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Cheapskate celebration 

OK, so you overspent on the holiday gifts, and you’re not sure you like the idea of shelling out upward of $50 per person so you can enjoy complimentary canapés and a glass of champagne at midnight at your local watering hole. The good news is, you don’t have to stay home in front of the tube for New Year’s. (The bad news is that you might just want to, but anyway.)

If you can’t bear to be at home when the clock strikes, there are a number of events going on right here in the metro Detroit area that will provide maximum entertainment for minimum financial outlay. There are also a number of options that are likely to provide you with, if nothing else, a few good stories to tell when you get back to work.

Be somewhere odd

There’s nothing better than comparing the strangest places you’ve spent the New Year’s countdown. Be the first in your circle to be able to claim any of the following: Stuck in an elevator (try the Marriott at the RenCen for truly spectacular tales). In a McDonald’s drive-through. Behind bars in the county lockup (this may require some prior planning). At the Millennium Bell in Harmonie Park (well, hey, this is the real start of the millennium, remember? See if anyone else thinks so too.)

Make the trip

If you’ve never been to downtown Jackson, New Year’s Eve may well be the best time to check the town out for the first time. From 9 p.m.-midnight, they’ve got outdoor entertainment (including air puppets, ice sculpting, refreshments and a fireworks display), plus heated activities including magic shows and kids’ fun. And there’s even a dance, featuring Gino Washington, who’s a “Detroit soul legend.” And hey, it’s all free!

Celebrate early

If you’re the type who can’t stay up later than 10 p.m. anyway, chances are you may be a parent. And if you’re a parent anyway, why not celebrate with your kids at the Cranbrook Institute of Science? Join in the “Museum Mystery” on New Year’s Eve day, from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is only $7 for adults and $4 for kids 3-17, and the artifact identification program (which will also get you acquainted with forensic science and evidence gathering, both helpful life skills) will set a unique tone for the coming year. Plus, it’ll get you home before bedtime.

Crash a wedding

This is one for the watercooler on January 2. Find out about the weddings being held at local hotels on New Year’s Eve and plan to show up about 11:30 p.m. By that time, dinner will likely be over, so you won’t have to fight for seating privileges, and most of the guests will be convivial enough to believe that you’re the long-lost cousin of the best man’s roommate.

Go community

Hang out at the First Night celebrations in downtown Birmingham. For just $8 in advance ($10 on the eve itself), you can buy a button that will let you attend dozens of alcohol-free, family-oriented performances and activities that begin at 6 p.m. and carry on till midnight. Hear a steel drum band, do crafts, even renew your marriage vows (register in advance for that one, by Dec. 29). Talk about a night on the town. Call 248-258-9075 for more info.

Dance at the last minute

There aren’t many places that will let you in for just $5 on New Year’s Eve, but that’s all the Hockeytown Cafe is charging for cover after 9 p.m. on the big night. No fancy-schmancy champagne or silly hats come with your door fee, but you do get to dance to a DJ and, of course, have the thrill of getting into a party you didn’t have to plan for in advance. And hey, $5 is $5. When you’re totally broke, it’s a pretty good price for a party.

Alisa Gordaneer is MT features editor. E-mail

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