Saving on Holiday Entertaining



By Melissa Massello for Austin Goodwill

Between growing up the daughter of two Air Force officers who regularly entertained at the home and working in the restaurant industry for almost 15 years, there is absolutely nothing I love more than to throw parties for friends and family. But if you’ve ever hosted the holidays, or thrown a large party of any kind, you know that the price tag – and the shameful number of trash bags headed to the landfill the next day – can quickly get out of hand.

Which is why I’ve always loved shopping at Goodwill for all my party supplies! Not only can I pick up amazing, unique, conversation-starting pieces for less than the price of disposable products, but I’m also keeping usable items in rotation AND I can re-donate them after the party is through if I don’t have enough room to keep them around, which makes both my inner economist and inner environmentalist happy. Not to mention, every purchase from Goodwill helps to support their job training and career services programs. So, every time I visit my favorite thrift store it’s a social good purchase that immediately gives back to my local community.

This year, I decided to bring in fabulously talented local Austin photographers Amy & Nathan Russell to capture my actual holiday party last night, showcasing my real life secondhand style in home décor, party planning, and cocktail attire -- and that of my friends! -- for a whole holiday look book.

Stay tuned next week for the big reveal, or use my favorite tips below when you’re party planning and out shopping this weekend to save big bucks, give back to the Austin community & be a little greener this holiday season:


A little trick I picked up working in restaurants and hanging out with chefs for so many years is that if you stick to an all-white palette for dishes and serveware you can elegantly and seamlessly mix & match styles, still being able to add colorful or patterned accents to switch it up and keep it interesting and festive for various events but without needing to have 3-4 entire sets of dishes. I’m always on the look out at Goodwill for solid white pieces to add to my collection, and for the holidays this year I picked up these brand-new, still-in-the-box Threshold for Target white bowls with gold & silver lines at the South Lamar Goodwill for less than $10 for 4. I mixed them with my own plain white bowls on our buffet for guests to use for salad. Score! Another favorite trick is to pick up colorful chargers from Goodwill to use as extra serving platters – these gold ones were new-with-tags and just 99 cents each at the Lake Austin Boulevard Store. All told, I spent far less than I would have for disposable paper plates and foil platters at the grocery store, and I can keep them or donate them for someone else to use next season – plus, if they break (as things are known to do at parties!) I won’t be crushed that our wedding china is ruined.

white dishes and chalkboard menu


In the age of Pinterest, the pressure to have flawless holiday décor is incredibly daunting for party hosts. Keep it simple, and save big by shopping at Goodwill and using some of my previous 5-minute DIY tricks like adding a festive terrariums, creating chalkboard menus from old picture frames or runners from decorative paper and old books, or pairing Goodwill vases with grocery store flowers for simple and elegant DIY floral arrangements. I also picked up a mini lighted tree, an entire new-in-box set of vintage mini ornaments, and mini red velvet bows to create our “Charlie Brown” mantletop Christmas tree this year…for $7 total at the South Lamar Store. You really can’t beat that. Another one of my “secret weapons” is to use scarves from the accessories department as table runners, especially on a sideboard, buffet or bar. Always cheaper, and many times much more fun and modern patterns!

appetizer plates


When you’re throwing a party, there is absolutely NO reason to throw down on expensive wine glasses. Even for wine snobs, save the varietal-perfect stemware for smaller, more intimate dinners. Things break at parties, no matter how civil! I always stock on up glassware at Goodwill, and find the most amazing champagne glasses, goblets, pint glasses, coffee cups, extra mixing bowls and casserole dishes, Mason jars to set out silverware on buffets, you name it. I found this set of 10 Waterford crystal goblets for $1.99 a stem at the Oak Hill Store and my friends couldn’t stop commenting about how much they loved them, and how fancy they felt drinking from them. As an added bonus, I found this wonderful vintage set of party plates that hold your wine glass – from a super ritzy store back in Boston near Harvard, called The Cellar – for just $2.99 for the four. So fun for so many reasons, the most important one being just how useful they were!

crystal wine glasses


No matter how much you entertain on the regular, no one ever seems to have enough serving spoons and forks. It’s like socks and the laundry, no one knows where they go! Goodwill is a great place to pick up extras, and for 59 to 99 cents a piece, usually. No one is going to judge if your salad tongs and carving knife don’t match, so stop sweating the small stuff – it’s far more stressful searching the cabinets for a ladle for gravy that doesn’t exist! Stock up when you can at Goodwill and say goodbye to the groans of your guests forever.

SPARKLY FASHIONMelissa in thrifted Christmas outfit

I've always been known to flaunt my secondhand style, and when it comes to the holidays there's nothing I find more fun than pulling out all the stops with my vintage and bead-and-sequin-encrusted collection of pieces that I've thrifted over the years. For a little sneak peek of our whole holiday look book next week, here's a snap of me from last night's photo shoot wearing my actual thrifted Christmas outfit for this year: a Lucky Brand beaded velvet cape (in this year's Pantone Color of the Year, Marsala); a black velvet GAP dress; and a vintage beaded satin sash, my new favorite accessory – scored for less than $1 at the Outlet on Burleson Road!!!



shop, holiday


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