Throwing a Budget-Friendly Party
Whether you're planning a birthday party, housewarming, graduation party, Fourth of July cookout, or even a wedding, don't let your party put you into debt.
If you've budgeted for this party, stick to your budgeted amount like glue. If you haven't budgeted for it, determine from which areas you'll cut expenses so that you can free up some money without sacrificing your long-term financial goals.
Regardless of the type of event you're planning, you can do it tastefully while on a budget. The primary ways you can save money are as follows:
Host the event at home. Host the event at your house or at the home of a good friend or relative, whether indoors or out. Renting a facility is one of the biggest budget-busters, because most rentals cost from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.
If your own home isn't appropriate and you can't borrow a home, consider other locations that might be free or low cost, such as the local beach or park.
Do your own decorations. Browse stores like Hobby Lobby and Michaels for inexpensive centerpieces, candles, holiday greenery, and so on. And check out wholesale clubs for low-cost fresh flowers. Then gather your closest friends and have a preparty party, spending the day before or morning of your event doing a little decorating.
Pipe in your own music. iPod players give you more options than ever. You can put together an entire evening's worth of music in a party playlist, and once you start the music, you won't have to think about it again the rest of the evening. If you don't have a sound system that plays an iPod, borrow one from a friend.
Cohost the event with others. If, for example, your daughter's best friend is also graduating this year, consider hosting one party for the two of them, with both families sharing the expenses.
Keep it casual. The fancier you make your event, the more your guests will expect, from tempting appetizers to expensive champagne. Think of it this way: If you're entertaining 25 people, a cookout will cost you far less than a formal dinner party will.
And don't let tradition force a financial investment that will break your budget: A tasteful, well-planned cookout in a beautiful setting, where you serve delicious steaks and seafood, will be a dinner your guests will remember for years.
Keep it small. Rather than throwing a party for 40 people every year, consider inviting four friends or colleagues to dinner, and then repeating that every month or two with different friends. You'll spread out your expenses and, in the long run, probably spend less because you won't have to decorate, purchase appetizers, send invitations, and so on.
Cater it yourself. By shopping at wholesale clubs or restaurant-supply stores, you can buy large quantities of prepared foods that are practically guaranteed to taste great. The trick is two-fold: 1) Read all cooking instructions well in advance of the party so that you know when to start dishes so they're all ready at the same time; and 2) make sure you have enough oven space to cook all the items at the same time. If not, see whether you can borrow your neighbors' ovens in advance of the party.
Keep appetizers simple. You don't have to serve shrimp and caviar. Combine fresh vegetables, pita-bread pieces, and hummus for one appetizer; serve blue corn chips and salsa for another; and prepare fruit chunks on skewers as a third. All are festive, tasty, and far less expensive appetizers than the more formal budget-busters.
Send e-vites. Don't spend money on stamps; instead, send free evites via email. Evite is the biggest electronic invitation company. Their website also offers party-planning ideas.
How much do electronic invitations cost to send?
From Evite (and most other companies), electronic invitations are free. You choose an invitation design, enter information about your shindig, and send the invitation to your email list. Guests then accept or decline. You can also send a reminder or updates (such as weather-related venue changes) just before the event.
Make it a potluck meal, and you provide desserts, appetizers, and beverages. You can throw an elegant party by asking guests to bring a main dish, and you provide an array of delicious appetizers, gourmet desserts, and beverages. You won't have to cook and will save on the most expensive part of the meal.
Make it a cooking or baking party. Whether you're throwing a child's birthday party or an engagement party for your best friend, to cut down on costs, include a cooking or baking component, with each guest bringing one key ingredient. Whether you're baking cookies, making fondue, or having a chili cook-off, you'll not only create an interesting party theme, you'll cut down substantially on your expenses.