By Candice Choi -- AP Personal Finance Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The country's steeped in a recession, but your partying doesn't have to be.
Whether it's an inauguration fete or Super Bowl feast, think creatively in the year ahead to play host to friends and family on a tightened budget.
"A lot of people mistakenly believe a special dinner means cooking something expensive. Everyone will be happy if you just make something delicious," said Ted Allen, host of Food Network's "Food Detectives."
Food, wine and decor don't have to cost a lot to make a splash, he said. Done well, an interesting pairing such as fried chicken and champagne can be a crowd pleaser.
A few tips to stay on budget in the new year.
THE MENU. No matter how tight your budget, guests shouldn't pay for food.
"Don't ever charge your guests, whether it's at a restaurant, in your home or catered" said Lizzie Post, an etiquette expert with The Emily Post Institute.
Unless it's a potluck, your duty as a host is to feed your guests. That doesn't mean you can't control costs.
If your party's at a restaurant, for instance, pre-order family style dishes or offer a menu of selected options. Work with the restaurant to see what discounts it can offer.
Serving only appetizers or desserts is another way to keep spending in check. Setting time parameters might help gently drive the point home that you're not serving a meal. For a cocktail gathering, the invitation might state the party will be from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
"The indication is that they go elsewhere for dinner after," Post said.
If you're worried that a potluck screams "low budget," spruce it up with a theme. You could even make it a recession party and cap how much people spend on their dish. This might bring out your guests' inner "Top Chef" and give them a good conversation starter.
Warehouse retailers can help save if you're hosting a bigger party. Costco, for instance, offers higher-end appetizers like seafood and filet mignon in bulk. If you don't have a warehouse membership, enlist a friend with one. She may even want to co-host and split the costs.
Serving family style dishes such as stew or chili can also cut down the cost of feeding big groups. Even if you're watching your budget, however, make sure you have enough food to keep everyone full, Post said.
THE DRINKS. One of the biggest expenses of throwing a party is the drinks. Not the sodas, of course, but the adult beverages.
To serve wine on a budget, check out the cheaper options offered by a vineyard you like.
"Move down to the next tier. It's just like any other brand — if you like the $50 bottle, chances are you'll like the $20 bottle," said Allen of the Food Network. He said a good bottle of wine can cost less than $10.