSVP with a ‘Yes’ then cook for twenty people.  You don’t want more and you don’t want less, because doing either one is a waste of money and can be a real party downer!



  1. Elena Anne says:

    Thanks. Great ideas. It pays to check up with everyone and see who’s still planning to come when you’re ready to shop. Find out also who is going to bring guests, and how many. Having a little too much is great (leftovers!!), but not enough or way too much is no good.

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