Niagara Gazette

December 11, 2008

EXTRA: Ringing in the New Year on a budget


By MEGAN K. SCOTT

Associated Press Writer



No need to spend a fortune on a swanky dinner, admission to an upscale club, a babysitter or a big blowout bash this Dec. 31

Here are some cheap and fun ways to ring in the New Year.

IF YOU WANT TO STAY IN, TRY...

— A clothing swap.

Start the new year with a clean closet and free clothes. Ladies can trade clothes and accessories, says Heather Flett, co-author of "The Rookie Mom's Handbook," who has had several of these parties. Guys can trade video games, CDs and gift cards.

— A spa night.

Have a pampering evening with your close girlfriends, says Maggie Gallant of Rogers & Cowan, a PR firm.

— A game night.

Some of your friends will score a new game or even a new gaming system over the holidays, says Flett. The host is the person with the biggest television.

— A fondue party.

A twist on the traditional potluck. Guests can be assigned specific fondue elements to bring and pots can be rented through a local rental company, says Judy Allen, co-founder of Sensual Home Living.

— A sleepover.

Give the kids a slumber party with a babysitter upstairs, says Angela Gala of Rogers and Gala Creative Partners. Host couple provides hors d'oeuvres. Visiting couples, breakfast. Dinner is take out — and dutch.

— A movie binge.

Sitting in front of the TV is much more fun if you have a mission, says Flett. "Watch all six 'Star Wars' movies or catch up on two seasons worth of 'Mad Men,'" she says.

— A romantic evening.

A take out dinner by candelight with lingerie and soft music. It's fun, romantic and very economical, says love coach Robin Gorman Newman.

IF YOU WANT TO GO OUT, TRY...

— Church

Many evangelical churches, particularly those in African-American communities, have Watch Night services, says Bill J. Leonard, dean and professor of church history at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity.

Some churches make a night of it, with dinner, activities, and then a service that ends at midnight. Some simply have a service that begins at 11 p.m., says Leonard.

Watch Night services are free, but families may be asked to bring something for a potluck dinner.

— First Night

Boston's may be the oldest and largest, but more than 100 cities in the U.S., Canada, and New Zealand have First Night celebrations, according to the First Night International Web site.

About 1 million people are expected to attend Boston's day-long celebration, according to Joyce Linehan, spokeswoman for First Night Boston. Events include a family festival, live performances, a Mardi Gras style Metro Grand Procession and two fireworks displays.

Outdoor activities for First Night Boston are free; indoor activities require a button, which is $18.

Find First Night celebrations at www.firstnight.com

— Putt-Putt

Some have specials on New Year's eve, including the three Putt-Putt Golf & Games locations in the Arlington, Texas, area, says Bryan Weatherford, director of marketing. The $20 admission fee, $25 at the Hurst location, which has go-carts, includes unlimited Putt Putt, 80 game room tokens and prize drawings every 30 minutes. Check www.puttputt.com for local Putt-Putt Fun Centers.

— Bowling

Alley Cats, a bowling center, in Arlington, Texas is offering unlimited bowling, laser tag, rock climbing, video games and an all you can eat buffet: $35 adults, $25 children under 12, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. A second party from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. is $40 for adults; $30 dollars kids 12 and under.

— The roller or ice skating rink.

Holiday Skate Center in Orange, Calif. has an all night skate from 8 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. The $20 admission includes skates, hat and horn and a 16-ounce drink, according to the Web site. There's a balloon drop at midnight. Check www.rinktime.com for rinks.

— Dave & Buster's. The locations in Tempe and Scottsdale are offering a roast beef dinner buffet, which includes soft drinks and coffee, a $20 Power Card for games, a DJ and dancing and a champagne toast for $47.99 per person plus tax and gratuity. www.daveandbusters.com.

IF YOU HAVE KIDS TRY...

— A children's museum

Many of them have New Year's Eve celebrations, which are great for elementary age children and their toddler siblings, says Janet Rice Elman of the Association of Children's Museums.

For example, in Salem, Ore., children and families will ring in 2009 at 9 p.m., which is midnight Eastern time, with a lighted ball drop from the Erector Set tower at A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village.

Tickets and general admission range from $10-$12 for drop-in guests; free admission or reduced ticket fees for museum members. Visit www.ChildrensMuseum.org.

— The YMCA.

Some of them host family nights, teen parties and lock-ins.

The Elmhurst YMCA in Illinois is hosting a Family Night from 5 to 8:30 p.m., with skating, pizza and a balloon drop. The cost is $25 per family for YMCA members (up to 4 people).

Kids ages 8 to 14 can spend the night at YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin in Middleton, Mich. The Camper Overnight includes games, indoor climbing and a dance and countdown. The cost is $55 for members.

Find your local YMCA at www.ymca.net.

...AND IF YOU MUST THROW A TRADITIONAL BASH:

— Later is better.

Start the party around 10 or 10:30, says Gallant. "You don't want to invite them earlier because it's too much time before the ball drops," she says. Plus, providing snacks and beverages are cheaper and easier than dinner.

— Keep the guest list small.

Pay attention to how many people you are inviting, says Gallant. They should all be able to sit comfortably.

— Consider a progressive dinner.

Assign each house a name of a country and a course, says Sarah Taylor of Rogers & Gala Creative Partners. For example, French dessert and Chamborde at the Smiths'.

— Have a dessert potluck.

"It can all be sweet and delicious," says Gallant.

— Skip the champagne.

Franciacorta, a sparkling wine from Lombardy, is an affordable alternative, says Saurabh Abrol, president of WineChateau.com., an online retailer. "It's as complex and sophisticated — at half the price," he says.

— BYO Bottle

Guests are in charge of inventing their own specialty drink recipe and bringing the ingredients, says Taylor. "As a thank you, compile all of the recipes in a book and send to all of your guests," she says.



Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.