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10 Tips for a New Year's Eve Party That Only Looks Expensive

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- We know you haven't made it through Christmas yet, but if you're going to throw a great New Year's Eve bash, now is the time to start planning.

If your budget is tight from all of the December holidays, we have compiled some ideas on how to impress your New Year's Eve guests without breaking your budget:

Don't wait until the last minute. Put together your plan and list of items you need to buy. "Last-minute planning will always cost you more," says Greg Jenkins, partner of Bravo Productions in Long Beach, Calif. "You can find great deals if you give yourself enough time."

Skip the black tie. Jenkins advises that if you really don't have the money to present a black-tie affair complete with more expensive foods such as lobster, shrimp or prime rib, make it a casual or semi-casual night. Jenkins says you can still offer a meal such as lasagna, sliders, pizza and present it buffet style, or just go with appetizers.

Make your bookshelves do double duty. Jenkins says Instead of buying or renting tables for the buffet, you can remove books from bookshelves and use those as the buffet serving spots.

Ambience doesn't have to be expensive. Sarah Brand, founder of SKB Events, says you don't have to spend a fortune to create ambience in the room. Tea lights and candles (particularly silver and gold ones meant for Christmas) go on sale after the holiday, as do battery-powered candles (for those with children and pets). Twinkle lights, those small white Christmas lights, also go on sale. Or use the ones from Christmas, Brand says.

Serve on silver. Even inexpensive appetizers can be dressed up when served on a silver platter. Don't have any? Brand says you can find silver platters in thrift stores at a discount. "They will probably not be all real silver or something you can then sell on eBay (EBAY) for a profit ... pick ones you like and that you can see re-using in the future," Brand says.

Go BYOB. In these tough economic times, it's not uncommon for hosts and hostesses to ask party attendees to bring their own favorite drink or bubbly. Marley Majcher, founder of The Party Goddess, says "you'll be surprised with the variety of drinks you'll have available for everyone to enjoy throughout the night, and of course for the countdown." Don't forget to provide plenty of interesting "mocktail" selections for your designated drivers, too.

Party like it's 1999. If your recycled party hats, noisemakers and other items don't have the year on them, why not use leftovers from previous years? Majcher says to also look around your home for boas, Mardi Gras beads or crazy hats. "It'll make photo-taking that much more fun, and of course add to the excitement of the ball dropping."

Choose a theme. If you have things left over from your summer Hawaiian luau or your Cinco de Mayo party, why not theme your New Year's Eve party to go with your recycled decor? Your food can also follow the theme, author Pamela Layton McMurtry says. "An ethnic menu or one featuring eggs, quiches or crepes, pastas with pesto or Alfredo and good breads can be chic and economical," McMurtry says.

It's in the art. McMurtry says to invite a few local artists to display their work at your venue or home during the party. "Art in the environment is enriching and cool," McMurtry says.

Choose a hip venue. You might be surprised at how cheap you can get venues, particularly if it is owned by a nonprofit organization or an organization with which you have some connection. It may be a little late to plan that this year, but there's no harm in trying. McMurtry suggests holding the party in a museum, theater or other interesting location.

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell is an Arkansas-based journalist who writes for TheStreet and MainStreet on personal finance, small business and leisure/travel issues.

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