No Babysitter for New Year's Eve? How to Still Have a Blast on a Budget

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by Ed

We've never been one of lucky few parents who have a babysitter on New Year's Eve.  There's such a small window of time that teens want to work on this coveted evening - and some others know what a hot commodity they hold and charge a premium.  For us, this was never going to work - mostly because we are always extremely choosy about our babysitters - but also due to budget.

Over the years we've done one of two things - we've celebrated as our little family of four - and we've hosted a family-friendly - and frugal - New Year's Eve Party.  We've learned some tricks over the years for both.

First, it is key when hosting a frugal new years eve party to never call it, "a frugal New Year's Eve party".   

You're Invited to a 
New Year's Eve Party!"

Hard to get excited about - but fun to imagine...
  • The invite would be printed onto the back of a scrap piece of paper, rolled up and secured with a garbage bag tie.  
  • It would be BYO - everything!  Guests could pack a lunch bag filled with all the things they think they might want to eat that night. 
  • Newly-expired food would be served to guests who didn't bring their own food.  
  • Tap water would be chilled for a midnight toast.
  • A tasteful sign would hang in the bathroom: "If it's yellow, leave it mellow.  If it's brown..."
  • Guests would be encouraged to turn off all lights as they leave a room.  Better yet, BYO candles would be an energy-efficient and festive touch.

OK - thanks for letting us get a bit silly there.  Here are our real ideas...

An Affordable, Family-Friendly Party

  • Partner up with another family - arrange a kids and a grownups area or come up with activities both groups can enjoy.  Arrange sleepover space for kids (and grownups too), if needed. And if they are nearby neighbours, consider having a "Kids house" (with a shared baby-sitter) and a 'Grown-Ups house".  

  • In the same vein, a multi-family meal can be super cool- choose a theme/Cultural celebration.  Assign dishes and have people do final preparation and cooking at your house (where possible).  Cooking and talking together are all part of the experience and will make the meal all the more special. Add some culturally appropriate music, traditions and decorations to round out your party.

  • Murder Mystery Night! We'll admit to skepticism, but our daughter attended one of these at a birthday party this year and loved it. Here are some ideas for free Murder Mysteries and here are some more - including some for kids and 'Tweens. If you're looking for reasons to get dressed up on New Years, this could be a really fun one.

  • A New Year's Eve Photo Booth.  You can order photo booth props for a pretty modest cost - or make your own. You could ask your guests to bring fun stuff too - which would be budget-friendly (but, you know, lice would be a nasty way to start the year.)

  • If you are missing the New Year’s Bar experience, get the kids occupied and share in a "bring your favourite cocktail" face off.  Break out the Internet cocktail recipes, or concoct your own Flaming Homer. If you want a non-alcoholic event and/or the kids want in too - buy some crazy juices and sodas and go Mocktail-crazy.

  • Casino Night.  For families with older kids, dress up, watch Ocean’s 11 or Casino Royale and play a little Blackjack or Hold’em.  Use Monopoly Money and play high stakes so everyone can feel like a bigshot.  

  • Not feeling competitive, but still want to Game? Performance games like Guitar Hero, Rock Band, DJ Hero or Disney Karaoke  can be a lot of fun. Kids love showing up their parents, and the music selections and difficulty levels are usually wide enough to allow for many skills and ages.

  • Punch up the Midnight celebrations. Have those attending chip in for a Fireworks display (so much better than trying to do it all on one families budget), 

A Quieter Night - Just you and the kids.

  • Cranky kids at 8:30 - but they're determined to stay up to midnight?  Netflix has your back.  They have a number of New Year's Eve Countdowns that you can start at any time.  Use the King Julien Countdown to simulate the big event whenever you need to make it happen. (There are others to choose from, like Care Bears, Inspector Gadget and more!) Keep it cued up, get everyone else to play along for a few minutes and then pack the kids off to bed.  Who's going to complain about having to celebrate New Years twice in the same night? 

  • We're a house of introverts and sometimes we're just partied out from the holidays. A quiet, screen-free night of reading, chill background music, low lighting/candles and reflective conversation can be a nice alternative to all the other parties out there.  Sometimes we watch movies and slide shows from our last year.  

  • Go Outside. If weather permits, a winter campfire with cider and s'mores can be a lovely way to ring in the New Year. Bundle the kids up and sit out under the stars. Nighttime tag, snowball fights or hide and seek can add to the fun and pass the time. If you've never checked out the Nightsky App (or others like it), New Year's stargazing is a great time to start. Even if you head in before midnight, you'll have fun and create New Year's memories that will stand out from all the other ones.

  • Check out what your city/town has to offer.  Most small communities have free family events as part of New Year's Eve - light shows and skating parties, for example.  Our city has fireworks that we go to nearly every year.

  • Do something usual, in a different way. The 'movie and popcorn' is a great way to pass the time till midnight. If your workplace has a projector you can borrow for the holidays, hang a bed sheet up for a screen and movie night gets EPIC.  Add to it more by popping the corn in a big pot on the stovetop (1/4 cup oil, 1 cup popcorn, salt to taste), do some retro Jiffy Pop or (even cooler) use your fireplace.  Burning the popcorn as you learn is part of the fun. And the whole evening will cost 1/10 of taking the family to the theatre.

  • Fondue!  Cheese, broth, oil, chocolate or all of the above.  The meal can take hours to cook and eat and the kids can go play while the grownups linger and chat.  

  • Game Night.  Make it a pentathlon (or decathlon?) and see who is the master of the most game skills in your house.  It can be console or board game based, but play lots of different things.  Parents - mix them up so that everyone wins at something.

  • Make a balloon and confetti drop in your living room, break out some fancy glasses for ginger ale or sparkling grape juice while teaching your kids the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne. If you're going to all the effort of seeing in the New Year together, do something to make it special.

What are you doing New Year’s Eve?  Got an idea you'd like to share?

And here's more year-round date night ideas for nights when you find yourself without a babysitter:

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