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New Year's Eve is almost here. Ready to empty your wallet? Add to ...

New Year's Eve is almost upon us. Ready to empty your wallet?

It's a night that can be insanely expensive, once you factor in the clothes, the cabs and the exorbitant cover charges. If you're still reeling from the gift-giving bills and feeling reluctant to shell out even more for a night on the town, there are ways to have a memorable evening of fun without breaking the bank.

Financial blogger and expert Kerry Taylor (known to some by her online name Squawkfox) says the first step to making your New Year's affordable is reconsidering the dining-and-dancing experience in favour of a more frugal, family fete.

“It's amazing how many communities host some sort of family-friendly, no-alcohol event [for New Year's]” she said. “They're often free or very affordable and there's entertainment and a lot of swag for the kids to take home.”

To find a family-oriented party in your area, check your local website for events in your area, said Ms. Taylor. For example, Toronto has the annual CityTV New Year's Bash at Nathan Phillips Square, Science North in Sudbury, Ont. is hosting New Year's Eve Family Fun Day, Vancouver has a free family-friendly event in Robson Square and Halifax is throwing “ Atlantic Canada's biggest New Year's Eve party” in Grand Parade square.

If you're craving a more grown-up celebration, you can still do it on the cheap, says Ms. Taylor. Step one is skipping the overpriced event at a bar or restaurant and convincing your friends to do something closer to home.

“I'm a huge fan of throwing your own party,” she said. “And I think there are a few ways to do it if you're on a budget.”

When it comes to alcohol, skip the traditional champagne and opt for a nice bottle of wine, says Ms. Taylor. Also, you can keep costs down by offering a “specialist” (which is another way to say limited) bar.

“One type of beer, one type of red wine, one type of white wine, then a featured mixed drink,” she says. “Make a recipe card, put it up in the kitchen, and make it the fun drink that everyone will try. This saves you from spending big bucks on a fully stocked bar, and you can buy a large bottle of one type of spirits rather than a lot of smaller bottles.”

When it comes to food, don't be afraid to declare the evening a potluck. “I don't think it's rude at all, it's just about how you sell it, right?” says Ms. Taylor. “'Bring your favourite meal,' or 'Bring something you've never cooked before.'"

The host should, however, offer some heated appetizers, she says, something like tortilla chips and salsa which can be bought for cheap at a big box store.

When it comes to decorations, Ms. Taylor says stringing up some little white Christmas lights can set the party mood. Dollar stores have plenty of other cheap decor items, things like streamers, noisemakers,and balloons for a midnight balloon drop from your ceiling.

As for music, Ms. Taylor suggests going online and streaming a local radio station. Or guests can also help provide the soundtrack for the night -- have everyone bring their iPod and favourite playlist. “That way the host's playlist isn't on the hook for being great all night."

But what if you really want to splash out and paint the town red this New Year's? Ms. Taylor says if you do decide to splurge on a night at a bar, decide on a budget long before you depart. “Know how much you're spending on cover, on drinks and how much you'll need to spend to take a cab home."

If you live in a big city, many transit systems offer free transportation on New Year's Eve, she adds. “Know what times the last bus or train leaves the station, and make sure you're on it.”

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