How to Throw a Successful Party on a Small Budget

Picture this: Your parents are having a milestone anniversary later this year and you love them so much, you’re in charge of throwing them a party. The good news is: you have such fabulous parents that everyone else also loves them too. The bad news? They’ll all want to be invited and you’re so broke you can barely feed yourself, let alone 30 others. Well, have no fear. You can throw a successful party on a limited budget.

I’ve thrown all sorts of get-togethers with limited means for the past five years. I’ve thrown BBQs, birthday parties, bridal showers, anniversaries and even planned my own wedding. I’ll show you how planning ahead, shopping for supplies on sale, and lots of do-it-yourself projects can keep a great deal of money where it belongs: in your pocket. Let’s start with planning ahead.

Believe it or not, time is your best friend when you’re planning a party and have only a small amount of money to work with. The first thing to decide is where it’s going to be held, and when. Your best bet is to have the party at someone’s house and during the warmer months. This way, you won’t have to pay a recreation hall for the space, and if it’s a beautiful day, you’ll double the available space if people mingle not only inside, but outside as well. Once you’ve got that taken care of, decide on one or two main things that you consider a priority. Are you having a theme? Do you absolutely have to hire a caterer? How important to the guest of honor is entertainment (i.e. dj, band)? If these types of things are decided on far enough in advance, you’ll have a better idea of how much money you have for supplies what kind you’ll need. Let me fill you in on a few great ways to purchase them at reduced prices.

The best time to shop for supplies like decorations and paper products is a few days after a big holiday or on clearance shelves. April Tucker’s article on points out that retailers lower their prices on seasonal items to as much as 75% off their original price after a holiday has passed. Some of these items might be very specific in design, but you’ll also find a lot of things that are solid colors and can be used any day of the year. This works especially well if you’re not too picky about the party’s color scheme. Also keep an eye out for items on clearance that have nothing to do with parties. You can turn just about anything into centerpieces or decorations. I found wood frames for $1 each and painted them for my son’s Christening. We used them as centerpieces and afterwards gave them as favors for the aunts and uncles. At our wedding, we filled terra cotta pots for the centerpieces, because hey, they were 4/$1. Another good way to get supplies for next to nothing is networking. If you know someone, or even know someone who knows someone who has something to offer, try to see what he can do for you. For example, if your cousin works at a bakery, you might be able to get the cake discounted. Or if you have a friend that works at a restaurant or bar, he might be able to get the ice for free. If you’re really lucky, you might even find something in your own attic that can serve a purpose. I found tulle in mine and used them to wrap favors for a bridal shower. Remember: Free is better than cheap! Speaking of crafts, let’s talk about do-it-yourself projects.

The biggest way save money is to do as much as possible by yourself and not pay someone else to do it.
A huge way to cut into your budget is to hire a caterer. A local cater prices a fresh fruit plate at $75 for enough to feed 20-30 people. Buying fruit and doing all the peeling and cutting yourself can cost as little as $30 depending on what your grocery store has on sale that week. When it comes to produce, the best bet is to serve whatever is on sale when you shop. Also, decide what types of meat you’ll serve, and scan the grocery store circulars every week for the best prices. Meat can be frozen months in advance and staples like chips and soda have a very long shelf life. Starches like pasta and rice are very inexpensive and go great as side dishes. Consider making the invitations yourself. Printers like The Party Cat, Inc. sell printed invitations starting at $1 each. You can print them yourself on cardstock found at JoAnns Fabric and Craft for $.11 per sheet. Candles are a very easy and inexpensive way to decorate. Michaels has 50 pack bags of tea lights on sale for $1.59 this week. Ikea sells holders for these at $.50 a piece.

In conclusion, planning a party doesn’t have to break the bank. Taking advantage of time, sale prices, and your own two hands are three very important aspects of keeping any event under even the smallest budget. Have these three things on your side, and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish. And if it really is your parents’ anniversary bash that you’re throwing, just think of the smiles you’ll see on their faces when they cut the cake. The DISCOUNTED cake, that is.

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