Think about the last time you and a bunch of your closest friends went out for dinner. Do you remember how much the fun evening out cost the entire table? With an average entrée cost of about $20 plus a glass of wine each, you can easily spend $120 for a party of 4...not including tip.
For less than half the cost, you can prepare a wonderful and elegant dinner at home. Embrace your inner Julia Child and invite a group of friends over to your place the next time you all want to get together. Find a few recipes that can be fun and affordable. You can even invite your guests over early so they can help you prepare the meal. It can be a great way to encourage your gay bffs to arrive early instead of always showing up late (you know who you are).
Another idea is to ask everyone to bring a side item or a beverage of choice. As the host, you should always prepare the entrée, but asking guests to bring a side will not make you look cheap. If someone does have a problem with it, don't invite them next time. There is no room for negative people in your life. I actually enjoy when people bring items to my home because it encourages conversation. Sometimes there are stories to tell about a specific recipe...maybe it's an old family recipe passed down for generations. You never know!
For cocktails, I recommend either buying a bottle of nice wine - preferably under $20. Or, you can get creative and prepare a punch, or pitcher of a specialty cocktail for all to share. Don't forget to have some non-alcoholic beverages on hand as well. I usually joke that the only beverages I have in my house are water and wine, but having some iced tea on hand never hurts.