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How to Not Bankrupt Yourself (and Your Career) at the Office Holiday Party

Oh, the office holiday party. So fun, and yet so full of sneaky hidden costs. Here’s how to avoid spending $400 on a night out with people you see every day, and make what you do end up spending count.

When done right, the office holiday party can be a great night, affordable and good for your career. It just takes a bit of planning, and a little bit of self-control at the bar. Luckily, you’re a pro at this whole career thing, so you’ll be able to implement all of these suggestions for a strategically-awesome, budget-friendly office holiday party, no problem.

Don’t spend hundreds on your holiday party ~look~

Everyone wants to look good for the office party – that’s natural. After all, these people see you in your office attire every day, and it’d be great if they knew you cleaned up nice. However, dropping Benjamins on a new outfit you’ll wear maybe twice a year isn’t the best way to achieve your goal of looking great at the party.

Instead, find friends who are about the same size as yourself and who don’t work in your office. Organize a holiday outfit swap with them if you really need something new to wear, and remember: a little black dress or a classic suit is a perfectly acceptable office holiday party outfit. It’s a party with Janice from accounting, not the Oscars.

Don’t go in with a big bar budget, either

In the same way you shouldn’t plan on spending an arm and a leg on what you wear, let’s also agree that maybe, just maybe, you don’t need to plan on dropping a huge chunk of cash at the bar during the party either. Sure, give yourself a bit of money to spend on drinks, but do you really want the CEO to see you at your party-person best? I sure don’t.


If you’ve lucked into an open-bar situation, the same rules apply. Give yourself a rough limit of the number of drinks you’ll partake in during the party, and recruit a buddy to make sure you stick with it. That last drink might seem like a good idea at the time, until you’re the talk of the office on Monday morning.

Staying out of the highlight reel of the holiday party is always a good thing.

Plan ahead for transportation

While you probably won’t get so drunk at the Christmas party that you dance on a table (this year, anyways…) you might have a few drinks, which puts you squarely in the “shouldn’t be driving” camp.

The best way to avoid a surprising, surge-priced Uber ride at the end of the night is to plan ahead. Do you live near co-workers who can share that bonkers-expensive Uber ride with you? Is there a convenient public transportation route you can rely on that will still be running by the time you leave the office soiree? Or, in the best case scenario, can you recruit a spot with a designated driver?

A strategic way to make the most of the office party

Listen, I’m not saying the office holiday party is strictly about work … but it’s at least a little bit about work. When else are you going to be standing next to the CEO, drink in hand, casually chatting about anything and everything?

The best thing you can do for your career is to look at the office holiday party as a way to strengthen your relationships with key people in your office in a non-sleazy way. It’s never a bad thing to get face time with the boss, but beyond that, there are probably people you work with every day who can make your working life a lot easier. Chatting them up and meeting their plus-one for a few minutes at the party might set you up for a really smooth new year at work.

This doesn’t have to be a complicated, military-level networking operation either. Just try not to camp out in a corner with your lunch buddies all night, and you’re bound to make your way into at least a few important conversations.

And finally, budget-friendly and office-appropriate gifts

Last but not least, the holidays can be a tricky time when you’re navigating the office gift landscape. Sure, it might not happen at the party itself, but it’s something to keep in mind: Do you need to buy gifts for your team?

If there isn’t a formal gift exchange set up, assume that you’re off the hook in terms of gifts for your immediate team. If you really feel like you want to do something nice, to acknowledge the great year you’ve had with them, cookies, or even a gift like this DIY brownie jar, is probably as far as you have to go. Everyone likes baked goods, after all.

As for your boss? Trust me when I say you do not have to get them a gift. In fact, almost every office-gifting-etiquette guide says not to, so take a hard pass on buying your boss a present. You can loop them in with those coworker cookie gifts if you really want, but a heartfelt thank you for a great year will go just as far.

Now go forth and rock that holiday party, you career superstar, you.


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Header image: Adobestock

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