A friend of mine keeps a stash of vases -- pretty, but cheap vases from thrift stores and yard sales -- and uses them to deliver flowers to a dinner or cocktail party. Flowers delivered in water and in a vase offer a host-friendly gift.
Here are other tips for being a great guest. Most of the suggestions are frugal and fun. The tips are from Lolita of the Lolita Store --and yeah she's pushing her trinkets as gifts, but the tips are good, and that's why I'm running them.
1. "RSVP (and do it on time)! That way, you're already being a good guest before you even get there.
2. Offer assistance. When RSVP-ing or any time before the event, ask how you can help. Your offer will be appreciated (and, most likely, not accepted).
3. Never arrive empty handed! Bring a thoughtful gift the host or hostess can use. [Editor's note: There was a soft-sell here for Lolita's products.]
4. Mingle, mingle, mingle. People want to see their guests having a good time with each other. Ask people questions, and be willing to share information about yourself.
5. Use that camera. Don't just bring your camera, use it. Get some photos of guests, the host, the venue, the food... People often forget to capture the moment.
6. Clean up after yourself. Unless specifically directed not to do so, minimize your party footprint. And if you're one of the last to go, ask if you can help clean up after others as well.
7. Follow up with a "thank you." A simple call, email or (gasp) hand-written note is always nice to receive. Remember those pictures you took? Sharing those with the host is another way to show how much fun everyone had."
Source: Lolita of the Lolita Store
Sharon is the author of the Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money and a contributing writer in Wise Bread's 10,0001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget.