Let’s Party! Entertaining on a Budget

Enjoying the long, carefree days of summer by hosting a get-together gives you and your friends and family an event to anticipate. Home entertaining can get expensive, though, when you factor in how much money it takes to please a crowd. The cost of good eats, drinks, decorations and entertainment puts a dent in even the most balanced of budgets. But entertaining on a budget doesn’t have to be tricky.

Try the following money-saving tips for your summer party, and you’ll soon find yourself gladly putting out the welcome mat.

Make it homemade

Sure, catering your event is much easier, and who wants to cook in the heat? But placing an order can get expensive. Tacked on to the cost of the food is the labor involved in preparing your order, as well as a delivery charge, and since you often pay by the person, those no-shows can cost you a lot of money.

So that you’re not overwhelmed on the day of the event, begin preparing the food a few days before–preferably during cooler times of the day like morning and night. Recruit friends and family members to help out, if you’re not handy in the kitchen.

When planning your menu, remember this is a simple summer get-together, so gourmet isn’t necessary. Keep in mind that some of the best crowd-pleasers are fairly inexpensive to prepare—like macaroni and cheese, chili, and of course old standbys like burgers and hot dogs.

Set an alcohol budget

One area where costs can quickly skyrocket is with alcohol. While it’s not necessary to insist on BOB, you can set a limit on how much money you are willing to spend on beer, wine and liquor. Figure on two to three drinks per guest, and then buy that much alcohol. Inform those attending of what you’ll have on hand, inviting them to bring additional, if they prefer.

Plan a progressive party

One way to spread around the cost of food and drink and keep things entertaining is to throw a progressive dinner party. Such events take the potluck idea to a whole new level. You visit several homes in the same evening or afternoon and enjoy a different course at each house.

Everyone could start at your house for drinks and hors d’oeuvres, go next door for the main course and then walk down the street for dessert. Such parties generally work best within neighborhoods, so that guests can easily move from one house or apartment to the next.

Decorate on a dime

No need to spend a small fortune on party decorations. If you’re holding the festivities outdoors and the backyard is in full bloom, use the garden as a backdrop and simply cut a bouquet of flowers and put it on the table. Or perhaps you have a bounty from the vegetable garden like tomatoes and squash. Pick the produce, place it in a decorative bowl, and you have an instant centerpiece.

Also take a look in your cupboards for long forgotten items that you put away planning to use them “someday,” like candles, cloth napkins and decorative tablecloths. And get creative by re-purposing items in your home. For instance, if you don’t have the right color tablecloth, try a sheet or blanket instead.

Ask friends and family to show off

Rather than spend money on professional entertainment, ask guests ahead of time if they’d like to share their talents. Perhaps you have a music lover in the group who would like to play disc jockey for the night? Or maybe there’s a guitarist or violinist in your midst who would love an audience. You might find during the party that a star is born.

Now that you know how to throw a summer get-together that won’t break the bank, send out your invitations and get the party started.

Julie Bawden-Davis is a staff writer for SuperMoney. Her mission is to help fight your evil debt blob and get your personal finances in tip top shape.
Copyright © 2013 Julie Bawden-Davis
Photo: Public Domain Photos

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