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How to Plan a DIY Party on a Budget
Sometimes finding the perfect location for your shindig can be a daunting task. For smaller more intimate affairs your home can be the perfect location. With a little cleaning, sprucing and decorating you can easily transform your everyday abode into a festive gathering spot. If your hosting a larger event and need more space start thinking of your day to day life. Where do you frequent and/or what organizations are you a member of? Often times your local church, recreation center or other organization may have facilities available for free or low cost to their members. These are often a blank space that can easily be transformed with a little décor. There are more obvious venues such as banquet halls, but these tend be higher priced and not very easy on the pocket book, however depending on your budget and your needs they could be an option as well.
Decorating for a party may seem like a lot of work, but with a little planning and prep work you can be party ready in no time. Balloons and streamers can easily make any space look festive, but if your not hosting a kids party, you may want to put in a little more effort. Tulle or netting can easily be purchased in small rolls, or you can purchase yardage. Tulle can be tied onto chairs, centerpieces, light fixtures, etc. You can create big fluffy bows, or use it like garland wrapped around plants, doorways, mantles, banisters, etc. Here are some more great ideas from Pinterest for decorating on a budget.
Flowers are also a cheap and easy way to fancy up a space. You might think "flowers, no way, the florist is too expensive", and if your going to a florist then you are probably right. Stores such as Costco, Sams, Kroger and Publix tend to have a nice flower selection. If your city has a local farmers market this may be a good option for flowers as well. You have to be flexible though, just because you have your heart set on star gazer lilies, does not mean that you will be able to find them, especially if they're not in season. The thing to remember is to focus on the color, not the flower. You will need to purchase the flowers for the party either the day before or they day of. Make sure you have plenty of vases and containers already on hand. Then you get to work.
You may be thinking " I don't know how to arrange flowers", and that's fine. You can find great tips and instructions for putting together your own arrangements here. I would also recommend talking to your friends, you may have forgotten about that summer your best friend spent working for a florist, and if she's any kind of friend, she'll be more than happy to help you.
Food and Beverage
Whether your shopping at the grocery store, or letting a caterer handle the details food and beverage can make or break a budget. Time of day can also affect your menu as well. If you plan to have a party right at lunch time or dinner time your guests will expect to be served a full meal. When your party is in the afternoon or later in the evening your menu can be lighter.
Mexican food is one of my go to menus for many parties because pretty much everything can be done ahead of time, and everyone can build their meal using exactly the ingredients they want. I like browning up a bunch of ground beef, and boiling a chicken a few hours before party time. I shred the chicken and it all gets prepared with the trusty packets of mexican seasoning. The prepared meat can be put in the crock pot to stay warm, and as an added bonus preparing it early lets all seasoning really develop. Then I make sure I have all of my toppings. If it needs to be chopped, diced, shredded, etc. I go ahead and take care of that, and put them in their pretty serving bowls and cover/refrigerate them until they are needed. When guests are about to arrive I finish up beans, rice, cheese dip, etc. By the time everyone starts pouring in everything should be ready, or almost ready and you'll be free to enjoy time with your friends.
If a full meal is not in your plans, then finger foods will be your go to menu. The key here is planning. Make sure that you choose items that are not only budget, but time friendly as well. You want to be able to prep and prepare as much ahead of time as you can. Sliders are a fun option. Rachel Ray has a great recipe on her website that is super easy. You don't waste time making individual patties, you bake it all at once and then cut to size. How much easier can you get? Don't forget about dips, cheese, meat and other party staples that require little prep and allow you still have fun. Pinterest is also great for finding party food ideas on a budget. When your building the menu you can cut costs and prep time by looking for recipes that utilize a lot of the same ingredients.
If the kitchen is not your friend there are still options out there. You can cater a party in my area using Moe's Southwest Grill for around $10 per person, in the south bar-be-que can also be catered in for about the same price. If that's still a bit pricey you can often buy party trays from Costco, Sam's, Wal-Mart, Publix, etc. Chick-fil-a, Subway and Zaxbys all offer party trays as well. If you're my grandmother, a gigantic sackful of Krystal (White Castle) burgers is your go to party food.
You may not have to spend a lot to provide fancy food, but think about the presentation. A sackful of Krystal's will look much nicer arranged on a platter rather than sitting in their little boxes. The Dollar Tree, TJ Maxx, Ross, Target and thrift store as are all great places to look for nice platters and bowls for serving. New or vintage, a nice platter will add that perfect finishing touch.
Another budget breaker for any party can be the beverages. If it's a kids party it's easy, but for an adult party things tend to get a bit boozy! To save costs I typically provide an alcoholic punch/jello shots. I let my guests know what will be provided and tell them that they are more than welcome to bring any libations of their own.
Portion cups make perfect serving cups for Jello shots. Here is a yummy recipe sure to please everyone. The cherry and the coke work beautifully together to help mask the alcohol, so be extra careful! They sneak up on you!
Phew! Party planning can feel like a ton of work, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming, or break the bank. Follow these simple guidelines, get a little creative and see what kind of budget you can come up with!