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No Holiday Party Plans? Four Tips For Throwing a (Cheap) Last-Minute Bash

Friday, 18 Dec 2009 | 10:56 AM ET

‘Tis the season to be merry again or so they say.

With Christmas a week away, the remaining 90 percent of the population that still have jobs might need some help getting into the swing of things this year.

In a recent Vault.com poll, a full third of respondents reported that their firm was hosting no holiday party this year, with another third reporting that this year's affair would be more modest than in recent years. (Of course, we have no way of telling how many respondents were those poor bankers at Goldman, who have been banned even from throwing parties in their own homes.) While the economics behind scaling back on the festivities are understandable—no-one wants to be seen to be throwing money away at a time when it's so difficult to bring it in—workers all across the country have been working longer, harder, and with fewer resources. If you're not going to show them some recognition now, then when?

Amid the obvious hesitation to have big affairs, the C-suite also has to make some financial decisions: betting on 2010.

As Vault CEO Erik Sorenson mentioned a few posts ago, amid the frolicking comes the number crunching. After having exhausted layoffs and cost reductions in 2009, what will 2010 look like? Unemployment remains high and morale low. Especially among those who remain employed.

So, for companies who don’t have the petty cash to make a big booming holiday party this year, here are some pointers to have some fun anyway. While some of them might not be your idea of fun, when in a group, they can be reason for some cheer. (As an added bonus, they can all be done with relatively short notice on your own premises, so even Grinch-like bosses still have the opportunity to call a snap party for next week!)

1) Secret Santa: This CAN be fun. A lot of people pooh-pooh the tradition, and for good reason: You don’t know who is gifting you and especially in big companies, the gift could be completely unwanted. However, when budgets are tight, this tradition can also warm everyone’s heart. When it is done right, receiving a gift from a colleague you would never talk to otherwise can be rewarding. Remember what everyone says about the job market? Network, network, network. That’s it. Even for the employed, networking is a constant necessity. So even if you don’t like the $20 ITunes gift card, spend a few minutes with your Santa and establish contact.

2) Karaoke: Sure, it might make you squirm, but that's all the more reason to try it. It’s cheap, can be a lot of fun if done right and is always a good way to let off steam. Couple that with letting your hair down among people you know do your payroll and IT services but never speak to, and you have a whole new audience.

3) Pot luck: There's no need for holiday parties to be overly elaborate, catered affairs. Most employees will understand if you can't afford steak dinner for the entire office. Pot lucks can be a good way of getting people involved, and are sure to provide an unusual mix of food. And with everyone bringing a specialty, there are sure to be some good things on offer.

4) Free H1N1 flu shots: Okay, so this one's a joke. But still, nothing will gladden the heart quite like the knowledge that your employees are immune to a flu that can keep them sidelined for weeks.

More Executive Strategies & Holiday Ideas on CNBC.com:Hottest States For Green JobsCollege Degrees in Most Demand: 2009Executive Career StrategiesHoliday Central

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Aman Singh is an Editor with Vault and works with Fortune 500 companies on reporting their diversity recruitment strategies and initiatives.

Comments? Send them to executivecareers@cnbc.com

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