I love having people over to my apartment and having my place be the central hang zone for my friends. However, I don't exactly have major funds to burn on entertaining, so knowing how to throw a party on a budget is always incredibly important if I don't want to overspend.
The good news is, I've often found an incredibly successful party or get together is almost never dependent on things like the most expensive foods or the nicest silverware. It genuinely always seems to come down to the right mix of people, the perfect music, and a few intangibles, like arranging the furniture in a way that's super conducive to socializing and mingling.
Conversely, I've definitely attended a party or two in my day where it seemed like a lot of money was spent on things like gourmet appetizers and the nicest wines, and yet the entire vibe of the gathering wasn't quite right. Guests didn't seem to truly let their guard down, and the evenings never really hit their stride in the way the hosts had hoped.
This has aways told me that a super successful party absolutely doesn't have to break the bank, and that in an effort to make everything "perfect" we can sometimes focus on the wrong elements. That being said, here are 11 ways to host an an awesome party without burning a hole in your wallet.
1. Hit Up A Party Supplies Store
Gold Part Decorating Kit, $9.99, OrientalTradingCompany.com
OK, this first one is a personal tip that has literally never failed me. You can go to Party City with 20 dollars in your pocket and come out with a basket full of decorations. My personal favorite thing to do is decide on a color scheme involving two central colors and grab some inexpensive accents that fit the theme, like a disposable plastic table cloth, plastic cups, and a few matching center pieces. I now instantly have a festive-looking space. And if you don't have a Party City near you, Target is also an awesome and cost-efficient second best.
2. Make It A Pot Luck
This is another personal tip that took me a couple years to fully embrace. I used to think that throwing a party meant providing every minor detail when it came to food, which seriously drove up costs. However, I now stick to a "main course" model, where I make the main course if the party overlaps with a meal time, and everyone else comes with their favorite dish. I find that people are generally super happy to contribute.
3. Get Creative With Lighting
A piece on InvitingHome.com stressed the relationship between lighting and mood, noting that lighting is crucial in creating an overall atmosphere. I have always found this to be incredibly true, and when hosting an evening party I keep the lighting low and opt for well-placed lamps and candles. This utilizes things I already have in my home, and I keep a supply of old jars and cheap tea lights around for this very purpose.
4. Think About What's Really Needed
This is another personal tip that took a couple years of throwing parties to really master. It can be so easy to get caught up in small details when hosting an event and you lose site of what people are even going to notice. Will people really miss the fact that you didn't put our a cheese plate? If there's drinks, music, and plenty of other snacks around, the answer is very likely no. So don't stress about something — especially if it was going to cost you more money anyway.
5. Have A Party Fund
A piece on Oprah.com recommended saving money in advance. For example, if it's January, and you know you want to throw a big birthday party in June, start putting money away for it now. I have a friend that puts all of his lose change and lose singles in a "party fund jar," so that by the time he gets around to hosting something he has a little extra money for fun details.
6. Take People Up On Their Offers
This is a tip I've read time and time again in compilation pieces about planning parties on a budget. Nine out of ten times, your friends and guests will ask, "What can I bring?" Take them up on it! Do you need a dessert? Or have you not thought at all about a salad? Let someone bring it.
7. Think About High Volume, Low Cost Foods
The Kitchn.com has an entire list of how to feed a group of people on less than 20 dollars, and it essentially comes down to thinking of low cost, high volume foods. This includes things like pasta and pasta sauce, chiles, and stews. You can easily make a main course that feeds a TON of people when you go this route. And when you go potluck style, side dishes and desserts will be covered too.
8. Think About The Soundtrack
On the Epicurious YouTube channel, lifestyle and style expert Clinton Kelly noted the importance of your party soundtrack — which thankfully is a totally free aspect of entertaining. He recommended starting out the party with oldies or more traditional hits, and getting things more modern and energized as the evening goes on. He also reminded us to create a playlist that goes the expected length of the party so everyone's note re-hearing the same songs all night.
9. Time It Wisely
A compilation piece for Cosmopolitan on ways to throw a cheap party reminded us to time it wisely. For example, if you don't want to spend a lot on food, make the start time after dinner. Then you really only need to worry about drinks and a few bowls of chips.
10. Save On Alcohol
The same Cosmo piece also recommended planning to have a signature drink or cocktail, so you only have to worry about one type of alcohol. Plus, a signature drink makes things more festive and can tie a theme together super well.
11. Let Everyone Know Specifically What You'll Be Providing
And finally, according to POPSUGAR, a super easy way to lighten your budget is by just letting party guests know exactly what you'll be providing. That way guests know what to bring if they're so inclined. For example, you might say, "We'll have wine, but feel free to bring your beverage of choice!" Or, "We'll have chips and dip, but there's a pizza place around the corner if you haven't had dinner!" This will help others decide what to bring.
A lively, super successful party absolutely doesn't have to break the bank. Remember, it all comes down to the feel of the space and how comfortable your guests feel — none of which has much to do with how much you spend on fancy accessories.
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