Growing up in a family where we hosted everything from birthday parties to Christmas gatherings to Fourth of July barbecues, it’s just in my DNA to host parties.
The problem? Hosting a party can get ridiculously expensive – particularly when you’re trying to budget and for an upcoming holiday.
Over the years, however, I’ve learned how you can host a party on the cheap that’s still top-notch.
Find out how by following these 9 tips.
1. Create your budget.
Thanks to this handy party budget estimator from Evite, you can calculate the cost of food, drinks, decorations, venue, and entertainment for your upcoming party so that you don’t overspend.
If you do go over budget, then think about whittling down your guest list or looking for cheaper food, drink, and decoration alternatives so that you can reduce the cost of the party.
As with any budget you create, make sure that you stick to it.
2. Pick a theme.
Before you start buying food, drinks, and decorations, settle on a theme. This will help guide you in setting the budget I just mentioned since you’ll know exactly what you need to purchase for the party.
If the theme is too expensive to pull-off, then look for another theme that’s not as pricey.
Another perk of picking a theme is that you may find a ton of DIY ideas on Pinterest or Instagram, which could potentially save you a ton of money in decorations or entertainment.
3. Go green.
Unless it’s for a more formal event, like a wedding, there’s really no reason to send out paper invitations – especially when you can send out invites digitally on Facebook or Evite for free.
The same is true with paper and plastic plates, silverware, and glasses. Washing them may be a hassle, but using the dinnerware that you already own cuts out this unnecessary expense. Besides, real dinnerware makes you party seem a bit more eloquent.
4. Skip the big meal.
I honestly enjoy dinner parties. But, they can get real expensive. Instead of having a traditional sit-down dinner, just offer hors d’oeuvres or appetizers, such as cheese/charcuterie plates, veggies, and bread bowls. Usually, these ingredients are inexpensive or can be bought in bulk.
Just remember, make your presentation unique and appealing based on your theme, as opposed to the ordinary and humdrum. If the presentation looks amazing, your guests won’t even know that you didn’t spend a whole lot dough on food.
5. Stick with a signature drink.
Just like food, you have to provide your guests with drinks. The problem is that having a full bar is extremely expensive. Don’t spend hundreds of dollars on a variety of alcohol. Instead, come up with a signature cocktail that matches your theme. This way you’re only purchasing one or two types of alcohol.
If you do want to have more of selection, then buy your alcohol in bulk or at places like Trader Joe’s where decent bottles of wine can be found for under $10. Of course, there’s also the classic BYOB option.
6. Keep entertainment and decorations simple.
You can’t host a party without entertainment. Thankfully, you can entertain your guests on the cheap thanks to music apps like Apple Radio, Spotify, and Pandora where can make playlists for the theme or holiday.
Besides background music, you can play cards or board games, have dance-offs, or have a pool party. You can even purchase or rent a karaoke machine for under $200 if that’s your thing.
For smaller gatherings, you could have a movie marathon, video game challenge, or under $20 gift exchanges.
If there are kids at the party, set up an area where they can color and do simple crafts. You can even hire a neighborhood babysitter to help with this — and they usually have great ideas of their own. It also wouldn’t hurt if there are kid-friendly movies and games available.
Besides entertainment, keep your decorations simple. Look for DIY decoration ideas on Pinterest, shop at dollar stores, and keep the bulk of your decorations in areas where there’s going to be the most amount of traffic.
7. Ask your guests to pitch in.
Most quests don’t have the nerve to show-up empty-handed – even if you tell them not to bring anything. To make life easier, and keep your expenses low, ask your specific friends to bring their favorite drinks or signature dishes.
If planned correctly, and planned ahead, this should take care of at least some of the appetizers, snacks, desserts, and drinks from your budget.
You can also throw a potluck dinner. If you’re not a fan of that term, then call it a “recipe exchange” party.
8. Party during the day.
Nighttime parties are the norm. But, they can get pretty expensive when guests expect plenty of food and drinks – which sometimes can extend into the wee hours of the morning.
Instead, consider throwing a party during the day, like a brunch, barbecue, pool party, or game day gathering.
While you still have to provide food and drinks, these items are often less expensive, you can make a ton of pancakes relatively cheap, for instance. Also, since it’s during the day, your guests are less likely to drink as much,
9. Throw a progressive dinner party.
If you do want to have a dinner party, then ask your friends, family, or neighbors if they would be interested in throwing a progressive party dinner together. Instead of one person playing host, the dinner party is divided by 3 to 5 different people.
For example, guests would first come to your home for hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. After about 45 minutes or so, everyone would go to your best friend’s house for appetizers, followed by their neighbor for a dinner course, and then another friend’s home for dessert and after dinner drinks.
This is also a great, “get to know the new neighbors,” party.
The logistics can sometimes be a problem, so this only works if everyone is in close proximity, but it’s a unique party idea for your inner circle where the expense and responsibility of hosting doesn’t fall just on you.