How to Plan a Party on a Budget
Every party host wants their guests to leave happy, satisfied, and let’s face it, impressed. But the cost of so many things that go into a party, such as food, beverages, decorations, and party rentals, can add up quickly. If keeping within your budget is important, don’t worry—you can plan a successful party and save money at the same time.
Make Simple Invitations
Small get-togethers require just a phone call or text, but for larger or more formal parties, invitations are in order. The trouble is, buying personalized and mailing invitations can be expensive. If the occasion allows, consider sending out digital invitations. Several websites and social media platforms offer free or low-cost digital invitations. You can design and personalize them online, and collect RSVPs when people respond. If you prefer printed invites or if a keepsake invitation is desired, such as for a special anniversary, you can also take advantage of low-cost websites that let you order printed invitations. Of course, you’ll want to plan ahead to leave extra time for shipping and mailing.
Focus on Free Entertainment
Kids don’t care if you hire an expensive character impersonator or rent an inflatable bouncer—they just want to have fun. For kids, that means being active and playing. If a kids’ party is being held outdoors, you can’t go wrong with classics like sack races or ball tosses. For the indoors, searching games and crafts can be fun.
Just like kids, grown-ups like games, too. Organize a bean-bag throw contest (called cornhole in some areas) and offer inexpensive prizes for other kinds of competitions. Instead of hiring a DJ, hook up some speakers and stream your own music playlist. This can even work at weddings with some planning.
Reuse Old Supplies
Every party seems to end up with surplus supplies like extra paper plates, napkins, streamers, or balloons. With a little creativity, you can repurpose supplies from a previous party and create new decorations. You can make paper flowers from leftover streamers or party napkins. Or, add a new color and braid streamers together for a fresh look.
For kids, leftover paper plates can be folded into baskets to use for party favor bags. You can also use paper plates for kids’ crafts and games. The backs of paper plates make a great canvas for drawing and coloring. Use scissors to cut holes in the plates, and they can be transformed into masks.
Buy in Bulk
Whether you shop at a big-box warehouse retail store or an online shop, buying in bulk can save you money. Food, decorations, and other party supplies can all be purchased in large quantities at discount prices. Frozen party foods like chicken wings, meatballs, and other finger foods are available in large boxes, for instance, which can save you both money and time. For a large party, buying napkins, paper plates, drinking cups, and other serving supplies are also less expensive at bulk shops. Multi-tiered stands can make food such as hors d’oeuvres and desserts look appealing. Toothpicks add detail to your food presentation that will impress people without breaking the bank.
Drinks are expensive, especially beer, wine, and spirits. For more informal parties, it’s perfectly acceptable to request guests to bring their own drinks or contribute to the bar. You may ask directly by putting BYOB on the invitations, but there are also some fun ways to subtly encourage it. For an adult party, consider throwing a wine tasting or beer tasting party. Ask guests to bring their favorite wine or craft beer. Use plastic shot glasses to set up tasting flights and ask guests to rate and vote for their favorite. The winner can win an inexpensive prize, such as a bottle opener or corkscrew, and afterward, everyone shares the leftover beverages.
Make It Appetizers Only
Unless you’re not specifically hosting a dinner party, you may not need to serve a meal or a full buffet. Everyone loves finger foods, and an appetizers-only party can satisfy your guests’ hunger and save you money in the long run. By offering a wide range of appetizers, from vegetables to gluten-free desserts, you can also meet your guests’ varying dietary needs.
For informal parties, a simple browsing table will work, but if you want to ramp it up a notch, serve some more unusual foods and take some time with the presentation. Tapas and small plates are popular trends these days, and the appetizers-only theme is even being used for weddings.
Use Your Backyard
Moving a party outdoors has a number of advantages, and not just on your budget. Most people’s backyards can comfortably accommodate more people than their living rooms, so you can expand the invitation list. Outdoor parties also require less elaborate decorations: just add some lights or a few flowering plants. If rain is a risk, consider renting a tent or canopy. It can be much less expensive than renting a venue. A backyard party doesn’t have to be a kids’ party or barbecue. With the right touches, you can transform your backyard into a more formal venue. Many couples save thousands of dollars by hosting a backyard wedding.
Make It a Potluck
Family parties are often potlucks, and they’re usually a hit. Everyone looks forward to Grandma’s potato salad or Uncle Joe’s hot wings. But potlucks can be fun experiences for other types of parties, too. Start by choosing a theme, such as a specific cuisine or occasion. Part of the entertainment is getting to sample a variety of dishes. You can ask people to indicate what they will bring or assign people certain categories, such as appetizers, side dishes, salad, entrées, and dessert. You might also want to set a size or price range per item so that everyone contributes an equitable amount. Label the dishes and encourage tasting size portions.
A great party doesn’t have to be expensive to be enjoyable. Whatever the occasion of the party, you can save money without forgoing anything needed for people to have a good time. With a little imagination, you can host a memorable event that doesn’t break your budget.
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