How to Host an Awesome Party on a Budget
You don't have to empty your wallet or set up a special savings account just to invite your friends over. Whether you're planning an informal get together or a fancy dinner party, there are more than a few ways to get the job done and have a great time without spending a ton of money. Here's how.
A party is a party, and the last thing you want to do while you're having a good time or playing host to your friends is to worry about what the bill for the affair will look like when it comes in. If you don't have the cash to have the whole thing taken care of for you (and honestly, who does), there are ways to do it on a budget without skimping on the good stuff.
Enlist Your Guests to Bring a Favorite Dish or Drink
The first money-saving tip is simple: Make your party BYOB, or make it a potluck. That doesn't mean you can't supply some of the food or the drinks yourself. It just means that, in the case of booze, if your friends are going to hover around your home bar (which, we would hope, you have well stocked
If you're having a dinner party, you may not want to make that promise since it'll make more work for you, but if it's an informal gathering, it shouldn't be too much trouble. I often tell my friends to bring their own liquor to contribute to the communal bar, and even though I like to keep things well stocked, they'll show up with their favorite rum, whiskey, or beer anyway. Serve it out, or let them serve themselves-when the party's over, you'll have restocked your bar without having to spend a dime. Bonus tip: If you do buy a case of beer to serve your friends, keep it on the patio or out in the garage during the cold weather months-it's just as good as a fridge (as long as it doesn't get below freezing and the freezing beer breaks the cans or bottles, of course.) If you don't want to tell them to bring alcohol, consider coming up with a "signature drink" you want to make for the party (like an Old Fashioned, a Manhattan, or a simple gin and tonic) and only stocking your bar with the makings for that drink.
Along the same lines as asking everyone to bring their favorite drink, you can ask your friends to bring something to eat, too (We'd suggest one or the other, or else this turns into one of those office party things, where people have assignments and no one remembers to bring the plates.) Making your party a pot luck makes sure there's always enough to eat, and it takes the weight of cooking, and buying the food to feed everyone off of you. Of course, you'll still need to round things out by making a contribution yourself, fixing appetizers or desserts, and supplying the drinks. Still, it's a load off the mind and the wallet. Pot lucks are an especially good idea if you're having a themed event, like a cultural exchange kind of thing or a dinner party where you want to try lots of different dishes (or, if you have a friend who makes something you love and you want them to bring it.)
Buy in Bulk (Obviously) from Big Box Stores (or Online)
If there's ever a time to make sure you get the discounts available by buying in bulk from a big box store like Costco or Sam's Club, now's the time to do it. If you have a membership, that's great, but if you don't, there are ways to get in and get those discounts anyway
Beyond that, if you prefer to sit at home and let your goods come to you, don't overlook Amazon. in many cases, if you're looking to buy one of a specific thing, like a bag of chips or one package of paper towels, you're not saving any money over going to the grocery store. If you're planning a party and need three or four bags of chips, or a four-pack of four rolls of paper towels, bigger per-unit discounts are available through Amazon than you'll get at your local grocery store. Of course, perishables aren't available, but non perishable snack foods and paper products are.
Switch Up the Time of Day
Another way to save a few bucks without sacrificing the party is to switch up the time of day. Instead of having a dinner or all-night affair, consider a lunch or brunch party instead. It may sound a little pretentious, but a few beers or drinks in the afternoon or a pot luck lunch with friends can also be a lot of fun, and it inherently requires less fuss than a massive dinner party or an all-night affair with a stocked bar and tons of drink options. US News Money suggests a brunch, mostly because you can skip the alcohol entirely and make some affordable-but still delicious-egg based dishes, like omelets. Who doesn't love an omelet bar?
Plus, moving the affair earlier in the day gives you the ability to turn your get-together into something it might not otherwise have been. Try hosting a chili cookoff in the afternoon, or a lunchtime barbecue. You'll still need some drinks, but you won't spend a ton of money on fancy appetizers, wine, or spirits. A few cases of beer, some good friends, and some bubbling crock pots of chili or a sizzling grill will do just fine.
Get Affordable Ingredients (and Make Them Do the Work For You)
If you plan to do most of the cooking, you can save a lot of money by picking the right ingredients, or figuring out what you can make to serve your guests with the things you already have in your pantry. You don't have to plan a pricey trip to the grocery store just to entertain a few people-if you keep a few helpful things on-hand all the time
Even though it sounds kind of cheap, consider going all-appetizer instead of serving dinner or a fancy meal. A good variety gives both you and your guests the opportunity to graze over the course of the evening, and if you do appetizers like bruschetta or crostini (topped with whatever you like), or anything else with bread as a base, you'll have something tasty and filling ready to go-and a good crusty bread won't set you back as much. In the same vein, consider serving sweet drinks instead of dessert-spiked cocoas or mulled wine and ciders are both easy to make and more affordable than making or buying desserts for a crowd. Of course, if your guests offer to bring dessert, you can let them, but you don't have to make your friends stock the party for you just to save a few bucks.
Don't Go Overboard: Know Where to Save Money and Where to Spend
A while ago, we highlighted a few quick tips like these
Remember, you want to be a good host, and if the effort your guests have to put in to the party implies they'd be better off staying home, you might want to reconsider the effort you're putting into the affair. Remember, the goal is to have fun, not put your friends to work. Save money, but don't be cheap. If you need help, our friends at The SweetHome have this list, which is a great place to start