As to the matter of entertaining which is something that you shouldn't give up unless your bank account is really alarming.
You don't need to entertain expensively. It doesn't even need to be a lot of work. But entertaining is important. Both the parties you give and go to are stimulating and boost the moral.
Being embarrassed by having the entertain simply is a silly form of snobbery and in these days when simpler meal are smart and a amusing party is far more of an achievement than an extravagant one.
Real hospitality and carefully combined guests are the most important part of any party.
One of the first rules is not to attempt more that you can manage. In these times when money is tight necessity had invented all sorts of ways of entertaining on a shoestring, without the need for 9 course dinners!
Keeping it simple but fun with good food and friends is all you need:
- Sunday lunch - made simple - baked ham, potato salad, with cherries or strawberries for desert.
- a late supper post movie - sandwiches laid out on the coffee table made with a variety of breads and fillings so that people can make their own combinations, bottles of beer or ginger ale.
Sunday brunch is always a great way to entertain especially in the summer when you can get outside - bloody mary's or lots of fresh juice, huge bowls of berries, yogurt, toast some muffins with a selection of marmalade's and jams - wack on the barbie and cook sausages and bacon.
The setting can do a lot for the party and that isn't a matter of cost. A table set in a sunny window or on terrace with a view or under an apple tree can make the simplest china look enchanting.
Hunt out car boot fairs, charity shops or flea markets for individual pieces of china and linen, mix with cheap white china from high street stores - effective but stylish.
Buffet suppers are a triumphant solution to no maid no money solution. One advantage is that everything or nearly everything can be made in advance. The best buffet suppers are planned that everyone can sit down in small groups with a small table to avoid the necessity of balancing plate, glass and fork.
A smart way to do it if you have no dining room is to sit your guest on sofa's and occasional chairs with a number of side tables and each table laid as for a formal dinner. Or serve coffee after dinner in a beautiful coffee pot - you can pick ones up all over the place.
Throw a tea party with china teapot and teacups - simple sandwiches and shop bought cakes. For cocktails - mix jugs of spirit with lots of juice, serve olives. nuts and little nibbles that can be bought really cheaply - £ shops have lots of olives and nuts, or make really simple canapes - cheese biscuits with cream cheese or bean puree - there are lots of quick ideas in books that you can borrow from the library.
In summary - keep it simple, use good ingredients, and some imagination to entertain with style.