Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ten Ways to Plan a Cheap Party

As you know, I love party planning.  It's in my blood.  The only downside to this, is that party planning can be ridiculously expensive.  But, never fear.  Today, I'm sharing ten tips for planning a cost-effective, budget-friendly (and relatively no-fuss!) party.  

...This is mostly courtesy of my mother, who taught me every party planning thing I know.  

Hearts and flowers and baby unicorns, Mama...

ONE - Plan Ahead!
The further out you can plan your party, the more opportunities you will have to save money.  You will be able to take advantage of sales and slower shipping times.  You will have time to DIY instead of buy.  You will have space to brainstorm cheaper and better ways to accomplish your plans.  In contrast, when you're in a time crunch, you will impulse buy and end up paying more for unnecessary conveniences.  Believe me.  I've been there a million times.  

TWO - Make a List
When you have a game plan in place, whether that is a theme or just overarching ideas of your hopes for the party, list-making will set healthy parameters for your budget.  Ideally, I like to draw up a specific plan for decorations, a schedule of activities (simple as they may be), and a list of invitees.  From there, I can make a list of the exact and specific things I need to beg, borrow or buy.  When I was shopping for Will's party (Woody's Roundup/Cowboy theme), it would have been so easy to buy EVERYTHING remotely cowboy-ish.  Since I had made a list before the shopping, however, I knew exactly what to buy, and was able to resist the temptation to overdo it.  I knew exact quantities and colors and styles as well, which cut down on stress in the store and amped up my efficiency.

THREE - Shop Your House (And your friends' houses)
Tweak your game plan and list to take full advantage of what you already have at home.  Look for anything in your home that matches your color scheme or overall theme, and then find a way to use or repurpose it.  For Will's party, I was initially going to use a royal blue color in the decor.  When I dug through my closet and found a bunch of leftover paper plates and cups that were teal, I ditched the blue idea and went with teal.  I was also going to buy some materials to make a little weighted arrangement for some balloons, but when I found a coffee cup that matched my color scheme, I decided to tie the balloons to the cup instead.  If you can't find anything in your house, borrow from friends!  A sweet friend of ours lent us some Toy Story t-shirts for Will to wear, and my sister gave us a cute wooden cactus to spice up my table decor.

FOUR - Take advantage of FREE
I am a little embarrassed to admit how cheap I am and how much free stuff I've skimped by with.  I would like to blame my mother for this.  In our years of party planning, we have taken advantage of free brown napkins from Culver's for a rustic dinner, french fry bags from McDonald's for a playland party, Mary Kay samples for a girls' makeup party, brown paper wine bags from HyVee for Christmas packaging...  Believe me, there's a lot more where that came from.  This time around, I found free cupcake topper designs online, and free clipart for the party invitations.  Score. 

FIVE - Thrift & Garage Sales
I've never had luck thrifting for a specific party, but when I am thrifting in general, I always am on the lookout for general party and hosting decor.  The key is to buy neutral.  White cake stands, white serving dishes, brown coffee mugs, etc. - items that can be used in a lot of different color schemes and themes.  99.9% of my hosting/party dishes are all from garage sales or thrift stores, and this continually saves my budget.

SIX - Double Duty Decor
Decorate with things that are useful.  Eliminate decor that is only for decoration.  Half of Will's table decor consisted of cupcakes (pretty and edible).  The other half was filled with party favors (cute and purposeful).  The other tiny spaces were covered with cute paper napkins and plates (bright and useful.)  Let things like food, gifts, game materials, paper plates, napkins and favors brighten up your spreads.  This will cut costs on more frivolous things!

SEVEN - Dollar Store & Wal-Mart
Personalized, custom cakes and party stores will crash your budget in no time.  Wal-Mart sells cupcakes for $0.50 a piece (in any quantity), and they will customize frosting, sprinkles and cake flavor for no extra charge.  The Dollar Store is a treasure trove of party resources, if you're willing to spend a few extra minutes piecing together theme items.

EIGHT - Fabric & Balloons
Fabric can be very inexpensive and it covers a lot of space (think tablecloths, etc. - big bang for your buck).  It is also reusable - save it for another party or make some throw pillows!  I have found great remnants at Wal-Mart and Hobby Lobby.  Hobby Lobby even sells fabric by the yard online, if you're looking for something very specific.  When you can't find fabric, a roll of kraft wrapping paper and some paint can cover a lot of ground, too!  Balloons can also make a big statement for a little amount of cash - especially if you can use regular balloons and cut down on Mylar ones.  Will's balloons were around $6, filled a huge amount of space, and added so much color.  He even had some after-party fun with Grammy, batting the balloons around for an hour straight.

NINE - Cheap Invitations
These days, you don't have to send hard copy invitations at all.  There are so many ways to send cute (FREE!) e-invites straight to your guests' inboxes.  However, if you are like me (a paper fanatic), you can cut costs by designing invites yourself (Pinterest easy DIY ideas!) or printing them in black and white.  B&W printing runs at least half, if not a third, less than traditional color printing.  I printed Will's invites B&W, coloring book style, and filled in some color with markers.  Pennies saved and I had fun doing it!

TEN - Invite Fewer People
I know.  This is horrible.  But seriously.  You don't have to be best friends with everyone.  I am dreading the day Will wants to invite his whole class to a party.  The more intimate and cozy the party, the more cash you can spend blessing each person.  The smaller the guest list, the more elaborate the favors can be.  The less you invite, the more you can spend on food.  It just makes sense.  Or cents.  Whichever you prefer.

Happy party planning, friends!

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