Entertaining on a budget: How to make a party affordable

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PITTSBURGH - Hosting a party can be expensive, especially if you're serving a lot of people.  So consumer reporter Robin Taylor set out on a mission.  Her goal was to come up with ways to entertain friends and family without breaking the bank.

First and foremost, you have to plan ahead.  These are really simple things you can do that will save a considerable amount of money, especially if you're entertaining a lot of people.

For expert advice I turned to Sara Steigerwald.  She teaches couponing and runs a website called Sisters Shopping on a Shoestring.   

This month, Sara is hosting a holiday party for 90 people.  Since alcohol is often the biggest expense, she says, don't stock the bar.  Serve one specialty drink.

"This year what I'm going to do is a spiced cider with rum," said Steigerwald.

For appetizers, Steigerwald says skip the party trays and do the slicing and dicing yourself.

Crackers are on sale right now, and the markdowns begin soon on specialty meats and cheeses.

"Frequently you'll see unadvertised deals on these gourmet products," said Steigerwald.

When it comes to the main course, Sara suggests something relatively simple that can serve a lot of people and can be made ahead of time.  This year, she's serving lasagna, and she'll let her guests bring the side dishes.

"Everyone always wants to contribute in some way.  Ask them to bring something.  Family and friends always want to help out," said Steigerwald.

Paper products are another necessity.  Sara stocks up on them when they're on sale and uses coupons, saving even more when they're doubled.

"This year I'm going to be using these large Vanity Fair plates for mine and I used a coupon with that to get these at a very reasonable price," said Steigerwald.

For desert, she's baking and the good thing about it is that this month, the ingredients are on sale.

"That's really what living within our means is all about, is trying to get the best deal for our money to live within our means," said Steigerwald.

Using coupons can really bring your costs down and there are a lot of them available right now.

For example, if you're baking you can save with printable coupons on the flour, the sugar and the eggs.