Party Planning on the Cheap


partyIt’s time to celebrate! Whether it’s a summer barbeque or a holiday party, there is always a good excuse to gather friends together for tasty food, great music and a fun time. However, hosting can be a pricey responsibility. Don’t let the stress of cost rain on your party. There are plenty of ways to host a great party without spending a fortune!

From décor tips to the guest list, we’ve got you covered. These tips will help you plan the best party on a small budget, no matter the occasion!


Create a Budget

The first step to saving is to set up a plan. That way you don’t end up overspending in any one area. It’s always a good idea to start with your total budget and work your way back. Typically, 50 ­– 75 percent of your budget will go to food and drinks. From there, you can budget for things like décor, invitations, entertainment and more! For example, if you have a budget of $200, anticipate spending around $100 – $150 on food and drink for your guests.

Track your spending on a spreadsheet so you know when you are approaching your budget and can pull back or reallocate funds from other categories as necessary. We’ll explore each area and see where there are small ways to save that can add up to a big difference!


Save With Simplicity

Planning your party as a minimalist event won’t just keep costs down, it can also keep things classy and tasteful! When planning your party, take these basic principles into account to help keep the costs down:

  • Some well-placed candles can set the mood without extra expense. Candles are the perfect combo of décor and lighting scheme rolled into one!
  • While a party theme can cost you, a color theme is much simpler. Use touches of color to spice up your party’s look.
  • Don’t invite people just to invite them. Keeping the guest list short will save you money and give your party a touch of exclusivity.


Plan Your Menu

An easy way to save on party spending is to plan your menu portions according to your guest list. Here’s what you should budget of each guest:

  • 6 portions of an appetizer
  • 5 sandwiches/main dish servings
  • 5 side dish servings
  • 3 cookies
  • 5 pieces of cake or cupcakes
  • 5 drinks alcoholic drinks per hour


Tips for Saving More on Food and Drinks

  • BYOB: The best way to save on costs is to cut out alcohol completely, especially when you have a large group and a wide variety of tastes to satisfy. Don’t be afraid to ask your guests to BYOB (bring your own beverages). If you do go this route, you can always let your guests know you’ll provide the accoutrements to pair with it like mixers, bitters, sour mix and other bar staples (they’re are far easier to fit into your budget).
  • Potluck: If you prefer to provide all the beverages for your guests, then consider exploring the potluck route with food. The “BYOB” of food, a potluck-style party asks your guests to bring one dish to share. This not only takes a lot of the cost off of your plate, but also lessens the time and the stress!
  • Finger foods: Choose items for your menu that are easy to eat and not too messy — not only will you save your guests the embarrassment if they spill, but they’ll also use fewer utensils and napkins in the process.
  • Time is everything: Plan your party at a time after a typical meal so you can have a lighter spread. Rather than a full meal, your guests will only be expecting snacks, appetizers or desserts.
  • Utilize your resources: Take stock of what you have in your pantry before crafting your menu. Instead of picking the menu and buying supplies, see if you can make sides and appetizers out of the things you already have.



Set the Scene for Less

Creating your own decorations and having unique entertainment is a fantastic way to save some money and provide a personalized touch. Here are a couple ways to keep your party fun and fresh without cutting too much into your budget.

  • Invitations: While paper invites have always been the traditional choice, digital invites are equally appropriate, and they can save you tons on printing, postage and time. Plus, it makes it easier for your guests to have a record of the time and place right on their phone!
  • Music: Use pre-curated playlists to help get the party going. Choose a free option like Pandora’s “Hip Hop BBQ” playlist or Spotify’s “Throwback Jams” rather than purchasing new music.
  • Décor: Make your first stop your local dollar store. Most have a party section dedicated to budget supplies. If not, head over to the kitchen section for cheap serving dishes or unique plating ideas. Head over to the office section for potential place cards. When it comes to the right personalization, use free printables for a simple and free way to add character to your party. From invites to cake toppers, the options are endless.
  • Kid-friendly:If you plan on having multiple age groups at your party, make sure that you have entertainment set up for all groups. Some inexpensive but effective options for your small guests include sidewalk chalk, water color painting and backyard movies under the stars.


Babs is a content writer at Enova International, Inc. with a Bachelors in Cinema Studies and English from the University of Illinois (ILL-INI!). She loves binge watching musicals, reading in the (sporadic) Chicago sunshine and discovering great new places to eat. Accio, tacos! Find out more about her on Google+.