Inviting friends and family to celebrate New Year's Eve together is a perfect way to forge a bright future — the sense of expectant festivity on this special occasion makes memories and cements relationships and resolutions.

Inviting friends and family to celebrate New Year's Eve together is a perfect way to forge a bright future — the sense of expectant festivity on this special occasion makes memories and cements relationships and resolutions.

When planned just right, a New Year's Eve party can be easy to arrange and easy on the bank account. The trick is finding new ways to create a celebratory atmosphere and asking guests to chip in.

Start with planning a budget, guest list and general theme. To cut costs, consider a later party, from 9 p.m. till midnight or later.

"Usually people will opt to have a pre-dinner ... then you are just providing snacks," counsels Laurel Walter, co-owner with Jennifer Bright of Twist in Ashland.

For casual affairs, a phone call or e-mail invitation is fine. Homemade invitations are more meaningful; save postage by hand-delivering.

"Maybe make a collage of New Year's Eve-y things like champagne labels and other ideas you find in magazines," suggests Walter. Include time, place and style so people know what to wear and bring.

For an appetizer party, ask guests to bring finger food; the host need only supply champagne and a wonderful dessert.

"Or ask everyone to bring their favorite bottle of wine and make it a tasting party," says Kathy Alexander, owner of Your DJ & Event Service in Jacksonville. "If you put out olives, nuts and such in small bowls, it looks like more food. At the big box stores, you can buy very impressive appetizers at a low price."

A late night dessert party is sweet all around — the host provides three or four lovely desserts (plan for variety in flavor, texture and appearance) and coffee while guests supply the bubbly.

Now turn to décor. First, take down the holiday tree and other seasonal decorations.

Keep party decorations relatively subtle, says Walter. She likes to bring good fortune for the New Year with horseshoe-shaped cookie invitations, bean soup and four-leaf clovers made from hot pink paper with silver accents. The theme is carried throughout the house, with candles for ambiance.

"Favors could be some simple good-luck items or fortune cookies to go," she says. "Who couldn't use a little good luck this next year?"

For an intimate party with a Swiss twist, invite friends for cards and fondue. Start with Irish coffees and end with apple strudel and a champagne toast.

Mexican themes are always budget-friendly. Set out a buffet of chips, dips and margaritas, with champagne supplied by guests. Zing it up with invitations attached to noisemakers and a pre-midnight piñata.

More ethnic flavor accompanies a Chinese New Year theme, with red and gold lanterns, takeout containers and chopsticks. An Indian/Moroccan theme could capitalize on scavenged textiles in bright, hot colors, elephant stamps, gold coins and Indian music.

Celebrate nature with a bonfire party. After obtaining permits, all that's needed are hot toddies and stew.

Go for classic glamour with a black-tie dress code; decorate with black, white and silver balloons, the numerals "2009" and floating candles.

Make a trip to a local bargain store for sparkly hats and noisemakers. "Bags of confetti sprinkled on the linens says 'New Year's Eve Party' but doesn't cost a lot," Alexander says.

If your crowd is game, suggest charades — made all the more fun after a glass of champagne.

Or consider taking your dressed-up guests to Las Vegas — in your own home. "It's casino night," says Walter. "Have tables set up with 21 and poker ..."

Offer chili, cornbread and mini sandwiches to eat at the tables. End with brownies and sparklers.

"Send people home with a box of dice and cards and chips," Walter suggests. "Drinks could be martinis and champagne; have the guests bring the bubbly."

Before any party, find some hip, up-tempo, danceable music. Make a CD or iPod playlist yourself or hire a good DJ.

"Most good DJs have their playlist on-line and you can choose ahead of time," says Alexander.

Finally, have at least one pre-arranged designated driver and prominently display the number to a local taxicab company.

Now put on that party hat, blow that noisemaker and ring in a brand new year!