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The pieces of the holiday puzzle are finally coming together. You got the presents. The holiday cards. The OMG pie. But a few things are still missing. Introducing our eight secrets for navigating the holiday party scene. Here, we’ll equip you with clever little tips for nabbing inexpensive decor, setting up a foolproof kids’ table and even crafting the perfect conversation starters. Study up. Your social calendar is begging you.

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FIRST, PLAN YOUR OUTFIT

This will set the tone for the entire event. Have a pair of fancy pants you’re just dying to wear? Boom: “Fancy Pants” is your theme (when else will you wear them?). And don’t fret, they pair well with a slinky blouse or a slouchy oversized sweatshirt.

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Werner Straube

SKIP THE RED AND GREEN OVERLOAD

To really achieve Pinterest-worthy decor, stick to three colors max. Notice the impact of gold and silver metallics against a clean white wall? Stunning.

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THE TRICK TO INEXPENSIVE DECOR

Doesn’t it feel like the more you spend on flowers, the quicker they shrivel up and die? If you have a real Christmas tree indoors (or evergreens outside), you have an inexpensive yet elegant solution to decking your halls. Arrange a few branches in vases for simple centerpieces, or drape a few over your chandelier. The effect is festive and fragrant, and the look will last ’til January 2.

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BE THE BEST BARISTA

Dessert and coffee are holiday essentials. But this year, leave your futzing for the piecrust and create a self-serve coffee bar. Give your guests a choice of flavors for a delightful twist, like Dunkin’ Donuts’ Cinnamon Coffee Roll or Caramel Coffee Cake. Not sure how strong to make it? Just follow this handy guide.

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CHIL

NEVER BE WITHOUT FESTIVE TUNES

Compile a go-to holiday playlist on Spotify to have on hand at all times--and when the neighbors drop by early, just press play. Instant party. If you’re clueless on how to start, check out our premade version here.

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SET UP A (COOL) KIDS’ TABLE

Two words: kraft paper. When the festivities continue well beyond dessert and your youngest guests are getting punchy, you’ll be glad you have a tablecloth that doubles as a drawing surface. Throw some crayons (and snacky cereal) at ’em and keep the grown-up merriment going.

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Twenty20

STOCK UP ON EXTRA GIFTS

Few things invoke holiday trauma quite like when a friend brings you a thoughtful gift?and you have nothing in return. Don?t get caught empty-handed. Before your gathering, pick up a few extra could-work-for-anyone presents and keep them wrapped, tucked away and ready to go. (Everyone loves a quirky pistachio bowl or socks with personality.) Leave the gift tags blank and fill them in secretly while everyone?s admiring the crudités spread. A Post-it note on the bottom will remind you that it?s a scented candle and not a Darth Vader piggy bank.

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Twenty20

CHAT WITH EASE AND GRACE

As the hostess, you’re gonna need to say a few words to everyone, but starting every convo with “How’s your holiday going?” gets really…blah. Have a few interesting icebreakers up your sparkly sleeve: Download the Conversation Shaker app and peruse a few questions before the party starts. (The trial version is free and features loads of good questions in categories like “Light & Easy” and “Tough Topics.")