Party pro: Melissa Clark, food columnist for The New York Times and author of "In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite: 150 Recipes and Stories About the Food You Love."
Favorite money-saving party tip: Serve a buffet. "People tend to eat more lightly at a buffet because they're chatting and talking," says Clark. "And you can cut back on the expensive things like meat and fish."
Give it a twist: Load the table with make-ahead casseroles. What people love at holiday parties are the comfort foods -- dishes like casseroles, lasagna, macaroni and cheese, and scalloped potatoes, says Clark.
Since they can be prepared in advance, you're not stressing out at the last minute, she says. "And they're very economical."
One party hit: Brown sugar and spice apple pie.
Last used this idea: When "I had a brunch in September, and it's an ideal way to entertain," says Clark. "It was basically a carb-fest, and people went crazy. It was all their favorite foods."