Throwing a party is supposed to be fun, but spending way too much money to host one isn't fun at all—especially when you're already broke.
Is there anything more fun than a party? Probably, but we can all agree that parties are fun regardless. Still, one of the worst parts of going to a party is having to get home afterward. It’s late, you’re tired now, and you probably just want to go to bed.
But what if you could throw a party at your own home? Sure, you’d have to do some cleaning up, but that can wait till the morning! As soon as everyone leaves you can go right to bed. Doesn’t that sound nice?
Unfortunately, it can also get pretty expensive pretty quickly. Especially if you’re looking to throw the hottest party in town. So how can you throw a party without breaking your budget? We spoke to the entertainment experts to find out how you can throw a great party for less.
Trim your guest list.
One of the first steps of planning a party is deciding who you’re going to invite. Some people prefer to keep get-togethers small. Others jump at the chance to invite every single person on their Facebook friends list. But whatever your preference, one of those options is going to be cheaper than the other.
“The fewer people that are invited, the smaller the cost,” explained Lucy Harris, CEO of Hello Baby Bump. “Have a maximum number of people you wish to entertain.”
Harris also offered some advice for how the invitations should be carried out. Or not carried out: “Don’t send out invitations. In a world of technology, there is no harm in creating an event on Facebook or sending out a few texts instead of printing and spending money on invites.”
Make it a potluck.
People want to eat at a party. They might not be expecting an entire meal, but party tradition dictates that there should at least be some snacks.
“Hosting a successful gathering takes a lot of skill and finesse, especially if you are on a budget,” warned Smart Shopping Expert Trae Bodge. “But, just because you’re the host, it doesn’t mean you have to bear all of the responsibility.
“A great way to save on food is to ask guests to bring a dish. To avoid overlap, use a free platform, like Evite, so you and your guests can indicate what you plan to make and bring. Keep in mind that not everyone enjoys cooking, so let everyone know that it’s ok to bring something store-bought, like meats & cheeses, chips & dips, or pies & cakes.”
Bodge also had some recommendations for keeping the price down on the dishes you do make:
“Avoid pricey ingredients. You can feed a big group on a budget by avoiding expensive things. Fish, for instance, will be much more expensive than chicken wings. Rather than planning your menu ahead of time, peruse your weekly circular, or use an app like Flipp, to see what’s on sale, and plan your menu based on that.”
Don’t provide all the beer and alcohol.
A party doesn’t have to have alcohol. But if you are planning to have alcohol, you’re going to want to still keep it affordable. Of course, asking your guests to bring stuff works as well for alcohol as it does for food items. Maybe even better!
“If someone asks what they can bring, tell them specifically!” Harris recommended. “People often don’t mind helping out. You can reply by saying ‘bring a side dish you love’, ‘bring a wine you enjoy’, ‘bring your favorite platter’ etc.”
If you do decide to provide some drinks, you can still keep things affordable.
“For libations, make one specialty drink and offer this to your guests,” suggested Jorj Morgan, author of 7 cookbooks, including At Home in the Kitchen, At Home Entertaining, and Sunday Best Dishes: A Cookbook for Passionate Cooks. “This avoids having to have a full bar to meet everyone’s needs.”
Get creative with your decor.
You want your party to have style. But you don’t want to spend too much on that style. While going out of your way to buy special utensils or plateware customized just for the occasion may seem like a cool idea, it’s not likely to be the most cost-effective option.
“For your décor, pull out the china you have, and mix and match to create a tablescape that fits your party,” Morgan told us. “If you have four blue plates, three green plates, and one white plate, be creative and pull it together with a multi-colored napkin.”
Anything you do purchase can probably be pretty simple.
“Don’t buy themed plates, cups, napkins etc,” advised Harris. “Anything that is theme specific instantly skyrockets price. Just get a standard plain color, it is only going to end up in the bin anyway.”
And don’t forget to recycle!
“Festive décor is great for setting the mood, but it can also be expensive,” Bodge told us. “When purchasing décor, purchase only items that can be stored and reused the next year, or even better, purchase items that aren’t holiday-specific—like clear lights and decorative items that are silver and gold—so you can use them at multiple gatherings throughout the year.”
Hopefully, these tips will allow you to plan more affordable parties. We’ll be waiting patiently for our invitation!
Trae Bodge (@truetrae) is an accomplished lifestyle journalist and TV commentator who specializes in smart shopping, personal finance, beauty, toys, parenting, and retail. In addition to monthly “Best Buys” segments on CBS2 NY, Fox 5 NY and ABC/WJLA in DC, she has appeared on dozens of TV shows, including Rachael Ray, Inside Edition, CNBC and network affiliates nationwide. Trae has been named a Top Voice in Retail by LinkedIn and a top personal finance expert by GoBankingRates and FlexJobs. She is a contributing editor at Woman’s Day magazine and her writing and expert commentary have also appeared in Forbes, USNews.com, Kiplingers, Marketwatch, MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, VICE Guide to Life and numerous others.
Jorj Morgan (@jorjmorgan) is the author of 7 cookbooks, including At Home in the Kitchen, At Home Entertaining, and Sunday Best Dishes: a cookbook for passionate cooks. Her most recent book, Canvas and Cuisine: the art of the fresh market” was just released by Dorrance Publishing. Jorj’s in-the-trenches expertise in the culinary field include owning her own catering company & cooking for family & friends.
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