Be prepared. Plan your menu and guest list early so you know exactly what your tabletop needs are and can look for deals. The earlier you start, the more likely you are to discover inexpensive alternatives. It gives you time to hit the thrift stores for extra glassware, platters etc., or if buying new, to look for sales.
Borrow. If there are items that you need, ask friends who are going out of town if you can borrow from them. If they are traveling, they won't be needing that roasting pan!
Substitute. Let go of what you think you absolutely "need" for the table. For example, if you are low on vases, substitute drinking glasses or bottles. Check out all of our ideas for How to Set a Party Table Without Buying Anything New.
Potluck. Do a partial potluck - you can do the "mains" and let your guests help out with the appetizers, sides and desserts.
Candlelight. Nothing is more festive and beautiful than a candlelit room. Simple tapers (that you've stored in the freezer to prolong their burn time) and lots of tealight votives create a holiday ambiance for a few dollars. Check out our full list of simple, fast and inexpensive decorating ideas.
Consider Carnations. They may be thought of as a "filler flower" from time to time due to their inexpenisve pricetag, but they can be used beautifully for holiday floral arrangements. For inspiration and ideas, check out our How-To post on making several great looking arrangements.
Keep the bar basic. Our list of just the necessities is right here.
Go reusuable. It may seem more expensive at first, but will save lots of money in the long run. We have a full list of party necessities that you'll use year after year, and they are all under $5.
Finally, if you'd really like to host friends and family on the day but just can't swing the expense of a full dinner this year, you can be the designated "after dinner" spot. Invite friends to stop at your place last, after the big meal. Board games, coffee and dessert are on you!
(Top image: Porter Table Linens by Unison)