Frugal Entertaining: Hosting a Party on a Budget

Photo Credit: Jason Barnette Photography

Photo Credit: Jason Barnette Photography

Summer is the perfect time of year to host a party whether it is a backyard BBQ, classic dinner party or a Fourth of July bash! So how do you host a frugal party without looking cheap? Here are some tips for how to entertain without breaking the bank:

  • Choose a Theme: A theme will help you keep the party food and décor cohesive as well as keep you from splurging. You might choose a seasonal theme (Summer), a type of food (Mexican), a holiday (4th of July) or something entirely different. Be creative! Take a look at this wisebread article or my article on hosting a party for some fun party ideas. Also, check out House Party and apply to host a party with some fun freebies.
  • Vary the Time: If you want to host a party, but you’re not sure you can handle a dinner party. Why not throw a brunch party, it is just as fun but a lot cheaper. Or, throw a dessert and drinks or wine and cheese party later in the evening.
  • Splurge Strategically: Keep the party menu simple, using as few ingredients as possible, splurging on a few special  items like an expensive cheese or a signature drink. Use in season ingredients as they are likely to be cheaper and more fresh. Check out frugalfoodiefamily or The Frugal Chef for some fun frugal recipes.
  • Shop Smart: Set a budget and stick to it. If you have trouble with this, bring cash to ensure that you don’t overspend. Have a defined menu in mind, but also have an open mind in case you stumble upon some really good deals.
  • Nail the Presentation: Presentation is everything. Buy inexpensive garnishes such as herbs and fresh fruit, to dress up your plates. Take extra time to arrange your dishes, this makes any dish look more appetizing, even if it is just Oreos.
  • Let the Guests Help: Try a spin on the traditional potluck by assigning each guest a different course according to your theme. If you decide to do most of the cooking yourself, have your guests bring a starter, bread, or a dessert that they can easily pick on the way to your party. If you decide to have a wine + cheese party or a dessert + drinks fête have your guests bring along their favorite drink or mixer.
  • Décor: Use what you have creatively and borrow anything that you don’t have. At my first dinner party I used my grandmother’s china that I inherited and had a friend bring over his inherited china and we alternated place settings. Even though it was mismatched, they looked great together and we both got use out of china that we never use. If you must buy, check the dollar store for napkins, plates, silverware, and décor.
  • Fourth of July: Hosting a Fourth of July party? Check out this wisebread article for some creative party ideas. Take a look at beating broke and kens5 for some delicious and festive recipes. Happy hosting!

Join the Conversation: What are some of your favorite frugal party recipes? Leave a comment on this post.

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Frugal Entertaining: Hosting a Party on a Budget

Summer is the perfect time of year to host a party and with the Fourth of July just around the corner, entertaining is on the mind. So how do you host a frugal party without looking cheap? Here are some tips for how to entertain without breaking the bank:

  • Choose a Theme: A theme will help you keep the party food and décor cohesive as well as keep you from splurging. You might choose a seasonal theme (Fall), a type of food (Mexican), a holiday (4th of July) or something entirely different. Be creative! Take a look at this wisebread article or my article on hosting a party for some fun party ideas. Also, check out House Party and apply to host a party with some fun freebies.
  • Vary the Time: If you want to host a party, but you’re not sure you can handle a dinner party. Why not throw a brunch party, it is just as fun but a lot cheaper. Or, throw a dessert-only party later in the evening.
  • Splurge Strategically: Keep the party menu simple, using as few ingredients as possible. Find an inexpensive main dish, such as pasta, a casserole, or grilled chicken, then splurge on one or two ingredients that will really make a difference. For instance, you might make pasta but choose to add gruyere cheese or some greek olives to add a little opulence to a traditional favorite. Check out frugalfoodiefamily or The Frugal Chef for some fun frugal recipes.
  • Shop Smart: Make sure to check the sales and know what is in season before you get to the store. Set a budget and stick to it. If you have trouble with this, bring cash to ensure that you don’t overspend. Have a defined menu in mind, but also have an open mind in case you stumble upon some really good deals.
  • Nail the Presentation: Presentation is everything. Buy inexpensive garnishes such as herbs and fresh fruit, to dress up your plates. Take extra time to arrange your dishes, this makes any dish look more appetizing. I once arranged a plate of Chips Ahoy and Oreo cookies and people thought they were eating classy food.
  • Let the Guests Help: Although you may want to do it all yourself, it is a whole lot cheaper if you let your guests help. You might try a spin on the traditional potluck by assigning each guest a different course according to your theme. If you decide to do most of the cooking yourself, many of your guests will likely ask you if they can bring something. Take them up on this offer. Let them bring a starter, dessert, or bread, something they can easily make or pick up on the way to your party.
  • Décor: Use what you have creatively and borrow anything that you don’t have. At my first dinner party I used my grandmother’s china that I inherited and had a friend bring over his inherited china and we alternated place settings. Even though it was mismatched, they looked great together and we both got use out of china that we never use. If you must buy, check the dollar store for napkins, plates, silverware, and décor.
  • Fourth of July: Hosting a Fourth of July party? Check out this wisebread article for some creative party ideas. Take a look at beating broke and kens5 for some delicious and festive recipes. Happy hosting!

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Join the Conversation: What are some of your favorite frugal party recipes? Leave a comment on this post.

Why Not Host A Party?

So its Friday night and what are you going to do? You want to take a break from the books and hang out with your friends but you are a little low on cash . . . again. Do you go out and risk breaking the bank just so that you can hang with your friends? Do you really want to be that person that just orders water while everyone else is getting drinks? Or do you succumb to another night in alone watching Netflix? Sometimes it feels like these are the only options that we have.

While you could go out, why not stay in and invite people over? Here are some exciting party ideas that take a little planning but don’t break the bank.

  • Wine Tasting: Host provides snacks and every guest brings a bottle of wine ($10 max) in a paper bag. Sample all of the wines and at the end of the night unveil your favorites!
  • Starving Students Dinner: Get a group of students together for dinner, switch the host each month and compete to see who can create the cheapest meal.
  • Progressive Dinner: Find a few different hosts each featuring a different course. A dinner like this can be even more fun and frugal on foot or on a bike.
  • Minnesota-Style Covered Dish Dinners: Have each guest bring his/her favorite family casserole to share, be sure to swap the recipes too.
  • Game Night: Have a board or card game competition.
  • Not Your Traditional Movie Night: Borrow a projection screen and have a movie night.
  • Girls Night In: Invite all of the girls over for an evening of desserts, girly movies and pampering. Have each guest bring a favorite sweet treat to share and their favorite nail polish.
  • Celebration of Color: Have each guest bring his/her favorite colorful snack (a colorful fruit tray, an array of veggies, 7-layer dip, etc.) and have a coloring contest.
  • Ice Cream Sundae Party: The host provides the ice cream and each guest brings their favorite topping.