Party Planning on a Budget

by Patty Sachs

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The challenge with budgets is to distribute your precious dollars in ways that will create the most meaningful and lasting impact upon your guests. Start by making a list of all the items that you would like to have for your event and make an estimated guess (after a research call or two) of the major costs involved.

Here is where your brains, creativity, contacts, persuasive powers and talents can pay off. If you can save in one place and use it in another, you will most likely end up having everything on your wish list... and then some.

Basic money saving ideas:

  • Have the event in your own house, in your apartment building or condo party room, or anywhere that is free. Caution: Often the cost of renting equipment doesn't offset the free room. Most commercial party facilities have large quantities of equipment and supplies that may include decorations and props that, if used, could save you considerable amounts of money.

  • Whenever possible, bring in your own food and beverages.

  • Recruit help for preparing food as well as setting up and serving. Swap help with a friend, or as the phrase has been coined, "party pool".

  • Shop around for suppliers that will sell to you in bulk at wholesale rates. Shop at wholesale bakery outlets for day old items that if stored in the freezer, will be delicious.

  • If you rent bulky items, don't scrimp on the delivery fee. It's usually only a few dollars and well worth the convenience.

  • Rent your own helium tank and buy balloons from a party supplier to create the most simple decorations. The library will have books on working with helium and balloons, or you may have a (preferably adult) friend that has that special talent.

  • Suggestion: Hire professionals if you want elaborate balloon decorations, arches, columns and special shapes. In the long run, you will save money and get long lasting, durable balloon displays that are just exactly what you want.

  • Rental companies often sell used items. It is a good way to pick up equipment and supplies for frequent entertaining.

  • Schools, churches or community centers may have tables, chairs, serving items, lights, props or display items that they will lend for a small donation.

  • Consignment shops are great places to find those unusual one-of -a-kind glamorous party garments.

Party Decoration Without Frustration

  • Nestle fresh apples, pears, oranges, lemons in with greens; add candles for an easy, elegant arrangement.

  • Tie tiny bunches of fresh herb sprigs with green garden twine or raffia and attach them to napkins.

  • Hang those lovely greeting cards to frame a doorway, mantle, stairway or pass-through.

  • Trim a pine bough garland with family snapshot cutouts and brightly colored ribbons.

  • Festive holiday lights called luminarias are simply paper bags (tops cuffed down) with a votive candle (in glass is best) placed in the sand that fills the bottom. Decorate bags with paints and glitter, cut out shapes for light to shine through.

  • Add festive bows to everything--easy and economical.

  • The glow of candles will tie it all together when placed everywhere, even in the bathroom.

Don't Just Dream of a Green Holiday Cut Down on Holiday Waste

  • Don't use anything disposable when you can use the real thing

  • Don't buy or use what you can manage without

  • Reuse or recycle what you can.

  • Christmas trees in pots can be replanted and cut-up trees can be mulched.

  • Send cards of recycled paper, use white paper if you are crafting your own. Save festive holiday cards for craft projects

  • Use real plates and cloth napkins at dinner parties. Mix and match patterns can be very festive.

  • Save beautiful wrappings, cartons and mailers for future gift giving. Even the smallest scraps of paper and ribbon will prove valuable.

  • Wrap gifts in the Sunday funny papers, brown bags, natural-fibre fabric, trimmed or decorated boxes.

  • Omit paper, skip the box and "wrap" gifts in reusable containers such as tins, plastic storage boxes, baskets and bags.

  • Save and reuse any bubble wrap or foam peanuts. Popcorn is ideal for packing short distance packages but not any that will be in transit a long time.

  • Avoid foils, velvet-flocked, aluminum foil, stickers, shiny/crinkly/metallic ribbon.

Patty Sachs is a party expert and author or party planning guides. Her books Complete Idiot's Guide to Throwing a Party and Pick A Party: The Big Book of Themes & Occasions

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