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jan-13-homespunweb.jpgBy Stacy Downs

RISMEDIA, January 13, 2009-(MCT)-This year I’m stealing my grandparents’ favorite ritual: happy hour at home. At 4 p.m. on various weekdays, they’d whip up some whiskey sours and crack open a can of cocktail nuts. Sometimes the menu consisted of beers and pretzels. No frills, nothing fancy, it was just time to stop working, sit back and enjoy a little conversation.

Any way I can save a little money in this bad economy is a good thing. But I don’t intend to give up happy hour, because it’s one of life’s little pleasures, a time when friends and co-workers can come together for a few much-needed laughs.

I just need to ditch the happy hours of the old days. Typical outings were little more than an hour at a restaurant, but each of us spent at least $30. That was after only two glasses of wine each and a few shared appetizers. A few of those outings, and I was out of a considerable amount of mad money. I didn’t regret that then, but I’d regret it now.

Hosting happy hours at home can save a lot of cash without skimping on the fun. The five-part plan:

1. Start a rotation with friends of hosting happy hours at least once a month. The host is responsible for providing food and drinks.

2. Cap spending at $20 or less. That might not seem like much, but it’s enough for snacks and a limited number of drinks. Happy hours at home shouldn’t be considered meals.

3. Set time limits. Two hours is enough time for a getaway. Longer than that starts feeling like an obligation, and that’s no fun.

4. Don’t stress about cleaning. As long as the kitchen counters and table are decluttered and a bathroom is straightened, who cares about the rest of the house?

5. Create a fun but carefree ambience. Light a few candles, dim the lights and turn on some music. But the host shouldn’t go through the trouble of arranging fresh flowers throughout the house. Remember, it’s not about impressing guests. It’s just happy hour.

© 2009, The Kansas City Star.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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