Whether you're the host or the attendee, holiday parties are a lot to handle. There's the outfit, the food, the gift. But considering this may be one of the few times of year you let loose with coworkers, or gather with friends that don't live nearby, I'd argue that end-of-year gatherings are well worth the hassle.

The holidays require quite a lot of discretionary spending, however, and your budget can only handle so much. So when it comes to party time, feel free to skimp in some areas. Here are some strategies to consider when you're preparing for your celebrations.

The outfit

When you can't find the right outfit for those swanky holiday parties, it sure doesn't feel like the most wonderful time of the year. I always suggest borrowing from friends or pulling out that token black dress. But if that's not an option, you'll have to hit the stores.

Old Navy almost always has a good sale going on. And even when they don't, dresses usually don't cost more than $40. Online this week, I found a long-sleeve dress in a deep red on sale for about $25.

If you're party is more formal, check out the selection at Kohl's. Many cocktail and evening dresses are priced below $100. I found an LC Lauren Conrad sequined dress on sale for about $45 this week.

Also, Kmart in Mount Pleasant is closing, which means sales galore. Women's apparel is 50 percent off right now.

The food

If you're a host, suggest a pot luck instead of preparing everything yourself. I'd suggest serving light hors d'oeuvres. Asking your guests to pitch in could save you quite a chunk of change. Stick to foods such as mini quiches or dips, which can sustain crowds but won't cost too much.

If you plan to have alcohol, you may want to do some calculations before heading out to the store. Totalwine.com has a party planning guide to help you decide how much to buy. According to the site, about half of holiday guests typically prefer wine. Trader Joe's has the cheapest wine selection in town, but you can find bottles for less than $10 at Publix and Bi-Lo this week.

The gift

If you're playing a gift swap game, bring something anyone would enjoy, like a game, gourmet chocolate or movie tickets. Set a price limit with guests so that no one overspends.

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail