By Karen Axelton

It’s getting to be the time of year when entrepreneurs start thinking about the company holiday party. If you’re like many business owners, you cut back on your celebration last year. What are you going to do this year?

I don’t think you should eliminate your holiday event, but I do think it’s smart to make some changes. Your standard hotel or restaurant dinner can be costly and, frankly, not all that memorable. What about having a catered but casual event at your house? Take it from me, your staff will always remember being invited to your home. Or consider a holiday luncheon at a fun locale, instead of a full-scale dinner-and-dancing event.

Consider taking the money you might have spent on an outside event and giving your staff small cash bonuses or gift cards instead. They’re likely to appreciate it more than ever this year. So there’s still some time for company bonding, you could have a holiday gift exchange, potluck, or dessert-baking contest in the office.

Last, but not least, since this is the season for giving, consider making charity part of your celebration. Your staff could have a gift exchange and then spend some time volunteering for a local organization. Everyone gets to spend time together and feel like they’ve made a difference. How often do you feel that way after the traditional holiday party?

Whatever you do, start by seeing what your employees think. They might have suggestions for new ways to be festive without spending lots of money. And by getting their input, you’ll find out what aspect of the party matters most. After all, this event is all about your staff—so go to the source.