Ask the Readers: How Do You Host Budget-Friendly Parties?

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Spring and summer are popular times for partying, especially the outdoor kind! But parties can be a lot of work if you're hosting. Food and drinks, supplies, decorations and entertainment -- you'll need to take care of all these things (or delegate the work to someone else and make sure they take care of it). It can also cost you a pretty penny if you need to buy things for your party.

How do you host budget-friendly parties? What aspects of a party do you usually make yourself (food? decorations?) and what do you usually end up buying from a store? Do you ask your guests to contribute in any way?

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Guest's picture

My friends and I do a shared party, so everyone brings something, so that it isn't a cost burden on any one particular person.

Guest's picture

Pot luck parties, where you ask guests to bring a dish, are budget-friendly.

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Julie Wood

Have your Guests to Bring a Favorite Dish or Drink to help save with the cost of hosting a party on your own. Saves a lot of money for the host.

Guest's picture

I skip decorations. I cook lots of food and have guests bring drinks.

Guest's picture

Make big batch cocktails! Sangria is always a favorite since you can purchase cheap wine and make it look beautiful with fresh fruit!

Guest's picture

Host pot luck dinners or ask people to pitch in!

Guest's picture

I host budget parties by serving simple affordable foods

Guest's picture

I have a lot of boardgames and card games. I buy games with a lot of replay value so we can play a lot without having to buy anything else. My friends usually end up bringing snacks and we batch drinks. It's a lot of fun and a great way to bond.

Guest's picture

Have the guests bring dishes/desserts with them so everyone contributes to the party and is budget friendly for the host.

Guest's picture

I don't usually end up hosting parties. When I go as a guest I always offer to bring something to help the host(ess) save on costs.

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Jenny D

When I host a party I usually make as much of the food as possible. I keep the menu simple: pasta salads, sandwiches, veggie tray, a dessert, lemonade and sun tea. Sometimes I buy the ingredients for s'mores. Most parties are done in the summer around the pool and patio. I shop the house for decor. I use cloth napkins and real tableware, plus I have a stash of vintage tablecloths that I use. My husband likes to buy a small amount of new pool items every year, such a floodles and inflatables. Contributions from guests are always welcome! :)

Guest's picture

I always make a dish to feed the masses, Chili, jambalaya, or lasagna ect.. If I am the host I feel like I should supply the meal.

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amanda sakovitz

I have guests bring an appetizer

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we live with the in-law's so we're actually not allowed to host any parties - cost $0!

Guest's picture

Pot-luck and/or BYOB usually works well.

Guest's picture

When guests if they can bring something, say yes please! Then include their offerings in your meal/beverage planning.

Guest's picture

I try not to have my get-togethers be a burden for guests, so I take on the majority of provisions though guests are welcome to bring what they like. I make most of the food and use my own plates and utensils rather than disposable. I'll buy some booze and let guests bring some if they have special tastes.

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Pat Pierce

I make the main dish and the guests bring the sides. Usually we have something to grill or a big pot of soup. Saves time and money and clean up is easy.

Guest's picture

I welcome guests to bring dishes... it helps ensure variety and keep cost down.

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Donna D

When folks ask what they can bring I am very specific and cook reasonably priced meats.

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Susan P.

If I have a party for friends, everyone brings something and we have a pot luck for food and drinks.

Guest's picture

Save on ice by freezing water in a couple of aluminum trays. Use a hammer and pick to break it apart before pouring it in the drink cooler.

I ask my guests to BYOB. I put out recycle bins for empty cans/bottles because where I live I get 5 cents back for every bottle/can I turn into the local recycling center.

Instead of buying cases of bottled water, I have a 5 gallon water jug that I fill up with tap water and ice (homemade). I run the water through a Brita water purifying pitcher before putting in the jug so it tastes cleaner and more like purified water.

For barbecues, I buy my meats from the local wholesale meat distributor because buying in bulk from wholesale distributors can save a couple of dollars a pound.

Guest's picture

During our first "snowbirding"winter, I learned that several couples in our RV park, saved money, time, and effort by having a dinner party every night!
So, if you have 4 couples, you cook every 5 or 6 nights.
One couple cooks one night and shares with the group, and so on until the 5th night, when all couples share the leftovers. If needed, simple no cook items can be added to round out the meal.

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Mary W

A great party needs a theme. We choose a fun theme such as Star Wars, The 70's or Your Favorite historic figure and ask guests to bring dishes or drinks linked to the theme. We come up with games that reflect the party theme so everyone has a good time. Sometimes we request that guests wear costumes and that makes parties memorable and fun. These are a few low cost ideas for an enjoyable party on a budget.

Guest's picture

By cooking large meals, turkeys etc that are cheaper per pound on sale and then tons of leftovers!

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Julie Lundstrom

I try to plan meals for the party that is low cost but feeds many people. I also watch for what is on sale to plan my party and for coupons.

Guest's picture

I have pot lucks where everyone pitches in.

Guest's picture

I enjoy treating my friends so I do it all. But nothing too extravagant so that it keeps it intimate and fun and within budget.

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Susan Smith

I host pot luck dinners so people bring their favorite dishes.

Guest's picture

I would use evite invitations to save on postage and manage responses.

I would use a public park or beach area so that the venue is free if I don't have it at my home.

I would create an inexpensive signature drink, and tell people if they want something else to BYOB.

I would use in season fruits and vegetables to make sides, and ask people to bring their favorite dish to supplement the food.

I would find a Smartphone app for music.

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Emily S.

Potluck -- always!

Guest's picture

I often host drink-food pairing parties and ask friends to bring some inexpensive drinks (a bottle of wine or beer cans) for the night. I'm a good cook so I invest time and effort to cook the food and provide space, while friends pick up drinks which is convenient for them. We play some good music from our phones and sometimes play board game or watch movies. I think this is a great to get together with friends without spending loads of money. Where I live (San Francisco), you can easily blow over $100 for a night out with dining, drinking and some entertainment!

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Rebecca Ross

I rarely host any parties, but when I have people over to eat, it is usually a cookout/potluck, so pretty inexpensive.

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Michelle D.

I have everybody bring a dish, whether drinks, chips, dessert or an entree.

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Lisa Puckett, @mcgraw14me72

I ask others to bring side dishes or drinks. I also shop for decoration & supplies at dollar stores or make my own.

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Ernest S.

Potlucks are a great way to keep parties budget-friendly and also have interesting and new dishes available! Also, in the event that we need more food, I usually keep a few frozen pizzas that I can throw in the oven.

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Betty D

When guests ask what can they bring, ask for a side or dessert. You can make a pitcher of a signature drink, so you only have to buy one kind of alcohol instead of full bar.

Guest's picture

pot luck... doesn't matter if everyone just brings chips, it's more about being with friends than what food is brought.

Guest's picture

To help keep summer gatherings budget friendly, we usually ask everyone to bring something to share. Helps cut down the cost, and we can all still get together on a budget and enjoy each others company!

Guest's picture

We live on a boat so parties are small and casual. Usually one couple supplies food, the other provides alcohol.

And when you're enjoying a cockpit under the stars, what more do you need?

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C Hui

Ask people to pitch in and bring things or I cook something that's on sale and affordable, like chicken wings and potato salad.

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J. Pario

Board games and munchies!

Guest's picture

Potlucks! Or at a minimum BYOB.

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I host a potluck.

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Happy Love

Potluck, of course.

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We choose one item to be our main splurge (usually the meats) and keep the remaining items rather simple. For example, trip tip roasts (meats that CA be served sliced cost less per person) would be paired with a simple green salad, beans, and bread.

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Carmen N

Whenever we have get-togethers, our group of friends ask "what can I bring?" so even if we didn't plan it as a potluck, it often ends up to be that way. It's great because we save money, get to try different foods and our friends feel like they are contributing.

Guest's picture

Yes, usually make everything instead of buying pre-made platters etc from the store. Most of the time just use things that are already in the pantry/fridge etc.

Guest's picture

We do a shared party where everyone will pitch in

Guest's picture

Pot lucks are the best. I really enjoy sharing the cooking responsibilities and costs. I clean my house, if I'm hosting, but I rarely decorate beyond that.

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Miss kim

We rarely host parties so I am usually the one going to parties and I'll bring something to help out, like a couple of bottles of wine or a pie.

Guest's picture

Boxed wine and potlucks!! :)

Guest's picture

I do a potluck and everyone brings their favorite dish.

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Thomas Murphy

I tell everyone to bring something.

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I serve food that's on sale and affordable.

Guest's picture

I ask others to bring side dishes and I provide the main course.