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By Pandora

How To Save Money But Still Have A Great Party

Money is tight for lots of people right now and when it comes time for birthday or get together it can create an inner turmoil. You want to show the person you care about them and therefore give them a great party but at the same time you don’t want to break the bank with decorations, food, and entertainment. Earlier this year I discovered some ways to cut costs but give a fun party when my Dad’s birthday rolled around.

I lucked out because his birthday fell near the Super Bowl so I made it a joint party (he was cool with this because it gave him an excuse to watch the game and not feel like he was ignoring his own party). When planning a party one of the first things you need to do is send out invitations, since this is a party for an adult I went the eCard route. There are so many sites out there that let you do it for free & have a ton of options for themes and how to personalize them. It saved me on the cost of invitations & the postage needed to send them.

After that was tackled it was time to figure out how to decorate. I know lots of people out there are probably similar to me in that after a party you take the leftover decorations, plates, napkins, cups, etc. and store them away to use at a later date. But that later date never really comes does it? I decided to take charge of the overwhelming collection of years past party favors and finally put them to use. Now there are two ways that I can think of to do this.

The first is try to match complimentary colors & themes together and only use those items (ex. Christmas party try to find all your red, green, silver, maybe gold items and mix & match). Or second throw caution to the wind and use it all. I opted for the second and I will say that if you are going to do it commit to it. Only do it with your cups & plates will have people looking at it a little odd; but if the whole party is fun randomness from the streamers to the tablecloth to the punch bowl it will make more sense. The other tip I can give you is while committing to the idea of making the party a random fest just because you have a decoration does not mean you have to use it. Know when to reign it in, if you are about to pass out because you are on your 200 balloon and are still looking at another 300 laying around I think it might be time to stop.

I used various color streamers to decorate, they are cheap and there is usually some leftover from every party. I wrapped them in & out of banisters, draped some over doorways, and even used some to create a picture on a wall (will explain a little further down). I then blew up some balloons and attached them on the top corners of windows & doors. I had a leftover Happy Birthday sign, the type where each letter hangs so I put that up. I then pulled out the cups, napkins, & plates from parties past. I had some plain blue plates so I used those, green plastic cups, , and some orange napkins. I know it sounds horrible but with all the colors going on it actually went quite well, I just made sure that I did use some of those color balloons to help tie things together.

Now here is where I went to my good friend The Dollar Store. I purchased a cheap plastic table cloth (the biggest size they had) & a pack of 3 game time football themed items. The table cloth being the largest one was more than enough to cover a square table & my long kitchen counter once I cut it in half. If you aren’t the greatest with scissors just put the cut edge towards the back and no one will notice.

Things were starting to come together but I still wanted just a bit more so I took a look around and realized I had a lot of framed pictures hanging up of family & artwork. Here is where the internet can be your best friend. We printed out football helmets (they took some resizing), cut them out, them simply taped them on the glass over people’s heads. It was amusing (at least to me & my guests). So don’t forget about dressing up things you already have in your home. You can add hats, or captions, or something in the background that goes with whatever your party is themed. Having a birthday party pull pics of that person & have them sitting around even if you don’t add anything too it. It’s a great decoration that you probably already have around.

For the final decoration I found a plastic flat skeleton that somehow escaped out of my Halloween decorations. We created a football helmet for him & taped him up on the wall. With some green streamer under his feet & using a bit of yellow plastic tablecloth that I had left over we created a football scene.

So for the whopping price of $2 & a couple of sheets of paper that I already had my party was decorated. Up next was food. This is where things can get pricey, so I took a look at what I already had at home. I already had cheese & peppers that I made into a cheese dip, a box of crackers, & some stuff to make chili. I also already had some bags of microwavable popcorn which is a great party food, makes a lot of it, and is cheap. I decided I would make hot dogs, some ranch dip, & pick up some chips. If you plan far enough in advance for a party (but not so far things will spoil) you can shop around & look for sales as well as take advantage of coupons. I was able to get jalapeño poppers & the pretzels that you bake as well and ended up only spending about $15 on food. I also picked up a couple of 2 liters for drinks, they are often much cheaper than 24 packs of cans & there isn’t as much waste. Since it is a party you also know it will all be drank before there is a chance it will go flat. For the cake my sister made that as part of her gift to my Dad. If you are unsure about if what you have around food wise can be made into something there are tons of recipe sites that you can enter in items you have and recipes will be pulled up helping you out in not having to buy every single item you need.

Other ideas to cut costs with food & drinks. Make it BYOB. This makes things much easier since it is my experience that everyone likes something different. For my party I let people know that I had odds & ends of a couple of bottles of various flavors of wine coolers and a couple of cans of various beers and that they were more than welcome to those but if they wanted something more it was BYOB. Next if family or friends ask if they can bring something consider it. More often than not the person offering makes an awesome dip/desert/side dish & loves showing it off. If this is the case say yes to them, it makes them feel good & like they are contributing and it is one less thing that you have to take care of. Just make sure to thank them & to clean and return their dish (the loss of Tupperware can anger the most timid).

From here it is up to you what you want to do. I had a variety of things available for my guests to do: board games, watching the game, movies I knew they would like out, music playing, back up ideas for where we could go for a walk if people wanted air, video games like Rock Band which I knew if nothing else people would have fun laughing at each other singing. But I have found to never push or plan exact times when things should be done, I just let the party take its course and in the end everyone had a great time, my Dad loved that we cared enough to throw him a party & I was able to do so without freaking out over the next couple of weeks for having spent so much money on yet more stuff to store away to be “used at a later time”.

TIPS:
Dollar Stores sell plain colored streamers, plates, napkins, cups, tablecloths, & balloons. They also carried themed items too. You will not find as much variety as bigger party stores. However if you are doing a theme consider getting some decorations from a bigger party store but the plates, napkins, & cups from a cheaper store in colors that match. Chances are kids/adults aren’t going to remember what face was on their plate.

Great way to set the mood is to create a playlist. Most people have a MP3 player & speakers for it. If not have your CD’s out with your CD player & let people choose what is going on in the background.

If you are not big on eCard invites think about creating your own invitations. Print out some you find online, print out images & glue them on cards you make, or use images from catalogs & magazines to create invitations out of. You can even hand deliver some of the cards which can be a nice personal touch.

For food think fast, easy, crowd pleasing. Pizzas, hotdogs, nachos can feed a lot for little money and won’t take you away from the party for long to make. Having more of a dinner party go for pastas, once again they can be easy on the pockets while feedings a crowd.

Don’t be afraid to borrow. Does anyone you know have a small snow cone machine, ice-cream maker, karaoke machine, or outdoor toys like lawn darts or croquet?

You don’t have to go overboard with the entertainment. A deck of cards can sometimes be all you need. Everyone knows a different game & it allows you to interact more.

And lastly don’t forget the internet can be your friend. Have an idea for a theme or are looking for an idea for a theme? There are ton of people out there they are insanely creative & talented and are willing to share that with you. You may be surprised with how much you can do using things you already have laying around your house.
 

Here are just a couple of sites to help out with. There are plenty more out there though.
evites: http://www.evite.com/
Recipes: http://allrecipes.com/
Party Idea Site: http://www.celebrations.com