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Dinner Decor on a Dime

Updated on August 17, 2019

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Looking Fancy Without Spending Big

I really enjoy entertaining in and outdoors at my house, but as a stay- at- home mother of four small children, living on a single household income, I have to find thrifty ways to entertain on a tight budget. Making celebrations like festive outdoor get-togethers to formal dinner parties can be done by anyone on a budget and still appear as if you used a party planner. Personally, I enjoy the challenge of finding creative ways to budget about as much as I enjoy the party. Here are some essential tips for a few specific occasions.

1. Use White Plates. Simple, plain white dinner plates tend to make any dish look more appealing. I was having a Valentine’s Day dinner with two other couples and they complimented me on my dinnerware, which I purchased for about two bucks per dinner plate and half that for the salad plates. I made sure the meal I made was colorful and accented with a green garnish like parsley for a more elegant touch.

2. Use a Clear Simple Glass. I purchased a set of six tea glasses and a matching pitcher that I found on clearance for about 10 bucks for the set at a closeout store. Fruity, pastel colored punch will add more color to the table (I think pastel drinks add elegance to the table). For more casual occasions, such as backyard barbeques, mason jars or an eclectic collection of large jelly jars can add a festive touch. Acrylic paint or homemade nametags around the rim of the jar can be a fun way to personalize drinkware and make your guest feel special that you put in the time and effort to personalize.

3. Solid Colored Tableware. You can purchase nice, solid colored napkins and other tableware really inexpensively at discount stores and on websites. Also, shopping for after holiday clearance gives you a heads up on supplies that you are sure to use later. When shopping after the holidays, I target neutral items such as solid colors that may be used for several occassions. For example, silver and gold from Christmas stock can lend an elegant touch to wedding celebrations, dinner parties, and other special gatherings. Reds can be used for Valentine’s Day, the Fourth of July and Christmas.

4. Table Centerpieces. Table décor is always fun to experiment with because there are so many ways to be creative with it. For a fancy gathering, I like to stick with more uniform pieces such as identical vases down the center of the table, alternating flower colors in each of them. With one nice sized bouquet and about 4 to 5 slim vases, you can separate the bunch evenly. That can be significantly less expensive than trying to fill several large vases with big bouquets. For more casual parties, like birthdays there are so many ways to go. I like to incorporate into celebrations the thousands of family photos we take every chance that I get. One way of doing this is by using placemats of our family pictures. An easy and inexpensive way of doing this is to enlarge photos to about 11" x 14 " landscape view. You can laminate them yourself or you may choose to take them to your local print shop. A bit more costly, but another option, would be to use an online personalization retailer. With the latter option, shipping and handling fees could put you a bit over your budget unless you find another way of cutting cost in a different area of planning. Some places might offer a discount based on the size of your order.

5. THE FOOD. Last but not least, is finding a way to budget your menu while making sure your guests thoroughly enjoy their meal. The first thing to remember is “Go with what you know”. A dinner party with invited guests is not the time to experiment. Cook something that you know you’re good at (think of a dish that you have previously been complimented on). One meal dishes are great to serve because they are good for any budget. Serving something colorful like tri-color pasta and seasonal salads are great for festive occasions and will really stand out on your solid colored plates. Mexican fiesta themes are always great and can be done with big inexpensive dishes like chili, Mexican soups, or ceviche. Of course, you want to compliment your dish with a side of fresh, seasonal vegetables. You probably have a family recipe passed down from when grandmas really knew what it meant to cook big on a dime. Baking and decorating our own cupcakes and birthday cakes has also become a favorite activity in our family. The kids love to participate and it is absolutely less expensive than ordering from the bakery.

With a family of six and enough extended family to fill a small town, I have definitely had to find inventive ways to please the masses while not breaking the bank. There are many ways to save with a little imagination and some experimentation. You might be surprised to find that your friend who always throws the most amazing parties and left you believing that they spent a fortune making it happen, really did it with little more than their around the house clearance stash.


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