Ringing in the new year might mean venturing out to swanky, formal parties where the champagne flows and pounding club music keeps the dance floor filled into the wee hours. Hotels and nightclubs typically charge more than $300 per couple for these dress-up fetes, and many partygoers choose to book a hotel room that night to stay off of the roads.
If this isn't your wish for this New Year's Eve, whether for budget reasons or because it's not your personal celebration style, you may want to celebrate New Year's Eve in the cozier atmosphere of your home, with just your sweetheart or a circle of friends.
Here are some of the most popular at-home celebrations:
1) Movie Night. Choose two to three movies to watch together. Special anniversary editions of classic movies are on the market, with special features at the end that add a fun element to your movie night. To keep spirits high, stick with upbeat, funny movies rather than downer dramas. A big trend now is Old Hollywood movies, such as films featuring Marilyn Monroe. If you're hosting a girls' night, show a double feature of your favorite Audrey Hepburn movies such as "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "Sabrina." Sharing the couch with a date or a spouse? Choose your favorite films, or make a deal that he picks an action flick and you pick a romantic comedy.
2) Game Night. Add some play and laughter to your New Year's party with your choice of games. Retro games are a big trend now, with couples buying or pulling from their closets such classics as Trivial Pursuit, a themed Monopoly set or Scrabble played the old-fashioned way on an actual game board rather than online. Another idea is to fire up the Wii or PlayStation to make your game night more active with bowling, boxing, tennis or other computer games. "I picked up one of the brand-new video games for my PlayStation, and the guys and I played that while the girls went retro with Dream Date at the dining room table," says party host Dennis Genopolis.
3) Girls' Wishes and Dreams Night. If you plan a girls' night in, one party trend is a wishes-and-dreams night. At this party, the ladies create their own inspiration boards -- collages filled with magazine images and handwritten wishes on colorful cards -- to show what they'd like to attract in the new year. Inspirational authors and empowerment bloggers have long promoted the inspiration board as a tool for envisioning your most cherished wishes and plans. At this party, everyone gathers at the dining room table to create their own colorful, glitter-accented inspiration boards. Or give each guest a blank journal, which can be bought for less than $5 on the bargain racks at Barnes and Noble or even for as little as $1 at your local dollar store, and have them write their wish lists in those. This activity can last a half-hour and may be combined with movie night or as one aspect of a simple, relaxed evening together enjoying great food and drinks.
4) Swap Party. Out with the old, and in with the new! At a swap party, your friends gather at your place, bringing bags of novels, cookbooks, clothing, CDs or any other items they'd like to swap with friends. Everyone gets to recycle their unwanted items and "shop" for free from the others' goodies.
5) A Good Book. Quiet time is a luxury that many people don't get to enjoy very often. If you have kids, have them spend the night with the grandparents, and you get to curl up under a cozy blanket and read a novel you've been wanting to enjoy for a long time. No distractions, no noise, no to-do list. Just uninterrupted reading time in the silence of your own home. It's ringing in the New Year in peace, doing exactly what you want to do.
6) Cooking Together. Martha Cotton, author of "Dinner Dates: A Cookbook for Couples Cooking Together," says that cooking a sumptuous meal together is a bonding experience for couples. Your dinner for two can be a four-course meal that you prepare together. Additionally, event planners Laura Bianco and Kara Thorson of My Bellissima say, "A top trend is preparing a 'breakfast for dinner' option, such as savory pancakes, or Belgian waffles, crepes or omelets." Cooking together doesn't have to be a lot of work to be a fun activity, and partners enjoy their creations in front of the fireplace or watching the New Year's Eve specials.
The beauty of a casual at-home party on New Year's Eve is that it's a simple event to plan, and etiquette rules allow sending free online invitations, such as those from Evite, to these events. Provide plenty of advance notice, though: Send your invitations at least a month before New Year's to help your guests make their celebration plans. And get creative with Champagne drinks, cocktails, dessert drinks and a budget-friendly themed menu to add special flair to your New Year's Eve party.