How to throw an awesome party on the cheap
Throwing a Great Party for Less
by Sunday Oliver
Parties Without Panic
What a Party! What a Mess!
40th Anniversary Party Ideas
editor's note: Just because you follow a frugal lifestyle does not mean you can't throw a big bash. These tips wil help you throw a great party for less.
Parties are great fun, but they can run you some money. Here are some ways to vary the party theme so you don't end up with a financial hangover.
Serve satisfying peasant meals that don't cost a lot. Your library has cookbooks with a cornucopia of ideas for simple but exotic food, such as enchiladas, paella, and moussaka. Or use an old family recipe.
Have a tea party or coffee and snacks, which are occasions when no one expects a full-course meal. Have herbal teas or a good decaf for those who prefer it. Here's a tip. Everyone loves hot biscuits, and they're cheap, easy, and quick to make.
Throw a potluck. You can vary this time-honored practice by having a theme, such as Mexican, Chinese, favorite childhood dishes, or if you're adventurous, have each person bring something they've never tried before.
Thrift stores are great places to pick up cheap tableware. Besides being classier and cheaper than disposable dishware, you'll also be making some environmental brownie points by re-using instead of throwing away. You'll even be stylish; some people these days consider matching dishes or silver to be out of date. And if something breaks, no harm done. Keep your thrift store dishes in a party box and bring them out as needed. Thrift stores are also a great place to get cloth napkins (throw in the wash and re-use) and tablecloths (try patterned sheets for bigger tables).
My neighbor collects "disposable" plastic dishes and cutlery at parties she goes to, takes them home, and puts them in her dishwasher to sterilize. Then she uses them for neighborhood gatherings. Besides saving money, she's keeping these disposable dishes out of the landfill for a little while longer.
If your friends don't mind informality, try this version of potluck. Have people bring their own dishes, cups, and silver. Before paper plates, this was a general rule for large social gatherings. Have a few extras (especially cups) for people who forget. The bonus is that this saves on cleanup time, too! And everybody knows which glass is theirs.
Alcohol can be a huge party expense. One solution is simple: don't serve alcohol at all. Instead, have hot cider, coffee, iced tea, or whatever your pleasure according to the season. Fruit juice mixed with sparkling water is pretty and festive. Homemade lemonade is always a hit in hot weather. It isn't hard to make, and tastes like something expensive. Add a few mint sprigs, and you've got something special.
Potluck works here, too. In my area, it's often the custom that the host provides the food, and the guests bring the drinks. This means your guests will have what they want.
Shop discount stores for liquor and use it creatively. Serve spritzers to make the wine go further and camouflage less-than-vintage wine. Mixed drinks make sense with hard liquor, and the dilution might be easier on your guests, too. Instead of having an open bar, offer one drink for everyone. If it's a little exotic, people will enjoy the mood. Rum toddies? Banana daiquiris? The Internet is full of recipes with cheap ingredients. Or ask a bartender for ideas. People who don't want the alcohol can enjoy the exotic drinks straight.
That's easy. The best entertainment people have at parties is each other! That's the point of having a party in the first place.
Take the Next Step
- Find all of your party needs at Shindigz
- Visit our Let's Have a Party...For Pennies board on Pinterest for more frugally fun party ideas.
- Do you struggle to get ahead financially? Then you'll want to subscribe to our free weekly Surviving Tough Times newsletter aimed at helping you 'live better...for less'. Each issue features great ways to help you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources. Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE!
Share your thoughts about this article with the editor: Click Here
More Tips & Tools to Help You
Live Better...For Less
- Is your family normal? See how other households spend their money
- 5 big bills you can cut fast
- 5 frugal ways to expand your living space
- The 12 best bargains for shoppers in April
- 4 steps to a simpler (and more frugal) life
- 8 habits that plug parental spending leaks
- 3 great low-cost summer activities with kids
- Keeping your pet out of the economic doghouse
- Frugal living ideas for large families Readers' Solutions
- What is the cost of raising a child?
- Spouse income calculator
- Should my spouse work, too?
- College savings calculator
- Home budget calculator