How to Plan a Small Party with a Limited Budget
Don’t let the recession get you down!
A large part of being human is taking part in celebrations. We are social creatures, and being together to celebrate and have a good time with each other is especially important during rough times, such as the current recession. Of course, parties that we plan during a recession will not be lavish or extravagant, but this doesn't mean that we should forego them entirely. Celebrating together helps us maintain strong social bonds that will help everyone survive the recession.
Reasons to plan a small celebration:
celebration - This seems like an obvious reason to have a party, but a lot of people may think that they should not celebrate their birthday at all in order to save money. Instead of splurging on an extravagant celebration, however, your birthday can be an intimate gathering of friends. To save even more money, combine several friends' celebrations into one (for example, everyone who's birthday is in August can celebrate at the same party).
at work/Other good news celebration - Did your spouse/significant other receive a promotion or other award at work? Have you recently discovered that you are expecting a child? Did someone recently recover from an illness? All of these are excellent reasons to gather friends and celebrate!
“Just Because” party - This is my favorite reason to throw a party. In college, my roommates and I used this reason to celebrate and ended up having a wonderful time with our friends. Too often people become focused on a lonely routine of going to work, running errands, and staying at home alone. Every so often people need to come together for company and laughs, and this type of party is perfect for that purpose.
So, now that you've decided to put together a party, you need to find a place to host it!
Home/Work - The least expensive location for any party is a place that you own or rent, most often your home. In some cases, such as a celebration for a coworker, the work place can also be an appropriate location.
Hotel Room - If the home or workplace is not an option, a hotel room is a good alternative; although a hotel room will cost money to rent, this cost will be far less expensive than renting a regular event venue. Be sure to book a suite, since this will give you two rooms and some extra furniture for your guests to sit on.
**Remember, hotels located in
downtown areas will be more expensive than hotels located elsewhere. Hotel rooms will also be more expensive during holidays and other
busy times of year. Do a quick check to
find out if there are any large annual conventions scheduled in your area to make sure you're avoiding any peak times.
A Park/Beach - For small groups of people celebrating during warm weather months, going to a park or to the beach can be a great option! It gives everyone a chance to enjoy the outdoors as well as each other's company. Do remember, however, that local laws may prohibit food and/or alcohol consumption in these public areas, so your party plans will need to adjust accordingly. Also, remember to have a rain plan!
Don't forget to invite your guests! You can produce high quality invitations for free; I explain how here. Keep your invite list exclusive; this will help keep the overall cost down. Another benefit is that by keeping the guest count down, you will be creating an intimate group that can enjoy an afternoon or evening together without causing a disturbance to your neighbors. Smaller groups are also great for group conversations (this isn't feasible if you have too many people).
Food & Beverages
Here's where we get to the unavoidable expenses. One of the central elements of a good celebration is food and drink. There are several ways to lessen the costs of providing food and beverages to your guests, but keep in mind that the money saving measures that you are implementing during the rest of the party planning process is, in part, to make sure that you have some money to (wisely) spend on the food and beverages.
Food: First, start checking your grocery store's sales a few weeks in advance of your celebration. Classic snacks such as chips, dips, and pretzels may be on sale a couple of weeks before the date of your party, and you can simply store them until needed. Also be sure to check online for coupons that you can use to reduce your costs. You can also save money by making a cake instead of purchasing one; an easy solution is to purchase cake mix and frosting when they are on sale.
A classic cost sharing party tradition is a potluck. Invite your guests to bring and share their favorite dish. This results in a low cost for everyone, and plenty of food for all. This is a particularly good option for an outdoor celebration; each guest can contribute by providing different picnic items (ranging from disposable plates & forks to the egg salad and sandwiches).
Beverages: Similar to snacks, you can purchase beverages in advance of your party during the grocery store's sales and also take advantage of coupons. Pop/Soda has an extremely long shelf life, so there is no reason to wait until the week or day of the party to purchase it. Also, shop wisely! Oftentimes generic brands taste the same as or very similar to popular name brands.
If you want to add a little flair to your celebration that doesn't add significantly to your tab, try purchasing fruit juice and soda water. A mixture of half juice and half soda water gives you a spritzer (see, even saying that out loud adds a fancy element to the party!). This is a great alternative to Champagne for a celebratory toast.
If alcohol is important to the celebration you are planning, choose your libations carefully. If possible, keep your purchases limited to beer and wine only. Domestic beer is most often less expensive then imported, and just as good. Take this opportunity to try some local microbrews and introduce your guests to new flavors that they might otherwise not try. For wine, unless you and your guests are true connoisseurs, there is no reason to purchase the expensive bottles. A simple selection of red and white is usually sufficient to satisfy most guests. Try a Merlot and a Pinot Grigio.
Now that you have all the pieces of your celebration in order (the location, the guests, and the food/beverages), it's time to relax and enjoy yourself with your friends!
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