Set a Budget
Don't even begin to plan your party before you decide on your budget. Decide how much money you can afford to spend on your party - then stick to it. The total budget will help you decide on the style of party you can host, and will protect you from that after-party budget hangover.
Don't Mail Invitations
Send email invitations instead. Besides saving on the expense of a purchased invitation card, with the cost of postage seemingly increasing every other month, it makes good sense to turn to electronic invitations for all but the most formal events. The added benefit of using online invitation sites is that they will help you to manage your responses.
Good Riddance to Disposables
Even the least expensive paper plates, cups, and plastic cutlery will quickly add up. You can save on that expense by using your regular dinnerware, flatware, and glassware. Don't be afraid to mix and match if you don't have enough pieces in one set to serve all of your guests. Eclectic tables can be very stylish as long as you put pieces together with a little thought. Still don't have enough pieces? Ask your best friend if you can borrow some dinnerware or flatware, and you can return the favor someday. Not only will this save on expenses, it's also good for the environment.
Choose a Little Less Convenience for the Produce
It's tempting to pick up those little packages of pre-washed, pre-cut fruits and veggies, but they come at a price. Buy your produce in bulk and prep it yourself to save on your party grocery bill. It usually lasts longer, and stays fresher if you wash and cut your produce closer to the party date. And while we're on the subject of produce, always choose produce that is in-season for your area. That's where you'll find the best deals.
Pasta, Rice and Potatoes - The Sneaky Three Dollar Stretchers
Traditionally these three starches have been the keys to stretching a dollar. Salads, side dishes, and casseroles made with these ingredients will be budget-friendly. And who doesn't love a tray of baked ziti or scoop of potato salad?
Make It a Community Party
No one minds being asked to contribute a dish to your casual party. It's not as though you've asked them to be the host! With that basic concept in mind, you can organize a:
BYOB or Other Beverage Cost Saving Tricks
For a casual party, it's very common for hosts to tell their guests that soft drinks will be provided, but guests can feel free to bring any liquor of their choosing. If you're not comfortable doing that, you can save on alcohol expenses by purchasing wine, champagne or beer by the case. Or consider making a seasonal punch as your economical, alcoholic beverage for the party.
By hosting a party with a theme, you can easily mask the underlying economy of your food. Themes make it fun, and you can add to the ambience with music (borrowed from a collector friend if you don't have the appropriate selections). Here are several affordable party themes:
- Make Your Own Tacos
- Pizza Party
- Desserts Only
- Italian Pasta Night
- Ice Cream Sunday