How to blow $3,000 with a few good friends

It’s Christmas!

The Daily Mail wrote an article on this event; find it here.

I like entertaining. I always have. I like having friends over and enjoying good food and laughs. I mean, is there anything else that matters? I’m not talking about a live remake of The Great Gatsby (I don’t have a big enough yard), but I guess I like the sentiment.

It’s Christmas time and I must admit I didn’t really have any real Christmas gatherings at my house last year so I thought I would invite a couple of close friends over and cook something nice. Our friend and family group lost a loved one unexpectedly very recently and upon further reflection, I thought it would be nice to get everyone together.

Me being me, while organising the private Facebook event – I couldn’t just keep it to six or so people. I kept seeing friends and was like “I want them to come, too”. Before I knew it, there were 30 people invited to my three-bedroom townhouse (Blue Bay, NSW). Luckily, I’m at the rear of a small complex, have a big enough unit and a private garden/backyard.

So, before I knew it, I had 28 people confirmed and a kitchen that I could only really cook well enough for 6 people.

I’ve always believed that a generous person would not go without, it has worked to date for me.

My own view with entertaining is this: come, bring nothing and have a memorable time with each other. I have a nice place and am fortunate enough to not live in lack – so why not create an experience.

I also believe in a standard of excellence within my own budget.

For example, I didn’t want anyone to eat from plastic plates and silverware – so I purchased more ceramic plates and new silverware (plus more wine glasses). I didn’t have enough sets for the 28 people attending.

What I included in the Christmas gathering

glen james my millennial money

Guests arrived to a selection of cheese, nibbles, beer, wine and spirits. I mean, you gotta have Gin and Tonic with lime for those who want something a bit fresh, right? Hendricks for those wondering.

The mains are a mixed platter of smoked meats, buttermilk chicken (I knew there were no vegetarians or vegans), salads, flat breads with pickles and variety of sauces to compliment.

Dessert is a bit basic. Connoisseur vanilla bean ice-cream with my home-made poached strawberries. This is the nicest thing you’ll ever have! I asked one guest to bring a pavlova as she said she would like to do that and it would be a suitable alternate dessert. Other guests did bring some sweets, too.

Tea, coffee (premium filter roast) and Oban single malt whisky was available after dessert.

Music was playing in the background for the night, with many sing-a-longs and some Christmas carols.

Each guest/couple left with a hand-written Christmas card and small gift (a pair of funny socks each).

There were two lucky door prizes, the female winner walked away with a country road tote bag and the male got a nice bottle of premium red wine.

Did I go cheap on anything?

I ran out of trolly room and also time at IKEA, so I didn’t buy more ceramic bowls – so dessert will unfortunately was from plastic bowls. I didn’t have time to organise borrowing or hiring more chairs, so I just purchased more on sale from Bunnings. Further, to keep catering costs low, I decided to do a basic dessert in house.

Did I splurge on anything?

This is Eddie Williams. Fantastic Singer & Musician + Australia’s strongest man, 2017 & 2018.

This is Eddie Williams. Fantastic Singer & Musician + Australia’s strongest man, 2017 & 2018.

I hired a singer with a guitar to sing as background music. He has his own PA etc. Live entertainment for your backyard party, great! All the neighbours text to say how wonderful it was.

I also purchased several bottles of Veuve Clicquot. Beer and red wine was also premium.

glen james my millennial money

Did I have a budget and did I blow it?

Yes-ish and yes, it was blown. In my mind initially, I thought I could get out of trouble for around $1,200. Yes, there may be food and alcohol left over, but I always want the impression that guests can have as much of anything as they want.

Obviously, the festoon lights can stay up all year round anyway! It soon became apparent that after I spent over $600 on booze and $750 on catering – I just decided to go for it and do it well.

I mean, it’s like our spending in general – it’s not the big rocks that add up (food and drinks) it’s all the other little stuff (gifts for guests and tiki torches etc!). By the way, good cheese is so expensive!

How did I save & budget for this event?

glen james my millennial money

It’s important to have good financial habits in your life. At the start of the year as part of the “my millennial money” podcast that I run, I threw out a 2k18 savings challenge.

This involved savings $2,000 during 2018, week-by-week. The challenge was to start with a new separate online savings account with a $200 kicker and then add $40 per week for 45 weeks – to get to $2k at the end of the year.

The purpose was to challenge people to start to work on their savings muscle. I did it too. The good news is, I had my $2k ready to go for something – which I didn’t know what I’d use it for throughout the year! It was great that I could cover most of the party costs with that!

Further to this, as part of my online spending plan course that I teach, the weekly money was to come from ones weekly spending account, so you didn’t notice it.

If I didn’t do this challenge myself, I would have just spent the money each week – so it really is a good bonus! I’m a spender by nature, not a saver.

To be honest, I didn’t really budget for this event other than in my head some of the big rocks. I’m fortunate enough to have a strong financial foundation with no consumer debt and surplus income. So effectively the short fall of $1k (after the 2k18 savings challenge money) came from savings.

Budgeting mistakes I made for this event

Yes, I’m in finance and yes, I coach people every day on how to be good with money. The problem is, I’m not above this and looking back, I made some big mistakes. I’m a spender so when I get the chance – I go crazy.

I do have my own financial coach for the broader strategic accountability in my life but this was a blow out.

Opps! I probably would have liked to keep it to the $2k once I decided to go a bit bigger so I guess I ended up going $1k over!

I did not make a good budget – upon reflection I didn’t write out everything I wanted to buy and cap how much I wanted to spend. I only had a mental guide. The thing is – this is never good enough. Once It started to get out of control, I then did a spreadsheet. Too late. It jumped from a mental $1k in my mind, to then OK $2k max, then it really got crazy. Lelelel.

I may have over catered – this is a problem for me. I’m really bad at judging how much people eat and how much things cost. I know many people that could fill a trolly and feed 20 people for probably $80. I’m not that person. It’s hard for me.

At the end of the shopping trip just for cheese, nibbles and stuff, I was in like $250.  I should have had a friend to help me. Mind you, this cost was just for the supermarket.

Getting the premium meats catered was only a practical thing as I didn’t have room and didn’t want to just have pizza for my guests.

I did not look for more sale items – this also comes with planning time. It was a very last min-ish event. It’s a busy time of the year as it is and I had just got back from overseas. If I had more time to plan, I could have got a better deal on many things. I could have possibly found cheaper items than IKEA.

Some tips for effective budgeting

Glen James my millennial money

Pay cash for things (not credit!) – don’t be left with a holiday hangover. Can you cash flow your Christmas without credit? Especially, withdraw cash from an ATM – set a limit. I once walked around the supermarket with my phone on flight mode and the calculator out and added up everything I put in the trolly! This does really work.

Buy stuff on sale – for my Christmas party, the lights I got to decorate my yard with were on sale as it was within a week before Christmas and retailers need to offload this stuff. As with the gifts for my guests, I also got them from a local retailer who had extra stock for Christmas. I asked if I purchased 30 pairs of socks if I could have a discount – it worked!

Separate your money – make sure you have an account for bills, different savings goals and day-to-day spending. Accounts are so cheap (free), use them!

Automate your life – every pay cycle, have automatic transfers to each of your accounts. This removes you from the process. One would benefit from their spending account being with a different banking institution and only having this card in their wallet and app on phone (so temptations are removed to use other money). My sending plan course goes into more detail regarding this.

Choose your trade-offs (you can’t have it all!) – I didn’t bother spending money on catered dessert or dessert bowls. I also didn’t care for extravagant gifts for guests. What things in your life can be low cost in order to fund something else (i.e. you don’t have a car payment as you would rather spend the money on travel)?

Will I do it again?

Probably. It’s not the first time I have done such an event :)

Thanks to Lala Social Club for the pictures x